This file has been made available by the Bank of Wisdom.
Robert Green Ingersoll
17 page printout Reproducible Electronic Publishing can defeat censorship. **** **** This file, its printout, or copies of either are to be copied and given away, but NOT sold. Bank of Wisdom, Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 The Works of ROBERT G. INGERSOLL **** **** REPLY TO THE INDIANAPOLIS CLERGY. The Iconoclast, Indianapolis, Indiana. 1882 THE following questions have been submitted to me by the Rev. David Walk, Dr. T.B. Taylor, the Rev. Myron W. Reed, and the Rev. D. O'Donaghue, of Indianapolis, with the request that I answer them: I. Question. Is the Character of Jesus of Nazareth, as described in the Four Gospels, Fictional or Real? -- Rev. David Walk. Answer. In all probability, there was a man by the name of Jesus Christ, who was, in his day and generation, a reformer -- a man who was infinitely shocked at the religion of Jehovah -- who became almost insane with pity as he contemplated the sufferings of the weak, the poor, and the ignorant at the hands of an intolerant, cruel, hypocritical, and bloodthirsty church. It is no wonder that such a man predicted the downfall of the temple. In all probability, he hated, at last, every pillar and stone in it, and despised even the "Holy of Holies." This man, of course, like other men, grew. He did not die with the opinion he held in his youth. He changed his views from time to time -- fanned the spark of reason into a flame, and as he grew older his horizon extended and widened, and he became gradually a wiser, greater, and better man. I find two or three Christs described in the four Gospels. In some portions you would imagine that he was an exceedingly pious Jew. When he says that people must not swear by Jerusalem, because it is God's holy city, certainly no Pharisee could have gone beyond that expression. So, too, when it is recorded that he drove the money changers from the temple. This, had it happened, would have been the act simply of one who had respect for this temple and not for the religion taught in it. It would seem that, at first, Christ believed substantially in the religion of his time; that afterward, seeing its faults, he wished to reform it; and finally, comprehending it in all its enormity, he devoted his life to its destruction. This view shows that he "increased in stature and grew in knowledge." This view is also supported by the fact that, at first, according to the account, Christ distinctly stated that his gospel was not for the Gentiles. At that time he had altogether more Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 1 REPLY TO THE INDIANAPOLIS CLERGY. patriotism than philosophy. In my own opinion, he was driven to like the Gentiles by the persecution he endured at home. He found, as every Freethinker now finds, that there are many saints not in churches and many devils not out. The character of Christ, in many particulars, as described in the Gospels, depends upon who wrote the Gospels. Each one endeavored to make a Christ to suit himself. So that Christ, after all, is a growth; and since the Gospels were finished, millions of men have been adding to and changing the character of Christ. There is another thing that should not be forgotten, and that is that the Gospels were not written until after the Epistles. I take it for granted that Paul never saw any of the Gospels, for the reason that he quotes none of them. There is also this remarkable fact: Paul quotes none of the miracles of the New Testament. He says not one word about the multitude being fed miraculously, not one word about the resurrection of Lazarus, nor of the widow's son. He had never heard of the lame, the halt, and the blind that had been cured; or if he had, he did not think these incidents of enough importance to be embalmed in an epistle. So we find that none of the early fathers ever quoted from the four Gospels. Nothing can be more certain than that the four Gospels were not written until after the Epistles, and nothing can be more certain than that the early Christians knew nothing of what we call the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. All these things have been growths. At first it was believed that Christ was a direct descendant from David. At that time the disciples of Christ, of course, were Jews. The Messiah was expected through the blood of David. -- for that reason, the genealogy of Joseph, a descendant of David, was given. It was not until long after, that the idea came into the minds of Christians that Christ was the son of the Holy Ghost. If they, at the time the genealogy was given, believed that Christ was in fact the son of the Holy Ghost, why did they give the genealogy of Joseph to show that Christ was related to David? In other words, why should the son of God attempt to get glory out of the fact that he had in his veins the blood of a barbarian king? There is only one answer to this. The Jews expected the Messiah through David, and in order to prove that Christ was the Messiah, they gave the genealogy of Joseph. Afterward, the idea became popularized that Christ was the son of God, and then were interpolated the words "as was supposed" in the genealogy of Christ. It was a long time before the disciples became great enough to include the world in their scheme, and before they thought it proper to tell the "glad tidings of great joy" beyond the limits of Judea. My own opinion is that the man called Christ lived; but whether he lived in Palestine, or not, is of no importance. His life is worth its example, its moral force, its benevolence, its self-denial and heroism. It is of no earthly importance whether he changed water into wine or not. All his miracles are simply dust and darkness compared with what he actually said and actually did. We should be kind to each other whether Lazarus was raised or not. We should be just and forgiving whether Christ lived or not. All Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 2 REPLY TO THE INDIANAPOLIS CLERGY. the miracles in the world are of no use to virtue, morality, or justice. Miracles belong to superstition, to ignorance, to fear and folly. Neither does it make any difference who wrote the Gospels. They are worth the truth that is in them and no more. The words of Paul are often quoted, that "all scripture is given by inspiration of God." Of course that could not have applied to anything written after that time. It could have applied only to the Scriptures then written and then known. It is perfectly clear that the four Gospels were not at that time written, and therefore this statement of Paul's does not apply to the four Gospels. Neither does it apply to anything written after that statement was written. Neither does it apply to that statement. If