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Robert Green Ingersoll
16 page printout. Reproducible Electronic Publishing can defeat censorship. INTERVIEWS Contents of this file page REPLY TO THE KANSAS CITY CLERGY. 1 SWEARING AND AFFIRMING. 3 REPLY TO A BUFFALO CRITIC. 4 BLASPHEMY. 6 POLITICS AND BRITISH COLUMBIA. 7 INGERSOLL CATECHIZED. 9 ESSAY ON CHRISTMAS. 15 **** **** This file, its printout, or copies of either are to be copied and given away, but NOT sold. Bank of Wisdom, Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 The Works of ROBERT G. INGERSOLL **** **** REPLY TO THE KANSAS CITY CLERGY. Question. Will you take any notice of Mr. Magrath's challenge? Answer. I do not think it worth while to discuss with Mr. Magrath. I do not say this in disparagement of his ability, as I do not know the gentleman. He may be one of the greatest of men. I think, however, that Mr. Magrath might better answer what I have already said. If he succeeds in that, then I will meet him in public discussion. Of course he is an eminent theologian or he would not think of discussing these questions with anybody. I have never heard of him, but for all that he may be the most intelligent of men. Question. How have the recently expressed opinions of our local clergy impressed you? Answer. I suppose you refer to the preachers who have given their opinion of me. In the first place I am obliged to them for acting as my agents. I think Mr. Hogan has been imposed upon. Tacitus is a poor witness -- about like Josephus. I say again that we have not a word about Christ written by any human being who lived in the time of Christ -- not a solitary word, and Mr. Hogan ought to know it. The Rev. Mr. Mathews is mistaken. If the Bible proves anything, it proves that the world was made in six days and that Adam and Eve were built on Saturday. The Bible gives the age of Adam when he died, and then gives the ages of others down to the flood. and then from that time at least to the return from the captivity. If the genealogy of the Bible is true it is about six thousand years since Adam was made, and the world is only five days older than Adam. It is nonsense to say the days were long periods of time. If that is so, away goes the idea of Sunday. The only reason for keeping Sunday given in the Bible is that God made the world in six days and rested on the seventh. "Mr. Mathews is not Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 1 INTERVIEWS - FIFTH SERIES candid. He knows that he cannot answer the arguments I have urged against the Bible. He knows that the ancient Jews were barbarians, and that the Old Testament is a barbarous book. He knows that it upholds slavery and polygamy, and he probably feels ashamed of what he is compelled to preach. Mr. Jardine takes a very cheerful view of the subject. He expects the light to dawn on the unbelievers. He speaks as though he were the superior of all Infidels. He claims to be a student of the evidences of Christianity. There are no evidences, consequently Mr. Jardine is a student of nothing. It is amazing how dignified some people can get on a small capital. Mr. Haley has sense enough to tell the ministers not to attempt to answer me. That is good advice. The ministers had better keep still. It is the safer way. If they try to answer what I say, the "sheep" will see how foolish the "shepherds" are. The best way is for them to say, "that has been answered." Mr. Wells agrees with Mr. Haley. He, too, thinks that silence is the best weapon. I agree with him. Let the clergy keep still; that is the best way. It is better to say nothing than to talk absurdity. I am delighted to think that at last the ministers have concluded that they had better not answer Infidels. Mr. Woods is fearful only for the young. He is afraid that I will hurt the children. He thinks that the mother ought to stoop over the cradle and in the ears of the babe shout, Hell! So he thinks in all probability that the same word ought to be repeated at the grave as a consolation to mourners. I am glad that Mr. Mann thinks that I am doing neither good nor harm. This gives me great hope. If I do no harm, certainly I ought not to be eternally damned. It is very consoling to have an orthodox minister solemnly assert that I am doing no harm. I wish I could say as much for him. The truth is, all these ministers have kept back their real thoughts, They do not tell their doubts -- they know that orthodoxy is doomed -- they know that the old doctrine excites laughter and scorn. They know that the fires of hell are dying out; that the Bible is ceasing to be an authority; and that the pulpit is growing feebler and feebler every day, Poor parsons! Question. Would the Catholicism of General Sherman's family affect his chances for the presidency? Answer. I do not think the religion of the family should have any weight one way or the other. It would make no difference with me; although I hate Catholicism with all my heart, I do not hate Catholics, Some people might be so prejudiced that they would not vote for a man whose wife belongs to the Catholic Church; but such people are too narrow to be consulted. General Sherman says that he wants no office. In that he shows his good sense, He is a great man and a greater soldier, He has won laurels enough for one brow. He has the respect and admiration of the nation, and does not need the presidency to finish his career. He wishes to enjoy the honors he has won and the rest he deserves. Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 2 INTERVIEWS - FIFTH SERIES Question. What is your opinion of Matthew Arnold? Answer. He is a man of talent, well educated, a little fussy, somewhat sentimental, but he is not a genius. He is not creative. He is a critic: -- not an originator, He will not compare with Emerson. -- The Journal, Kansas City, Missouri, February 23, 1884. **** **** SWEARING AND AFFIRMING. Question. What is the difference in the parliamentary oath of this country which saves us from such a squabble as they have had in England over the Bradlaugh case? Answer. Our Constitution provides that a member of Congress may swear or affirm. The consequence is that we can have no such controversy as they have had in England, The framers of our Constitution wished forever to divorce church and state. They knew that it made no possible difference whether a man swore or affirmed, or whether he swore and affirmed to support the Constitution. All the Federal officers who went into the Rebellion had sworn or affirmed to support the Constitution, All that did no good. The entire oath business is a mistake. I think it would be a thousand times better to abolish all oaths in courts of justice. The oath allows a rascal to put on the garments of solemnity, the mask of piety, while he tells a lie. In other words, the oath allows the villain to give falsehood the appearance of truth. I think it would be far better to let each witness tell his story and leave his evidence to the intelligence of the jury and judge. The trouble about the oath is that its tendency is to put all witnesses on an equality; the jury says, "Why, he swore to it." Now, if the oath were abolished, the jury would judge all testimony according to the witness, and then the evidence of one man of good reputation would outweigh the lies of thousands of nobodies. It was at one time believed that there was something miraculous in the oath, that it was a kind of thumbscrew that would torture the truth out of a rascal, and at one time they believed that if a man swore falsely he might be struck by lightning or paralyzed. But so many people have sworn to lies without having their health injured that the old superstition has very little weight with the average witness. I think it would be far better to let every man tell his story; let him be cross-examined, let the jury find out as much as they can of his character, of his standing among his neighbors -- then weigh his testimony in the scale of reason. The oath is born of superstition, and everything born of superstition is bad. The oath gives the lie currency; it gives it for the moment the ring of true metal, and the ordinary average juror is imposed upon and justice in many instances defeated. Nothing can he more absurd than the swearing of a man to support the Constitution. Let him do what he likes. If he does not support the Constitution, the probability is that his constituents will refuse to support him. Every man who swears to support the Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 3 INTERVIEWS - FIFTH SERIES Constitution swears to support it as he understands it, and no two understand it exactly alike. Now, if the oath brightened a man's intellect or added to his information or increased his patriotism or gave him a little more honesty, it would be a good thing -- but it doesn't. And as a consequence it is a very useless and absurd proceeding. Nothing amuses me more in a court than to see one calf kissing the tanned skin of another. -- The Courier, Buffalo, New York, May 19, 1884. **** **** REPLY TO A BUFFALO CRITIC. Question. What have you to say in reply to the letter in to- day's Times signed R.H.S.? Answer. I find that I am accused of "four flagrant wrongs," and while I am not as yet suffering from the qualms of conscience, nor do I feel called upon to confess and be forgiven, yet I have something to say in self-defence. As to the first objection made by your correspondent, namely, that my doctrine deprives people of the hope that after this life is ended they will meet their fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers, long since passed away, in the land beyond the grave, and there enjoy their company forever. I have this to say: If Christianity is true we are not quite certain of meeting our relatives and friends where we can enjoy their company forever. If Christianity is true most of our friends will be in hell. The ones I love best and whose memory I cherish will certainly be among the lost. The trouble about Christianity is that it is infinitely selfish. Each man thinks that if he can save his own little, shriveled, microscopic soul, that is enough. No matter what becomes of the rest. Christianity has no consolation for a generous man. I do not wish to go to heaven if the ones who have given me joy are to be lost. I would much rather go with them. The only thing that makes life endurable in this world is human love, and yet, according to Christianity, that is the very thing we are not to have in the other world. We are to be so taken up with Jesus and the angels, that we shall care nothing about our brothers and sisters that have been damned. We shall be so carried away with the music of the harp that we shall not even hear the wail of father or mother. Such a religion is a disgrace to human nature. As to the second objection, -- that society cannot be held together in peace and good order without hell and a belief in eternal torment, I would ask why an infinitely wise and good God should make