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Robert Ingersoll Debate V Black Christianity 1b


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V Black Christianity 1b

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The Works of ROBERT G. INGERSOLL

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THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION.
(The Ingersoll -- Black Debate)

Part one by
Robert G. Ingersoll

1881

I

In the presence of eternity the mountains are as
transient as the clouds.
_______

A profound change has taken place in the world of thought. The
pews are trying to set themselves somewhat above the pulpit, The
layman discusses theology with the minister, and smiles. Christians
excuse themselves for belonging to the church, by denying a part of
the creed. The idea is abroad that they who know the most of nature
believe the least about theology. The sciences are regarded as
infidels, and facts as scoffers. Thousands of most excellent people
avoid churches, and, with few exceptions, only those attend prayer-
meetings who wish to be alone. The pulpit is losing because the
people are growing.

Of course it is still claimed that we are a Christian people,
indebted to something called Christianity for all the progress we
have made. There is still a vast difference of opinion as to what
Christianity really is, although many warring sects have been
discussing that question, with fire and sword, through centuries of
creed and crime. Every new sect has been denounced at its birth as
illegitimate, as a something born out of orthodox wedlock, and that
should have been allowed to perish on the steps where it was found.
Of the relative merits of the various denominations, it is
sufficient to say that each claims to be right. Among the
evangelical churches there is a substantial agreement upon what
they consider the fundamental truths of the gospel. These
fundamental truths, as I understand them, are:

That there is a personal God, the creator of the material
universe; that he made man of the dust, and woman from part of the
man; that the man and woman were tempted by the devil; that they
were turned out of the Garden of Eden; that, about fifteen hundred
years afterward, God's patience having been exhausted by the
wickedness of mankind, he drowned his children with the exception
of eight persons; that afterward he selected from their descendants

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Abraham, and through him the Jewish people; that he gave laws to
these people, and tried to govern them in all things; that he made
known his will in many ways that he wrought a vast number of
miracles; that he inspired men to write the Bible; that, in the
fullness of time, it having been found impossible to reform
mankind, this God came upon earth as a child born of the Virgin
Mary; that he lived in Palestine; that he preached for about three
years, going from place to place, occasionally raising the dead,
curing the blind and the halt; that he was crucified for the crime
of blasphemy, as the Jews supposed, but that, as a matter of fact,
he was offered as a sacrifice for the sins of all who might have
faith in him; that he was raised from the dead and ascended into
heaven, where he now is, making intercession for his followers that
he will forgive the sins of all who believe on him, and that those
who do not believe will be consigned to the dungeons of eternal
pain. These it may be with the addition of the sacraments of
Baptism and the Last Supper constitute what is generally known as
the Christian religion.

It is most cheerfully admitted that a vast number of people
not only believe these things, but hold them in exceeding
reverence, and imagine them to be of the utmost importance to
mankind. They regard the Bible as the only light that God has given
for the guidance of his children; that it is the one star in
nature's sky the foundation of all morality, of all law, of all
order, and of all individual and national progress. They regard it
as the only means we have for ascertaining the will of God, the
origin of man, and the destiny of the soul.

It is needless to inquire into the causes that have led so
many people to believe in the inspiration of the Scriptures. In my
opinion, they were and are mistaken, and the mistake has hindered,
in countless ways, the civilization of man. The Bible has been the
fortress and defence of nearly every crime. No civilized country
could re-enact its laws, and in many respects its moral code is
abhorrent to every good and tender man. It is admitted that many of
its precepts are pure, that many of its laws are wise and just, and
that many of its statements are absolutely true.

Without desiring to hurt the feelings of anybody, I propose to
give a few reasons for thinking that a few passages, at least, in
the Old Testament are the product of a barbarous people.

