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Robert Ingersoll Debate V Black Christianity 3b

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V Black Christianity 3b

Robert Green Ingersoll

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(The Ingersoll -- Black Debate)


by Robert G. Ingersoll


"Apart from moral conduct, all that man thinks himself able to
do, in order to become acceptable to God, is mere superstition and
religious folly."

Several months ago, The North American Review asked me to
write an article, saying that it would be published if some one
would furnish a reply. I wrote the article that appeared in the
August number, and by me it was entitled "Is All of the Bible
Inspired?" Not until the article was written did I know who was
expected to answer. I make this explanation for the purpose of
dissipating the impression that Mr. Black had been challenged by
me. To have struck his shield with my lance might have given birth
to the impression that I was somewhat doubtful as to the
correctness of my position. I naturally expected an answer from
some professional theologian, and was surprised to find that a
reply had been written by a "policeman," who imagined that he had
answered my arguments by simply telling me that my statements were
false. It is somewhat unfortunate that in a discussion like this
any one should resort to the slightest personal detraction. The
theme is great enough to engage the highest faculties of the human
mind, and in the investigation of such a subject vituperation is
singularly and vulgarly out of place. Arguments cannot be answered
with insults. It is unfortunate that the intellectual arena should
be entered by a "Policeman," who has more confidence in concussion
than discussion. Kindness is strength. Good-nature is often
mistaken for virtue, and good health sometimes passes for genius.
Anger blows out the lamp of the mind. In the examination of a great
and important question, every one should be serene, slow-pulsed,
and calm, Intelligence is not the foundation of arrogance,
Insolence is not logic. Epithets are the arguments of malice.
Candor is the courage of the soul. Leaving the objectionable
portions of Mr. Black's reply, feeling that so grand a subject
should not be blown and tainted with malicious words, I proceed to
answer as best I may the arguments he has urged.

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by Robert G. Ingersoll

I am made to say that "the universe is natural"; that "it came
into being of its own accord"; that "it made its own laws at the
start, and afterward improved itself considerably by spontaneous

I did say that "the universe is natural," but I did not say
that "it came into being of its own accord": neither did I say that
"it made its own laws and afterward improved itself" The universe,
according to my idea, is, always was, and forever will be. It did
not "come into being," it is the one eternal being, -- the only
thing that ever did, does, or can exist. It did not "make its own
laws." We know nothing of what we call the laws of nature except as
we gather the idea of law from the uniformity of phenomena
springing from like conditions. To make myself clear: Water always
runs down-hill. The theist says that this happens because there is
behind the phenomenon an active law. As a matter of fact, law is
this side of the phenomenon. Law does not cause the phenomenon, but
the phenomenon causes the idea of law in our minds; and this idea
is produced from the fact that under like circumstances the same
phenomenon always happens. Mr. Black probably thinks that the
difference in the weight of rocks and clouds was created by law;
that parallel lines fail to unite only because it is illegal; that
diameter and circumference could have been so made that it would be
a greater distance across than around a circle; that a straight
line could enclose a triangle if not prevented by law, and that a
little legislation could make it possible for two bodies to occupy
the same space at the same time. It seems to me that law cannot be
the cause of phenomena, but is an effect produced in our minds by
their succession and resemblance. To put a God back of the
universe, compels us to admit that there was a time when nothing
existed except this God; that this God had lived from eternity in
an infinite vacuum, and in absolute idleness. The mind of every
thoughtful man is forced to one of these two conclusions: either
that the universe is self-existent, or that it was created by a
self-existent being. To my mind, there are far more difficulties in
the second hypothesis than in the first.

Of course, upon a question like this, nothing can be
absolutely known. We live on an atom called Earth, and what we know
of the infinite is almost infinitely limited; but, little as we
know, all have an equal right to give their honest thought. Life is
a shadowy, strange, and winding road on which we travel for a
little way -- a few short steps -- just from the cradle, with its
lullaby of love, to the low and quiet way-side inn, where all at
last must sleep, and where the only salutation is -- Good-night.

I know as little as any one else about the "plan" of the
universe and as to the "design," I know just as little. It will not
do to say that the universe was designed, and therefore there must
be a designer. There must first be proof that it was "designed." It
will not do to say that the universe has a "plan," and then assert
that there must have been an infinite maker. The idea that a design
must have a beginning and that a designer need not, is a simple
expression of human ignorance. We find a watch, and we say: "So
curious and wonderful a thing must have had a maker. "We find the
watch-maker, and we say: "So curious and wonderful a thing as man
must have had a maker." We find God, and we then say: "He is so

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by Robert G. Ingersoll

wonderful that he must not have had a maker. "In other words, all
things a little wonderful must have been created, but it is
possible for something to be so wonderful that it always existed.
One would suppose that just as the wonder increased the necessity
for a creator increased, because it is the wonder of the thing that
suggests the idea of creation. Is it possible that a designer
exists from all eternity without design? Was there no design in
having an infinite designer? For me, it is hard to see the plan or
design in earthquakes and pestilences. It is somewhat difficult to
discern the design or the benevolence in so making the world that
billions of animals live only on the agonies of others. The justice
of God is not visible to me in the history of this world. When I
think of the suffering and death, of the poverty and crime, of the
cruelty and malice, of the heartlessness of this "design" and
"plan," where beak and claw and tooth tear and rend the quivering
flesh of weakness and despair, I cannot convince myself that it is
the result of infinite wisdom, benevolence, and justice.

Most Christians have seen and recognized this difficulty, and
have endeavored to avoid it by giving God an opportunity in another
world to rectify the seeming mistakes of this. Mr. Black, however,
avoids the entire question by saying: "We have neither jurisdiction
nor capacity to rejudge the justice of God." In other words, we
have no right to think upon this subject, no right to examine the
questions most vitally affecting human kind. We are simply to
accept the ignorant statements of barbarian dead. This question
cannot be settled by saying that "it would be a mere waste of time
and space to enumerate the proofs which show that the Universe was
created by a preexistent and self-conscious Being." The time and
space should have been "wasted," and the proofs should have been
enumerated. These "proofs," are what the wisest and greatest are
trying to find. Logic is not satisfied with assertion. It cares
nothing for the opinions of the "great," -- nothing for the
prejudices of the many, and least of all for the superstitions of
the dead. In the world of Science, a fact is a legal tender.
Assertions and miracles are base and spurious coins. We have the
right to rejudge the justice even of a god. No one should throw
away his reason -- the fruit of all experience. It is the
intellectual capital of the soul, the only light, the only guide,
and without it the brain becomes the palace of an idiot king,
attended by a retinue of thieves and hypocrites.

Of course it is admitted that most of the Ten Commandments are
wise and just. In passing, it may be well enough to say, that the
commandment, "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or
any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the
earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth," was the
absolute death of Art, and that not until after the destruction of
Jerusalem was there a Hebrew painter or sculptor. Surely a
commandment is not inspired that drives from the earth the living
canvas and the breathing stone -- leaves all walls bare and all the
niches desolate. In the tenth commandment we find woman placed on
an exact equality with other property, which, to say the least of
it, has never tended to the amelioration of her condition.

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by Robert G. Ingersoll

A very curious thing about these commandments is that their
supposed author violated nearly every one. From Sinai, according to
the account, he said: "Thou shalt not kill," and yet he ordered the
murder of millions; "Thou shalt not commit adultery," and yet he
gave captured maidens to gratify the lust of captors; "Thou shalt
not steal," and yet he gave to Jewish marauders the flocks and
herds of others; "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house, nor
his wife," and yet he allowed his chosen people to destroy the
homes of neighbors and to steal their wives; "Honor thy father and
thy mother," and yet this same God had thousands of fathers
butchered, and with the sword of war killed children yet unborn;
"Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor," and yet
he sent abroad "lying spirits" to deceive his own prophets, and in
a hundred ways paid tribute to deceit. So far as we know, Jehovah
kept only one of these commandments -- he worshiped no other god.

The religious intolerance of the Old Testament is justified
upon the ground that "blasphemy was a breach of political
allegiance," that "idolatry was an act of overt treason," and that
"to worship the gods of the hostile heathen was deserting to the
public enemy, and giving him aid and comfort. "According to Mr.
Black, we should all have liberty of conscience except when
directly governed by God. In that country where God is king,
liberty cannot exist. In this position, I admit that he is upheld
and fortified by the "sacred" text. Within the Old Testament there
is no such thing as religious toleration. Within that volume can be
found no mercy for an unbeliever. For all who think for themselves,
there are threatenings, curses, and anathemas. Think of an infinite
being who is so cruel, so unjust, that he will not allow one of his
own children the liberty of thought! Think of an infinite God
acting as the direct governor of a people, and yet not able to
command their love! Think of the author of all mercy imbruing his
hands in the blood of helpless men, women, and children, simply
because he did not furnish them with intelligence enough to
understand his law! An earthly father who cannot govern by
affection is not fit to be a father; what, then, shall we say of an
infinite being who resorts to violence, to pestilence, to disease,
and famine, in the vain effort to obtain even the respect of a
savage? Read this passage, red from the heart of cruelty:

"If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy
daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, which is as
thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve
other gods which thou hast not known, thou nor thy fathers . . .
thou shalt not consent unto him. nor harken unto him, neither shalt
thine eye pity him, neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou
conceal him, but thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be
first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all
the people; and thou shalt stone him with stones, that he die."

This is the religious liberty of the Bible. If you had lived
in Palestine, and if the wife of your bosom, dearer to you than
your own soul, had said: "I like the religion of India better than
that of Palestine," it would have been your duty to kill her. "Your
eye must not pity her, your hand must be first upon her, and
afterwards the hand of all the people." If she had said: "Let us
worship the sun -- the sun that clothes the earth in garments of

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Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201

by Robert G. Ingersoll

green -- the sun, the great fireside of the world -- the sun that
covers the hills and valleys with flowers -- that gave me your
face, and made it possible for me to look into the eyes of my babe
-- let us worship the sun," it was your duty to kill her. You must
throw the first stone, and when against her bosom -- a bosom filled
with love for you -- you had thrown the jagged and cruel rock, and
had seen the red stream of her life oozing from the dumb lips of
death, you could then look up and receive the congratulations of
the God whose commandment you had obeyed. Is it possible that a
being of infinite mercy ordered a husband to kill his wife for the
crime of having expressed an opinion on the subject of religion?
Has there been found upon the records of the savage world anything
more perfectly fiendish than this commandment of Jehovah? This is
justified on the ground that "blasphemy was a breach of political
allegiance, and idolatry an act of overt treason." We can
understand how a human king stands in need of the service of his
people. We can understand how the desertion of any of his soldiers
weakens his army; but were the king infinite in power, his strength
would still remain the same, and under no conceivable circumstances
could the enemy triumph.

I insist that, if there is an infinitely good and wise God, he
beholds with pity the misfortunes of his children. I insist that
such a God would know the mists, the clouds, the darkness
enveloping the human mind. He would know how few stars are visible
in the intellectual sky. His pity, not his wrath, would be excited
by the efforts of his blind children, groping in the night to find
the cause of things, and endeavoring, through their tears, to see
some dawn of hope. Filled with awe by their surroundings, by fear
of the unknown, he would know that when, kneeling, they poured out
their gratitude to some unseen power, even to a visible idol, it
was, in fact, intended for him. An infinitely good being, had he
the power, would answer the reasonable prayer of an honest savage,
even when addressed to wood and stone.

