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Some Reasons Why
Robert Green Ingersoll
20 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 **** **** SOME REASONS WHY. 1881 I RELIGION makes enemies instead of friends. That one word, "religion," covers all the horizon of memory with visions of war, of outrage, of persecution, of tyranny, and death. That one word brings to the mind every instrument with which man has tortured man. In that one word are all the fagots and flames and dungeons of the past, and in that word is the infinite and eternal hell of the future. In the name of universal benevolence Christians have hated their fellow-men. Although they have been preaching universal love, the Christian nations are the warlike nations of the world. The most destructive weapons of war have been invented by Christians. The musket, the revolver, the rifled canon, the bombshell, the torpedo, the explosive bullet, have been invented by Christian brains. Above all other arts, the Christian world has placed the art of war. A Christian nation has never had the slightest respect for the rights of barbarians; neither has any Christian sect any respect for the rights of other sects. Anciently, the sects discussed with fire and sword, and even now, something happens almost every day to show that the old spirit that was in the Inquisition still slumbers in the Christian breast. Whoever imagines himself a favorite with God, holds other people in contempt. Whenever a man believes that he has the exact truth from God, there is in that man no spirit of compromise. He has not the modesty born of the imperfections of human nature; he has the arrogance of theological certainty and the tyranny born of ignorant assurance. Believing himself to be the slave of God, he imitates his master, and of all tyrants, the worst is a slave in power. When a man really believes that it is necessary to do a certain thing to be happy forever, or that a certain belief is necessary to ensure eternal joy, there is in that man no spirit of concession. He divides the whole world into saints and sinners, into believers and unbelievers, into God's sheep and Devil's goats, into people who will be glorified and people who will be damned. Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 1 SOME REASONS WHY. A Christian nation can make no compromise with one not Christian; it will either compel that nation to accept its doctrine, or it will wage war. If Christ, in fact, said "I came not to bring peace but a sword," it is the only prophecy in the New Testament that has been literally fulfilled. II DUTIES TO GOD. RELIGION is supposed to consist in a discharge of the duties we owe to God. In other words, we are taught that God is exceedingly anxious that we should believe a certain thing. For my part, I do not believe that there is any infinite being to whom we owe anything. The reason I say this is, we can not owe any duty to any being who requires nothing -- to any being that we cannot possibly help, to any being whose happiness we cannot increase. If God is infinite, we cannot make him happier than he is. If God is infinite, we can neither give, nor can he receive, anything. Anything that we do or fail to do, cannot, in the slightest degree, affect an infinite God; consequently, no relations can exist between the finite and the Infinite, if by relations is meant mutual duties and obligations. Some tell us that it is the desire of God that we should worship him. What for? Why does he desire worship? Others tell us that we should sacrifice something to him. What for? Is he in want? Can we assist him? Is he unhappy? Is he in trouble? Does he need human sympathy? We cannot assist the Infinite, but we can assist our fellow-men. We can feed the hungry and clothe the naked, and enlighten the ignorant, and we can help, in some degree at least, toward covering this world with the mantle of joy. I do not believe there is any being in this universe who gives rain for praise, who gives sunshine for prayer, or who blesses a man simply because he kneels. The Infinite cannot receive praise or worship. The Infinite can neither hear nor answer prayer. An Infinite personality is an infinite impossibility. III INSPIRATION. We are told that we have in our possession the inspired will of God. What is meant by the word "inspired" is not exactly known; but whatever else it may mean, certainly it means that the "inspired" must be the true. If it is true, there is, in fact, no need of its being inspired -- the truth will take care of itself. The church is forced to say that the Bible differs from all other books; it is forced to say that it contains the actual will of God. Let us then see what inspiration really is. A man looks at the sea, and the sea says something to him. It makes an impression Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 2 SOME REASONS WHY. upon his mind. It awakens memory, and this impression depends upon the man's experience -- upon his intellectual capacity. Another looks upon the same sea. He has a different brain; he has had a different experience. The sea may speak to him of Joy, to the other of grief and tears. The sea cannot tell the same thing to any two human beings, because no two human beings have had the same experience. A year ago, while the cars were going from Boston to Gloucester, we passed through Manchester. As the cars stopped, a lady sitting opposite, speaking to her husband, looking out of the window and catching, for the first time, a view of the sea, cried out, "Is it not beautiful!" and the husband replied, "I'll bet you could dig clams right here!" Another, standing upon the shore, listening to what the Greek tragedian called "the multitudinous laughter of the sea," may say: Every drop has visited all the shores of the earth; every one has been frozen in the vast and icy North; every one has fallen in snow, has been whirled by storms "around mountain peaks; every one has been kissed to vapor by the sun; every one has worn the seven- hued garment of light; every one has fallen in pleasant rain, gurgled from springs and laughed in brooks while lovers wooed upon the banks, and every one has rushed with mighty rivers back to the sea's embrace. Everything in nature tells a different story to all eyes that see and to all ears that hear. Once in my life, and once only, I heard Horace Greeley deliver a lecture. I think its title was, "Across the Continent." At last he reached the mammoth trees of California, and I thought "Here is an opportunity for the old man to indulge his fancy. Here are trees that have outlived a thousand human governments. There are limbs above his head older than the pyramids. While man was emerging from barbarism to something like civilization, these trees were growing. Older than history, every one appeared to be a memory, a witness, and a prophecy. The same wind that filled the sails of the Argonauts had swayed these trees. But these trees said nothing of this kind to Mr. Greeley. Upon these subjects not a word was told to him. Instead, he took his pencil, and after figuring awhile, remarked: "One of these trees, sawed into inch-boards, would make more than three hundred' thousand feet of lumber." I was once riding on the cars in Illinois. There had been a violent thunder-storm. The rain had ceased, the sun was going down. The great clouds had floated toward the west, and there they assumed most wonderful architectural shapes. There were temples and palaces domed and turreted. and they were touched with silver, with amethyst and gold. They looked like the homes of the Titans, or the palaces of the gods. A man was sitting near me. I touched him and said, "Did you ever see anything so beautiful!" He