In all civilized countries it is not only admitted, but it is
passionately asserted, that slavery is and always was a hideous
crime; that a war of conquest is simply murder; that polygamy is
the enslavement of woman, the degradation of man, and the
destruction of home; that nothing is more infamous than the
slaughter of decrepit men, of helpless women, and of prattling
babes; that captured maidens should not be given to soldiers; that
wives should not be stoned to death on account of their religious
opinions, and that the death penalty ought not to be inflicted for
a violation of the Sabbath. We know that there was a time, in the
history of almost every nation, when slavery, polygamy, and wars of
extermination were regarded as divine institutions; when women were
looked upon as beasts of burden, and when, among some people, it
was considered the duty of the husband to murder the wife for

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differing with him on the subject of religion. Nations that
entertain these views to-day are regarded as savage, and, probably,
with the exception of the South Sea Islanders, the Feejees, some
citizens of Delaware, and a few tribes in Central Africa, no human
beings can be found degraded enough to agree upon these subjects
with the Jehovah of the ancient Jews. The only evidence we have, or
can have, that a nation has ceased to be savage is the fact that it
has abandoned these doctrines. To every one, except the theologian,
it is perfectly easy to account for the mistakes, atrocities, and
crimes of the past, by saying that civilization is a slow and
painful growth; that the moral perceptions are cultivated through
ages of tyranny, of want, 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 scales of justice; that conscience is
born of suffering; that mercy is the child of the imagination of
the power to put oneself in the suffer's place, and that man
advances only as he becomes acquainted with his surroundings, with
the mutual obligations of life, and learns to take advantage of the
forces of nature.

But the believer in the inspiration of the Bible is compelled
to declare that there was a time when slavery was right when men
could buy, and women could sell, their babes. He is compelled to
insist that there was a time 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 must
maintain that Jehovah is just as bad now as he was four thousand
years ago, or that he was just as good then as he is now, but that
human conditions have so changed that slavery, polygamy, religious
persecutions, and wars of conquest are now perfectly devilish. Once
they were right once they were commanded by God himself; now, they
are prohibited. There has been such a change in the conditions of
man that, at the present time, the devil is in favor of slavery,
polygamy, religious persecution, and wars of conquest. That is to
say, the devil entertains the same opinion to-day that Jehovah held
four thousand years ago, but in the meantime Jehovah has remained
exactly the same, changeless and incapable of change.

We find that other nations beside the Jews had similar laws
and ideas; that they believed in and practiced slavery and
polygamy, murdered women and children, and exterminated their
neighbors to the extent of their power. It is not claimed that they
received a revelation. It is admitted that they had no knowledge of
the true God. And yet, by a strange coincidence, they practiced the
same crimes, of their own motion, that the Jews did by the command
of Jehovah. From this it would seem that man can do wrong without
a special revelation.

It will hardly be claimed, at this day, that the passages in
the Bible upholding slavery, polygamy, war and religious
persecution are evidences of the inspiration of that book. Suppose
that there had been nothing in the Old Testament upholding these
crimes, would any modern Christian suspect that it was not
inspired, on account of the omission? Suppose that there had been
nothing in the Old Testament but laws in favor of these crimes,
would any intelligent Christian now contend that it was the work of

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the true God? If the devil had inspired a book, will some believer
in the doctrine of inspiration 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 that we
should now discover a Hindu book of equal antiquity with the Old
Testament, containing a defence of slavery, polygamy, wars of
extermination, and religious persecution, would we regard it as
evidence that the writers were inspired by an infinitely wise and
merciful God? As most other nations at that time practiced these
crimes, and as the Jews would have practiced them all, even if left
to themselves, one can hardly see the necessity of any inspired
commands upon these subjects. Is there a believer in the Bible who
does not wish that God, amid the thunders and lightnings of Sinai,
had distinctly said to Moses that man should not own his fellow-
man; that women should not sell their babes; that men should be
allowed to think and investigate for themselves, and that the sword
should never be unsheathed to shed the blood of honest men? Is
there a believer in the world, who would not be delighted to find
that every one of these infamous passages are interpolations, and
that the skirts of God were never reddened by the blood of maiden,
wife, or babe? Is there a believer who does not regret that God
commanded a husband to stone his wife to death for suggesting the
worship of the sun or moon? Surely, the light of experience is
enough to tell us that slavery is wrong, that polygamy is infamous,
and that murder is not a virtue. No one will now contend that it
was worth God's while to impart the information to Moses, or to
Joshua, or to anybody else, that the Jewish people might purchase
slaves of the heathen, or that it was their duty to exterminate the
natives of the Holy Land. The Deists have contended that the Old
Testament is too cruel and barbarous to be the work of a wise and
loving God. To this, the theologians have replied, that nature is
just as cruel; that the earthquake, the volcano, the pestilence and
storm, are just as savage as the Jewish God; and to my mind this is
a perfect answer.