it applied to anything it was the Old Testament, and not the New. Christ has been belittled by his worshipers. When stripped of the miraculous; when allowed to be, not divine but divinely human, he will have gained a thousandfold in the estimation of mankind. I think of him as I do of Buddha, as I do of Confucius, of Epictetus, of Bruno. I place him with the great. the generous, the self- denying of the earth, and for the man Christ, I feel only admiration and respect. I think he was in many things mistaken. His reliance upon the goodness of God was perfect. He seemed to believe that his father in heaven would protect him. He thought that if God clothed the lilies of the field in beauty, if he provided for the sparrows, he would surely protect a perfectly just and loving man. In this he was mistaken; and in the darkness of death, overwhelmed, he cried out; "Why hast thou forsaken me?" I do not believe that Christ ever claimed to be divine; ever claimed to be inspired; ever claimed to work a miracle. In short, I believe that he was an honest man. These claims were all put in his mouth by others -- by mistaken friends, by ignorant worshipers, by zealous and credulous followers, and sometimes by dishonest and designing priests. This has happened to all the great men of the world. All historical characters are, in part, deformed or reformed by fiction. There was a man by the name of George Washington, but no such George Washington ever existed as we find portrayed in history. The historical Caesar never lived. The historical Mohammed is simply a myth. It is the task of modern criticism to rescue these characters, and in the mass of superstitious rubbish to find the actual man. Christians borrowed the old clothes of the Olympian gods and gave them to Christ. To me, Christ the man is far greater than Christ the god. To me, it has always been a matter of wonder that Christ said nothing as to the obligation man is under to his country, nothing as to the rights of the people as against the wish and will of kings, nothing against the frightful system of human slavery -- almost universal in his time. What he did not say is altogether more wonderful than what he did say. It is marvelous that he said nothing upon the subject of intemperance, nothing about education, nothing about philosophy, nothing about nature, nothing about art. He said nothing in favor of the home, except to offer a reward to those who would desert their wives and families. Of course, I do not believe that he said the words that were attributed to him, in Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 3 REPLY TO THE INDIANAPOLIS CLERGY. which a reward is offered to any man who will desert his kindred. But if we take the account given in the four Gospels as the true account, then Christ did offer a reward to a father who would desert his children. It has always been contended that he was a perfect example of mankind, and yet he never married. As a result of what he did not teach in connection with what he did teach, his followers saw no harm in slavery, no harm in polygamy. They belittled this world and exaggerated the importance of the next. They consoled the slave by telling him that in a little while he would exchange his chains for wings. They comforted the captive by saying that in a few days he would leave his dungeon for the bowers of Paradise. His followers believed that he had said that "Whosoever believeth not shall be damned." This passage was the cross upon which intellectual liberty was crucified. If Christ had given us the laws of health; if he had told us how to cure disease by natural means; if he had set the captive free; if he had crowned the people with their rightful power; if he had placed the home above the church; if he had broken all the mental chains; if he had flooded all the caves and dens of fear with light, and filled the future with a common joy, he would in truth have been the Savior of this world. Question. How do you account for the difference between the Christian and other modern civilizations? Answer. I account for the difference between men by the difference in their ancestry and surroundings -- the difference in soil, climate, food. and employment. There would be no civilization in England were it not for the Gulf Stream. There would have been very little here had it not been for the discovery of Columbus. And even now on this continent there would be but little civilization had the soil been poor. I might ask: How do you account for the civilization of Egypt? At one time that was the greatest civilization in the world. Did that fact prove that the Egyptian religion was of divine origin? So, too, there was a time when the civilization of India was beyond all others. Does that prove that Vishnu was a God? Greece dominated the intellectual world for centuries. Does that fact absolutely prove that Zeus was the creator of heaven and earth? The same may be said of Rome. There was a time when Rome governed the world, and yet I have always had my doubts as to the truth of the Roman mythology. As a matter of fact, Rome was far better than any Christian nation ever was to the end of the seventeenth century. A thousand years of Christian rule produced no fellow for the greatest of Rome. There were no poets the equals of Horace or Virgil, no philosophers as great as Lucretius. no orators like Cicero, no emperors like Marcus Aurelius, no women like the mothers of Rome. The civilization of a country may he hindered by a religion, but it has never been increased by any form of superstition. When America was discovered it had the same effect upon Europe that it would have, for instance, upon the city of Chicago to have Lake Michigan put the other side of it. The Mediterranean lost its trade. The centers of commerce became deserted. The prow of the world turned westward, and as a result, France, England, and all countries bordering on the Atlantic became prosperous. The world Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 4 REPLY TO THE INDIANAPOLIS CLERGY. has really been civilized by discoverers -- by thinkers. The man who invented powder, and by that means released hundreds of thousands of men from the occupations of war, did more for mankind than religion. The inventor of paper -- and he was not a Christian -- did more than all the early fathers for mankind. The inventors of plows, of sickles, of cradles, of reapers; the inventors of wagons, coaches, locomotives; the inventors of skiffs, sail- vessels, steamships; the men who have made looms -- in short, the inventors of all useful things -- they are the civilizers taken in connection with the great thinkers, the poets, the musicians, the actors, the painters, the sculptors. The men who have invented the useful, and the men who have made