people of so poor and mean a character that society cannot be held together without searing them. Is it possible that God has so made the world that the threat of eternal punishment is necessary for the preservation of society? The writer of the letter also says that it is necessary to believe that if a man commits murder here he is destined to be punished in hell for the offence. This is Christianity. Yet nearly every murderer goes directly from the gallows to God. Nearly every Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 4 INTERVIEWS - FIFTH SERIES murderer takes it upon himself to lecture the assembled multitude who have gathered to see him hanged, and invite them to meet him in heaven. When the rope is about his neck he feels the wings growing. That is the trouble with the Christian doctrine. Every murderer is told he may repent and go to heaven, and have the happiness of seeing his victim in hell. Should heaven at any time become dull, the vein of pleasure can be re-thrilled by the sight of his victim wriggling on the gridiron of God's justice. Really, Christianity leads men to sin on credit. It sells rascality on time and tells all the devils they can have the benefit of the gospel bankrupt act. The next point in the letter is that I do not preach for the benefit of mankind, but for the money which is the price of blood. Of course it makes no difference whether I preach for money or not. That is to say, it makes no difference to the preached. The arguments I advance are either good or bad. If they are bad they can easily be answered by argument. If they are not they cannot be answered by personalities or by ascribing to me selfish motives. It is not a personal matter. It is a matter of logic, of sense -- not a matter of slander, vituperation or hatred. The writer of the letter, R.H.S., may be an exceedingly good person, yet that will add no weight to his or her argument. He or she may be a very bad person, but that would not weaken the logic of the letter, if it had any logic to begin with. It is not for me to say what my motives are in what I do or say; it must be left to the judgment of mankind. I presume I am about as bad as most folks, and as good as some, but my goodness or badness has nothing to do with the question. I may have committed every crime in the world, yet that does not make the story of the flood reasonable, nor does it even tend to show that the three gentlemen in the furnace were not scorched. I may be the best man in the world, yet that does not go to prove that Jonah was swallowed by the whale. Let me say right here that if there is another world I believe that every soul who finds the way to that shore will have an Everlasting opportunity to do right -- of reforming. My objection to Christianity is that it is infinitely cruel, infinitely selfish, and I might add infinitely absurd. I deprive no one of any hope unless you call the expectation of eternal pain a hope. Question. Have you read the Rev, Father Lambert's "Notes on Ingersoll," and if so, what have you to say of them or in reply to them? Answer. I have read a few pages or paragraphs of that pamphlet, and do not feel called upon to say anything. Mr. Lambert has the same right to publish his ideas that I have, and the readers must judge. People who believe his way will probably think that he has succeeded in answering me. After all, he must leave the public to decide. I have no anxiety about the decision. Day by day the people are advancing, and in a little while the sacred superstitions of to-day will be cast aside with the foolish myths and fables of the pagan world. As a matter of fact there can be no argument in favor of the supernatural. Suppose you should ask if I had read the work of that gentleman who says that twice two are five. I should answer you Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 5 INTERVIEWS - FIFTH SERIES that no gentleman can prove that twice two are five; and yet this is exactly as easy as to prove the existence of the supernatural. There are no arguments in favor of the supernatural. There are theories and fears and mistakes and prejudices and guesses, but no arguments -- plenty of faith, but no facts; plenty of divine revelation, but no demonstration. The supernatural, in my judgment, is a mistake. I believe in the natural. -- The Times, Buffalo, New York, May 19, 1884. **** **** BLASPHEMY. ["If Robert G. Ingersoll indulges in blasphemy to-night in his lecture, as he has in other places and in this city before, he will be arrested before he leaves the city." So spoke Rev. Irwin H. Torrence, General Secretary of the Pennsylvania Bible Society, Yesterday afternoon to a "Press" reporter. "We have consulted counsel: the law is with us, and Ingersoll has but to do what he has done before, to find himself in a cell. Here is the act of March 31, 1860:" "If any person shall willfully, premeditatedly and despitefully blaspheme or speak loosely and profanely of Almighty God, Christ Jesus, the Holy Spirit, or the Scriptures of Truth, such person, on conviction thereof, shall be sentenced to pay a fine not exceeding one hundred dollars, and undergo an imprisonment not exceeding three months, or either, at the discretion of the court." Last evening Colonel Ingersoll sat in the dining room at Guy's Hotel, just in from New York City. When told of the plans of Mr. Torrence and his friends, he laughed and said:] I did not suppose that anybody was idiotic enough to want me arrested for blasphemy. It seems to me