Suppose that we knew that after "inspired" men had finished
the Bible, the devil got possession of it, and wrote a few
passages; what part of the sacred Scriptures would Christians now
pick out as being probably his work? Which of the following
passages would naturally 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"?

It may be that the best way to illustrate what I have said of
the Old Testament is to compare some of the supposed teachings of
Jehovah with those of persons who never read an "inspired" line,
and who lived and died without having received the light of
revelation. Nothing can be more suggestive than a comparison of the
ideas of Jehovah the inspired words of the one claimed to be the
infinite God, as recorded in the Bible with those that have been
expressed by men who, all admit, received no help from heaven. In
all ages of which any record has been preserved, there have been
those who gave their ideas of justice, charity, liberty, love and
law. Now, if the Bible is really the work of God, it should contain
the grandest and sublimest truths. It should, in all respects,
excel the works of man. Within that book should be found the best

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and loftiest definitions of justice; the truest conceptions of
human liberty; the clearest outlines of duty; the tenderest, the
highest, and the noblest thoughts, not that the human mind has
produced, but that the human mind is capable of receiving. Upon
every page should be found the luminous evidence of its divine
origin. Unless it contains grander and more wonderful things than
man has written, we are not only justified in saying, but we are
compelled to say, that it was written by no being superior to man.
It may be said that it is unfair to call attention to certain bad
things in the Bible, while the good are not so much as mentioned.
To this it may be replied that a divine being would not put bad
things in a book. Certainly a being of infinite intelligence,
power, and goodness could never fall below the ideal of "depraved
and barbarous" man. It will not do, after we find that the Bible
upholds what we now call crimes, 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. But this would include only the
thoughts expressed without words. If ideas are inspired, they must
be contained in and expressed only by inspired words; that is to
say, the arrangement of the words, with relation to each other,
must have been inspired. For the purpose of this perfect
arrangement, the writers, according to the Christian world, were
inspired. Were some sculptor inspired of God to make a statue
perfect in its every part, we would not say that the marble was
inspired, but the statue 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 these words that
Christians claim to be inspired. If there is one uninspired word,
that is, one word in the wrong place, or a word that ought not to
be there, to that extent the Bible is an uninspired book. The
moment it is admitted that some words are not, in their arrangement
as to other words, inspired, then, unless with absolute certainty
these words can be pointed out, a doubt is cast on all the words
the book contains. If it was worth God's while to make a revelation
to man at all, it was certainly worth his while to see that it was
correctly made. He would not have allowed the ideas and mistakes of
pretended prophets and designing priests to become so mingled with
the original text that it is impossible to tell where he ceased and
where the priests and prophets began. Neither will it do to say
that God adapted his revelation to the prejudices of mankind. Of
course it was necessary for an infinite being to adapt his
revelation to the intellectual capacity of man; but why should God
confirm a barbarian in his prejudices? Why should he fortify a
heathen in his crimes? If a revelation is of any importance
whatever, it is to eradicate prejudices from the human mind. It
should be a lever with which to raise the human race. Theologians
have exhausted their ingenuity in finding excuses for God. It seems
to me that they would be better employed in finding excuses for
men. They tell us that the Jews were so cruel and ignorant that God
was compelled to justify, or nearly to justify, many of their
crimes, in order to have any influence with them whatever. They
tell us that if he had declared slavery and polygamy to be
criminal, the Jews would have refused to receive the Ten
Commandments. They insist that, under the circumstances, God did
the best he could; that his real intention was to lead them along
slowly, step by step, so that, in a few hundred years, they would
be induced to admit that it was hardly fair to steal a babe from

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its mother's breast. It has always seemed reasonable that an
infinite God ought to have been able to make man grand enough to
know, even without a special revelation, that it is not altogether
right to steal the labor, or the wife, or the child, of another.
When the whole question is thoroughly examined, the world will find
that Jehovah had the prejudices, the hatreds, and superstitions of
his day.