the useful beautiful, are the real civilizers of mankind. The priests, in all ages, have been hindrances -- stumbling- blocks. They have prevented man from using his reason. They have told ghost stories to courage until courage became fear. They have done all in their power to keep men from growing intellectually, to keep the world in a state of childhood, that they themselves might be deemed great and good and wise. They have always known that their reputation for wisdom depended upon the ignorance of the people. I account for the civilization of France by such men as Voltaire. He did good by assisting to destroy the church. Luther did good exactly in the same way. He did harm in building another church. I account, in part, for the civilization of England by the fact that she had interests greater than the church could control; and by the further fact that her greatest men cared nothing for the church. I account in part for the civilization of America by the fact that our fathers were wise enough, and jealous of each other enough, to absolutely divorce church and state. They regarded the church as a dangerous mistress -- one not fit to govern a president. This divorce was obtained because men like Jefferson and Paine were at that time prominent in the councils of the people. There is this peculiarity in our country -- the only men who can be trusted with human liberty are the ones who are not to be angels hereafter. Liberty is safe so long as the sinners have an opportunity to be heard. Neither must we imagine that our civilization is the only one in the world. They had no locks and keys in Japan until that country was visited by Christians, and they are now used only in those ports where Christians are allowed to enter. It has often been claimed that there is but one way to make a man temperate, and that is by making him a Christian and this is claimed in face of the fact that Christian nations are the most intemperate in the world. For nearly thirteen centuries the followers of Mohammed have been absolute teetotalers -- not one drunkard under the flag of the star and crescent. Wherever, in Turkey, a man is seen under the influence of liquor. they call him a Christian. You must also remember that almost every Christian nation has held slaves. Only a few years ago England was engaged in the slave trade. A little while before that our Puritan ancestors sold white Quaker children in the Barbados. and traded them for rum, sugar. and negro slaves. Even now the latest champion of Christianity upholds slavery, polygamy, and wars of extermination. Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 5 REPLY TO THE INDIANAPOLIS CLERGY. Sometimes I suspect that our own civilization is not altogether perfect. When I think of the penitentiaries crammed to suffocation, and of the many who ought to be in; of the want, the filth, the depravity of the great cities; of the starvation in the manufacturing centers of Great Britain, and, in fact, of all Europe; when I see women working like beasts of burden, and little children deprived, not simply of education, but of air, light and food, there is a suspicion in my mind that Christian civilization is not a complete and overwhelming success. After all, I am compelled to account for the advance that we have made, by the discoveries and inventions of men of genius. For the future I rely upon the sciences; upon the cultivation of the intellect. I rely upon labor; upon human interest in this world; upon the love of wife and children and home. I do not rely upon sacred books, but upon good men and women. I do not rely upon superstition, but upon knowledge; not upon miracles, but upon facts; not upon the dead, but upon the living; and when we become absolutely civilized, we shall look back upon the superstitions of the world, not simply with contempt, but with pity. Neither do I rely upon missionaries to convert those whom we are pleased to call "the heathen." Honest commerce is the great civilizer. We exchange ideas when we exchange fabrics. The effort to force a religion upon the people always ends in war. Commerce, founded upon mutual advantage makes peace. An honest merchant is better than a missionary. Spain was blessed with what is called Christian civilization, and yet, for hundreds of years, that government was simply an organized crime. When one pronounces the name of Spain, he thinks of the invasion of the New World, the persecution in the Netherlands, the expulsion of the Jews, and the Inquisition. Even to-day, the Christian nations of Europe preserve themselves from each other by bayonet and ball. Prussia has a standing army of six hundred thousand men, France a half million, and all their neighbors a like proportion. These countries are civilized. They are in the enjoyment of Christian governments -- have their hundreds of thousands of ministers, and the land covered with cathedrals and churches -- and yet every nation is nearly beggared by keeping armies in the field. Christian kings have no confidence in the promises of each other. What they call peace is the little time necessarily spent in reloading their guns. England has hundreds of ships of war to protect her commerce from other Christians, and to force China to open her ports to the opium trade. Only the other day the Prime Minister of China, in one of his dispatches to the English government, used substantially the following language: "England regards the opium question simply as one of trade, but to China, it has a moral aspect." Think of Christian England carrying death and desolation to hundreds of thousands in the name of trade. Then think of heathen China protesting in the name of morality. At the same time England has the impudence to send missionaries to China. What has been called Christianity has been a disturber of the public peace in all countries and at all times. Nothing has so alienated nations, nothing has so destroyed the natural justice of Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 6 REPLY TO THE INDIANAPOLIS CLERGY. mankind, as what has been known as religion. The idea that all men must worship the same God, believe the same dogmas, has for thousands of years plucked with bloody hands the flower of pity from the human heart. Our civilization is not Christian. It does not come from the skies. It is not a result of "inspiration." It is the child of invention, of discovery. of applied knowledge -- that is to say, of science. When man becomes great and grand enough to admit that all have equal rights; when thought is untrammeled; when worship shall consist in doing useful things; when religion means the discharge of obligations to our fellow-men, then, and not until then, will the world be civilized. II. Question. Since Laplace and other most distinguished astronomers