The atrocities of the Old Testament, the threatenings,
maledictions, and curses of the "inspired book," are defended on
the ground that the Jews had a right to treat their enemies as
their enemies treated them; and in this connection is this
remarkable statement: "In your treatment of hostile barbarians you
not only may lawfully, you must necessarily, adopt their mode of
warfare. If they come to conquer you, they may be conquered by you;
if they give no quarter, they are entitled to none; if the death of
your whole population be their purpose, you may defeat it by
exterminating theirs."

For a man who is a "Christian policeman," and has taken upon
himself to defend the Christian religion; for one who follows the
Master who said that when smitten on one cheek you must turn the
other, and who again and again enforced the idea that you must
overcome evil with good, it is hardly consistent to declare that a
civilized nation must of necessity adopt the warfare of savages. Is
it possible that in fighting, for instance, the Indians of America,
if they scalp our soldiers we should scalp theirs? If they ravish,
murder, and mutilate our wives, must we treat theirs in the same
manner? If they kill the babes in our cradles, must we brain
theirs? If they take our captives, bind them to the trees, and if

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Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201

by Robert G. Ingersoll

their squaws fill their quivering: flesh with sharpened fagots and
set them on fire, that they may die clothed with flame, must our
wives, our mothers, and our daughters follow the fiendish example?
Is this the conclusion of the most enlightened Christianity? Will
the pulpits of the United States adopt the arguments of this
"policeman"? Is this the last and most beautiful blossom of the
Sermon on the Mount? Is this the echo of "Father, forgive them.
they know not what they do"?

Mr. Black justifies the wars of extermination and conquest
because the American people fought for the integrity of their own
country; fought to do away with the infamous institution of
slavery; fought to preserve the jewels of liberty and justice for
themselves and for their children. Is it possible that his mind is
so clouded by political and religious prejudice, by the
recollections of an unfortunate administration, that he sees no
difference between a war of extermination and one of self-
preservation? that he sees no choice between the murder of helpless
age, of weeping women and of sleeping babes, and the defence of
liberty and nationality?

The soldiers of the Republic did not wage a war of
extermination. They did not seek to enslave their fellow-men. They
did not murder trembling age. They did not sheathe their swords in
women's breasts. They gave the old men bread, and let the mothers
rock their babes in peace. They fought to save the world's great
hope -- to free a race and put the humblest hut beneath the canopy
of liberty and law.

Claiming neither praise nor dispraise for the part taken by me
in the Civil war, for the purposes of this argument, it is
sufficient to say that I am perfectly willing that my record, poor
and barren as it is, should be compared with his.

Never for an instant did I suppose that any respectable
American citizen could be found willing at this day to defend the
institution of slavery; and never was I more astonished than when
I found Mr. Black denying that civilized countries passionately
assert that slavery is and always was a hideous crime. I was amazed
when he declared that: "the doctrine that slavery is a crime under
all circumstances and at all times was first started by the
adherents of a political faction in this country less than forty
years ago." He tells us that "they denounced God and Christ for not
agreeing with them," but that "they did not constitute the
civilized world; nor were they, if the truth must be told, a very
respectable portion of it. Politically they were successful; I need
not say by what means, or with what effect upon the morals of the

Slavery held both branches of Congress, filled the chair of
the Executive, sat upon the Supreme Bench, had in its hands all
rewards, all offices; knelt in the pew, occupied the pulpit, stole
human beings in the name of God, robbed the trundle-bed for love of
Christ; incited mobs, led ignorance, ruled colleges, sat in the
chairs of professors, dominated the public press, closed the lips
of free speech, and polluted with its leprous hand every source and
spring of power. The abolitionists attacked this monster. They were

Bank of Wisdom
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by Robert G. Ingersoll

the bravest, grandest men of their country and their century.
Denounced by thieves, hated by hypocrites, mobbed by cowards,
slandered by priests, shunned by politicians, abhorred by the
seekers of office, -- these men "of whom the world was not worthy,"
in spite of all opposition, in spite of poverty and want, conquered
innumerable obstacles, never faltering for one moment, never
dismayed -- accepting defeat with a smile born of infinite hope --
knowing that they were right -- insisted and persisted until every
chain was broken, until slave-pens became schoolhouses, and three
millions of slaves became free men, women, and children. They did
not measure with "the golden metewand of God," but with "the
elastic cord of human feeling." They were men the latches of whose
shoes no believer in human slavery was ever worthy to unloose. And
yet we are told by this modern defender of the slavery of Jehovah
that they were not even respectable; and this slander is justified
because the writer is assured "that the infallible God proceeded
upon good grounds when he authorized slavery in Judea."

Not satisfied with having slavery in this world, Mr. Black
assures us that it will last through all eternity, and that forever
and forever inferiors must be subordinated to superiors. Who is the
superior man? According to Mr. Black, he is superior who lives upon
the unpaid labor of the inferior, With me, the superior man is the
one who uses his superiority in bettering the condition of the
inferior. The superior man is strength for the weak, eyes for the
blind, brains for the simple; he is the one who helps carry the
burden that nature has put upon the inferior. Any man who helps
another to gain and retain his liberty is superior to any
infallible God who authorized slavery in Judea. For my part, I
would rather be the slave than the master. It is better to be
robbed than to be a robber. I had rather be stolen from than to be
a thief.

According to Mr. Black, there will be slavery in heaven, and
fast by the throne of God will be the auction-block, and the
streets of the New Jerusalem will be adorned with the whippingpost,
while the music of the harp will be supplemented by the crack of
the driver's whip. If some good Republican would catch Mr. Black,
"incorporate him into his family, tame him, teach him to think, and
give him a knowledge of the true principles of human liberty and
government, he would confer upon him a most beneficent boon,"
Slavery includes all other crimes. It is the joint product of the
kidnapper, pirate, thief, murderer, and hypocrite. It degrades
labor and corrupts leisure. To lacerate the naked back, to sell
wives, to steal babes, to breed bloodhounds, to debauch your own
soul -- this is slavery. This is what Jehovah "authorized in
Judea." This is what Mr. Black believes in still. He "measures with
the golden metewand of God." I abhor slavery. With me, liberty is
not merely a means -- it is an end. Without that word, all other
words are empty sounds.

Mr. Black is too late with his protest against the freedom of
his fellow-man. Liberty is making the tour of the world. Russia has
emancipated her serfs; the slave trade is prosecuted only by
thieves and pirates; Spain feels upon her cheek the burning blush
of shame; Brazil with proud and happy eyes is looking for the dawn
of freedom's day; the people of the South rejoice that slavery is

Bank of Wisdom
Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201

by Robert G. Ingersoll

no more, and every good and honest man (excepting Mr. Black), of
every land and clime, hopes that the limbs of men will never feel
again the weary weight of chains.

We are informed by Mr. Black that polygamy is neither
commanded nor prohibited in the Old Testament -- that it is only
"discouraged." It seems to me that a little legislation on that
subject might have tended to its "discouragement." But where is the
legislation? In the moral code, which Mr. Black assures us
"consists of certain immutable rules to govern the conduct of all
men at all times and at all places in their private and personal
relations with others," not one word is found on the subject of
polygamy. There is nothing "discouraging" in the Ten Commandments,
nor in the records of any conversation Jehovah is claimed to have
had with Moses upon Sinai. The life of Abraham, the story of Jacob
and Laban, the duty of a brother to be the husband of the widow of
his deceased brother, the life of David, taken in connection with
the practice of one who is claimed to have been the wisest of men
-- all these things are probably relied on to show that polygamy
was at least "discouraged." Certainly, Jehovah had time to instruct
Moses as to the infamy of polygamy. He could have spared a few
moments from a description of the patterns of tongs and basins, for
a subject so important as this. A few words in favor of the one
wife and the one husband -- in favor of the virtuous and loving
home -- might have taken the place of instructions as to cutting
the garments of priests and fashioning candlesticks and ounces of
gold. If he had left out simply the order that rams' skins should
be dyed red, and in its place had said, "A man shall have but one
wife, and the wife but one husband," how much better would it have

All the languages of the world are not sufficient to express
the filth of polygamy. It makes man a beast, and woman a slave. It
destroys the fireside and makes virtue an outcast. It takes us back
to the barbarism of animals, and leaves the heart a den in which
crawl and hiss the slimy serpents of most loathsome lust. And yet
Mr. Black insists that we owe to the Bible the present elevation of
woman. Where will he find in the Old Testament the rights of wife,
and mother, and daughter defined? Even in the New Testament she is
told to "learn in silence, with all subjection; "that she" is not
suffered to teach, nor to usurp any authority over the man, but to
be in silence." She is told that "the head of every man is Christ,
and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God."
In other words, there is the same difference between the wife and
husband that there is between the husband and Christ.

The reasons given for this infamous doctrine are that "Adam
was first formed, and then Eve;" that "Adam was not deceived," but
that "the woman being deceived, was in the transgression." These
childish reasons are the only ones given by the inspired writers.
We are also told that "a man, indeed, ought to cover his head,
forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God;" but that "the woman
is the glory of the man," and this is justified from the fact, and
the remarkable fact, set forth in the very next verse that "the man
is not of the woman, but the woman of the man." And the same
gallant apostle says: "Neither was the man created for the woman,
but the woman for the man;" "Wives, submit yourselves unto your

Bank of Wisdom
Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201

by Robert G. Ingersoll

husbands as unto the Lord; for the husband is the head of the wife,
even as Christ is the head of the church, and he is the savior of
the body. Therefore, as the church is subject unto Christ, so let
the wives be subject to their own husbands in everything. "These
are the passages that have liberated woman!

According to the Old Testament, woman had to ask pardon, and
had to be purified, for the crime of having borne sons and
daughters. If in this world there is a figure of perfect purity, it
is a mother holding in her thrilled and happy arms her child. The
doctrine that woman is the slave, or serf, of man -- whether it
comes from heaven or from hell, from God or a demon, from the
golden streets of the New Jerusalem or from the very Sodom of
perdition -- is savagery, pure and simple.

In no country in the world had women less liberty than in the
Holy Land, and no monarch held in less esteem the rights of wives
and mothers than Jehovah of the Jews. The position of woman was far
better in Egypt than in Palestine. Before the pyramids were built,
the sacred songs of Isis were sung by women, and women with pure
hands had offered sacrifices to the gods. Before Moses was born,
women had sat upon the Egyptian throne. Upon ancient tombs the
husband and wife are represented as seated in the same chair. In
Persia women were priests, and in some of the oldest civilizations
"they were reverenced on earth, and worshiped afterward as
goddesses in heaven." At the advent of Christianity, in all pagan
countries women officiated at the sacred altars. They guarded the
eternal fire. They kept the sacred books. From their lips came the
oracles of fate. Under the domination of the Christian Church,
woman became the merest slave for at least a thousand years. It was
claimed that through woman the race had fallen, and that her loving
kiss had poisoned all the springs of life. Christian priests
asserted that but for her crime the world would have been an Eden
still. The ancient fathers exhausted their eloquence in the
denunciation of woman, and repeated again and again the slander of
St. Paul. The condition of woman has improved just in proportion
that man has lost confidence in the inspiration of the Bible.

