Mr. BRADLAUGH: I understand Mr. Roberts now to say that it is impossible for him to prove his case in six nights. Then he ought not to have challenged me to this debate. He says he could do it before a judge and jury. He selected his own tribunal–a public audience. He says that all the points I have taken would melt away to nothing when investigated one by one. Why does he not do it then, one by one? He has not touched one. He says he can do it, and yet he does not do it; and if he can do it, and does not do it, then he is guilty of not being loyal to the cause he is here to defend.
Then he has referred to the texts, and still avoided the points; he actually referred to the twenty-fourth chapter of Luke again, and did not say a word about that text contradicting the texts in other gospels as to the number of those women. It is not debating to do that; reading a number of texts of Scripture without giving any evidence of them. The question to be debated is, "Are the Scriptures the authentic and reliable records of divine revelation?" and Mr. Roberts said that by "authentic" he really meant written by the persons by whom they professed to have been written, and at the times they professed to have been written; and when questioned as to books supposed to have been in existence 1500 B.C., he says that involves matter he is not prepared to give, when it is the very point he ought to have been prepared to state. You cannot say that when questioning him I did not wait with the utmost patience: I waited two minutes by the clock for one portion, three minutes for another, and two minutes and a quarter for another: I did not say one word; and he only said, when pressed for the evidence of his statement, that he was not prepared to give it. Asked for some evidence, he answers that I am pressing him too hardly. Pressed as to the authenticity of the first five books he does nothing. If he has not come to prove that, he came to prove nothing, and yet he has to confess, in answer to my questions, that on that point he is not prepared to answer.
Well, then, he tells you that Gentiles and Jews admit that the body of Christ could not be found. Well, that is about as wild a saying as it is possible to give, and I dare him to produce me the writings of any Jewish Rabbi of any note at all containing any such admission. I do not pretend to be well read in Rabbinical writings; I have gone through a few volumes relating to them — not many, but I have not yet found a trace of an allegation of any such admission. I think I have read nearly every Christian evidence writing, and I have never seen a quotation from any Jewish Rabbi about anything of the kind, and I say it is utterly reckless–I do not mean it any way unfairly, but only showing that there is an utter looseness and carelessness in this debate about the meaning of words.
Mr. Roberts seems to think if he reads statements out of the Bible, he has proved those statements to be true, and then he asks me to explain the wide-spread acceptance of it. But the wide-spread acceptance of a doctrine does not prove it to be true. Buddhism and Brahminism are widely accepted, but that is no proof that they are true. As to Christianity, the "wide-spreading" of it was done by the sabre, by the rack, by the prison, by the fagot, not by the interal evidences of the book. I could quote you from Christian history, going from about the fifth century to the thirteenth, and show you that the people were induced to profess to believe this simply by killing them if they did not believe it. Every religion that has a large number of converts is wide-spread, and if that is evidence of the truth of it, the verdict goes by the majority, and as it is only the minority that believe Christianity, then Christianity is wrong.
Well, now, let us, if you please, just see what we have really got; we have had in the last speech–I think I should be within bounds in saying–two-thirds of the quarter of an hour occupied in reading portions of the Bible, and not one reference during that time to the contradictions I had drawn attention to; although on the very question of the resurrection I had pointed out that there were contradictions as to the three days and three nights; also as to the women who went to the sepulchre, I pointed a distinct contradiction there; also as to the period Christ is stated to have been on the earth after his resurrection, I pointed out a distinct contradiction. All he tells you is what he could do in some other place and circumstances. But if he could not do it here, he should not have been here.
Now, if you please, just see the position we are in; not one date alleged for the Book of Genesis, not one author tried to be proved for it; not one date alleged for the Book of Exodus, not one author tried to be proved for it; not one date alleged for the Book of Leviticus, not one author tried to be proved for it; not one date alleged for the Book of Numbers, not one author tried to be proved for it; not one date alleged for the Book of Deuteronomy, not one author tried to be proved for it; a statement, for which there is no foundation whatever, was made that in the time of Joshua these five books were kept in a place called Shiloh. When we have got some statement of that kind, of which there is not a particle of evidence here, then I shall want some proof of the place called Shiloh, and I think Mr. Roberts will find he has got his work to do there. And I shall want proof of any evidence in the world that there were manuscripts existing at that time; and I will show you, from the size of the ark, and the only fashion of record common to the country where the Jews were in the alleged time of Moses, that it would be simply impossible that you could have had anything of the kind. I said to Mr. Roberts, "Give some prima facie evidence", and he said, "O! I will do it some night in the debate; I am not quite sure I shall do it at all"; and I am sure you cannot do it at all. But that is what he ought to have done in his first speech.