hold to the theory that the earth was originally in a gaseous state, and then a molten mass in which the germs, even, of vegetable or animal life, could not exist, how do you account for the origin of life on this planet without a "Creator"? -- Dr. T.B. Taylor. Answer. Whether or not "the earth was originally in a gaseous state and afterwards a molten mass in which the germs of vegetable and animal life could not exist," I do not know. My belief is that the earth as it is, and as it was, taken in connection with the influence of the sun, and of other planets, produced whatever has existed or does exist on the earth. I do not see why gas would not need a "creator" as much as a vegetable. Neither can I imagine that there is any more necessity for some one to start life than to start a molten mass. There may be now portions of the world in which there is not one particle of vegetable life. It may be that on the wide waste fields of the Arctic zone there are places where no vegetable life exists, and there may be many thousand miles where no animal life can be found. But if the poles of the earth could be changed, and if the Arctic zone could be placed in a different relative position to the sun, the snows would melt, the hills would appear, and in a little while even the rocks would be clothed with vegetation. After a time vegetation would produce more soil, and in a few thousand years forests would be filled with beasts and birds. I think it was Sir William Thomson who, in his effort to account for the origin of life upon this earth, stated that it might have come from some meteoric stone falling from some other planet having in it the germs of life. What would you think of a farmer who would prepare his land and wait to have it planted by meteoric stones? So, what would you think of a Deity who would make a world like this, and allow it to whirl thousands and millions of years, barren as a gravestone, waiting for some vagrant comet to sow the seeds of life? I believe that back of animal life is the vegetable, and back of the vegetable, it may be, is the mineral. It may be that crystallization is the first step toward what we call life, and yet I believe life is back of that. In my judgment, if the earth ever Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 7 REPLY TO THE INDIANAPOLIS CLERGY. was in a gaseous state, it was filled with life. These are subjects about which we know but little. How do you account for chemistry? How do you account for the fact that just so many particles of one kind seek the society of just so many particles of another, and when they meet they instantly form a glad and lasting union? How do you know but atoms have love and hatred? How do you know that the vegetable does not enjoy growing, and that crystallization itself is not an expression of delight? How do you know that a vine bursting into flower does not feel a thrill? We find sex in the meanest weeds -- how can you say they have no loves? After all, of what use is it to search for a creator? The difficulty is not thus solved. You leave your creator as much in need of a creator as anything your creator is supposed to have created. The bottom of your stairs rests on nothing, and the top of your stairs leans upon nothing. You have reached no solution. The word "God" is simply born of our ignorance. We go as far as we can, and we say the rest of the way is "God." We look as far as we can, and beyond the horizon, where there is nought so far as we know but blindness, we place our Deity. We see an infinitesimal segment of a circle, and we say the rest is "God." Man must give up searching for the origin of anything. No one knows the origin of life, or of matter, or of what we call mind. The whence and the whither are questions that no man can answer. In the presence of these questions all intellects are upon a level. The barbarian knows exactly the same as the scientist, the fool as the philosopher. Only those who think that they have had some supernatural information pretend to answer these questions, and the unknowable, the impossible, the unfathomable, is the realm wholly occupied by the "inspired." We are satisfied that all organized things must have had a beginning. but we cannot conceive that matter commenced to be. Forms change, but substance remains eternally the same. A beginning of substance is unthinkable. It is just as easy to conceive of anything commencing to exist without a cause as with a cause. There must be something for cause to operate upon. Cause operating upon nothing -- were such a thing possible -- would produce nothing. There can be no relation between cause and nothing. We can understand how things can be arranged -- joined or separated -- and how relations can be changed or destroyed, but we cannot conceive of creation -- of nothing being changed into something, nor of something being made -- except from preexisting materials. Question. Since the universal testimony of the ages is in the affirmative of phenomena that attest the continued existence of man after death -- which testimony is overwhelmingly sustained by the phenomena of the nineteenth century -- what further evidence should thoughtful people require in order to settle the question, "Does death end all?" Answer. I admit that in all ages men have believed in spooks and ghosts and signs and wonders. This, however, proves nothing. Men have for thousands of ages believed the impossible, and worshiped the absurd. Our ancestors have worshiped snakes and birds and beasts. I do not admit that any ghost ever existed. I know that Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 8 REPLY TO THE INDIANAPOLIS CLERGY. no miracle was ever performed except in imagination; and what you are pleased to call the "phenomena of the nineteenth century," (Spiritualism) I fear are on an exact equality with the phenomena of the Dark Ages. We do not yet understand the action of the brain. No one knows the origin of a thought. No one knows how he thinks, or why he thinks, any more than one knows why or how his heart beats. People, I imagine, have always had dreams. In dreams they often met persons whom they knew to be dead, and it may be that much of the philosophy of the present was born of dreams. I cannot admit that anything supernatural ever has happened or ever will happen. I cannot admit the truth of what you call the "phenomena of the nineteenth century," if by such "phenomena" you mean the reappearance of the dead. I do not deny the existence of a future state, because I do not know. Neither do I aver that there is one, because I do not know. Upon this question I am simply honest. I find that people who believe in immortality -- or at least those who say they do -- are just as afraid of death as anybody else. I find that the most devout