If there is anything of value, it is liberty. Liberty is the
air of the soul, the sunshine of life. Without it the world is a
prison and the universe an infinite dungeon.

If the Bible is really inspired, Jehovah commanded the Jewish
people to buy the children of the stranger 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 Epictetas, a man to whom no
revelation was 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 surely punished;
notwithstanding, 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 no man
could be the owner of another, and that the 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 rule for the
guidance of human conduct: "Live with thy inferiors as thou
would'st 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 spend mine
arrows upon them. They shall be burnt with hunger, and devoured
with burning heat, and with bitter destruction: I will also send
the teeth 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 the virgin, the suckling also, with the man of gray

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hairs"; while Seneca, an uninspired Roman, said: "The wise man will
not pardon any crime that ought to 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 of any one: "Let his
children be fatherless and his wife a widow; let his children be
continually vagabonds, and beg; let 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.... Thou 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 into the mouth
of Brahma: "I am the same to all mankind. They who honestly serve
other gods, involuntarily worship me. I am he who partaketh 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.

II

Waiving the contradictory statements in the various books of
the New Testament; leaving out of the question the history of the
manuscripts: saying nothing about the errors in translation and the
interpolations made by the fathers; and admitting, for the time
being, that the books were all written at the times claimed, and by
the persons whose names they bear, the questions of inspiration,
probability, and absurdity still remain.

As a rule, where several persons testify to the same
transaction, while agreeing in the main points, they will disagree
upon many minor things, and such disagreement upon minor matters is
generally considered as evidence that the witnesses have not agreed
among themselves upon the story they should tell. These differences
in statement we account for from the facts that all did not see
alike, that all did not have the same opportunity for seeing, and
that all had not equally good memories. But when we claim that the
witnesses were inspired, we must admit that he who inspired them
did know exactly what occurred, and consequently there should be no
contradiction, even in the minutest detail. The accounts should be
not only substantially, but they should be actually, the same. It
is impossible to account for any differences, or any
contradictions, except from the weaknesses of human nature, and
these weaknesses cannot be predicated of divine wisdom. Why should

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there be more than one correct account of anything? Why were four
gospels necessary? One inspired record of all that happened ought
to be enough. One great objection to the Old Testament is the
cruelty said to have been commanded by God, but all the cruelties
recounted in the Old Testament ceased with death. The vengeance of
Jehovah stopped at the portal of the tomb. He never threatened to
avenge himself upon the dead; and not one word, from the first
mistake in Genesis to the last curse of Malachi, contains the
slightest intimation that God will punish in another world. It was
reserved for the New Testament to make known the frightful doctrine
of eternal pain. It was the teacher of universal benevolence who
rent the veil between time and eternity, and fixed the horrified
gaze of man on the lurid gulfs of hell. Within the breast of non-
resistance was coiled the worm that never dies.

One great objection to the New Testament is that it bases
salvation upon belief. This, at least, is true of the Gospel
according to John, and of many of the Episodes. I admit that
Matthew never heard of the atonement, and died utterly ignorant of
the scheme of salvation. I also admit that Mark never dreamed that
it was necessary for a man to be born again; that he knew nothing
of the mysterious doctrine of regeneration, and that he never even
suspected that it was necessary to believe anything. In the
sixteenth chapter of Mark, we are told that "He that believeth and
is baptized shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be
damned"; but this passage has been shown to be an interpolation,
and, consequently, not a solitary word is found in the Gospel
according to Mark upon the subject of salvation by faith. The same
is also true of the Gospel of Luke. It says not one word as to the
necessity of believing on Jesus Christ, not one word as to the
atonement, not one word upon the scheme of salvation, and not the
slightest hint that it is necessary to believe anything here in
order to be happy hereafter.

And I here take occasion to say, that with most of the
teachings of the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke I most heartily
agree. The miraculous parts must, of course, be thrown aside. I
admit that the necessity of belief, the atonement, and the scheme
of salvation are all set forth in the Gospel of John, a gospel, in
my opinion, not written until long after the others.