He has jumped over the whole of the Old Testament, and thinks that by reading from the gospels and the Acts of the Apostles, that he proves the authenticity of the whole of the Bible. Why! reading the Lord’s Prayer will not prove the truth of the rest of the Book. Reading some story–and what have we had? a curious story; a story of Jesus appearing to two disciples going to Emmaus; while they could see him they did not know him; and directly they could not see him, knew him; and that is the best evidence he can give you. Why! if it were submitted to sane people as an event of to-day, only one verdict could be come to. How is this debate to go on?
I am asked about the "widespread". Shall I deal with the "wide-spread", step by step? If you appeal to the wide-spread, I must take it as I find it; and what do I find this Church to be? I find it, in its earlier ages, to be a Church that made its way by fraud, by forgery, by assassination, and by perjury; I find it described by its own ministers as full of licentiousness and corruption; find that as it grew it incited wars all through Europe; took the side of king against people, and enslaving the people; I find it crushing out the possibility of education, and so destroying philosophy that it is only to the Moors we owe the preservation of great thought. If you want the spread, take the spread as it was through the centuries of gloom and ignorance, and the only gleam of light you will find in it is during the eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth centuries, when the bloody Crusades, and the ruined cities, and the burnt homes showed in bright relief the humanity of your Christianity. If you want the spread, take it in the early part of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries; take it under John of Burgundy and Charles the Bold, and under Charles and Louis of France. Take it when the Church aided to destroy the toiling burghers of Dinant. Take it when the priests of this book cursed the city, when they stood by while the duke and king razed every house to the ground! You talk of divine revelation! In the names of the murdered women of Dinant I impeach the faith founded on it. I say the whole history of it has been a history of cruelty, of fraud and of crime, until civilisation, struggling out, despite the whole hindrances of your superstition, has purified your religion despite itself. I should have been content, if anything like evidence had been given, to answer that evidence; I should have been content, if texts had been examined, to go through text by text. I am told I have piled up a bundle of texts. Yes; and I could have made it tenfold. Instead of any answer, I am referred to the "wide-spread" of it! "Wide-spread" of it! Where will you take it to-day? Which is it? Rome, England, Nonconformists, Unitarians, Trinitarians? Do not tell me about the "widespread", when there are a hundred sects cursing and damning one another, and at the present moment preparing for war against one another right through Europe! "Wide-spread" of it!
Why, if you want any proof that it is not authentic, it is that it has failed to dominate mankind in the interest of humanity; if you want any proof of it, it is that the clergy are obliged to admit that belief in this book is disappearing as education increases; if you want any proof that it is not a Divine revelation, it is that while this version is urged to you as God’s only message to man, a committee are now sitting to make out a new one! Friends, I will not intrude any longer on your attention, because I have exhausted, within a minute or two, the time alloted to me, but I must ask you to bear with me while I point out what my opponent ought to have done, and what he ought not to have done, because, practically, in the quarter of an hour to come, it will be divided into two short speeches.
According to my friend’s own contention he should have given you some evidence of the authenticity of the book. He has given you none. He should have been prepared to defend the morality of the book; but he has not answered what I said about slavery and murder, and the contradictions in the character of God; he has only read to you about Jesus being dead, and eating broiled fish and honey-comb when he was dead, and he apparently thinks that this passes in lieu of proof. And then he says it is impossible to do it in six nights. Then cease the debate at once; do not take six nights, and do not waste time in the unavailing attempt to do it. He says he can do it before a judge and jury, instead of which he is bound to do it before the tribunal he himself has chosen, a sensible and intelligent audience of Leicester men, who are able to form an opinion, and who will only have one verdict to give. [A pause.]