that an infinite Being can take care of himself without the aid of any agent of a Bible society. Perhaps it is wrong for me to be here while the Methodist Conference is in session. Of course no one who differs from the Methodist ministers should ever visit Philadelphia while they are here. I most humbly hope to be forgiven. Question. What do you think of the law of 1860? Answer. It is exceedingly foolish. Surely, there is no need for the Legislature of Pennsylvania to protect an infinite God, and why should the Bible be protected by law? The most ignorant priest can hold Darwin up to orthodox scorn. This talk of the Rev. Mr. Irwin H. Torreice shows that my lectures are needed; that religious people do not know what real liberty is. I presume that the law of 1860 is an old one re-enacted. It is a survival of ancient ignorance and bigotry, and no one in the Legislature thought it worth while to fight it. It is the same as the law against swearing, both are dead letters and amount to nothing. They are not enforced and should not be. Public opinion will regulate such matters. If all who take the name of God in vain were imprisoned there would not he room in the jails to hold the ministers. They Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 6 INTERVIEWS - FIFTH SERIES speak of God in the most flippant and snap-your-fingers way that can be conceived of. They speak to him as though he were an intimate chum, and metaphorically slap him on the back in the most familiar manner possible. Question. Have you ever had any similar experience before? Answer. Oh yes -- threats have been made, but I never was arrested. When Mr. Torrence gets cool he will see that he has made a mistake. People in Philadelphia have been in the habit of calling the citizens of Boston bigots -- but there is more real freedom of thought and expression in Boston than in almost any other city in the world. I think that as I am to suffer in hell forever, Mr. Torrence ought to be satisfied and let me have a good time here. He can amuse himself through all eternity by seeing me in hell, and that ought to be enough to satisfy, not only an agent, but the whole Bible society. I never expected any trouble in this State, and most sincerely hope that Mr. Torrence will not trouble me and make the city a laughing stock. Philadelphia has no time to waste in such foolish things. Let the Bible take its chances with other books. Let everybody feel that he has the right freely to express his opinions, provided he is decent and kind about it. Certainly the Christians now ought to treat infidels as well as Penn did Indians. Nothing could he more perfectly idiotic than in this day and generation to prosecute any man for giving his conclusions upon any religious subject. Mr. Torrence would have had Huxley and Haeckel and Tyndall arrested; would have had Humboldt and John Stuart Mill and Harriet Martineau and George Eliot locked up in the city jail. Mr. Torrence is a fossil from the old red sandstone of a mistake. Let him rest. To hear these people talk you would suppose that God is some petty king, some lilliputian prince, who was about to be dethroned, and who was nearly wild for recruits. Question. But what would you do if they should make an attempt to arrest you? Answer. Nothing, except to defend myself in court. -- Philadelphia Press, May 24, 1884. **** **** POLITICS AND BRITISH COLUMBIA. Question. I understand that there was some trouble in connection with your lecture in Victoria, B.C. What are the facts? Answer. The published accounts, as circulated by the Associated Press, were greatly exaggerated. The affair was simply this: The authorities endeavored to prevent the lecture. They refused the license, on the ground that the theater was unsafe, although it was on the ground floor, had many exits and entrances, not counting the windows. The theater was changed to meet the objections of the fire commissioner, and the authorities expressed Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 7 INTERVIEWS - FIFTH SERIES their satisfaction and issued the license. Afterward further objection was raised, and on the night of the lecture, when the building was about two-thirds full, the police appeared and said that the lecture would not be allowed to be delivered, because the house was unsafe. After a good deal of talk, the policeman in authority said that there should be another door, whereupon, my friends, in a few minutes, made another door with an ax and saw, the crowd was admitted and the lecture was delivered. The audience was well-behaved, intelligent and appreciative. Beyond some talking in the hall, and the natural indignation of those who had purchased tickets and were refused admittance, there was no disturbance. I understand that those who opposed the lecture are now headily ashamed of the course pursued. Question. Are you going to take any part in the campaign? Answer. It is not my intention to make any political speeches. I have made a good many in the past, and, in my judgment, have done my part. I have no other interest in politics than every citizen should have. I want that party to triumph which, in my judgment, represents the best interests of the country. I have no doubt about the issue of the election. I believe that Mr, Blaine will be the next President. But there are plenty of talkers, and I really think that I have earned a vacation. Question. What do you think Cleveland's chances are in New York? Answer. At this distance it is hard to say. The recent action