According to the prevailing Christian belief, the Christian
religion rests upon the doctrine of the atonement. If this doctrine
is without foundation, if it is repugnant to justice and mercy, the
fabric falls. We are told that the first man committed a crime for
which all his posterity are responsible, in other words, that we
are accountable, and can be justly punished for a sin we never in
fact committed. This absurdity was the father of another, namely,
that a man can be rewarded for a good action done by another. God,
according to the modern theologians, made a law, with the penalty
of eternal death for its infraction. All men, they say, have broken
that law. In the economy of heaven, this law had to be vindicated.
This could be done by damning the whole human race. Through what is
known as the atonement, the salvation of a few was made possible.
They insist that the law whatever that is demanded the extreme
penalty, that justice called for its victims, and that even mercy
ceased to plead. Under these circumstances, God, by allowing the

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innocent to suffer, satisfactorily settled with the law, and
allowed a few of the guilty to escape. The law was satisfied with
this arrangement. To carry out this scheme, God was born as a babe
into this world. "He grew in stature and increased in knowledge."
At the age of thirty-three, after having lived a life filled with
kindness, charity and nobility, after having practiced every virtue
he was sacrificed as an atonement for man. It is claimed that he
actually took our place, and bore our sins and our guilt; that in
this way the justice of God was satisfied, and that the blood of
Christ was an atonement, an expiation, for the sins of all who
might believe on him.

Under the Mosaic dispensation, there was no remission of sin
except through the shedding of blood. If a man committed certain
sins, he must bring to the priest a lamb, a bullock, a goat, or a
pair of turtle-doves. The priest would lay his hands upon the
animal, and the sin of the man would be transferred. Then the
animal would be killed in the place of the real sinner, and the
blood thus shed and sprinkled upon the altar would be an atonement.
In this way Jehovah was satisfied. The greater the crime, the
greater the sacrifice the more blood, the greater the atonement.
There was always a certain ratio between the value of the animal
and the enormity of the sin. The most minute directions were given
about the killing of these animals, and about the sprinkling of
their blood. Every priest became a butcher, and every sanctuary a
slaughter-house. Nothing could be more utterly shocking to a
refined and loving soul. Nothing could have been better calculated
to harden the heart than this continual shedding of innocent blood.
This terrible system is supposed to have culminated in the
sacrifice of Christ. His blood took the place of all other. It is
necessary to shed no 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. How can sin be
transferred from men to animals, and how can the shedding of the
blood of animals atone for the sins of men?

The church says that the sinner is in debt to God, and that
the obligation is discharged by the Savior. The best that can
possibly be said of such a transaction is, that the debt is
transferred, not paid. The truth is, that a sinner is in debt to
the person he has injured. If a man injures his neighbor, it is not
enough for him to get the forgiveness of God, but he must have the
forgiveness of his neighbor. If a man puts his hand in the fire and
God forgives him, his hand will smart exactly the same. You must,
after all, 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.

There are in nature neither rewards nor punishments there are
consequences. The life of Christ is worth its example, its moral
force, its heroism of benevolence.

To make innocence suffer is the greatest sin; how then is it
possible to make the suffering of the innocent a justification for
the criminal? Why should a man be willing to let the innocent
suffer for him? Does not the willingness show that he is utterly
unworthy of the sacrifice? Certainly, no man would be fit for
heaven who would consent that an innocent person should suffer for

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his sin. What would we think of a man who would allow another to
die for a crime that he himself had committed? What would we think
of a law that allowed the innocent to take the place of the guilty?
Is it possible to vindicate a just law by inflicting punishment on
the innocent? Would not that be a second violation instead of a
vindication?

If there was no general atonement until the crucifixion of
Christ, what became of the countless millions who died before that
time? And it must be remembered that the blood shed by the Jews was
not for other nations. Jehovah hated foreigners. The Gentiles were
left without forgiveness. What has become of the millions who have
died since, without having heard of the atonement? What becomes of
those who have heard but have not believed? It seems to me that the
doctrine of the atonement is absurd, unjust, and immoral. Can a law
be satisfied by the execution of the wrong person? When a man
commits a crime, the law demands his punishment, not that of a
substitute; and there can he no law, human or divine, that can be
satisfied by the punishment of a substitute. Can there be a law
that demands that the guilty be rewarded? And yet, to reward the
guilty is far nearer justice than to punish the innocent.