For the purpose of defending the character of his infallible
God, Mr. Black is forced to defend religious intolerance, wars of
extermination, human slavery, and almost polygamy. He admits that
God established slavery; that he commanded his chosen people to buy
the children of the heathen; that heathen fathers and mothers did
right to sell their girls and boys: that God ordered the Jews to
wage wars of extermination and conquest; that it was right to kill
the old and young; that God forged manacles for the human brain;
that he commanded husbands to murder their wives for suggesting the
worship of the sun or moon; and that every cruel, savage passage in
the Old Testament was inspired by him. Such is a "policeman's" view
of God.

Will Mr. Black have the kindness to state a few of his
objections to the devil?

Mr. Black should have answered my arguments, instead of
calling me "blasphemous" and "scurrilous." In the discussion of
these questions I have nothing to do with the reputation of my

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by Robert G. Ingersoll

opponent. His character throws no light on the subject, and is to
me a matter of perfect indifference. Neither will it do for one who
enters the lists as the champion of revealed religion to say that
"we have no right to rejudge the justice of God." Such a statement
is a white flag. The warrior eludes the combat when he cries out
that it is a "metaphysical question." He deserts the field and
throws down his arms when he admits that "no revelation has lifted
the veil between time and eternity." Again I ask, why were the
Jewish people as wicked, cruel, and ignorant with a revelation from
God, as other nations were without? Why were the worshipers of
false deities as brave, as kind, and generous as those who knew the
only true and living God?

How do you explain the fact that while Jehovah was waging wars
of extermination, establishing slavery, and persecuting for
opinion's sake, heathen philosophers were teaching that all men are
brothers, equally entitled to liberty and life? You insist that
Jehovah believed in slavery and yet punished the Egyptians for
enslaving the Jews. Was your God once an abolitionist? Did he at
that time "denounce Christ for not agreeing with him"? If slavery
was a crime in Egypt, was it a virtue in Palestine? Did God treat
the Canaanites better than Pharaoh did the Jews? Was it right for
Jehovah to kill the children of the people because of Pharaoh's
sin? Should the peasant be punished for the king's crime? Do you
not know that the worst thing that can be said of Nero, Caligula,
and Commodus is that they resembled the Jehovah of the Jews? Will
you tell me why God failed to give his Bible to the whole world?
Why did he not give the Scriptures to the Hindu, the Greek, and
Roman? Why did he fail to enlighten the worshipers of "Mammon" and
Moloch, of Belial and Baal, of Bacchus and Venus? After all, was
not Bacchus as good as Jehovah? Is it not better to drink wine than
to shed blood? Was there anything in the worship of Venus worse
than giving captured maidens to satisfy the victor,s lust? Did
"Mammon" or Moloch do anything more infamous than to establish
slavery? Did they order their soldiers to kill men, women, and
children, and to save alive nothing that had breath? Do not answer
these questions by saying that "no veil has been lifted between
time and eternity," and that "we have no right to rejudge the
justice of God."

If Jehovah was in fact God, he knew the end from the
beginning. He knew that his Bible would be a breastwork behind
which tyranny and hypocrisy would crouch; that it 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 but little of importance. He knew that he found them
free and left them captives. He knew that he had never fulfilled
the promises 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!

Bank of Wisdom
Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201

by Robert G. Ingersoll

And here I take occasion to thank Mr. Black for having
admitted that Jehovah gave no commandment against the practice of
polygamy, that he established slavery, waged wars of extermination,
and persecuted for opinion's sake even unto death. Most theologians
endeavor to putty, patch, and paint the wretched record of inspired
crime, but Mr. Black has been bold enough and honest enough to
admit the truth. In this age of fact and demonstration it is
refreshing to find a man who believes so thoroughly in the
monstrous and miraculous, the impossible and immoral -- who still
clings lovingly to the legends of the bib and rattle -- who through
the bitter experiences of a wicked world has kept the credulity of
the cradle, and finds comfort and joy in thinking about the Garden
of Eden, the subtle serpent, the flood, and Babel's tower, stopped
by the jargon of a thousand tongues -- who reads with happy eyes
the story of the burning brimstone storm that fell upon the cities
of the plain, and smilingly explains the transformation of the
retrospective Mrs. Lot who laughs at Egypt's plagues and Pharaoh's
whelmed and drowning hosts -- eats manna with the wandering Jews,
warms himself at the burning bush, sees Korah's company by the
hungry earth devoured, claps his wrinkled hands with glee above the
heathens, butchered babes, and longingly looks back to the
patriarchal days of concubines and slaves. How touching when the
learned and wise crawl back in cribs and ask to hear the rhymes and
fables once again! How charming in these hard and scientific times
to see old age in Superstition's lap, with eager lips upon her
withered breast!

Mr. Black comes to the conclusion that the Hebrew Bible is in
exact harmony with the New Testament, and that the two are
"connected together;" and "that if one is true the other cannot be

If this is so, then he must admit that if one is false the
other cannot be true; and it hardly seems possible to me that there
is a right minded, sane man, except Mr. Black, who now believes
that a God of infinite kindness and justice ever commanded one
nation to exterminate another; ever ordered his soldiers to destroy
men, women, and babes; ever established the institution of human
slavery; ever regarded the auction-block as an altar, or a
bloodhound as an apostle.

Mr. Black contends (after having answered my indictment
against the Old Testament by admitting the allegations to be true)
that the rapidity with which Christianity spread "proves the
supernatural origin of the Gospel, or that it was propagated by the
direct aid of the Divine Being himself."

Let us see, In his efforts to show that the "infallible God
established slavery in Judea," he takes occasion to say that the
doctrine that slavery is a crime under all circumstances was first
started by the adherents of a political faction in this country
less than forty years ago;" that "they denounced God and Christ for
not agreeing with them;" but that "they did not constitute the
civilized world; nor were they, if the truth must be told, a very
respectable portion of it." Let it be remembered that this was only
forty years ago; and yet, according to Mr. Black, a few
disreputable men changed the ideas of nearly fifty millions of

Bank of Wisdom
Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201

by Robert G. Ingersoll

people, changed the Constitution of the United States, liberated a
race from slavery, clothed three millions of people with political
rights, took possession of the Government, managed its affairs for
more than twenty years, and have compelled the admiration of the
civilized world. Is it Mr. Black's idea that this happened by
chance? If not, then according to him, there are but two ways to
account for it; either the rapidity with which Republicanism spread
proves its supernatural origin, "or else its propagation was
provided for and carried on by the direct aid of the Divine Being
himself." Between these two, Mr. Black may make his choice. He will
at once see that the rapid-rise and spread of any doctrine does not
even tend to show that it was divinely revealed.

This argument is applicable to all religions. Mohammedans can
use it as well as Christians. Mohammed was a poor man, a driver of
camels. He was without education, without influence. and without
wealth, and yet in a few years he consolidated thousands of tribes,
and made millions of men confess that there is "one God, and
Mohammed is his prophet." His success was a thousand times greater
during his life than that of Christ. He was not crucified; he was
a conqueror. "Of all men, he exercised the greatest influence upon
the human race." Never in the world's history did a religion spread
with the rapidity of his. It burst like a storm over the fairest
portions of the globe. If Mr. Black is right in his position that
rapidity is secured only by the direct aid of the Divine Being,
then Mohammed was most certainly the prophet of God. As to wars of
extermination and slavery, Mohammed agreed with Mr. Black, and upon
polygamy, with Jehovah. As to religious toleration, he was great
enough to say that "men holding to any form of faith might be
saved, provided they were virtuous." In this, he was far in advance
both of Jehovah and Mr. Black. It will not do to take the ground
that the rapid rise and spread of a religion demonstrates its
divine character. Years before Gautama died, his religion was
established, and his disciples were numbered by millions. His
doctrines were not enforced by the sword, but by an appeal to the
hopes, the fears, and the reason of mankind; and more than
one-third of the human race are to-day the followers of Gautama.
His religion has outlived all that existed in his time; and
according to Dr. Draper, "there is no other country in the world
except India that has the religion to-day it had at the birth of
Jesus Christ." Gautama believed in the equality of all men;
abhorred the spirit of caste, and proclaimed justice, mercy, and
education for all.

Imagine a Mohammedan answering an infidel; would he not use
the argument of Mr Black, simply substituting Mohammed for Christ,
just as effectually as it has been used against me? There was a
time when India was the foremost nation of the world. Would not
your argument, Mr. Black, have been just as good in the mouth of a
Brahmin then, as it is in yours now? Egypt, the mysterious mother
of mankind, with her pyramids built thirty four hundred years
before Christ, was once the first in all the earth, and gave to us
our Trinity, and our symbol of the cross. Could not a priest of
Isis and Osiris have used your arguments to prove that his religion
was divine, and could he not have closed by saying: "From the facts
established by this evidence it follows irresistibly that our

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Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201

by Robert G. Ingersoll

religion came to us from God"? Do you not see that your argument
proves too much, and that it is equally applicable to all the
religions of the world?

Again, it is urged that "the acceptance of Christianity by a
large portion of the generation contemporary with its founder and
his apostles was, under the circumstances, an adjudication as
solemn and authoritative as mortal intelligence could pronounce."
If this is true, then "the acceptance of Buddhism by a large
portion of the generation contemporary with its founder was an
adjudication as solemn and authoritative as mortal intelligence
could pronounce." The same could be said of Mohammedanism, and, in
fact, of every religion that has ever benefited or cursed this
world. This argument, when reduced to its simplest form, is this:
All that succeeds is inspired.

The old argument that if Christianity is a human fabrication
its authors must have been either good men or bad men, takes it for
granted that there are but two classes of persons -- the good and
the bad. There is at least one other class -- the mistaken, and
both of the other classes may belong to this. Thousands of most
excellent people have been deceived, and the history of the world
is filled with instances where men have honestly supposed that they
had received communications from angels and gods.

In thousands of instances these pretended communications
contained the purest and highest thoughts, together with the most
important truths; yet it will not do to say that these accounts are
true; neither can they be proved by saying that the men who claimed
to be inspired were good. What we must say is, that being good men,
they were mistaken; and it is the charitable mantle of a mistake
that I throw over Mr. Black, when I find him defending the
institution of slavery. He seems to think it utterly incredible
that any "combination of knaves, however base, would fraudulently
concoct a religious system to denounce themselves, and to invoke
the curse of God upon their own conduct." How did religions other
than Christianity and Judaism arise? Were they all "concocted by a
combination of knaves"? The religion of Gautama is filled with most
beautiful and tender thoughts, with most excellent laws, and
hundreds of sentences urging mankind to deeds of love and self-
denial. Was Gautama inspired?

Does not Mr. Black know that thousands of people charged with
witchcraft actually confessed in open court their guilt? Does he
not know that they admitted that they had spoken face to face with
Satan, and had sold their souls for gold and power? Does he not
know that these admissions were made in the presence and
expectation of death? Does he not know that hundreds of judges,
some of them as great as the late lamented Gibson, believed in the
existence of an impossible crime?