looked out. He saw nothing of that cloud, nothing of the sun, nothing of the color; he saw only the country and replied, "Yes, it is beautiful; I always did like rolling land." On another occasion I was riding in a stage. There had been a snow, and after the snow a sleet, and all the trees were bent, and all the boughs were arched. Every fence, every log cabin had been transfigured, touched with a glory almost beyond this world. The great fields were a pure and perfect Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 3 SOME REASONS WHY. white; the forests, drooping beneath their load of gems, made wonderful caves, from which one almost expected to see troops of fairies come. The whole world looked like a bride, jewelled from head to foot. A German on the back seat, hearing our talk, and our exclamations of wonder leaned forward, looked out of the stage window and said: "Yes, it looks like a clean table cloth!" So, when we look upon a flower, a painting, a statue, a star, or a violet, the more we know, the more we have experienced, the more we have thought, the more we remember, the more the statue, the star, the painting, the violet has to tell. Nature says to me all that I am capable of understanding -- gives all that I can receive. As with star, or flower, or sea, so with a book. A man reads Shakespeare. What does he get from him? All that he has the mind to understand. He gets his little cup full. Let another read him who knows nothing of the drama, nothing of the impersonations of passion, and what does he get? Almost nothing. Shakespeare has a different story for each reader. He is a world in which each recognizes his acquaintances -- he may know a few, he may know all. The impression that nature makes upon the mind, the stories told by sea and star and flower, must be the natural food of thought. Leaving out for the moment the impression gained from ancestors, the hereditary fears and drifts and trends -- the natural food of thought must be the impression made upon the brain by coming in contact through the medium of the five senses with what we call the outward world. The brain is natural. Its food is natural. The result, thought, must be natural. The supernatural can be constructed with no material except the natural. Of the supernatural we can have no conception. Thought may be deformed, and the thought of one may be strange to, and denominated as unnatural by another; but it cannot be supernatural. It may be weak, it may be insane, but it is not supernatural. Above the natural man cannot rise, even with the aid of fancy's wings. There can be deformed ideas, as there are deformed persons. There can be religions monstrous and misshapen, but they must be naturally produced. Some people have ideas about what they are pleased to call the supernatural; but what they call the supernatural is simply the deformed. The world is to each man according to each man. It takes the world as it really is and that man to make that man's world, and that man's world cannot exist without that man. You may ask, and what of all this? I reply, as with everything in nature, so with the Bible. It has a different story for each reader. Is then the Bible a different book to every human being who reads it? It is. Can God then, through the Bible, make the same revelation to two persons? He cannot. Why? Because the man who reads it is the man who inspires. Inspiration is in the man, as well as in the book. God should have inspired readers as well as writers. You may reply: "God knew that his book would be understood differently by each one, and that he really intended that it should be understood as it is understood by each." If this is so, then my understanding of the Bible is the real revelation to me. If this is so, I have no right to take the understanding of another. I must Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 4 SOME REASONS WHY. take the revelation made to me through my understanding, and by that revelation I must stand. Suppose then, that I do read this Bible honestly, fairly, and when I get through I am compelled to say, "The book is not true." If this is the honest result, then you are compelled to say, either that God has made no revelation to me, or that the revelation that it is not true, is the revelation made to me, and by which I am bound. If the book and my brain are both the work of the same Infinite God, whose fault is it that the book and the brain do not agree? Either God should have written a book to fit my brain, or should have made my brain to fit his book. The inspiration of the Bible depends upon the ignorance of him who reads. There was a time when its geology, its astronomy, its natural history, were inspired. That time has passed. There was a time when its morality satisfied the men who ruled mankind. That time has passed. There was a time when the tyrant regarded its laws as good; when the master believed in its liberty; when strength gloried in its passages; but these laws never satisfied the oppressed, they were never quoted by the slave. We have a sacred book, an inspired Bible, and I am told that this book was written by the same being who made every star, and who peopled infinite space with infinite worlds. I am also told that God created man, and that man is totally depraved. It has always seemed to me that an infinite being has no right to make imperfect things. I may be mistaken; but this is the only planet I have ever been on; I live in what might be called one of the rural districts of this universe, consequently I may be mistaken; I simply give the best and largest thought I have. IV GOD'S EXPERIMENT WITH THE JEWS. The Bible tells us that men became so bad that God destroyed them all with the exception of eight persons; that afterwards he chose Abraham and some of his kindred, a wandering tribe, for the purpose of seeing whether or no they could be civilized. He had no time to waste with all the world. The Egyptians at that time, a vast and splendid nation, having a system of laws and free schools, believing in the marriage of the one man to the one woman; believing, too, in the rights of woman -- a nation that had courts of justice and understood the philosophy of damages -- these people had received no revelation from God, -- they were left to grope in Nature's night. He had no time to civilize India, wherein had grown a civilization that fills the world with wonder still -- a people with a language as perfect as ours, a people who had produced philosophers, scientists, poets. He had no time to waste on them; but he took a few, the tribe of Abraham. He established a perfect despotism -- with no schools, with no philosophy, with no art, with no music -- nothing but the sacrifices of dumb beasts -- nothing but the abject worship of a slave. Not a word upon geology, upon astronomy; nothing, even, upon the science of medicine. Thus God spent hours and hours with Moses upon the top of Sinai, giving directions for ascertaining the presence of leprosy and for preventing its spread, but it never occurred to Jehovah to tell Moses how it could be cured. He told them a few things about what Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 5 SOME REASONS WHY. they might eat -- prohibiting among other things four-footed birds, and one thing upon the subject of cooking. From the thunders and lightnings of Sinai he proclaimed this vast and wonderful fact: "Thou shalt not seethe a kid in its mother's milk." He took these people, according to our sacred Scriptures, under his immediate care, and for the purpose of controlling them he wrought wonderful miracles in their sight. Is it not a little curious that no priest of one religion has ever been able to astonish a priest of