According to the orthodox theology, there would have been no
heaven had no atonement been made. All the children of men would
have been cast into hell forever. The old men bowed with grief, the
smiling mothers, the sweet babes, the loving maidens, the brave,
the tender, and the just, would have been given over to eternal
pain. Man, it is claimed, can make no atonement for himself. If he
commits one sin, and with that exception lives a life of perfect
virtue, still that one sin would remain unexpiated, unatoned, and
for that one sin he would be forever lost. To be saved by the
goodness of another, to be a redeemed debtor forever, has in it
something repugnant to manhood.

We must also remember that Jehovah took special charge of the
Jewish people; and we have always been taught that he did so for
the purpose of civilizing them. If he had succeeded in civilizing
the Jews, 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, people whose hearts had not been hardened by the
laws and teachings of Jehovah, they would not have crucified him,
and, as a consequence, the world would have been lost. If the Jews
had believed in religious freedom, in the right of thought and
speech, not a human soul could ever have been saved. If, when
Christ was on his way to Calvary, some brave, heroic soul had
rescued him from the holy mob, he would not only have been
eternally damned for his pains, but would have rendered impossible
the salvation of any human being, and, except for the crucifixion
of her son, the Virgin Mary, if the church is right, would be
to-day among the lost.

In countless ways the Christian world has endeavored, 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. Is it not immoral to teach
that man can sin, that he can harden his heart and pollute his
soul, and that, by repenting and believing something that he does

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not comprehend, he can avoid the consequences of his crimes? Has
the promise and hope of forgiveness ever prevented the commission
of a sin? Should men be taught that sin gives happiness here; that
they ought to bear the evils of a virtuous life in this world for
the sake of joy in the next; that they can repent between the last
sin and the last breath; that after repentance every stain of the
soul is washed away by the innocent blood of another; that the
serpent of regret will not hiss in the ear of memory; that the
saved will not even pity the victims of their own crimes; that the
goodness of another can be transferred to them: 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. It is often asserted that to believe is the only
safe way. If you wish to be safe, be honest. Nothing can be safer
than that. No matter what his belief may be, no man, even in the
hour of death, can regret having been honest. It never can be
necessary to throw away your reason to save your soul. A soul
without reason is scarcely worth saving. There is no more degrading
doctrine than that of mental non-resistance. The soul has a right
to defend its castle the brain, and he who waives that right
becomes a serf and slave. Neither can I admit that a man, by doing
me an injury, can place me under obligation to do him a service. To
render benefits for injuries is to ignore all distinctions between
actions. He who treats his friends and enemies alike has neither
love nor justice. The idea of non-resistance never occurred to a
man with power to protect himself. This doctrine was the child of
weakness, born when resistance was impossible. To allow a crime to
be committed when you can prevent it, is next to committing the
crime yourself. And yet, under the banner of non-resistance, the
church has shed the blood of millions, and in the folds of her
sacred vestments have gleamed the daggers of assassination. With
her cunning hands she wove the purple for hypocrisy, and placed the
crown upon the brow of crime. For a thousand years larceny held the
scales of justice, while beggars scorned the princely sons of toil,
and ignorant fear denounced the liberty of thought.

If Christ was in fact God, he knew all the future. Before him,
like a panorama, moved the history yet to be. He knew exactly how
his words would he interpreted. He knew what crimes, what horrors,
what infamies, would be committed in his name. He knew that the
fires of persecution would climb around the limbs of countless
martyrs. He knew that brave men would languish in dungeons, in
darkness, filled with pain; that the church would use instruments
of torture, that his followers would appeal to whip and chain. He
must have seen the horizon of the future red with the flames of the
auto da fe He knew all the creeds that would spring like poison
fungi from every text. He saw the sects waging war against each
other. He saw thousands of men, under the orders of priests,
building dungeons for their fellow-men. He saw them using
instruments of pain. He heard the groans, saw the faces white with
agony, the tears, the blood, heard the shrieks and sob of all the
moaning, martyred multitudes. He knew that commentaries would be
written on his words with swords, to be read by the light of
fagots. He knew that the Inquisition would be born of teachings
attributed to him. He saw all the interpolations and falsehoods
that hypocrisy would write and tell. He knew that above these