We are told that "there is no good reason to doubt that the
statements of the Evangelists, as we have them now, are genuine."
The fact is, no one knows who made the "statements of the

There are three important manuscripts upon which the Christian
world relies. "The first appeared in the catalogue of the Vatican,

Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201

by Robert G. Ingersoll

in 1475. This contains the Old Testament. Of the New, it contains
the four gospels, -- the Acts, the seven Catholic Epistles, nine of
the Pauline Epistles, and the Epistle to the Hebrews, as far as the
fourteenth verse of the ninth chapter," -- and nothing more. This
is known as the Codex Vatican. "The second, the Alexandrine, was
presented to King Charles the First, in 1628. It contains the Old
and New Testaments, with some exceptions; passages are wanting in
Matthew, in John, and in II. Corinthians. It also contains the
Epistle of Clemens Romanus, a letter of Athanasius, and the
treatise of Eusebius on the Psalms." The last is the Sinaitic
Codex, discovered about 1850, at the Convent of St. Catherine's, on
Mount Sinai. "It contains the Old and New Testaments, and in
addition the entire Epistle of Barnabas, and a portion of the
Shepherd of Hermas -- two books which, up to the beginning of the
fourth century, were looked upon by many as Scripture." In this
manuscript, or codex, the gospel of St. Mark concludes with the
eighth verse of the sixteenth chapter, leaving out the frightful
passage: "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every
creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he
that believeth not shall be damned."

In matters of the utmost importance these manuscripts
disagree, but even if they all agreed it would not furnish the
slightest evidence of their truth. It will not do to call the
statements made in the gospels "depositions," until it is
absolutely established who made them, and the circumstances under
which they were made. Neither can we say that "they were made in
the immediate prospect of death," until we know who made them. It
is absurd to say that "the witnesses could not have been mistaken,
because the nature of the facts precluded the possibility of any
delusion about them." Can it be pretended that the witnesses could
not have been mistaken about the relation the Holy Ghost is alleged
to have sustained to Jesus Christ? Is there no possibility of
delusion about a circumstance of that kind? Did the writers of the
four gospels have "'the sensible and true avouch of their own eyes'
and ears" in that behalf? How was it possible for any one of the
four Evangelists to know that Christ was the Son of God, or that he
was God? His mother wrote nothing on the subject. Matthew says that
an angel of the Lord told Joseph in a dream, but Joseph never wrote
an account of this wonderful vision. Luke tells us that the angel
had a conversation with Mary, and that Mary told Elizabeth, but
Elizabeth never wrote a word. There is no account of Mary or Joseph
or Elizabeth or the angel, having had any conversation with
Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John in which one word was said about the
miraculous origin of Jesus Christ. The persons who knew did not
write, so that the account is nothing but hearsay. Does Mr. Black
pretend that such statements would be admitted as evidence in any
court? But how do we know that the disciples of Christ wrote a word
of the gospels? How did it happen that Christ wrote nothing? How do
we know that the writers of the gospels "were men of unimpeachable

All this is answered by saying "that nothing was said by the
most virulent enemies against the personal honesty of the
Evangelists." How is this known? If Christ performed the miracles
recorded in the New Testament, why would the Jews put to death a
man able to raise their dead? Why should they attempt to kill the

Bank of Wisdom
Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201

by Robert G. Ingersoll

Master of Death? How did it happen that a man who had done so many
miracles was so obscure, so unknown, that one of his disciples had
to be bribed to point him out? Is it not strange that the ones he
had cured were not his disciples? Can we believe, upon the
testimony of those about whose character we know nothing, that
Lazarus was raised from the dead? What became of Lazarus? We never
hear of him again. It seems to me that he would have been an object
of great interest. People would have said: "He is the man who was
once dead." Thousands would have inquired of him about the other
world; would have asked him where he was when he received the
information that he was wanted on the earth. His experience would
have been vastly more interesting than everything else in the New
Testament. A returned traveler from the shores of Eternity -- one
who had walked twice through the valley of the shadow -- would have
been the most interesting of human beings. When he came to die
again, people would have said: "He is not afraid; he has had
experience; he knows what death is." But, strangely enough, this
Lazarus fades into obscurity with "the wise men of the East," and
with the dead who came out of their graves on the night of the
crucifixion. How is it known that it was claimed, during the life
of Christ, that he had wrought a miracle? And if the claim was
made, how is it known that it was not denied? Did the Jews believe
that Christ was clothed with miraculous power? Would they have
dared to crucify a man who had the power to clothe the dead with
life? Is it not wonderful that no one at the trial of Christ said
one word about the miracles he had wrought? Nothing about the sick
he had healed, nor the dead he had raised?

Is it not wonderful that Josephus, the best historian the
Hebrews produced, says nothing about the life or death of Christ;
nothing about the massacre of the infants by Herod; not one word
about the wonderful star that visited the sky at the birth of
Christ; nothing about the darkness that fell upon the world for
several hours in the midst of day; and failed entirely to mention
that hundreds of graves were opened, and that multitudes of Jews
arose from the dead, and visited the Holy City? Is it not wonderful
that no historian ever mentioned any of these prodigies? and is it
not more amazing than all the rest, that Christ himself concealed
from Matthew, Mark, and Luke the dogma of the atonement, the
necessity of belief, and the mystery of the second birth?

Of course I know that two letters were said to have been
written by Pilate to Tiberius, concerning the execution of Christ,
but they have been shown to be forgeries. I also know that "various
letters were circulated attributed to Jesus Christ," and that one
letter is said to have been written by him to Abgarus, king of
Edessa; but as there was no king of Edessa at that time, this
letter is admitted to have been a forgery. I also admit that a
correspondence between Seneca and St. Paul was forged.

Here in our own country, only a few years ago, men claimed to
have found golden plates upon which was written a revelation from
God. They founded a new religion, and, according to their
statement, did many miracles. They were treated as outcasts, and
their leader was murdered. These men made their "depositions" "in
the immediate prospect of death." They were mobbed, persecuted,
derided, and yet they insisted that their prophet had miraculous

Bank of Wisdom
Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201

by Robert G. Ingersoll

power, and that he, too, could swing back the hingeless door of
death. The followers of these men have increased, in these few
years, so that now the murdered prophet has at least two hundred
thousand disciples. It will be hard to find a contradiction of
these pretended miracles, although this is an age filled with
papers, magazines, and books. As a matter of fact, the claims of
Joseph Smith were so preposterous that sensible people did not take
the pains to write and print denials. When we remember that
eighteen hundred years ago there were but few people who could
write, and that a manuscript did not become public in any modern
sense, it was possible for the gospels to have been written with
all the foolish claims in reference to miracles without exciting
comment or denial. There is not, in all the contemporaneous
literature of the world, a single word about Christ or his
apostles. The paragraph in Josephus is admitted to be an
interpolation, and the letters, the account of the trial, and
several other documents forged by the zeal of the early fathers,
are now admitted to be false.

Neither will it do to say that."the statements made by the
Evangelists are alike upon every important point." If there is
anything of importance in the New Testament, from the theological
standpoint, it is the ascension of Jesus Christ. If that happened,
it was a miracle great enough to surfeit wonder. Are the statements
of the inspired witnesses alike on this important point? Let us

Matthew says nothing upon the subject, Either Matthew was not
there, had never heard of the ascension, -- or, having heard of it,
did not believe it, or, having seen it, thought it too unimportant
to record. To this wonder of wonders Mark devotes one verse: "So
then, after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into
heaven, and sat on the right-hand of God." Can we believe that this
verse was written by one who witnessed the ascension of Jesus
Christ; by one who watched his Master slowly rising through the air
till distance reft him from his tearful sight? Luke, another of the
witnesses, says: "And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he
was parted from them, and carried up into heaven." John
corroborates Matthew by saying nothing on the subject. Now, we find
that the last chapter of Mark, after the eighth verse, is an
interpolation; so that Mark really says nothing about the
occurrence. Either the ascension of Christ must be given up, or it
must be admitted that the witnesses do not agree, and that three of
them never heard of that most stupendous event.

Again, if anything could have left its form and pressure" on
the brain, it must have been the last words of Jesus Christ. The
last words, according to Matthew, are: "Go ye, therefore, and teach
all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the
Son, and of the Holy Ghost; teaching them to observe all things
whatsoever I have commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even
unto the end of the world." The last words, according to the
inspired witness known as Mark, are: "And these signs shall follow
them that believe: in my name shall they cast out devils; they
shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if
they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay
hands on the sick, and they shall recover." Luke tells us that the

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Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201

by Robert G. Ingersoll

last words uttered by Christ, with the exception of a blessing,
were: "And behold, I send forth the promise of my Father upon you;
but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with
power from on high." The last words, according to John, were:
"Peter, seeing Him, saith to Jesus: Lord, and what shall this man
do? Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what
is that to thee? follow thou me."

An account of the ascension is also given in the Acts of the
Apostles; and the last words of Christ, according to that inspired
witness, are: "But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy
Ghost is come upon you; and ye shall be witnesses unto me, both in
Jerusalem and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost
part of the earth." In this account of the ascension we find that
two men stood by the disciples in white apparel, and asked them:
"Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same
Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in
like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven." Matthew says
nothing of the two men. Mark never saw them. Luke may have
forgotten them when writing his gospel, and John may have regarded
them as optical illusions.

Luke testifies that Christ ascended on the very day of his
resurrection. John deposes that eight days after the resurrection
Christ appeared to the disciples and convinced Thomas. In the Acts
we are told that Christ remained on earth for forty days after his
resurrection. These "depositions" do not agree. Neither do Matthew
and Luke agree in their histories of the infancy of Christ. It is
impossible for both to be true. One of these "witnesses" must have
been mistaken.

The most wonderful miracle recorded in the New Testament, as
having been wrought by Christ, is the resurrection of Lazarus.
While all the writers of the gospels, in many instances, record the
same wonders and the same conversations, is it not remarkable that
the greatest miracle is mentioned alone by John?

Two of the witnesses, Matthew and Luke, give the genealogy of
Christ. Matthew says that there were forty-two generations from
Abraham to Christ. Luke insists that there were forty-two from
Christ to David, while Matthew gives the number as twenty-eight. It
may be said that this is an old objection. An objection remains
young until it has been answered. Is it not wonderful that Luke and
Matthew do not agree on a single name of Christ's ancestors for
thirty-seven generations?

There is a difference of opinion among the "witnesses" as to
what the gospel of Christ is. If we take the "depositions" of
Matthew, Mark, and Luke, then the gospel of Christ amounts simply
to this: That God will forgive the forgiving, and that he will be
merciful to the merciful. According to three witnesses, Christ knew
nothing of the doctrine of the atonement never heard of the second
birth; and did not base salvation, in whole nor in part, on belief
In the "deposition" of John, we find that we must be born again;
that we must believe on the Lord Jesus Christ; and that an
atonement was made for us. If Christ ever said these things to, or
in the hearing of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, they forgot to mention
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by Robert G. Ingersoll

To my mind, the failure of the evangelists to agree as to what
is necessary for man to do in order to insure the salvation of his
soul, is a demonstration that they were not inspired.