of Tammany complicates matters somewhat, But my opinion is that Blaine will carry the State. I had a letter yesterday from that State, giving the opinion of a gentleman well informed, that Blaine would carry New York by no less than fifty thousand majority. Question. What figure will Butler cut in the campaign? Answer. I hardly think that Butler will have many followers on the 4th of November. His forces will gradually go to one side or the other. It is only when some great principle is at stake that thousands of men are willing to vote with a known minority. Question. But what about the Prohibitionists? Answer. They have a very large following. They are fighting for something they believe to be of almost infinite consequence, and I can readily understand how a Prohibitionist is willing to be in the minority. It may be well enough for me to say here, that my course politically is not determined by my likes or dislikes of individuals. I want to be governed by principles, not persons. If I really thought that in this campaign a real principle was at stake, I should take part. The only, great question now is protection, and I am satisfied that it is in no possible danger. Question. Not even in the case of a Democratic victory? Answer. Not even in the event of a Democratic victory. No State in the Union is for free trade. Every free trader has an Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 8 INTERVIEWS - FIFTH SERIES exception. These exceptions combined, control the tariff legislation of this country, and if the Democrats were in power to-day, with the control of the House and Senate and Executive, the exceptions would combine and protect protection. As long as the Federal Government collects taxes or revenue on imports, just so long these revenues will be arranged to protect home manufacturers. Question. you said that if there were a great principle at stake, you would take part in the campaign. You think, then, that there is no great principle involved? Answer. If it were a matter of personal liberty, I should take part. If the Republican party had stood by the Civil Rights Bill, I should have taken part in the present campaign. Question. Still, I suppose we can count on you as a Republican? Answer. Certainly, I am a Republican. -- Evening Post, San Francisco, California, September 16, 1884. **** **** INGERSOLL CATECHIZED. Question. Does Christianity advance or retard civilization? Answer. If by Christianity you mean the orthodox church, then I unhesitatingly answer that it does retard civilization, always has retarded it, and always will. I can imagine no man who can be benefitted by being made a Catholic or a Presbyterian or a Baptist or a Methodist -- or, in other words, by being made an orthodox Christian. But by Christianity I do not mean morality, kindness, forgiveness, justice. Those virtues are nor distinctively Christian. They are claimed by Mohammedans and Buddhists, by Infidels and Atheists -- and practiced by some of all classes. Christianity consists in the miraculous, the marvelous, and the impossible. The one thing that I most seriously object to in Christianity is the doctrine of eternal punishment. That doctrine subverts every idea of justice. It teaches the infinite absurdity that a finite offence can be justly visited by eternal punishment. Another serious objection I have, is, that Christianity endeavors to destroy intellectual liberty. Nothing is better calculated to retard civilization than to subvert the idea of justice. Nothing is better calculated to retain barbarism than to deny to every human being the right to think. Justice and Liberty are the two wings that bear man forward. The church, for a thousand years, did all within its power to prevent the expression of honest thought; and when the church had power, there was in this world no civilization. We have advanced just in the proportion that Christianity has lost power. Those nations in which the church is still powerful are still almost savage -- Portugal, Spain, and many others I might name. Probably no country is more completely under the control of the religious idea than Russia. The Czar is the direct Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 9 INTERVIEWS - FIFTH SERIES representative of God. He is the head of the church, as well as of the state. In Russia every mouth is a bastille, and every tongue a convict. This Russian pope, this representative of God, has on earth his hell 'Siberia', and he imitates the orthodox God to the extent of his health and strength. Everywhere man advances as the church loses power. In my judgment, Ireland can never succeed until it ceases to be Catholic; and there can be no successful uprising while the confessional exists. At one time in New England the church had complete power. There was then no religious liberty. And so we might make a tour of the world, and find that superstition always has been, "and forever will be, inconsistent with human advancement. Question. Do not the evidences of design in the universe prove a Creator? Answer. If there were any evidences of design in the universe, certainly they would tend to prove a designer, but they would not prove a Creator. Design does not prove creation. A man makes a machine. That does not prove that he made the material out of which the machine is constructed. You find the planets arranged in accordance with what you call a plan. That does not prove that they were created. It may prove that they are governed, but it certainly does not