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THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION - I
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fields of death, these dungeons, these burnings, for a thousand
years would float the dripping banner of the cross. He knew that in
his name his followers would trade in human flesh, that cradles
would be robbed, and women's breasts unbabed for gold, and yet he
died with voiceless lips. Why did he fail to speak? Why did he not
tell his disciples, and through them the world, that man should not
persecute, for opinion's sake, his fellow-man? Why did he not cry,
You shall not persecute in my name; you shall not burn and torment
those who differ from you in creed? Why did he not plainly say, I
am the Son of God? Why did he not explain the doctrine of the
Trinity? Why did he not tell the manner of baptism that was
pleasing to him? Why did he not say something positive, definite,
and satisfactory about another world? Why did he not turn the
tear-stained hope of heaven to the glad knowledge of another life?
Why did he go dumbly to his death, leaving the world to misery and
to doubt?

He 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 he was born. "Do unto others as ye would that
they should do unto you"? This 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 teach us of another world? The
immortality of the soul had been taught by Hindus, Egyptians,
Greeks, and Romans hundreds of years before he was born. Long
before, the world had been told by Socrates that: "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 may have suffered from
him." And Cicero had said: "Let us not listen to those who think
that we ought to be angry with our enemies, and who believe this to
be great and manly: nothing is more praiseworthy, nothing so
clearly shows a great and noble soul, as clemency and readiness to
forgive."

Is there anything nearer perfect than this from Confucius:
"For benefits return benefits; for injuries return justice without
any admixture of revenge"?

The dogma of eternal punishment rests upon passages in the New
Testament. This infamous belief subverts every idea of justice.
Around the angel of immortality the church has coiled this serpent.
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, according to the human standard of justice, to create any
being destined to suffer eternal pain. A being of infinite wisdom
would not create a failure, and surely a man destined to
everlasting agony is not a success.

How long, according to the universal benevolence of the New
Testament, can a man be reasonably punished in the next world for
failing to believe something unreasonable in this? Can it be
possible that any punishment can endure forever? Suppose that every
flake of snow that ever fell was a figure nine, and that the first

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THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION - I
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flake was multiplied by the second, and that product by the third,
and so on to the last flake. And then suppose that this total
should be multiplied by every drop of rain that ever fell calling
each drop a figure nine; and that total by each blade of grass that
ever helped to weave a carpet for the earth, calling each blade a
figure nine; and that again by every grain of sand on every shore,
so that the grand total would make a line of nines so long that it
would require millions upon millions of years for light, traveling
at the rate of one hundred and eighty-five thousand miles per
second, to reach the end. And suppose, further, that each unit in
this almost infinite total stood for billions of ages still that
vast and almost endless time, measured by all the years beyond, is
as one flake. one drop, one leaf, one blade, one grain, compared
with all the flakes and drops and leaves and blades and grains.
Upon love's breast the church has placed the eternal asp. And yet,
in the same book in which is taught this most infamous of
doctrines, we are assured that "The Lord is good to all, and his
tender mercies are over all his works."

III

So far as we know, man is the author of all books. If a book
had been found on the earth by the first man, he might have
regarded it as the work of God; but as men were here a good while
before any books were found, and as man has produced a great many
books, the probability is that the Bible is no exception.

Most nations, at the time the Old Testament was written,
believed in slavery, polygamy, wars of extermination, and religious
persecution; and it is not wonderful that the book contained
nothing contrary to such belief. The fact that it was in exact
accord with the morality of its time proves that it was not the
product of any being superior to man. "The inspired writers" upheld
or established slavery, countenanced polygamy, commanded wars of
extermination, and ordered the slaughter of women and babes. In
these respects they were precisely like the uninspired savages by
whom they were surrounded. They also taught and commanded religious
persecution as a duty, and visited the most trivial offenses with
the punishment of death. In these particulars they were in exact
accord with their barbarian neighbors. They were utterly ignorant
of geology and astronomy, and knew no more of what had happened
than of what would happen; and, so far as accuracy is concerned,
their history and prophecy were about equal; in other words, they
were just as ignorant as those who lived and died in nature's
night.