another religion by telling a miracle? Our missionaries tell the Hindoos the miracles of the Bible, and the Hindoo priests, without the movement of a muscle, hear them and then recite theirs, and theirs do not astonish our missionaries in the least! Is it not a little curious that the priests of one religion never believe the priests of another? Is it not a little strange that the believers in sacred books regard all except their own as having been made by hypocrites and fools? I heard the other day a story. A gentleman was telling some wonderful things and the listeners, with one exception, were saying, as he proceeded with his tale, "Is it possible?" "Did you ever hear anything so wonderful?" and when he had concluded, there was a kind of chorus of "Is it possible?" and "Can it be?" One man, however, sat perfectly quiet, utterly unmoved. Another listener said to him "Did you hear that?" and he replied "Yes." "Well," said the other, "You did not manifest much astonishment." "Oh, no," was the answer, "I am a liar myself." I am told by the sacred Scriptures that, as a matter of fact, God, even with the help of miracles, failed to civilize the Jews, and this shows of how little real benefit, after all, it is to have a ruler much above the people, or to simply excite the wonder of mankind. Infinite wisdom, if the account be true, could not civilize a single tribe. Laws made by Jehovah himself were not obeyed, and every effort of Jehovah failed. It is claimed that God made known his law and inspired men to write and teach his will, and yet, it was found utterly impossible to reform mankind. V CIVILIZED COUNTRIES. In all civilized countries, it is now passionately asserted that slavery is a crime; that a war of conquest is murder; that polygamy enslaves woman, degrades man and destroys home; that nothing is more infamous than the slaughter of decrepid men, of helpless mothers, and of prattling babes; that captured maidens should not be given to their captors; that wives should not be stoned to death for differing with their husbands on the subject of religion. We know that there was a time, in the history of most nations, when all these crimes were regarded as divine institutions. Nations entertaining this view now are regarded as savage, and, with the exception of the South Sea Islanders, Feejees, a few tribes in Central Africa, and some citizens of Delaware, no human beings are found degraded enough to agree upon these subjects with Jehovah. The only evidence we can have that a nation has ceased to be savage, is that it has abandoned these doctrines of savagery. Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 6 SOME REASONS WHY. To every one except a theologian, it is easy to account for these mistakes and crimes by saying that civilization is a painful growth; that the moral perceptions are cultivated through ages of tyranny, of crime, and of heroism; that it requires centuries for man to put out the eyes of self and hold in lofty and in equal poise the golden scales of Justice. Conscience is born of suffering. Mercy is the child of the imagination. Man advances as he becomes acquainted with his surroundings, with the mutual obligations of life, and learns to take advantage of the forces of nature. The believer in the inspiration of the Bible is compelled to say, that there was a time when slavery was right, when women could sell their babes, when polygamy was the highest form of virtue, when wars of extermination were waged with the sword of mercy, when religious toleration was a crime, and when death was the just penalty for having expressed an honest thought. He is compelled to insist that Jehovah is as bad now as he was then; that he is as good now as he was then. Once, all the crimes that I have mentioned were commanded by God; now they are prohibited. Once, God was in favor of them all; now the Devil is their defender. In other words, the Devil entertains the same opinion to-day that God held four thousand years ago. The Devil is as good now as Jehovah was then, and God was as bad then as the Devil is now. Other nations besides the Jews had similar laws and ideas -- believed in and practiced the same crimes, and yet, it is not claimed that they received a revelation. They had no knowledge of the true God, and yet they practiced the same crimes, of their own motion, that the Jews did by command of Jehovah. From this it would seem that man can do wrong without a special revelation. The passages upholding slavery, polygamy, war and religious persecution are certainly not evidences of the inspiration of that book. Suppose nothing had been in the Old Testament upholding these crimes, would the modern Christian suspect that it was not inspired on that account? Suppose nothing had been in the Old Testament except laws in favor of these crimes, would it still be insisted that it was inspired? If the Devil had inspired a book, will some Christian tell us in what respect, on the subjects of slavery, polygamy, war and liberty, it would have differed from some parts of the Old Testament? Suppose we knew that after inspired men had finished the Bible the Devil had gotten possession of it and had written a few passages, what part would Christians now pick out as being probably his work? Which of the following passages would be selected as having been written by the Devil: "Love thy neighbor as thyself" or "Kill all the males among the little ones, and kill every woman, but all the women children keep alive for yourselves"? Is there a believer in the Bible who does not now wish that God, amid the thunders and lightnings of Sinai, had said to Moses that man should not own his fellow-man; that women should not sell their babes; that all men should be allowed to think and investigate for themselves, and that the sword never should be unsheathed to shed innocent blood? Is there a believer who would not be delighted to find that every one of the infamous passages are interpolations, and that the skirts of God were never reddened by the blood of maiden, wife, or babe? Is there an honest man who Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 7 SOME REASONS WHY. does not regret that God commanded a husband to stone his wife for suggesting the worship of some other God? Surely we do not need an inspired book to teach us that slavery is right, that polygamy is virtue, and that intellectual liberty is a crime. VI. A COMPARISON OF BOOKS. Let us compare the gems of Jehovah with Pagan paste. It may be that the best way to illustrate what I have said, is to compare the supposed teachings of Jehovah with those of persons who never wrote an inspired line. In all ages of which any record has been preserved, men have given their ideas of justice, charity, liberty, love and law. If the Bible is the work of God, it should contain the sublimest truths, it should excel the works of man, it should contain the loftiest definitions of justice, the best conceptions of human liberty, the clearest outlines of duty, the tenderest and noblest thoughts. Upon every page should be found the luminous evidence of its divine origin. It should contain grander and more wonderful things than man has written. It may be said that it is unfair to call attention to bad things in the Bible. To this it may be replied that a divine being ought not to put bad things in his book. If the Bible now upholds what we call crimes, it will not do to say that it is not verbally inspired. If the words are not inspired, what is? It may be said, that the thoughts are inspired. This would include only thoughts expressed without words. If ideas are inspired, they must be expressed by inspired words -- that is to say, by an inspired arrangement of words. If a sculptor