Christian weeps as bitterly above his dead, as the man who says that death ends all. You see the promises are so far away, and the dead are so near. Still, I do not say that man is not immortal; but I do say that there is nothing in the Bible to show that he is. The Old Testament has not a word upon the subject -- except to show us how we lost immortality. According to that book, man was driven from the Garden of Eden, lest he should put forth his hand and eat of the fruit of the tree of life and live forever. So the fact is, the Old Testament shows us how we lost immortality. In the New Testament we are told to seek for immortality, and it is also stated that "God alone hath immorality." There is this curious thing about Christians and Spiritualists: The Spiritualists laugh at the Christians for believing the miracles of the New Testament; they laugh at them for believing the story about the witch of Endor. And then the Christians laugh at the Spiritualists for believing that the same kind of things happen now. As a matter of fact, the Spiritualists have the best of it, because their witnesses are now living, whereas the Christians take simply the word of the dead -- of men they never saw and of men about whom they know nothing. The Spiritualist, at least, takes the testimony of men and women that he can cross-examine. It would seem as if these gentlemen ought to make common cause. Then the Christians could prove their miracles by the Spiritualists, and the Spiritualists could prove their "phenomena" by the Christians. I believe that thoughtful people require some additional testimony in order to settle the question, "Does death end all?" If the dead return to this world they should bring us information of value. There are thousands of questions that studious historians and savants are endeavoring to settle -- questions of history, of philosophy, of law, of art, upon which a few intelligent dead ought to be able to shed a flood of light. All the questions of the past ought to be settled. Some modern ghosts ought to get acquainted with some of the Pharaohs, and give us an outline of the history of Egypt. They ought to be able to read the arrow-headed writing and Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 9 REPLY TO THE INDIANAPOLIS CLERGY. all the records of the past. The hieroglyphics of all ancient peoples should be unlocked, and thoughts and facts that have been imprisoned for so many thousand years should be released and once again allowed to visit brains. The Spiritualists ought to be able to give us the history of buried cities. They should clothe with life the dust of all the past. If they could only bring us valuable information; if they could only tell us about some steamer in distress so that succor could be sent: if they could only do something useful, the world would cheerfully accept their theories and admit their "facts." I think that thoughtful people have the right to demand such evidence. I would like to have the spirits give us the history of all the books of the New Testament and tell us who first told of the miracles. If they could give us the history of any religion, or nation, or anything, I should have far more confidence in the "phenomena of the nineteenth century." There is one thing about the Spiritualists I like, and that is, they are liberal. They give to others the rights they claim for themselves. They do not pollute their souls with the dogma of eternal pain. They do not slander and persecute even those who deny their "phenomena." But I cannot admit that they have furnished conclusive evidence that death does not end all. Beyond the horizon of this life we have not seen. From the mysterious beyond no messenger has come to me. For the whole world I would not blot from the sky of the future a single star. Arched by the bow of hope let the dead sleep. Question. How, when, where, and by whom was our present calendar originated. -- that is "Anno Domini," -- and what event in the history of the nations does it establish as a fact, if not the birth of Jesus of Nazareth? Answer. I have already said, in answer to a question by another gentleman, that I believe the man Jesus Christ existed, and we now date from somewhere near his birth. I very much doubt about his having been born on Christmas, because in reading other religions, I find that that time has been celebrated for thousands of years, and the cause of it is this: About the 21st or 22d of December is the shortest day. After that the days begin to lengthen and the sun comes back, and for many centuries in most nations they had a festival in commemoration of that event. The Christians, I presume, adopted this day, and made the birth of Christ fit it. Three months afterward -- the 21st of March -- the days and nights again become equal, and the day then begins to lengthen. For centuries the nations living in the temperate zones have held festivals to commemorate the coming of spring -- the yearly miracle of leaf, of bud and flower. This is the celebration known as Easter, and the Christians adopted that in commemoration of Christ's resurrection. So that, as a matter of fact, these festivals of Christmas and Easter do not even tend to show that they stand for or are in any way connected with the birth or resurrection of Christ. In fact the evidence is overwhelmingly the other way. Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 10 REPLY TO THE INDIANAPOLIS CLERGY. While we are on the calendar business it may be well enough to say that we get our numerals from the Arabs, from whom also we obtained our ideas of algebra. The higher mathematics came to us from the same source. So from the Arabs we receive chemistry, and our first true notions of geography. They gave us also paper and cotton. Owing to the fact that the earth does not make its circuit in the exact time of three hundred and sixty-five days and a quarter, and owing to the fact that it was a long time before any near approach was made to the actual time, all calendars after awhile became too inaccurate for general use, and they were from time to time changed. Right here, it may be well enough to remark, that all the monuments and festivals in the world are not sufficient to establish an impossible event. No amount of monumental testimony, no amount of living evidence, can substantiate a miracle. The monument only proves the belief of the builders. If we rely upon the evidence of monuments, calendars, dates, and festivals, all the religions on the earth can be substantiated. Turkey is filled with such monuments and much of the time wasted in such festivals. We celebrate the Fourth of July, but such celebration does not even tend to prove that God, by his special providence, protected Washington from the arrows of an Indian. The Hebrews celebrate