Neither do the witnesses agree as to the last words of Christ
when he was crucified. Matthew says that he cried: "My God, my God,
why hast thou forsaken me?" Mark agrees with Matthew. Luke
testifies that his last words were: "Father, into thy hands I
commend my spirit." John states that he cried: "It is finished."

Luke says that Christ said of his murderers: "Father, forgive
them: for they know not what they do." Matthew, Mark, and John do
not record these touching words. John says that Christ, on the day
of his resurrection, said to his disciples: "Whosesoever sins ye
remit, they are remitted unto them; and whosesoever sins ye retain,
they are retained."

The other disciples do not record this monstrous passage. They
did not hear the abdication of God. They were not present when
Christ placed in their hands the keys of heaven and hell, and put
a world beneath the feet of priests.

It is easy to account for the differences and contradictions
in these "depositions" (and there are hundreds of them) by saying
that each one told the story as he remembered it, or as he had
heard it, or that the accounts have been changed, but it will not
do to say that the witnesses were inspired of God. We can account
for these contradictions by the infirmities of human nature; but,
as I said before, the infirmities of human nature cannot he
predicated of a divine being.

Again, I ask, why should there be more than one inspired
gospel? Of what use were the other three? There can be only one
true account of anything. All other true accounts must simply be
copies of that. And I ask again, why should there have been more
than one inspired gospel? That which is the test of truth as to
ordinary witnesses is a demonstration against their inspiration. It
will not do at this late day to say that the miracles worked by
Christ demonstrated his divine origin or mission. The wonderful
works he did, did not convince the people with whom he lived. In
spite of the miracles, he was crucified. He was charged with
blasphemy. "Policemen" denounced the "scurrility" of his words, and
the absurdity of his doctrines. He was no doubt told that it was
"almost a crime to utter blasphemy in the presence of a Jewish
woman;" and it may be that he was taunted for throwing away "the
golden metewand" of the "infallible God who authorized slavery in
Judea," and taking the "elastic cord of human feeling."

Christians tell us that the citizens of Mecca refused to
believe on Mohammed because he was an impostor, and that the
citizens of Jerusalem refused to believe on Jesus Christ because he
was not an impostor.

If Christ had wrought the miracles attributed to him -- if he
had cured the maimed, the leprous, and the halt -- if he had
changed the night of blindness into blessed day -- if he had
wrested from the fleshless hand of avaricious death the stolen

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Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201

by Robert G. Ingersoll

jewel of a life, and clothed again with throbbing flesh the
pulseless dust, he would have won the love and adoration of
mankind. If ever there shall stand upon this earth the king of
death, all human knees will touch the ground.

We are further informed that "what we call the fundamental
truths of Christianity consist of great public events which are
sufficiently established by history without special proof"

Of course, we admit that the Roman Empire existed; that Julius
Caesar was assassinated; and we may admit that Rome was founded by
Romulus and Remus; but will some one be kind enough to tell us how
the assassination of Caesar even tends to prove that Romulus and
Remus were suckled by a wolf? We will all admit that, in the sixth
century after Christ, Mohammed was born at Mecca; that his
victorious hosts vanquished half the Christian world; that the
crescent triumphed over the cross upon a thousand fields; that all
the Christians of the earth were not able to rescue from the hands
of an impostor the empty grave of Christ. We will all admit that
the Mohammedans cultivated the arts and sciences; that they gave us
our numerals; taught us the higher mathematics; gave us our first
ideas of astronomy, and that "science was thrust into the brain of
Europe on the point of a Moorish lance;" and yet we will not admit
that Mohammed was divinely inspired, nor that he had frequent
conversations with the angel Gabriel, nor that after his death his
coffin was suspended in mid-air.

A little while ago, in the city of Chicago, a gentleman
addressed a number of Sunday-school children. In his address, he
stated that some people were wicked enough to deny the story of the
deluge; that he was a traveler; that he had been to the top of
Mount Ararat, and had brought with him a stone from that sacred
locality. The children were then invited to form, in procession and
walk by the pulpit, for the purpose of seeing this wonderful stone.
After they had looked at it, the lecturer said: "Now, children, if
you ever hear anybody deny the story of the deluge, or say that the
ark did not rest on Mount Ararat, you can tell them that you know
better, because you have seen with your own eyes a stone from that
very mountain."

The fact that Christ lived in Palestine does not tend to show
that he was in any way related to the Holy Ghost; nor does the
existence of the Christian religion substantiate the ascension of
Jesus Christ. We all admit that Socrates lived in Athens, but we do
not admit that he had a familiar spirit. I am satisfied that John
Wesley was an Englishman, but I hardly believe that God postponed
a rain because Mr. Wesley wanted to preach. All the natural things
in the world are not sufficient to establish the supernatural. Mr.
Black reasons in this way: There was a hydra-headed monster. We
know this, because Hercules killed him. There must have been such
a woman as Proserpine, otherwise Pluto could not have carried her
away. Christ must have been divine, because the Holy Ghost was his
father. And there must have been such a being as the Holy Ghost,
because without a father Christ could not have existed. Those who
are disposed to deny everything because a part is false, reason
exactly the other way. They insist that because there was no hydra-
headed monster, Hercules did not exist. The true position, in my

Bank of Wisdom
Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201

by Robert G. Ingersoll

judgment, is that the natural is not to be discarded because found
in the company of the miraculous, neither should the miraculous be
believed because associated with the probable. There was in all
probability such a man as Jesus Christ. He may have lived in
Jerusalem. He may have been crucified, but that he was the Son of
God, or that he was raised from the dead, and ascended bodily to
heaven, has never been, and, in the nature of things, can never be,

Apparently tired with his efforts to answer what I really
said, Mr. Black resorted to the expedient of "compressing" my
propositions and putting them in italics. By his system of
"compression" he was enabled to squeeze out what I really said, and
substitute a few sentences of his own. I did not say that
"Christianity offers eternal salvation as the reward of belief
alone," but I did say that no salvation is offered without belief
There must be a difference of opinion in the minds of Mr. Black's
witnesses on this subject. In one place we are told that a man is
"justified by faith without the deeds of the law;" and in another,
"to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the
ungodly, his faith is counted to him for righteousness;" and the
following passages seem to show the necessity of belief:

"he that believeth on Him is not condemned; but he that
believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in
the only begotten Son of God" "He that believeth on the Son hath
everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son, shall not see
life; but the wrath of God abideth on him." "Jesus said unto her,
I am the resurrection and the life; he that believeth in Me, though
he were dead, yet shall he live." "And whosoever liveth and
believeth in me, shall never die." "For the gifts and calling of
God are without repentance." "For by grace are ye saved through
faith; and that not of yourself; it is the gift of God." "Not of
works, lest any man should boast." "Whosoever shall confess that
Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God."
"Whosoever believeth not shall be damned."

I do not understand that the Christians of to-day insist that
simple belief will secure the salvation of the soul. I believe it
is stated in the Bible that "the very devils believe;" and it would
seem from this that belief is not such a meritorious thing, after
all. But Christians do insist that without belief no man can be
saved; that faith is necessary to salvation, and that there is
"none other name under heaven given among men whereby we can be
saved," except that of Christ. My doctrine is that there is only
one way to be saved, and that is to act in harmony with your
surroundings -- to live in accordance with the facts of your being.
A Being of infinite wisdom has no right to create a person destined
to everlasting pain. For the honest infidel, according to the
American Evangelical pulpit, there is no heaven. For the upright
atheist, there is nothing in another world but punishment. Mr.
Black admits that lunatics and idiots are in no danger of hell.
This being so, his God should have created only lunatics and
idiots. Why should the fatal gift of brain be given to any human
being, if such gift renders him liable to eternal hell? Better be
a lunatic here and an angel there. Better be an idiot in this
world, if you can be a seraph in the next.

Bank of Wisdom
Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201

by Robert G. Ingersoll

As to the doctrine of the atonement, Mr. Black has nothing to
offer except the barren statement that it is believed by the wisest
and the best. A Mohammedan, speaking in Constantinople, will say
the same of the Koran. A Brahmin, in a Hindu temple, will make the
same remark, and so will the American Indian, when he endeavors to
enforce something upon the young of his tribe. He will say: "The
best, the greatest of our tribe have believed in this." This is the
argument of the cemetery, the philosophy of epitaphs, the logic of
the coffin. Who are the greatest and wisest and most virtuous of
mankind? This statement, that it has been believed by the best, is
made in connection with an admission that it cannot be fathomed by
the wisest. It is not claimed that a thing is necessarily false
because it is not understood, but I do claim that it is not
necessarily true because it cannot be comprehended. I still insist
that "the plan of redemption," as usually preached, is absurd,
unjust, and immoral.

For nearly two thousand years Judas Iscariot has been
execrated by mankind; and yet, if the doctrine of the atonement is
true, upon his treachery hung the plan of salvation. Suppose Judas
had known of this plan -- known that he was selected by Christ for
that very purpose, that Christ was depending on him. And suppose
that he also knew that only by betraying Christ could he save
either himself or others; what ought Judas to have done? Are you
willing to rely upon an argument that justifies the treachery of
that wretch?

I insisted upon knowing how the sufferings of an innocent man
could satisfy justice for the sins of the guilty. To this, Mr.
Black replies as follows: "This raises a metaphysical question,
which it is not necessary or possible for me to discuss here." Is
this considered an answer? Is it in this way that "my misty
creations are made to roll away and vanish into air one after
another? "Is this the best that can be done by one of the disciples
of the infallible God who butchered babes in Judea? Is it possible
for a "policeman" to "silence a rude disturber" in this way? To
answer an argument, is it only necessary say that it "raises a
metaphysical question"? Again I say: The life of Christ is worth
its example, its moral force, its heroism of benevolence. And again
I say: The effort to vindicate a law by inflicting punishment on
the innocent is a second violation instead of a vindication.

Mr. Black, under the pretence of "compressing," puts in my
mouth the following: "The doctrine of non-resistance, forgiveness
of injuries, reconciliation with enemies, as taught in the New
Testament, is the child of weakness, degrading and unjust."

This is entirely untrue. What I did say is this: "The idea of
non-resistance never occurred to a man who had the power to protect
himself. This doctrine was the child of weakness, born when
resistance was impossible." I said not one word against the
forgiveness of injuries, not one word against the reconciliation of
enemies -- not one word. I believe in the reconciliation of
enemies. I believe in a reasonable forgiveness of injuries. But I
do not believe in the doctrine of non-resistance. Mr. Black
proceeds to say that Christianity forbids us "to cherish animosity,
to thirst for mere revenge, to hoard up wrongs real or fancied, and
lie in wait for the chance of paying them back; to be impatient,

Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201

by Robert G. Ingersoll

unforgiving, malicious, and cruel to all who have crossed us." And
yet the man who thus describes Christianity tells us that it is not
only our right, but our duty, to fight savages as savages fight us;
insists that where a nation tries to exterminate us, we have a
right to exterminate them. This same man, who tells us that "the
diabolical propensities of the human heart are checked and curbed
by the spirit of the Christian religion," and that this religion
"has converted men from low savages into refined and civilized
beings," still insists that the author of the Christian religion
established slavery, waged wars of extermination, abhorred the
liberty of thought, and practiced the divine virtues of retaliation
and revenge. If it is our duty to forgive our enemies, ought not
God to forgive his? Is it possible that God will hate his enemies
when he tells us that we must love ours? The enemies of God cannot
injure him, but ours can injure us. It is the duty of the injured
to forgive, why should the uninjured insist upon having revenge?
Why should a being who destroys nations with pestilence and famine
expect that his children will be loving and forgiving?