were inspired of God to make a statue, we would not say that the marble was inspired, but the statue -- that is to say, the relation of part to part, the married harmony of form and function. The language, the words, take the place of the marble, and it is the arrangement of the words that Christians claim to be inspired. If there is an uninspired word, or a word in the wrong place, until that word is known a doubt is cast on every word the book contains. If it was worth God's while to make a revelation at all, it was certainly worth his while to see that it was correctly made -- that it was absolutely preserved. Why should God allow an inspired book to be interpolated? If it was worth while to inspire men to write it, it was worth while to inspire men to preserve it; and why should he allow another person to interpolate in it that which was not inspired? He certainly would not have allowed the man he inspired to write contrary to the inspiration. He should have preserved his revelation. Neither will it do to say that God adapted his revelation to the prejudices of man. It was necessary for him to adapt his revelation to the capacity of man, but certainly God would not confirm a barbarian in his prejudices. He would not fortify a heathen in his crimes. If a revelation is of any importance, it is to eradicate prejudice. They tell us now that the Jews were so ignorant, so bad, that God was compelled to justify their crimes, in order to have any influence with them. They say that if he had declared slavery Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 8 SOME REASONS WHY. and polygamy to be crimes, the Jews would have refused to receive the Ten Commandments. They tell us that God did the best he could; that his real intention was to lead them along slowly, so that in a few hundred years they would be induced to admit that larceny and murder and polygamy and slavery were not virtues. I suppose if we now wished to break a cannibal of the bad habit of devouring missionaries, we would first induce him to cook them in a certain way, saying: "To eat cooked missionary is one step in advance of eating your missionary raw. After a few years, a little mutton could be cooked with missionary, and year after year the amount of mutton could be increased and the amount of missionary decreased, until in the fullness of time the dish could he entirely mutton, and after that the missionaries would be absolutely safe." If there is anything of value, it is liberty -- liberty of body, liberty of mind. The liberty of body is the reward of labor. Intellectual liberty is the air of the soul, the sunshine of the mind, and without it, the world is a prison, the universe a dungeon. If the Bible is really inspired, Jehovah commanded the Jewish people to buy the children of the strangers that sojourned among them, and ordered that the children thus bought should be an inheritance for the children of the Jews, and that they should be bondmen and bondwomen forever. Yet Epictetus, a man to whom no revelation was ever made, a man whose soul followed only the light of nature, and who had never heard of the Jewish God, was great enough to say: "Will you not remember that your servants are by nature your brothers, the children of God? In saying that you have bought them, you look down on the earth, and into the pit, on the wretched law of men long since dead, but you see not the laws of the gods." We find that Jehovah, speaking to his chosen people, assured them that their bondmen and their bondmaids must be "of the heathen that were round about them." "Of them," said Jehovah, "shall ye buy bondmen and bondmaids." And yet Cicero, a pagan, Cicero, who had never been enlightened by reading the Old Testament, had the moral grandeur to declare: "They who say that we should love our fellow- citizens but not foreigners, destroy the universal brotherhood of mankind, without which benevolence and justice would perish forever." If the Bible is inspired, Jehovah, God of all worlds, actually said: "And if a man smite his servant or his maid with a rod, and he die under his hand, he shall be sorely punished; not with- standing, if he continue a day or two, he shall not be punished, for he is his money." And yet Zeno, founder of the Stoics, centuries before, Christ was born, insisted that man could not be the owner of another, and that title was bad, whether the slave had become so by conquest or by purchase. Jehovah ordered a Jewish general to make war, and gave, among others, this command; "When the Lord thy God shall drive them before thee, thou shalt smite them and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor show mercy unto them." And yet Epictetus, whom we have already quoted, gave this marvelous Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 9 SOME REASONS WHY. rule for the guidance of human conduct: "Live with thy inferiors as thou wouldst have thy superiors live with thee." Is it possible, after all, that a being of infinite goodness and wisdom said: "I will heap mischief upon them; I will send mine arrows upon them; they shall be burned with hunger, and devoured with burning heat, and with bitter destruction. I will send the tooth of beasts upon them, with the poison of serpents of the dust. The sword without, and terror within, shall destroy both the young man and virgin, the suckling also, with the man of gray hairs:" while Seneca, an uninspired Roman, said: "The wise man will not pardon any crime that ought be punished, but he will accomplish, in a nobler way, all that is sought in pardoning. He will spare some and watch over some, because of their youth, and others on account of their ignorance. His clemency will not fall short of Justice, but will fulfill it perfectly." Can we believe that God ever said to any one: Let his children be fatherless and his wife a widow; let his children be continually vagabonds, and beg; them seek their bread also out of their desolate places; let the extortioner catch all that he hath, and let the stranger spoil his labor; let there be none to extend mercy unto him, neither let there be any to favor his fatherless children." If he ever said these words, surely he had never heard this line, this strain of music from the Hindu: "Sweet is the lute to those who have not heard the prattle of their own children." Jehovah, "from the clouds and darkness of Sinai" said to the Jews: "Thou shalt have no other gods before me. . . . Though shalt not bow down thyself to them nor serve them; for I, the Lord thy God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquities of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me." Contrast this with the words put by the Hindu in the mouth of Brahma: "I am the same to all mankind. They who honestly serve other gods involuntarily worship me, I am he who partakest of all worship, and I am the reward of all worshipers." Compare these passages; the first a dungeon where crawl the things begot of jealous slime; the other, great as the domed firmament inlaid with suns. Is it possible that the real God ever said: "And if the prophet be deceived when he hath spoken a thing, I, the Lord, have deceived that prophet; and I will stretch out my hand upon him and will destroy him from the midst of my people." Compare that passage with one from a Pagan. "It is better to keep silence for the remainder of your life than to speak falsely." Can we believe that a being of infinite mercy gave this command: "Put every man his sword by his side, and go in and out from gate to gate, throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 10 SOME REASONS WHY. and every man his companion, and every man his neighbor; consecrate yourselves to-day to the Lord, even every man upon