what is called the Passover, but this celebration does not even tend to prove that the angel of the Lord put blood on the door-posts in Egypt. The Mohammedans celebrate to-day the flight of Mohammed, but that does not tend to prove that Mohammed was inspired and was a prophet of God. Nobody can change a falsehood to a truth by the erection of a monument. Monuments simply prove that people endeavor to substantiate truths and falsehoods by the same means. III. Question. Letting the question as to hell hereafter rest for the present, how do you account for the hell here -- namely, the existence of pain? There are people who, by no fault of their own, are at this present time in misery. If for these there is no life to come, their existence is a mistake; but if there is a life to come, it may be that the sequel to the acts of the play to come will justify the pain and misery of this present time? -- Rev. Myron W. Reed. Answer. There are four principal theories: First -- there is behind the universe a being of infinite power and wisdom, kindness, and justice. Second -- That the universe has existed from eternity, and that it is the only eternal existence, and that behind it is no creator. Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 11 REPLY TO THE INDIANAPOLIS CLERGY. Third -- That there is a God who made the universe, but who is not all-powerful and who is, under the circumstances, doing the best he can. Fourth -- That there is an all-powerful God who made the universe, and that there is also a nearly all-powerful devil, and this devil ravels about as fast as this God knits. By the last theory, as taught by Plato, it is extremely easy to account for the misery in this world. If we admit that there is a malevolent being with power enough, and with cunning enough, to frequently circumvent God, the problem of evil becomes solved so far as this world is concerned. But why this being was evil is still unsolved; why the devil is malevolent is still a mystery. Consequently you will have to go back of this world, on that theory, to account for the origin of evil. If this devil always existed, then, of course, the universe at one time was inhabited only by this God and this devil. If the third theory is correct, we can account for the fact that God does not see to it that justice is always done. If the second theory is true, that the universe has existed from eternity, and is without a creator, then we must account for the existence of evil and good, not by personalities behind the universe. but by the nature of things. If there is an infinitely good and wise being who created all, it seems to me that he should have made a world in which innocence should be a sufficient shield. He should have made a world where the just man should have nothing to fear. My belief is this: We are surrounded by obstacles. We are filled with wants. We must have clothes. We must have food. We must protect ourselves from sun and storm, from heat and cold. In our conflict with these obstacles, with each other, and with what may be called the forces of nature, all do not succeed. It is a fact in nature that like begets like; that man gives his constitution, at least in part, to his children; that weakness and strength are in some degree both hereditary. This is a fact in nature. I do not hold any god responsible for this fact -- filled as it is with pain and joy. But it seems to me that an infinite God should so have arranged matters that the bad would not pass -- that it would die with its possessor -- that the good should survive, and that the man should give to his son, not the result of his vices, but the fruit of his virtues. I cannot see why we should expect an infinite God to do better in another world than he does in this. If he allows injustice to prevail here, why will he not allow the same thing in the world to come? If there is any being with power to prevent it, why is crime permitted? If a man standing upon the railway should ascertain that a bridge had been carried off by a flood, and if he also knew that the train was coming filled with men, women, and children; with husbands going to their wives, and wives rejoining their families; if he made no effort to stop that train; if he simply sat down by the roadside to witness the catastrophe, and so remained until the Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 12 REPLY TO THE INDIANAPOLIS CLERGY. train dashed off the precipice, and its load of life became a mass of quivering flesh, he would be denounced by every good man as the most monstrous of human beings. And yet this is exactly what the supposed God does. He, if he exists, sees the train rushing to the gulf, He gives no notice. He sees the ship rushing for the hidden rock. He makes no sign. And he so constructed the world that assassins lurk in the air -- hide even in the sunshine -- and when we imagine that we are breathing the breath of life, we are taking into ourselves the seeds of death. There are two facts inconsistent in my mind -- a martyr and a God. Injustice upon earth renders the justice of heaven impossible. I would not take from those suffering in this world the hope of happiness hereafter. My principal object has been to take away from them the fear of eternal pain hereafter. Still, it is impossible for me to explain the facts by which I am surrounded. if I admit the existence of an infinite Being. I find in this world that physical and mental evils affect the good. It seems to me that I have the same reason to expect the bad to be rewarded hereafter. I have no right to suppose that infinite wisdom will ever know any more, or that infinite benevolence will increase in kindness, or that the Justice of the eternal can change. If, then, this eternal being allows the good to suffer pain here, what right have we to say that he will not allow them to suffer forever? Some people have insisted that this life is a kind of school for the production of self-denying men and women -- that is, for the production of character. The statistics show that a large majority die under five years of age. What would we think of a schoolmaster who killed the most of his pupils the first day? If this doctrine is true, and if manhood cannot be produced in heaven, those who die in childhood are infinitely unfortunate. I admit that, although I do not understand the subject, still, all pain, all misery may be for the best. I do not know. If there is an infinitely wise Being, who is also infinitely powerful, then everything that happens must be for the best, That philosophy of special providence, going to the extreme, is infinitely better than most of the Christian creeds. There seems to be no half-way house between special providence and atheism. You know some of the Buddhists say that when a man commits