Does any Christian believe that if 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? Will any one claim that
the passages upholding slavery have liberated mankind; that we are
indebted for our modern homes to the texts that made polygamy a
virtue; or that religious liberty found its soil, its light, and
rain in the infamous verse wherein the husband is commanded to
stone to death the wife for worshiping an unknown god?

The usual answer to these objections is that no country has
ever been civilized without the Bible.

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THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION - I
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The Jews were the only people to whom Jehovah made his will
directly known, the only people who had the Old Testament. Other
nations were utterly neglected by their Creator. Yet, such was the
effect of the Old Testament on the Jews, that they crucified a
kind, loving, and perfectly innocent man. They could not have done
much worse without a Bible. In the crucifixion of Christ, they
followed the teachings of his Father. If, as it is now alleged by
the theologians, no nation can be civilized without a Bible,
certainly God must have known the fact six thousand years ago, as
well as the theologians know it now. Why did he not furnish every
nation with a Bible?

As to the Old Testament, I insist that all the bad passages
were written by men; that those passages were not inspired. I
insist that a being of infinite goodness never commanded man to
enslave his fellow-man, never told a mother to sell her babe, never
established polygamy, never ordered one nation to exterminate
another, and never told a husband to kill his wife because she
suggested the worshiping of some other God.

I also insist that the Old Testament would be a much better
book with all of these passages left out; and, whatever may be said
of the rest, the passages to which attention has been drawn can
with vastly more propriety be attributed to a devil than to a god.

Take from the New Testament all passages upholding the idea
that belief is necessary to salvation; that Christ was offered as
an atonement for the sins of the world; that the punishment of the
human soul will go on forever; that heaven is the reward of faith,
and hell the penalty of honest investigation; take from it all
miraculous stories, and I admit that all 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 miracles. The universe is
natural.

The church must cease to insist that the passages upholding
the institutions of savage men were inspired of God. The dogma of
the atonement must be abandoned. Good deeds must take the place of
faith. The savagery of eternal punishment must be renounced.
Credulity is not a virtue, and investigation is not a crime.
Miracles are the children of mendacity, Nothing can be more
wonderful than the majestic, unbroken, sublime, and eternal
procession of causes and effects.

Reason must be the final 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. Every civilized man
believes in the liberty of thought. Is it possible that God is
intolerant? Is an act infamous in man one of the virtues of the
Deity? Could there be progress 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

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THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION - I
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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, while honest doubt
is chained and damned?

Do not misunderstand me. My position is that the cruel
passages in the Old Testament are not inspired; that slavery,
polygamy, wars of extermination, and religious persecution always
have been, are, and forever will be, abhorred and cursed by the
honest, the virtuous, and the loving; that the innocent cannot
justly suffer for the guilty, and that vicarious vice and vicarious
virtue are equally absurd; that eternal punishment is eternal
revenge; that only the natural can happen; that miracles prove the
dishonesty of the few and the credulity of the many; and that,
according to Matthew, Mark, and Luke, salvation does not depend
upon belief, nor the atonement, nor a "second birth," but that
these gospels are in exact harmony with the declaration of the
great Persian: "Taking the first footstep with the good thought,
the second with the good word, and the third with the good deed, I
entered paradise."

The dogmas of the past no longer reach the level of the
highest thought, nor satisfy the hunger of the heart. While dusty
faiths, embalmed and sepulchered in ancient texts, remain the same,
the sympathies of men enlarge; the brain no longer kills its young;
the happy lips give liberty to honest thoughts; the mental
firmament expands and lifts; the broken clouds drift by; the
hideous dreams, the foul, misshapen children of the monstrous
night, dissolve and fade.

Robert G. Ingersoll.

****     ****

Reproducible Electronic Publishing can defeat censorship.

****     ****

The Bank of Wisdom Inc. 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.

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Bank of Wisdom

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.

Bank of WisdomThe 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