his son and upon his brother, that he may bestow a blessing upon you this day." Surely, that God was not animated by so great and magnanimous a spirit as was Antoninus, a Roman emperor, who declared that, "he had rather keep a single Roman citizen alive than slay a thousand enemies." Compare the laws given to the children of Israel, as it is claimed by the Creator of us all, with the following from Marcus Aurelius: "I have formed the ideal of a state, in which there is the same law for all, and equal rights, and equal liberty of speech established; an empire where nothing is honored so much as the freedom of the citizen. In the Avesta I fond this: "I belong to five: to those who think good, to those who speak good, to those who do good, to those who hear, and to those who are pure." "Which is the one prayer which in greatness, goodness, and beauty is worth all that is between heaven and earth and between this earth and the stars? And he replied: To renounce all evil thoughts and words and works." VII. It is claimed by the Christian world that one of the great reasons for giving an inspired book to the Jews was, that through them the world might learn there is but one God. This piece of information has been supposed to be of infinite value. As a mater of fact, long before Moses was born, the Egyptians believed and taught that there was but one God that is to say, that above all intelligences there was the one Supreme. They were guilty, too, of the same inconsistencies of modern Christians. They thought the doctrine of the Trinity -- God the Father. the Mother, and God the Son. God was frequently represented as father, mother and babe. They also taught that the soul had a divine origin; that after death it was to be judged according to the deeds done in the body; that those who had done well passed into perpetual joy, and those who had done evil into endless pain. In this they agreed with the most approved divine of the nineteenth century. Women were the equals of men, and Egypt was often governed by queens. In this, her government was vastly better than the one established by God. The laws were administered by courts much like ours. In Egypt there was a system of schools that gave the son of poverty a chance of advancement, and the highest offices were open to the successful scholar. The Egyptian married one wife. The wife was called "the lady of the house." The women were not secluded. The people were not divided into castes. There was nothing to prevent the rise of able and intelligent Egyptians. But like the Jehovah of the Jews, they made slaves of the captives of war. The ancient Persians believed in one God; and women helped to found the Parsee religion. Nothing can exceed some of the maxims of Zoroaster. The Hindoos taught that above all, and over all, was one Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 11 SOME REASONS WHY. eternal Supreme. They had a code of laws. They understood the philosophy of evidence and of damages. They knew better than to teach the doctrine of an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. They knew that when one man maimed another, it was not to the interest of society to have that man maimed, thus burdening the people with two cripples, but that it was better to make the man who maimed the other work to support him. In India, upon the death of a father, the daughters received twice as much from the estate as the sons. The Romans built temples to Truth, Faith, Valor, Concord, Modesty, and Charity, in which they offered sacrifices to the highest conceptions of human excellence. Women had rights; they presided in the temple; they officiated in holy offices; they guarded the sacred fires upon which the safety of Rome depended; and when Christ came, the grandest figure in the known world was the Roman mother. It will not do to say that some rude statue was made by an inspired sculptor, and that the Apollo of Belvidere, Venus de Milo, and the Gladiator were made by unaided men; that the daubs of the early ages were painted by divine assistance, while the Raphaels, the Angelos, and the Rembrandts did what they did without the help of heaven. It will not do to say, that the first hut was built by God, and the last palace by degraded man; that the hoarse songs of the savage tribes were made by the Deity, but that Hamlet and Lear were written by man; that the pipes of Pan were invented in heaven, and all other musical instruments on the earth. If the Jehovah of the Jews had taken upon himself flesh, and dwelt as a man among the people he endeavored to govern, had he followed his own teachings, he would have been a slave-holder, a buyer of babes, and a beater of women. He would have waged wars of extermination. He would have killed grey-haired and trembling age, and would have sheather his sword, in prattling, dimpled babes. He would have been a polygamist, and would have butchered his wife for differing with him on the subject of religion. VIII. THE NEW TESTAMENT. One great objection to the Old Testament is the cruelty said to have been commanded by God. All these cruelties ceased with death. The vengeance of Jehovah stopped at the tomb. He never threatened to punish the dead; and there is not one word, from the first mistake in Genesis to the last curse of Malachi, containing the slightest intimation that God will take his revenge in another world. It was reserved for the New Testament to make known the doctrine of eternal pain. The teacher of universal benevolence rent the veil between time and eternity, and fixed the horrified gaze of man upon the lurid gulf of hell. Within the breast of non- resistance coiled the worm that never dies. Compared with this, the doctrine of slavery, the wars of extermination, the curses, the punishments of the Old Testament were all merciful and just. Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 12 SOME REASONS WHY. There is no time to speak of the conflicting statements in the various books composing the New Testament -- no time to give the history of the manuscripts, the errors in translation, the interpolations made by the fathers and by their successors, the priests, and only time to speak of a few objections, including some absurdities and some contradictions. Where several witnesses testify to the same transaction, no matter how honest they may be, they will disagree upon minor matters, and such testimony is generally considered as evidence that the witnesses have not conspired among themselves. The differences in statement are accounted for from the facts that all do not see alike, and that all have not equally good memories; but when we claim that the witnesses are inspired, we must admit that he who inspired them did know exactly what occurred, and consequently there should be no disagreement, even in the minutest detail. The accounts should not only be substantially, but they should be actually, the same. The differences and contradictions can be accounted for by the weaknesses of human nature, but these weaknesses cannot be predicated of divine wisdom. And here let me ask: Why should there have been more than one correct account of what really happened? Why were four gospels necessary? It seems to me that one inspired gospel, containing all that happened, was enough. Copies of the one correct one could have been furnished to any extent. According to Doctor Davidson Irenaeus argues that the gospels were four in number, because there are four universal winds, four corners of the globe. Others have said, because there are four seasons: and these gentlemen might have added, because a donkey has four legs. For my part, I cannot even conceive of a reason for more than one gospel. According to one of these gospels, and