murder, that is the best thing he could have done, and that to he murdered was the best thing that could have happened to the killed. They insist that every step taken is the necessary step and the best step; that crimes are as necessary as virtues, and that the fruit of crime and virtue is finally the same. But whatever theories we have, we have at last to be governed by the facts. We are in a world where vice, deformity, weakness, and disease are hereditary. In the presence of this immense and solemn truth rises the religion of the body. Every man should refuse to increase the misery of this world. And it may be that the time will come when man will be great enough and grand enough utterly to refrain from the propagation of disease and deformity, and when only the healthy will be father and mothers. We do know that the misery in this world can be lessened; consequently I Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 13 REPLY TO THE INDIANAPOLIS CLERGY. believe in the religion of this world. And whether there is a heaven or hell here, or hereafter, every good man has enough to do to make this world a little better than it is. Millions of lives are wasted in the vain effort to find the origin of things, and the destiny of man. This world has been neglected. We have been taught that life should be merely a preparation for death. To avoid pain we must know the conditions of health. For the accomplishment of this end we must rely upon investigation instead of faith, upon labor in place of prayer. Most misery is produced by ignorance. Passions sow the seeds of pain. Question. State with what words you can comfort those who have, by their own fault, or by the fault of others, found this life not worth living? Answer. If there is no life beyond this, and so believing I come to the bedside of the dying -- of one whose life has been a failure -- a "life not worth living," I could at least say to such an one, "Your failure ends with your death. Beyond the tomb there is nothing for you -- neither pain nor misery, neither grief nor joy." But if I were a good orthodox Christian, then I would have to say to this man, "Your life has been a failure; you have not been a Christian, and the failure will be extended eternally: you have not only been a failure for a time, but you will be a failure forever." Admitting that there is another world, and that the man's life had been a failure in this, then I should say to him, "If you live again, you will have the eternal opportunity to reform. There will be no time, no date, no matter how many millions and billions of ages may have passed away, at which you will not have the opportunity of doing right." Under no circumstances could I consistently say to this man: "Although your life has been a failure; although you have made hundreds and thousands of others suffer; although you have deceived and betrayed the woman who loved you; although you have murdered your benefactor; still, if you will now repent and believe a something that is unreasonable or reasonable to your mind, you will, at the moment of death, be transferred to a world of eternal joy." This I could not say. I would tell him, "If you die a bad man here, you will commence the life to come with the same character you leave this. Character cannot be made by another for you. You must be the architect of your own." There is to me unspeakably more comfort in the idea that every failure ends here, than that it is to be perpetuated forever. How can a Christian comfort the mother of a girl who has died without believing in Christ? What doctrine is there in Christianity to wipe away her tears? What words of comfort can you offer to the mother whose brave boy fell in defence of his country, she knowing and you knowing, that the boy was not a Christian, that he did not believe in the Bible, and had no faith in the blood of the atonement? What words of comfort have you for such fathers and for such mothers? Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 14 REPLY TO THE INDIANAPOLIS CLERGY. To me, there is no doctrine so infinitely absurd as the idea that this life is a probationary state that the few moments spent here decide the fate of a human soul forever. Nothing can be conceived more merciless, more unjust. I am doing all I can to destroy that doctrine. I want, if possible, to get the shadow of hell from the human heart. Why has any life been a failure here? If God is a being of infinite wisdom and kindness, why does he make failures? What excuse has infinite wisdom for peopling the world with savages? Why should one feel grateful to God for having made him with a poor, weak and diseased brain; for having allowed him to be the heir of consumption, of scrofula. or of insanity? Why should one thank God, who lived and died a slave? After all, is it not of more importance to speak the absolute truth? Is it not manlier to tell the fact than to endeavor to convey comfort through falsehood? People must reap not only what they sow, but what others have sown. The people of the whole world are united in spite of themselves. Next to telling a man, whose life has been a failure, that he is to enjoy an immortality of delight -- next to that, is to assure him that a place of eternal punishment does not exist. After all, there are but few lives worth living in any great and splendid sense. Nature seems filled with failure, and she has made no exception in favor of man. To the greatest, to the most successful, there comes a time when the fevered lips of life long for the cool, delicious kiss of death -- when, tired of the dust and glare of day, they hear with joy the rustling garments of the night. IV. "Archibald Armstrong and Jonathan Newgate were fast friends. Their views in regard to the question of a future life, and the existence of a God, were in perfect accord. They said: We know so little about these matters that we are not justified in giving them any serious consideration. Our motto and rule of life shall be for each one to make himself as comfortable as he can, and enjoy every pleasure within his reach, not allowing himself to be influenced at all by thoughts of a future life.' "Both had some money. Archibald had a large amount. Once upon a time when no human eye saw him -- and he had no belief in a God -- Jonathan stole every dollar of his friend's wealth, leaving him penniless. He had no fear, no remorse; no one saw him do the deed. He became rich, enjoyed life immensely, lived in contentment and pleasure, until in mellow old age he went the way of all flesh. Archibald fared badly. The odds were against him. His money was gone. He lived in penury and discontent, dissatisfied with mankind and with himself, until at last, overcome by misfortune, and depressed by an incurable malady, he sought rest in painless suicide." Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 15 REPLY TO THE INDIANAPOLIS CLERGY. Question. What are we to think of the rule of life laid down by these men? Was either of them inconsistent or illogical? Is there no remedy to correct such irregularities? -- Rev. D. O'Donaghue. Answer. The Rev. Mr. O'Donaghue seems to entertain strange ideas as to right and wrong. He tells us that Archibald Armstrong and Jonathan Newgate concluded to make themselves as comfortable as they could and enjoy every pleasure within their reach, and the Rev. Mr. O'Donaghue states that one of the pleasures within the reach of Mr. Newgate was to steal what little money Mr. Armstrong had. Does the reverend gentleman think that Mr. Newgate made or could make himself comfortable in that way? He tells us that Mr. Newgate "had no remorse," -- that he "became rich and enjoyed life immensely," -- that he "lived in contentment and pleasure, until, in mellow old age, he went the way of all flesh." Does the reverend gentleman really believe that a man can steal without fear, without remorse? Does he really suppose that one can enjoy the fruits of theft, that a criminal can live a contented and happy life, that one who has robbed his friend can reach a mellow and delightful old age? Is this the philosophy of the Rev. Mr. O'Donaghue? And right here I may be permitted to ask, Why did the Rev. Mr. O'Donaghue's God allow a thief to live without fear, without remorse, to enjoy life immensely and to reach a mellow old age? And why did he allow Mr. Armstrong, who had been robbed, to live in penury and discontent, until at last, overcome by misfortune, he sought rest in suicide? Does the Rev. Mr. O'Donaghue mean to say that if there is no future life it is wise to steal in this? If the grave is the eternal home, would the Rev. Mr. O'Donaghue advise people to commit crimes in order that they may enjoy this life? Such is not my philosophy. Whether there is a God or not, truth is better than falsehood. Whether there is a heaven or hell, honesty is always the best policy. There is no world, and can be none, where vice can sow the seed of crime and reap the sheaves of joy. According to my view, Mr. Armstrong was altogether more fortunate than Mr. Newgate. I had rather be robbed than to be a robber, and I had rather be of such a disposition that I would be driven to suicide by misfortune than to live in contentment upon the misfortunes of others. The reverend gentleman, however, should have made his question complete -- he should have gone the entire distance. He should have added that Mr. Newgate, after having reached a mellow old age, was suddenly converted, joined the church, and died in the odor of sanctity on the very day that his victim committed suicide. But I will answer the fable of the reverend gentleman with a fact. A young man was in love with a girl. She was young, beautiful, and trustful. She belonged to no church -- new nothing about a future world -- basked in the sunshine of this. All her life had been filled with gentle deeds. The tears of pity had sanctified her cheeks. She believed in no religion, worshiped no God, believed no Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 16 REPLY TO THE INDIANAPOLIS CLERGY. Bible, but loved everything. Her lover in a fit of jealous rage murdered her. He was tried; convicted; a motion for a new trial overruled and a pardon refused. In his cell, in the shadow of death, he was converted -- he became a Catholic. With the white lips of fear he confessed to a priest. He received the sacrament. He was hanged, and from the rope's end winged his way to the realms of bliss. For months the murdered girl had suffered all the pains and pangs of hell. The poor girl will endure the agony of the damned forever, while her murderer will be ravished with angelic chant and song. Such is the justice of the orthodox God. Allow me to use the language of the reverend gentleman: "Is there no remedy to correct such irregularities?" As long as the idea of eternal punishment remains a part of the Christian system, that system will be opposed by every man of heart and brain. Of all religious dogmas it is the most shocking, infamous, and absurd. The preachers of this doctrine are the enemies of human happiness; they are the assassins of natural joy. Every father, every mother, every good man, every loving woman, should hold this doctrine in abhorrence; they should refuse to pay men for preaching it; they should not build churches in which this infamy is taught; they should teach their little children that it is a lie; they should take this horror from childhood's heart -- a horror that makes the cradle as terrible as the coffin. **** **** Reproducible Electronic Publishing can defeat censorship. The Bank of Wisdom is a collection of the most thoughtful, scholarly and factual books. These computer books are reprints of suppressed books and will cover American and world history; the Biographies and writings of famous persons, and especially of our nations Founding Fathers. They will include philosophy and religion. all these subjects, and more, will be made available to the public in electronic form, easily copied and distributed, so that America can again become what its Founders intended -- The Free Market-Place of Ideas. The Bank of Wisdom is always looking for more of these old, hidden, suppressed and forgotten books that contain needed facts and information for today. If you have such books please contact us, we need to give them back to America. Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 17
The Bank of Wisdom is run by Emmett Fields out of his home in Kentucky. He painstakingly scanned in these works and put them on disks for others to have available. Mr. Fields makes these disks available for only the cost of the media.
Files made available from the Bank of Wisdom may be freely reproduced and given away, but may not be sold.
Reproducible Electronic Publishing can defeat censorship.
The Bank of Wisdom is a collection of the most thoughtful, scholarly and factual books. These computer books are reprints of suppressed books and will cover American and world history; the Biographies and writings of famous persons, and especially of our nations Founding Fathers. They will include philosophy and religion. all these subjects, and more, will be made available to the public in electronic form, easily copied and distributed, so that America can again become what its Founders intended --
The Free Market-Place of Ideas.
The Bank of Wisdom is always looking for more of these old, hidden, suppressed and forgotten books that contain needed facts and information for today. If you have such books please contact us, we need to give them back to America.
Bank of Wisdom,
|Top of Page|