prove that they were created. Is it consistent to say that a design cannot exist without a designer, but that a designer can? Does not a designer need a design as much as a design needs a designer? Does not a Creator need a Creator as much as the thing we think has been created? In other words, is not this simply a circle of human ignorance? Why not say that the universe has existed from eternity, as well as to say that a Creator has existed from eternity? And do you not thus avoid at least one absurdity by saying that the universe has existed from eternity, instead of saying that it was created by a Creator who existed from eternity? Because if your Creator existed from eternity, and created the universe, there was a time when he commenced; and back of that, according to Shelley, is "an eternity of idleness." Some people say that God existed from eternity, and has created eternity. It is impossible to conceive of an act co-equal with eternity. If you say that God has existed forever, and has always acted, then you make the universe eternal, and you make the universe as old as God; and if the universe be as old as God, he certainly did not create it. These questions of origin and destiny -- of infinite gods -- are beyond the powers of the human mind. They cannot be solved. We might as well try to travel fast enough to get beyond the horizon. It is like a man trying to run away from his girdle. Consequently, I believe in turning our attention to things of importance -- to questions that may by some possibility be solved. It is of no importance to me whether God exists or not. I exist, and it is important to me to be happy while I exist. Therefore I had better turn my attention to finding out the secret of happiness, instead of trying to ascertain the secret of the universe. Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 10 INTERVIEWS - FIFTH SERIES I say with regard to God, I do not know; and therefore I am accused of being arrogant and egotistic. Religious papers say that I do know, because Webster told me. They use Webster as a witness to prove the divinity of Christ, They say that Webster was on the God side, and therefore I ought to be. I can hardly afford to take Webster's ideas of another world, when his ideas about this were so bad. When bloodhounds were pursuing a woman through the tangled swamps of the South -- she hungry for liberty -- Webster took the side of the bloodhounds. Such a man is no authority for me. Bacon denied the Copernican system of astronomy; he is an unsafe guide. Wesley believed in witches; I cannot follow him. No man should quote a name instead of an argument; no man should bring forward a person instead of a principle, unless he is willing to accept all the ideas of that person. Question. Is not a pleasant illusion preferable to dreary truth -- a future life being in question? Answer. I think it is. I think that a pleasing illusion is better than a terrible truth, so far as its immediate results are concerned. I would rather think the one I love living, than to think her dead. I would rather think that I had a large balance in bank than that my account was overdrawn. I would rather think I was healthy than to know that I bad a cancer. But if we have an illusion, let us have it pleasing. The orthodox illusion is the worst that can possibly be conceived. Take hell out of that illusion, take eternal pain away from that dream, and say that the whole world is to be happy forever -- then you might have an excuse for calling it a pleasant illusion; but it is, in fact, a nightmare a perpetual horror -- a cross, on which the happiness of man has been crucified. Question. Are not religion and morals inseparable? Answer. Religion and morality have nothing in common, and yet there is no religion except the practice of morality. But what you call religion is simply superstition. Religion as it is now taught teaches our duties toward God -- our obligations to the Infinite, and the results of a failure to discharge those obligations. I believe that we are under no obligations to the Infinite; that we cannot be. All our obligations are to each other, and to sentient beings. "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved," has nothing to do with morality. "Do unto others as ye would that others should do unto you" has nothing to do with believing in the Lord Jesus Christ. Baptism has nothing to do with morality. "Pay your honest debts." That has nothing to do with baptism. What is called religion is simple superstition, with which morality has nothing to do. The churches do not prevent people from committing natural offenses, but restrain them from committing artificial ones. As for instance, the Catholic Church can prevent one of its members from eating meat on Friday, but not from whipping his wife. The Episcopal Church can prevent dancing, it may be, in Lent, but not slander. The Presbyterian can keep a man from working on Sunday, but not from practicing deceit on Monday. And so I might go through the churches. They lay the greater stress upon the artificial Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 11 INTERVIEWS - FIFTH SERIES offenses. Those countries that are the most religious are the most immoral. When the world was under the control of the Catholic Church, it reached the very pit of immorality, and nations have advanced in morals just in proportion that they have lost Christianity. Question. It is frequently asserted that there is nothing new in your objections against