according to the prevalent Christian belief, the Christian religion rests upon the doctrine of the atonement. If this doctrine is without foundation, the fabric falls; and it is without foundation, for it is repugnant to justice and mercy. The church tells us that the first man committed a crime for which all others are responsible. This absurdity was the father and mother of another -- that a man can be rewarded for the good action of another. We are told that God made a law, with the penalty of eternal death. All men, they tell us, have broken this law. The law had to be vindicated. This could be done by damning everybody, but through what is known as the atonement the salvation of the few was made possible. They insist that the law demands the extreme penalty, that justice calls for its victim, that mercy ceases to plead, and that God by allowing the innocent to suffer in the place of the guilty settled satisfactory with the law. To carry out this scheme God was born as a babe, grew in stature, increased in knowledge, and at the age of thirty-three years having lived a life filled with kindness, having practiced every virtue, he was sacrificed as an atonement for man. It is claimed that he took our place, bore our sins, our guilt, and in this way satisfied the justice of God. Under the Mosaic dispensation there was no remission of sin except through the shedding of blood. When a man sinned he must bring to the priest a lamb, a bullock, a goat, or a pair of turtle- doves, The priest would lay his hand upon the animal and the sin of Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 13 SOME REASONS WHY. the man would be transferred to the beast. Then the animal would be killed in place of the sinner, and the blood thus shed would he sprinkled upon the altar. In this way Jehovah was satisfied. The greater the crime, the greater the sacrifice. There was a ratio between the value of the animal and the enormity of the sin. The most minute directions were given as to the killing of these animals. Every priest became a butcher, every synagogue a slaughter-house. Nothing could be more utterly shocking to a refined soul, nothing better calculated to harden the heart, than the continual shedding of innocent blood. This terrible system culminated in the sacrifice of Christ. His blood took the place of all other. It is not necessary to shed any more. The law at last is satisfied, satiated, surfeited. The idea that God wants blood is at the bottom of the atonement, and rests upon the most fearful savagery; and yet the Mosaic dispensation was better adapted to prevent the commission of sin than the Christian system. Under that dispensation, if you committed a sin, you had to bring a sacrifice -- dove, sheep, or bullock, now, when a sin is committed, the Christian says, "Charge it," "Put it on the slate, If I don't pay it the Savior will." In this way, rascality is sold on a credit, and the credit system of religion breeds extravagance in sin. The Mosaic dispensation was based upon far better business principles. The debt had to be paid, and by the man who owed it. We are told that the sinner is in debt to God, and that the obligation is discharged by the Savior. The best that can be said of such a transaction is that the debt is transferred, not paid. As a matter of fact, the sinner is in debt to the person he has injured. If you injure a man, it is not enough to get the forgiveness of God -- you must get the man's forgiveness, you must get your own. If a man puts his hand in the fire and God forgives him, his hand will smart just as badly. You must reap what you sow. No God can give you wheat when you sow tares, and no Devil can give you tares when you sow wheat. We must remember that in nature there are neither rewards nor punishments there are consequences. The life and death of Christ do not constitute an atonement. They are worth the example, the moral force, the heroism of benevolence, and in so far as the life of Christ produces emulation in the direction of goodness, it has been of value to mankind. To make innocence suffer is the greatest sin, and it may be the only sin. How, then, is it possible to make the consequences of sin an atonement for sin, when the consequences of sin are to be borne by one who has not sinned, and the one who has sinned is to reap the reward of virtue? No honorable man should be willing that another should suffer for him. No good law can accept the sufferings of innocence as an atonement for the guilty; and besides, if there was no atonement until the crucifixion of Christ, what became of the countless millions who died before that time? We must remember that the Jews did not kill animals for the Gentiles. Jehovah hated foreigners. There was no way provided for the forgiveness of a heathen. What has become of the millions who have died since, without having heard of the atonement? What becomes of those who hear and do not believe? Can there be a law that demands that the guilty be rewarded. And yet, to reward the guilty is far Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 14 SOME REASONS WHY. nearer justice than to punish the innocent. If the doctrine of the atonement is true, there would have been no heaven had no atonement been made. If Judas had understood the Christian system, if he knew that Christ must be betrayed, and that God was depending on him to betray him, and that without the betrayal no human soul could be saved, what should Judas have done? Jehovah took special charge of the Jewish people. He did this for the purpose of civilizing them. If he had succeeded in civilizing them, he would have made the damnation of the entire human race a certainty; because if the Jews had been a civilized people when Christ appeared -- a people who had not been hardened by the laws of Jehovah -- they would not have crucified Christ, and as a consequence, the world would have been lost. If the Jews had believed in religious freedom, in the rights of thought and speech, if the Christian religion is true, not a human soul ever could have been saved. If, when Christ was on his way to Calvary, some brave soul had rescued him from the pious mob, he would not only have been damned for his pains. but would have rendered impossible the salvation of any human being. The Christian world has been trying for nearly two thousand years to explain the atonement, and every effort has ended in an admission that it cannot be understood, and a declaration that it must be believed. Has the promise and hope of forgiveness ever prevented the commission of a sin? Can men be made better by being taught that sin gives happiness here; that to live a virtuous life is to bear a cross; that men can repent between the last sin and the last breath; and that repentance washes every stain of the soul away? Is it good to teach that the serpent of regret will not hiss in the ear of memory; that the saved will not even pity the victims of their crimes; and that sins forgiven cease to affect the unhappy wretches sinned against? Another objection is, that a certain belief is necessary to save the soul. This doctrine, I admit, is taught in the gospel according to John, and in many of the epistles; I deny that it is taught in Matthew, Mark, or Luke. It is, however, asserted by the church that to believe is the only safe way. To this, I reply: Belief is not a voluntary thing. A man believes or disbelieves in spite of himself, They tell us that to believe is the safe way; but I say, the safe way is to be honest. Nothing can be safer than that. No man in the hour of death ever regretted having been honest. No man when the shadows of the last day were gathering about the pillow of death, ever regretted that he had given