Mr. Black insists that without a belief in God there can be no
perception of right and wrong, and that it is impossible for an
atheist to have a conscience. Mr. Black, the Christian, the
believer in God, upholds wars of extermination. I denounce such
wars as murder. He upholds the institution of slavery. I denounce
that institution as the basest of crimes. Yet I am told that I have
no knowledge of right and wrong; that I measure with "the elastic
cord of human feeling," while the believer in slavery and wars of
extermination measures with "the golden metewand of God."

What is right and what is wrong? Everything is right that
tends to the happiness of mankind, and everything is wrong that
increases the sum of human misery. What can increase the happiness
of this world more than to do away with every form of slavery, and
with all war? What can increase the misery of mankind more than to
increase wars and put chains upon more human limbs? What is
conscience? If man were incapable of suffering, if man could not
feel pain, the word "conscience" never would have passed his lips.
The man who puts himself in the place of another, whose imagination
has been cultivated to the point of feeling the agonies suffered by
another, is the man of conscience. But a man who justifies slavery,
who justifies a God when he commands the soldier to rip open the
mother and to pierce with the sword of war the child unborn, is
controlled and dominated, not by conscience, but by a cruel and
remorseless superstition.

Consequences determine the quality of an action. If
consequences are good, so is the action. If actions had no
consequences, they would be neither good nor bad. Man did not get
his knowledge of the consequences of actions from God, but from
experience and reason. If man can, by actual experiment, discover
the right and wrong of actions, is it not utterly illogical to
declare that they who do not believe in God can have no standard of
right and wrong? Consequences are the standard by which actions are
judged. They are the children that testify as to the real character
of their parents. God or no God, larceny is the enemy of industry
-- industry is the mother of prosperity -- prosperity is a good,

Bank of Wisdom
Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201

by Robert G. Ingersoll

and therefore larceny is an evil. God or no God, murder is a crime.
There has always been a law against larceny, because the laborer
wishes to enjoy the fruit of his toil. As long as men object to
being killed, murder will be illegal.

According to Mr. Black, the man who does not believe in a
supreme being acknowledges no standard of right and wrong in this
world, and therefore can have no theory of rewards and punishments
in the next. Is it possible that only those who believe in the God
who persecuted for opinion's sake have any standard of right and
wrong? Were the greatest men of all antiquity without this
standard? In the eyes of intelligent men of Greece and Rome, were
all deeds, whether good or evil, morally alike? Is it necessary to
believe in the existence of an infinite intelligence before you can
have any standard of right and wrong? Is it possible that a being
cannot be just or virtuous unless he believes in some being
infinitely superior to himself? If this doctrine be true, how can
God be just or virtuous? Does he believe in some being superior to

It may be said that the Pagans believed in a god, and
consequently had a standard of right and wrong. But the Pagans did
not believe in the "true" God. They knew nothing of Jehovah. Of
course it will not do to believe in the wrong God. In order to know
the difference between right and wrong, you must believe in the
right God -- in the one who established slavery. Can this be
avoided by saying that a false god is better than none?

The idea of justice is not the child of superstition -- it was
not born of ignorance; neither was it nurtured by the passages in
the Old Testament upholding slavery, wars of extermination, and
religious persecution, Every human being necessarily has a standard
of right and wrong; and where that standard has not been polluted
by superstition, man abhors slavery, regards a war of extermination
as murder, and looks upon religious persecution as a hideous crime.
If there is a God, infinite in power and wisdom, above him, poised
in eternal calm, is the figure of Justice. At the shrine of Justice
the infinite God must bow, and in her impartial scales the actions
even of Infinity must be weighed. There is no world, no star, no
heaven, no hell, in which gratitude is not a virtue and where
slavery is not a crime.

According to the logic of this "reply," all good and evil
become mixed and mingled -- equally good and equally bad, unless we
believe in the existence of the infallible God who ordered husbands
to kill their wives. We do not know right from, wrong now, unless
we are convinced that a being of infinite mercy waged wars of
extermination four thousand years ago. We are incapable even of
charity, unless we worship the being who ordered the husband to
kill his wife for differing with him on the subject of religion.

We know that acts are good or bad only as they effect the
actors, and others. We know that from every good act good
consequences flow, and that from every bad act there are only evil
results. Every virtuous deed is a star in the moral firmament.
There is in the moral world, as in the physical, the absolute and
perfect relation of cause and effect. For this reason, the

Bank of Wisdom
Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201

by Robert G. Ingersoll

atonement becomes an impossibility. Others may suffer by your
crime, but their suffering cannot discharge you; it simply
increases your guilt and adds to your burden. For this reason
happiness is not a reward -- it is a consequence. Suffering is not
a punishment -- it is a result.

It is insisted that Christianity is not opposed to freedom of
thought, but that "it is based on certain principles to which it
requires the assent of all." Is this a candid statement? Ate we,
only required to give our assent to certain principles in order to
be saved? Are the inspiration of the Bible, the divinity of Christ,
the atonement, and the Trinity, principles? Will it be admitted by
the orthodox world that good deeds are sufficient unto salvation --
that a man can get into heaven by living in accordance with certain
principles? This is a most excellent doctrine, but it is not
Christianity. And right here, it may be well enough to state what
I mean by Christianity. The morality of the world is not
distinctively Christian. Zoroaster, Gautama, Mohammed, Confucius,
Christ, and, in fact, all founders of religions, have said to their
disciples: You must not steal; You must not murder; You must not
bear false witness; You must discharge your obligations.
Christianity is the ordinary moral code, plus the miraculous origin
of Jesus Christ, his crucifixion, his resurrection, his ascension,
the inspiration of the Bible, the doctrine of the atonement, and
the necessity of belief. Buddhism is the ordinary moral code, plus
the miraculous illumination of Buddha, the performance of certain
ceremonies, a belief in the transmigration of the soul, and in the
final absorption of the human by the infinite. The religion of
Mohammed is the ordinary moral code, plus the belief that Mohammed
was the prophet of God, total abstinence from the use of
intoxicating drinks, a harem for the faithful here and hereafter,
ablutions, prayers, alms, pilgrimages, and fasts.

The morality in Christianity has never opposed the freedom of
thought. It has never put, nor tended to put, a chain on a human
mind, nor a manacle on a human limb; but the doctrines
distinctively Christian -- the necessity of believing a certain
thing; the idea that eternal punishment awaited him who failed to
believe; the idea that the innocent can suffer for the guilty --
these things have opposed, and for a thousand years substantially
destroyed, the freedom of the human mind. All religions have, with
ceremony, magic, and mystery, deformed, darkened. and corrupted the
soul. Around the sturdy oaks of morality have grown and clung the
parasitic, poisonous vines of the miraculous and monstrous.

I have insisted, and I still insist, that it is impossible for
a finite man to commit a crime deserving infinite punishment; and
upon this subject Mr. Black admits that "no revelation has lifted
the veil between time and eternity;" and, consequently, neither the
priest nor the "policeman" knows anything with certainty regarding
another world. He simply insists that "in shadowy figures we are
warned that a very marked distinction will be made between the good
and bad in the next world." There is "a very marked distinction"
in this; but there is this rainbow on the darkest human cloud: The
worst have hope of reform. All I insist is, if there is another
life, the basest soul that finds its way to that dark or radiant
shore will have the everlasting chance of doing right. Nothing but

Bank of Wisdom
Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201

by Robert G. Ingersoll

the most cruel ignorance, the most heartless superstition, the most
ignorant theology, ever imagined that the few days of human life
spent here, surrounded by mists and clouds of darkness, blown over
life's sea by storms and tempests of passion, fixed for all
eternity the condition of the human race. If this doctrine be true,
this life is but a net, in which Jehovah catches souls for hell.

The idea that a certain belief is necessary to salvation
unsheathed the swords and lighted the fagots of persecution. As
long as heaven is the reward of creed instead of deed, just so long
will every orthodox church be a bastille, every member a prisoner,
and every priest a turnkey.

In the estimation of good orthodox Christians, I am a
criminal. because I am trying to take from loving mothers, fathers,
brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, and lovers the consolations
naturally arising from a belief in an eternity of grief and pain.
I want to tear, break, and scatter to the winds the God that
priests erected in the fields of innocent pleasure -- a God made of
sticks, called creeds, and of old clothes, called myths. I have
tried to take from the coffin its horror, from the cradle its
curse, and put out the fires of revenge kindled by the savages of
the past. Is it necessary that heaven should borrow its light from
the glare of hell? Infinite punishment is infinite cruelty, endless
injustice, immortal meanness. To worship an eternal gaoler hardens,
debases, and pollutes the soul. While there is one sad and breaking
heart in the universe, no perfectly good being can be perfectly
happy. Against the heartlessness of this doctrine every grand and
generous soul should enter its solemn protest. I want no part in
any heaven where the saved, the ransomed, and redeemed drown with
merry shouts the cries and sobs of hell -- in which happiness
forgets misery where the tears of the lost increase laughter and
deepen the dimples of joy. The idea of hell was born of ignorance,
brutality, fear, cowardice, and revenge. This idea tends to show
that our remote ancestors were the lowest beasts. Only from dens,
lairs, and caves -- only from mouths filled with cruel fangs --
only from hearts of fear and hatred -- only from the conscience of
hunger and lust -- only from the lowest and most debased, could
come this most cruel, heartless, and absurd of all dogmas.

Our ancestors knew but little of nature. They were too
astonished to investigate. They could not divest themselves of the
idea that everything happened with reference to them; that they
caused storms and earthquakes; that they brought the tempest and
the whirlwind; that on account of something they had done, or
omitted to do, the lightning of vengeance leaped from the darkened
sky. They made up their minds that at least two vast and powerful
beings presided over this world; that one was good and the other
bad; that both of these beings wished to get control of the souls
of men; that they were relentless enemies, eternal foes; that both
welcomed recruits and hated deserters; that one offered rewards in
this world, and the other in the next. Man saw cruelty and mercy in
nature, because he imagined that phenomena were produced to punish
or to reward him. It was supposed that God demanded worship; that
he loved to be flattered; that he delighted in sacrifice; that
nothing made him happier than to see ignorant faith upon its knees;
that above all things he hated and despised doubters and heretics,

Bank of Wisdom
Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201

by Robert G. Ingersoll

and regarded investigation as rebellion. Each community felt it a
duty to see that the enemies of God were converted or killed. To
allow a heretic to live in peace was to invite the wrath of God.
Every public evil -- every misfortune -- was accounted for by
something the community had permitted or done. When epidemics
appeared, brought by ignorance and welcomed by filth, the heretic
was brought out and sacrificed to appease the anger of God. By
putting intention behind what man called good, God was produced. By
putting intention behind what man called bad, the Devil was
created. Leave this "intention" out, and gods and devils fade away.
If not a human being existed, the sun would continue to shine, and
tempest now and then would devastate the earth; the rain would fall
in pleasant showers; violets would spread their velvet bosoms to
the sun, the earthquake would devour, birds would sing and daisies
bloom and roses blush, and volcanoes fill the heavens with their
lurid glare; the procession of the seasons would not be broken, and
the stars would shine as serenely as though the world were filled
with loving hearts and happy homes. Do not imagine that the
doctrine of eternal revenge belongs to Christianity alone. Nearly
all religions have had this dogma for a corner-stone. Upon this
burning foundation nearly all have built. Over the abyss of pain
rose the glittering dome of pleasure. This world was regarded as
one of trial. Here, a God of infinite wisdom experimented with man.
Between the outstretched paws of the Infinite, the mouse -- man --
was allowed to play. Here, man had the opportunity, of hearing
priests and kneeling in temples. Here, he could read, and hear
read, the sacred books. Here, he could have the example of the
pious and the counsels of the holy. Here, he could build churches
and cathedrals. Here, he could burn incense, fast, wear hair-cloth,
deny himself all the pleasures of life, confess to priests,
construct instruments of torture, bow before pictures and images,
and persecute all who had the courage to despise superstition, and
the goodness to tell their honest thoughts. After death, if he died
out of the church, nothing could be done to make him better. When
he should come into the presence of God, nothing was left except to
damn him. Priests might convert him here, but God could do nothing
there. All of which shows how much more a priest can do for a soul
than its creator. Only here, on the earth, where the devil is
constantly active, only where his agents attack every soul, is
there the slightest hope of moral improvement. Strange! that a
world cursed by God, filled with temptations, and thick with
fiends, should be the only place where man can repent, the only
place where reform is possible!