to his fellow-man his honest thought. No man, in the presence of eternity, ever wished that he had been a hypocrite. No man ever then regretted that he did not throw away his reason. It certainly cannot be necessary to throw away your reason to save your soul, because after that, your soul is not worth saving. The soul has a right to defend itself. My brain is my castle; and when I waive the right to defend it, I become an intellectual serf and slave. I do not admit that a man by doing me an injury can place me under obligations to do him a service. To render benefits for injuries is to ignore all distinctions between actions. He who Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 15 SOME REASONS WHY. treats friends and enemies alike has neither love nor justice. The idea of non-resistance never occurred to a man with power to defend himself. The mother of this doctrine was weakness. To allow a crime to be committed, even against yourself, when you can prevent it, is next to committing the crime yourself. The church has preached the doctrine of non-resistance, and under that banner has shed the blood of millions. In the folds of her sacred vestments have gleamed for centuries the daggers of assassination. With her cunning hands she wove the purple for hypocrisy and placed the crown upon the brow of crime. For more than a thousand years larceny held the scales of justice, hypocrisy wore the maitre and tiara, while beggars scorned the royal sons of toil, and ignorant fear denounced the liberty of thought. IX CHRIST'S MISSION. Christ came, they tell us, to make a revelation, and what did he reveal? "Love thy neighbor as thyself"? That was in the Old Testament. "Love God with all thy heart"? That was in the Old Testament. "Return good for evil"? That was said by Buddha, seven hundred years before Christ was born. "Do unto others as ye would that they should do unto you"? That was the doctrine of Lao-tsze. Did he come to give a rule of action? Zoroaster had done this long before "Whenever thou art in doubt as to whether an action is good or bad, abstain from it." Did he come to tell us of another world? The immortality of the soul had been taught by the Hindoos, Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans hundreds of years before he was born. What argument did he make in favor of immortality? What facts did he furnish? What star of hope did he put above the darkness of this world? Did he come simply to tell us that we should not revenge ourselves upon our enemies? Long before, Socrates had said; "One who is injured ought not to return the injury, for on no account can it be right to do an injustice; and it is not right to return an injury, or to do evil to any man, however much we have suffered from him." And Cicero, had said. "Let us not listen to those who think we ought to be angry with our enemies, and who believe this to be great and manly. Nothing is so praiseworthy, nothing so clearly shows a great and noble soul, as clemency and readiness to forgive." Is there anything in the literature of the world more nearly perfect than this thought? Was it from Christ the world learned the first lesson of forbearance, when centuries and centuries before, Chrishna had said, "If a man strike thee, and in striking drop his staff, pick it up and hand it to him again?" Is it possible that the son of God threatened to say to a vast majority of his children, "Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels," while the Buddhist was great and tender enough to say: "Never will I seek nor receive private individual salvation; never enter into final peace alone; but forever and everywhere will I live and strive for the universal redemption of every creature throughout all worlds. Never will I leave this world of sin and sorrow and struggle until all are delivered. Until then, I will remain and suffer where I am?" Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 16 SOME REASONS WHY. Is there anything in the New Testament as beautiful as this, from a Sufi? -- "Better one moment of silent contemplation and inward love than seventy thousand years of outward worship." Is there anything comparable to this? -- "Whoever carelessly treads on a worm that crawls on the earth, that heartless one is darkly alienate from God." Is there anything in the New Testament more beautiful than the story of the Sufi? For seven years a Sufi practiced every virtue, and then he mounted the three steps that lead to the doors of Paradise. He knocked and a voice said "Who is there?" The Sufi replied. "Thy servant, O God." But the doors remained closed. Yet seven other years the Sufi engaged in every good work. He comforted the sorrowing and divided his substance with the poor. Again he mounted the three steps, again knocked at the doors of Paradise, and again the voice asked; "Who is there?" and the Sufi replied; "Thy slave, O God." -- But the doors remained closed. Yet seven other years the Sufi spent in works of charity, in visiting the imprisoned and the sick. Again he mounted the steps, again knocked at the celestial doors. Again he heard the question, "Who is there?" and he replied. "Thyself' O God." -- The gates wide open flew. Is it possible that St. Paul was inspired of God, when he said "Let the women learn in silence, with all subjection." -- "Neither was the man created for the woman, but the woman for the man?" And is it possible that Epictetus, without the slightest aid from heaven, gave to the world this gem of love: "What is more delightful than to be so dear to your wife, as to be on that account dearer to yourself?" Did St. Paul express the sentiments of God when he wrote -- "But I would have you know that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of every woman is the man, and the head of Christ is God. Wives, submit yourselves unto your husbands as unto the Lord?" And was the author of this, a poor despised heathen? -- "In whatever house the husband is contented with the wife, and the wife with the husband, in that house will fortune dwell; but upon the house where women are not honored, let a curse be pronounced. Where the wife is honored, there the gods are truly worshiped." Is there anything in the New Testament as beautiful as this? Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 17 SOME REASONS WHY. "Shall I tell thee where nature is most blest and fair? It is where those we love abide. Though that space be small, it is ample above kingdoms; though it be a desert, through it run the rivers of Paradise." After reading the curses pronounced in the Old Testament upon Jew and heathen, the descriptions of slaughter, of treachery and of death, the destruction of women and babes; after you shall have read all the chapters of horror in the New Testament, the threatening of fire and flame, then read this, from the greatest of human beings: "The quality of mercy is not strained: It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath. It is twice blessed; It blesseth him that gives and him that takes. 'Tis mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes The throned monarch better than his crown." X ETERNAL PAIN. Upon passages in the New Testament rests the doctrine of eternal pain. This doctrine subverts every idea of justice. A finite being can neither commit an infinite sin, nor a sin against the Infinite. A being of infinite goodness and wisdom has no right to create any being whose life is not a blessing. Infinite wisdom has no right to create a failure, and surely a man destined to everlasting failure is not a conspicuous success. The doctrine of eternal punishment is the most infamous of all doctrines -- born of ignorance, cruelty and fear. Around the angel of immortality, Christianity has coiled this serpent. Upon Love's breast the church has placed the eternal asp. And yet in the same book in which is taught this most frightful of dogmas, we are assured that "the Lord is good to all, and his tender mercies are over all his works." A few days ago upon the wide sea, was found a barque called "The Tiger," Captain Kreuger, in command. The vessel had been one hundred and twenty-six days upon the sea. For days the crew had been without water, without food, and were starving. For nine days not a drop had passed their lips. The crew consisted of the captain, a mate, and eleven men. At the end of one hundred and eighteen days from Liverpool they killed the captain's Newfoundland dog. This lasted them four days. During the next five days they had nothing. For weeks they had had no light and were unable to see the compass at night. On the one hundred and twenty-fifth day Captain Kreuger, a German, took a revolver in his hand, stood up before the men, and placing the weapon at his temple said "Boys, we can't stand this much longer, and to save you all, I am willing to die." The mate grasped the revolver and begged the captain to wait another day. The next day, upon the horizon of their despair, they saw the smoke of the steamship Nebo. They were rescued. Suppose that Captain Kreuger was not a Christian, and suppose that he had sent the ball crashing through his brain, and had done so simply to keep the crew from starvation, do you tell me that a God of infinite mercy would forever damn that man? Do not misunderstand me. I insist that every passage in the Bible upholding crime was written by savage man. I insist that if there is a God, he is not, never was, and never will be in favor of Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 18 SOME REASONS WHY. slavery, polygamy, wars of extermination, or religious persecution. Does any Christian believe that if the real God were to write a book now, he would uphold the crimes commanded in the Old Testament? Has Jehovah improved? Has infinite mercy become more merciful? Has infinite wisdom intellectually advanced? XI Will any one claim that the passages upholding slavery have liberated mankind? Are we indebted to polygamy for our modern homes? Was religious liberty born of that infamous verse in which the husband is commanded to kill his wife for worshiping an unknown God? The usual answer to these objections is, that no country has ever been civilized without a Bible. The Jews were the only people to whom Jehovah made his will directly known. Were they better than other nations? They read the Old Testament and one of the effects of such reading was, that they crucified a kind, loving, and perfectly innocent man. Certainly they could not have done worse, without a Bible. In crucifying Christ the Jews followed the teachings of his Father. If Jehovah was in fact God, and if that God took upon himself flesh and came among the Jews, and preached what the Jews understood to be blasphemy; and if the Jews in accordance with the laws given by this same Jehovah to Moses, crucified him, then I say, and I say it with infinite reverence, he reaped what he had sown. He became the victim of his own injustice. But I insist that these things are not true. I insist that the real God, if there is one, never commanded man to enslave his fellow-man, never told a mother to sell her babe, never established polygamy, never urged one nation to exterminate another, and never told a husband to kill his wife because she suggested the worship of another God. From the aspersions of the pulpit, from the slanders of the church, I seek to rescue the reputation of the Deity. I insist that the Old Testament would be a better book with all these passages left out; and whatever may be said of the rest of the Bible, the passages to which I have called attention can, with vastly more propriety, be attributed to a devil than to a god. Take from the New Testament the idea that belief is necessary to salvation; that Christ was offered as an atonement for the sins of mankind; that heaven is the reward of faith, and hell the penalty of honest investigation, and that the punishment of the human soul will go on forever; take from it all miracles and foolish stories, and I most cheerfully admit that the good passages are true. If they are true, it makes no difference whether they are inspired or not. Inspiration is only necessary to give authority to that which is repugnant to human reason. Only that which never happened needs to be substantiated by a miracle. The universe is natural. The church must cease to insist that passages upholding the institutions of savage men were inspired of God. The dogma of atonement must be abandoned. Good deeds must take the place of Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 19 SOME REASONS WHY. faith. The savagery of eternal punishment must be renounced. It must be admitted that credulity is not a virtue, and that investigation is not a crime. It must be admitted that miracles are the children of mendacity, and that nothing can be more wonderful than the majestic, unbroken, sublime, and eternal procession of causes and effects. Reason must be the arbiter. Inspired books attested by miracles cannot stand against a demonstrated fact. A religion that does not command the respect of the greatest minds will, in a little while, excite the mockery of all. A man who does not believe in intellectual liberty is a barbarian. Is it possible that God is intolerant? Could there be any progress, even in heaven, without intellectual liberty? Is the freedom of the future to exist only in perdition? Is it not, after all, barely possible that a man acting like Christ can be saved? Is a man to be eternally rewarded for believing according to evidence, without evidence, or against evidence? Are we to be saved because we are good, or because another was virtuous? Is credulity to be winged and crowned, whilst honest doubt is chained and damned. If Jehovah, was in fact God, he knew the end from the beginning. He knew that his Bible would be a breast-work behind which all tyranny and hypocrisy would crouch. He knew that his Bible would be the auction-block on which women would stand while their babes were sold from their arms. He knew that this Bible would be quoted by tyrants; that it would be the defence of robbers called kings, and of hypocrites called priests. He knew that he had taught the Jewish people nothing of importance. He knew that he had found them free and left them slaves. He knew that he had never fulfilled a single promise made to them. He knew that while other nations had advanced in art and science his chosen people were savage still. He promised them the world, and gave them a desert. He promised them liberty and he made them slaves. He promised them victory and he gave them defeat. He said they should be kings and he made them serfs. He promised them universal empire and gave them exile. When one finishes the Old Testament he is compelled to say: "Nothing can add to the misery of a nation whose king is Jehovah!" The Old Testament filled this world with tyranny and injustice, and the New gives us a future filled with pain for nearly all of the sons of men. The Old Testament describes the hell of the past, and the New the hell of the future. The Old Testament tells us the frightful things that God has done, the New the frightful things that he will do. These two books give us the sufferings of the past and the future -- the injustice, the agony and the tears of both worlds. **** **** Reproducible Electronic Publishing can defeat censorship. 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 20
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