Masters frightened slaves with the threat of hell, and slaves
got a kind of shadowy revenge by whispering back the threat. The
imprisoned imagined a hell for their gaolers; the weak built this
place for the strong; the arrogant for their rivals; the vanquished
for their victors; the priest for the thinker; religion for reason;
superstition for science. All the meanness, all the revenge, all
the selfishness, all the cruelty, all the hatred, all the infamy of
which the heart of man is capable, grew, blossomed, and bore fruit
in this one word -- Hell. For the nourishment of this dogma,
cruelty was soil, ignorance was rain, and fear was light.

Bank of Wisdom
Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201

by Robert G. Ingersoll

Why did Mr. Black fail to answer what I said in relation to
the doctrine of inspiration? Did he consider that a "metaphysical
question"? Let us see what inspiration really is. A man looks at
the sea, and the sea says something to him. It makes an impression
on his mind. It awakens memory, and this impression depends upon
his experience -upon his intellectual capacity. Another looks upon
the same sea. He has a different brain; he has 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.
One may think of wreck and ruin, and another, while listening to
the "multitudinous laughter of the sea," may say: Every drop has
visited all the shores of earth; every one has been frozen in the
vast and icy North, has fallen in snow, has whirled in storms
around the mountain peaks, been kissed to vapor by the sun, worn
the seven-hued robe of light, fallen in pleasant rain, gurgled from
springs, and laughed in brooks while lovers wooed upon the banks.
Everything in nature tells a different story to all eyes that see
and to all ears that hear. 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 thoughtful man reads Shakespeare.
What does he get? All that he has the mind to understand. 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. 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
impressions gained from ancestors, the hereditary tears and drifts
and trends -- the natural food of thought must be the impressions
made upon the brain by coming in contact through the medium of the
senses with what we call the outward world. The brain is natural;
its food is natural the result, thought, must be natural. Of the
supernatural we have no conception. Thought may be deformed, and
the thought of one may be strange to, and denominated 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. There can be deformed ideas, as there are deformed persons.
There may be religions monstrous and misshapen, but they were
naturally produced. 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

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, through the Bible, make precisely the
same revelation to two persons? He cannot. Why? Because the man who
reads is not inspired. God should inspire readers as well as

Bank of Wisdom
Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201

by Robert G. Ingersoll

You may reply: God knew that his book would be understood
differently by each one, and 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 take the
revelation made to me through my understanding, and by that
revelation I must stand. Suppose then, that I read this Bible
honestly, fairly, and when I get through 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
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 on the credulity of him who reads.
There was a time when its geology, its astronomy, its natural
history, were thought to be inspired; that time has passed. There
was a time when its morality satisfied the men who ruled the world
of thought; that time has passed.

Mr. Black, continuing his process of compressing my
propositions, attributes to me the following statement: "The gospel
of Christ does not satisfy the hunger of the heart." I did not say
this. What I did say is: "The dogmas of the past no longer reach
the level of the highest thought, nor satisfy the hunger of the
heart." In so far as Christ taught any doctrine in opposition to
slavery, in favor of intellectual liberty, upholding kindness,
enforcing the practice of justice and mercy, I most cheerfully
admit that his teachings should be followed. Such teachings do not
need the assistance of miracles. They are not in the region of the
supernatural. They find their evidence in the glad response of
every honest heart that superstition has not touched and stained.
The great question under discussion is, whether the immoral,
absurd, and infamous can be established by the miraculous. It
cannot be too often repeated, that truth scorns the assistance of
miracle. That which actually happens sets in motion innumerable
effects, which, in turn, become causes producing other effects.
These are all "witnesses" whose "depositions" continue. What I
insist on is, that a miracle cannot be established by human
testimony. We have known people to be mistaken. We know that all
people will not tell the truth. We have never seen the dead raised.
When people assert that they have, we are forced to weigh the
probabilities, and the probabilities are on the other side, It will
not do to assert that the universe was created, and then say that
such creation was miraculous, and, therefore, all miracles are
possible, We must be sure of our premises. Who knows that the
universe was created? If it was not; if it has existed from
eternity if the present is the necessary child of all the past,
then the miraculous is the impossible. Throw away all the miracles
of the New Testament, and the good teachings of Christ remain --
all that is worth preserving will be there still. Take from what is
now known as Christianity the doctrine of the atonement, the
fearful dogma of eternal punishment, the absurd idea that a certain
belief is necessary to salvation, and with most of the remainder
the good and intelligent will most heartily agree.

Bank of Wisdom
Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201

by Robert G. Ingersoll

Mr. Black attributes to me the following expression:
"Christianity is pernicious in its moral effect, darkens the mind,
narrows the soul, arrests the progress of human society, and
hinders civilization." I said no such thing. Strange, that he is
only able to answer what I did not say. I endeavored to show that
the passages in the Old Testament upholding slavery, polygamy, wars
of extermination, and religious intolerance had filled the world
with blood and crime. I admitted that there are many wise and good
things in the Old Testament. I also insisted that the doctrine of
the atonement -- that is to say, of moral bankruptcy -- the idea
that a certain belief is necessary to salvation, and the frightful
dogma of eternal pain, had narrowed the soul, had darkened the
mind, and had arrested the progress of human society. Like other
religions, Christianity is a mixture of good and evil. The church
has made more orphans than it has fed. It has never built asylums
enough to hold the insane of its own making. It has shed more blood
than light.

Mr. Black seems to think that miracles are the most natural
things imaginable, and wonders that anybody should be insane enough
to deny the probability of the impossible. He regards all who doubt
the miraculous origin, the resurrection and ascension of Jesus
Christ, as afflicted with some "error of the moon," and declares
that their "disbelief seems like a kind of insanity."

To ask for evidence is not generally regarded as a symptom of
a brain diseased. Delusions, illusions, phantoms, hallucinations,
apparitions, chimeras, and visions are the common property of the
religious and the insane. Persons blessed with sound minds and
healthy bodies rely on facts, not fancies -- on demonstrations
instead of dreams. It seems to me that the most orthodox Christians
must admit that many of the miracles recorded in the New Testament
are extremely childish. They must see that the miraculous draught
of fishes, changing water into wine, fasting for forty days,
inducing devils to leave an insane man by allowing them to take
possession of swine, walking on the water, and using a fish for a
pocket-book, are all unworthy of an infinite being, and are
calculated to provoke laughter -- to feed suspicion and engender

Mr. Black takes the ground that if a man believes in the
creation of the universe -- that being the most stupendous miracle
of which the mind can conceive -- he has no right to deny anything.
He asserts that God created the universe; that creation was a
miracle; that "God would be likely to reveal his will to the
rational creatures who were required to obey it," and that he would
authenticate his revelation by giving his prophets and apostles
supernatural power.

After making these assertion, he triumphantly exclaims: "It
therefore follows that the improbability of a miracle is no greater
than the original improbability of a revelation, and that is not
improbable at all."

How does he know that God made the universe? How does he know
what God would be likely to do? How does he know that any
revelation was made? And how did he ascertain that any of the

Bank of Wisdom
Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201

by Robert G. Ingersoll

apostles and prophets were entrusted with supernatural power? It
will not do to prove your premises by assertions, and then claim
that your conclusions are correct, because they agree with your

If "God would be likely to reveal his will to the rational
creatures who were required to obey it," why did he reveal it only
to the Jews? According to Mr. Black, God is the only natural thing
in the universe.

We should remember that ignorance is the mother of credulity;
that the early Christians believed everything but the truth, and
that they accepted Paganism, admitted the reality of all the Pagan
miracles -- taking the ground that they were all forerunners of
their own. Pagan miracles were never denied by the Christian world
until late in the seventeenth century. Voltaire was the third man
of note in Europe who denied the truth of Greek and Roman
mythology. "The early Christians cited Pagan oracles predicting in
detail the sufferings of Christ. They forged prophecies, and
attributed them to the heathen sibyls, and they were accepted as
genuine by the entire church."

St. Irenaeus assures us that all Christians possessed the
power of working miracles; that they prophesied, cast out devils,
healed the sick, and even raised the dead. St. Epiphanius asserts
that some rivers and fountains were annually transmuted into wine,
in attestation of the miracle of Cana, adding that he himself had
drunk of these fountains. St. Augustine declares that one was told
in a dream where the bones of St. Stephen were buried, that the
bones were thus discovered. and brought to Hippo, and that they
raised five dead persons to life, and that in two years seventy
miracles were performed with these relics. Justin Martyr states
that God once sent some angels to guard the human race, that these
angels fell in love with the daughters of men, and became the
fathers of innumerable devils.

For hundreds of years, miracles were about the only things
that happened. They were wrought by thousands of Christians, and
testified to by millions. The saints and martyrs, the best and
greatest, were the witnesses and workers of wonders. Even heretics,
with the assistance of the devil, could suspend the "laws of
nature." Must we believe these wonderful accounts because they were
written by "good men," by Christians, "who made their statements in
the presence and expectation of death"? The truth is that these
"good men" were mistaken. They expected the miraculous. They
breathed the air of the marvelous. They fed their minds on
prodigies, and their imaginations feasted on effects without
causes. They were incapable of investigating. Doubts were regarded
as "rude disturbers of the congregation." Credulity and sanctity
walked hand in hand. Reason was danger. Belief was safety. As the
philosophy of the ancients was rendered almost worthless by the
credulity of the common people, so the proverbs of Christ, his
religion of forgiveness, his creed of kindness, were lost in the
mist of miracle and the darkness of superstition.

Bank of Wisdom
Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201

by Robert G. Ingersoll

If Mr. Black is right, there were no virtue, justice,
intellectual liberty, moral elevation, refinement, benevolence, or
true wisdom, until Christianity was established. He asserts that
when Christ came, "benevolence, in any shape, was altogether

He insists that "the infallible God who authorized slavery in
Judea" established a government; that he was the head and king of
the Jewish people; that for this reason heresy was treason. Is it
possible that God established a government in which benevolence was
unknown? How did it happen that he established no asylums for the
insane? How do you account for the fact that your God permitted
some of his children to become insane? Why did Jehovah fail to
establish hospitals and schools? Is it reasonable to believe that
a good God would assist his chosen people to exterminate or enslave
his other children? Why would your God people a world, knowing that
it would be destitute of benevolence for four thousand years?
Jehovah should have sent missionaries to the heathen. He ought to
have reformed the inhabitants of Canaan. He should have sent
teachers, not soldiers -- missionaries, not murderers. A God should
not exterminate his children; he should reform them.

Mr. Black gives us a terrible picture of the condition of the
world at the coming of Christ; but did the God of Judea treat his
own children, the Gentiles, better than the Pagans treated theirs?
When Rome enslaved mankind -- when with her victorious armies she
sought to conquer or to exterminate tribes and nations, she but
followed the example of Jehovah. Is it true that benevolence came
with Christ, and that his coming heralded the birth of pity in the
human heart? Does not Mr. Black know that, thousands of years
before Christ was born, there were hospitals and asylums for
orphans in China? Does he not know that in Egypt, before Moses
lived, the insane were treated with kindness and wooed back to
natural thought by music's golden voice? Does he not know that in
all times, and in all countries, there have been great and loving
souls who wrought, and toiled, and suffered, and died that others
might enjoy? Is it possible that he knows nothing of the religion
of Buddha -- a religion based upon equality, charity and
forgiveness? Does he not know that, centuries before the birth of
the great Peasant of Palestine, another, upon the plains of India,
had taught the doctrine of forgiveness; and that, contrary to the
tyranny of Jehovah, had given birth to the sublime declaration that
all men are by nature free and equal? Does he not know that a
religion of absolute trust in God had been taught thousands of
years before Jerusalem was built -- a religion based upon absolute
special providence, carrying its confidence to the extremist edge
of human thought, declaring that every evil is a blessing in
disguise, and that every step taken by mortal man, whether in the
rags of poverty or the royal robes of kings, is the step necessary
to be taken by that soul in order to teach perfection and eternal
joy? But how is it possible for a man who believes in slavery to
have the slightest conception of benevolence, justice or charity?
If Mr. Black is right, even Christ believed and taught that man
could buy and sell his fellow-man. Will the Christians of America
admit this? Do they believe that Christ from heaven's throne mocked
when colored mothers, reft of babes, knelt by empty cradles and
besought his aid?

Bank of Wisdom
Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201

by Robert G. Ingersoll

For the man Christ -- for the reformer who loved his fellowmen
-- for the man who believed in an Infinite Father, who would shield
the innocent and protect the just -- for the martyr who expected to
be rescued from the cruel cross, and who at last, finding that his
hope was dust, cried out in the gathering gloom of death: "My God!
My God! Why hast thou forsaken me?" -- for that great and suffering
man, mistaken though he was, I have the highest admiration and
respect. That man did not, as I believe, claim a miraculous origin;
he did not pretend to heal the sick nor raise the dead. He claimed
simply to be a man, and taught his fellow-men that love is stronger
far than hate. His life was written by reverent ignorance. Loving
credulity belittled his career with feats of jugglery and magic
art, and priests, wishing to persecute and slay, put in his mouth
the words of hatred and revenge. The theological Christ is the
impossible union of the human and divine -- man with the attributes
of God, and God with the limitations and weaknesses of man.

After giving a terrible description of the Pagan world, Mr.
Black says. "The church came, and her light penetrated the moral
darkness like a new sun; she covered the globe with institutions of

Is this true? Do we not know that when the Roman empire fell,
darkness settled on the world? do we not know that this darkness
lasted for a thousand years, and that daring all that time the
church of Christ held, with bloody hands, the sword of power? These
years were the starless midnight of our race. Art died, law was
forgotten, toleration ceased to exist, charity fled from the human
breast, and justice was unknown. Kings were tyrants, priests were
pitiless, and the poor multitude were slaves. In the name of
Christ, men made instruments of torture, and the auto da fe took
the place of the gladiatorial show. Liberty was in chains, honesty
in dungeons, while Christian superstition ruled mankind.
Christianity compromised with Paganism. The statues of Jupiter were
used to represent Jehovah, Isis and her babe were changed to Mary
and the infant Christ. The Trinity of Egypt became the Father, Son,
and Holy Ghost. The simplicity of the early Christians was lost in
heathen rites and Pagan pomp. The believers in the blessedness of
poverty became rich, avaricious, and grasping, and those who had
said, "Sell all, and give to the poor," became the ruthless
gatherers of tithes and taxes. In a few years the teachings of
Jesus were forgotten. The gospels were interpolated by the
designing and ambitious. The church was infinitely corrupt. Crime
was crowned, and virtue scourged, The minds of men were saturated
with superstition. Miracles, apparitions, angels, and devils had
possession of the world. "The nights were filled with incubi and
succubi; devils, clad in wondrous forms, and imps in hideous
shapes, sought to tempt or fright the soldiers of the cross. The
maddened spirits of the air sent hail and storm. Sorcerers wrought
sudden death, and witches worked with spell and charm against the
common weal." In every town the stake arose, Faith carried fagots
to the feet of philosophy. Priests -- not "politicians" -- fed and
fanned the eager flames. The dungeon was the foundation of the
cathedral. Priests sold charms and relics to their flocks to keep
away the wolves of hell. Thousands of Christians, failing to find
protection in the church, sold their poor souls to Satan for some
magic wand. Suspicion sat in every house, families were divided,

Bank of Wisdom
Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201

by Robert G. Ingersoll

wives denounced husbands, husbands denounced wives, and children
their parents. Every calamity then, as now, increased the power of
the church. Pestilence supported the pulpit, and famine was the
right hand of faith. Christendom was insane.

Will Mr. Black be kind enough to state at what time "the
church covered the globe with institutions of mercy"? In his reply,
he conveys the impression that these institutions were organized in
the first century, or at least in the morning of Christianity. How
many hospitals for the sick were established by the church during
a thousand years? Do we not know that for hundreds of years the
Mohammedans erected more hospitals and asylums than the Christians?
Christendom was filled with racks and thumbscrews, with stakes and
fagots, with chains and dungeons, for centuries before a hospital
was built. Priests despised doctors. Prayer was medicine.
Physicians interfered with the sale of charms and relics. The
church did not cure -- it killed. It practiced surgery with the
sword. The early Christians did not build asylums for the insane.
They charged them with witchcraft, and burnt them. They built
asylums, not for the mentally diseased, but for the mentally
developed. These asylums were graves.

All the languages of the world have not words of horror enough
to paint the agonies of man when the church had power. Tiberius,
Caligula, Claudius, Nero, Domitian, and Commodus were not as cruel,
false, and base as many of the Christians Popes. Opposite the names
of these imperial criminals write John the XII., Leo the VIII,
Boniface the VII. Benedict the IX., Innocent the III., and
Alexander the VI. Was it under these pontiffs that the "church
penetrated the moral darkness like a new sun," and covered the
globe with institutions of mercy? Rome was far better when Pagan
than when Catholic. It was better to allow gladiators and criminals
to fight than to burn honest men. The greatest of the Romans
denounced the cruelties of the arena. Seneca condemned the combats
even of wild beasts. He was tender enough to say that "we should
have a bond of sympathy for all sentient beings, knowing that only
the depraved and base take pleasure in the sight of blood and
suffering. "Aurelius compelled the gladiators to fight with blunted
swords. Roman lawyers declared that all men are by nature free and
equal. Woman, under Pagan rule in Rome, became as free as man.
Zeno, long before the birth of Christ, taught that virtue alone
establishes a difference between men. We know that the CIVIL LAW is
the foundation of our codes. We know that fragments of Greek and
Roman art -- a few manuscripts saved from Christian destruction,
some inventions and discoveries of the Moors -- were the seeds of
modern civilization. Christianity, for a thousand years, taught
memory to forget and reason to believe. Not one step was taken in
advance. Over the manuscripts of philosophers and poets, priests
with their ignorant tongues thrust out, devoutly scrawled the
forgeries of faith. For a thousand years the torch of progress was
extinguished in the blood of Christ, and his disciples, moved by
ignorant zeal, by insane, cruel creeds, destroyed with flame and
sword a hundred millions of their fellow-men. They made this world
a hell. But if cathedrals had been universities -- if dungeons of
the Inquisition had been laboratories -- if Christians had believed
in character instead of creed -- if they had taken from the Bible
all the good and thrown away the wicked and absurd -- if domes of

Bank of Wisdom
Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201

by Robert G. Ingersoll

temples had been observatories -- if priests had been philosophers
-- if missionaries had taught the useful arts -- if astrology had
been astronomy -- if the black art had been chemistry -- if
superstition had been science -- if religion had been humanity --
it would have been a heaven filled with love, with liberty, and

We did not get our freedom from the church. The great truth,
that all men are by nature free, was never told on Sinai's barren
crags, nor by the lonely shores of Galilee.

The Old Testament filled this world with tyranny and crime,
and the New gives us a future filled with pain for nearly all the
sons of men. The Old describes the hell of the past, and the New
the hell of the future. The Old tells us the frightful things that
God has done -- the New the cruel things that he will do. These two
books give us the sufferings of the past and future -- the
injustice, the agony, the tears of both worlds. If the Bible is
true -- if Jehovah is God -- if the lot of countless millions is to
be eternal pain -- better a thousand times that all the
constellations of the shoreless vast were eyeless darkness and
eternal space. Better that all that is should cease to be. Better
that all the seeds and springs of things should fail and wither
from great Nature's realm. Better that causes and effects should
lose relation and become unmeaning phrases and forgotten sounds.
Better that every life should change to breathless death, to
voiceless blank, and every world to blind oblivion and to moveless

Mr. Black justifies all the crimes and horrors, excuses all
the tortures of all the Christian years, by denouncing the
cruelties of the French Revolution. Thinking people will not hasten
to admit that an infinitely good being authorized slavery in Judea,
because of the atrocities of the French Revolution. They will
remember the sufferings of the Huguenots. They will remember the
massacre of St. Bartholomew. They will not forget the countless
cruelties of priest and king. They will not forget the dungeons of
the Bastille. They will know that the Revolution was an effect, and
that liberty was not the cause -- that atheism was not the cause.
Behind the Revolution they will see altar and throne -- sword and
fagot -- palace and cathedral -- king and priest -- master and
slave -- tyrant and hypocrite. They will see that the excesses, the
cruelties, and crimes were but the natural fruit of seeds the
church had sown. But the Revolution was not entirely evil. Upon
that cloud of war, black with the myriad miseries of a thousand
years, dabbled with blood of king and queen, of patriot and priest,
there was this bow: "Beneath the flag of France all men are free."
In spite of all the blood and crime, in spite of deeds that seem
insanely base, the People placed upon a Nation's brow these stars:
-- Liberty, Fraternity, Equality -- grander words than ever issued
from Jehovah's lips.
****     ****
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