Christianity. What is your reply to such assertions? Answer. Of course, the editors of religious papers will say this; Christians will say this. In my opinion, an argument is new until it has been answered. An argument is absolutely fresh, and has upon its leaves the dew of morning, until it has been refuted. All men have experienced, it may be, in some degree, what we call love. Millions of men have written about it. The subject of course is old. It is only the presentation that can be new. Thousands of men have attacked superstition. The subject is old, but the manner in which the facts are handled, the arguments grouped -- these may be forever new. Millions of men have preached Christianity. Certainly there is nothing new in the original ideas. Nothing can be new except the presentation, the grouping. The ideas may be old, but they may be clothed in new garments of passion; they may be given additional human interest. A man takes a fact, or an old subject, as a sculptor takes a rock; the rock is not new. Of this rock he makes a statue; the statue is new. And yet some orthodox man might say there is nothing new about that statue: "I know the man that dug the rock; I know the owner of the quarry." Substance is eternal; forms are new. So in the human mind certain ideas, or in the human heart certain passions, are forever old; but genius forever gives them new forms, new meanings; and this is the perpetual originality of genius. Question. Do you consider that churches are injurious to the community? Answer. In the exact proportion that churches teach falsehood; in the exact proportion that they destroy liberty of thought, the free action or the human mind; in the exact proportion that they teach the doctrine of eternal pain, and convince people of its truth -- they are injurious. In the proportion that they teach morality and justice, and practice kindness and charity -- in that proportion they are a benefit. Every church, therefore, is a mixed problem -- part good and part bad. In one direction it leads toward and sheds light; in the other direction its influence is entirely bad. Now, I would like to civilize the churches, so that they will be able to do good deeds with our building bad creeds. In other words, take out the superstitions and the miraculous, and leave the human and the moral. Question. Why do you not respond to the occasional clergyman who replies to your lectures? Answer. In the first place, no clergyman has ever replied to my lectures. In the second place, no clergyman ever will reply to Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 12 INTERVIEWS - FIFTH SERIES my lectures. He does not answer my arguments -- he attacks me; and the replies that I have seen are not worth answering. They are far below the dignity of the question under discussion. Most of them are ill-mannered, as abusive as illogical, and as malicious as weak. I cannot reply without feeling humiliated. I cannot use their weapons, and my weapons they do not understand. I attack Christianity because it is cruel, and they account for all my actions by putting behind them base motives. They make it at once a personal question. They imagine that epithets are good enough arguments with which to answer an Infidel. A few years ago they would have imprisoned me. A few years before that they would have burned me. We have advanced. Now they only slander and I congratulate myself on the fact that even that is not believed. Ministers do not believe each other about each other. The truth has never yet been ascertained in any trial by a church. The longer the trial lasts, the obscurer is the truth. They will not believe each other, even on oath; and one of the most celebrated ministers of this country has publicly announced that there is no use in answering a lie started by his own church; that if he does answer it -- if he does kill it -- forty more lies will come to the funeral. In this connection we must remember that the priests of one religion never credit the miracles of another religion. Is this because priests instinctively know priests? Now, when a Christian tells a Buddhist some of the miracles of the Testament, the Buddhist smiles. When a Buddhist tells a Christen the miracles performed by Buddha, the Christian laughs. This reminds me of an incident. A man told a most wonderful story, Everybody present expressed surprise and astonishment, except one man. He said nothing; he did not even change countenance, One who noticed that the story had no effect on this man, said to him: "You do not seem to be astonished in the least at this marvelous tale." The man replied, "No; I am a liar myself." You see, I am not trying to answer individual ministers. I am attacking the whole body of superstition. I am trying to kill the entire dog, and I do not feel like wasting any time killing fleas on that dog. When the dog dies, the fleas will be out of provisions, and in that way we shall answer them all at once. So, I do not bother myself answering religious newspapers. In the first place, they are not worth answering; and in the second place, to answer would only produce a new crop of falsehoods. You know, the editor of a religious newspaper, as a rule, is one who has failed in the pulpit; and you can imagine the brains necessary to edit a religious weekly from this fact. I have known some good religious editors. By some I mean one. I do not say that there are not others, but I do say I do not know them. I might add, here, that the one I did know is dead. Since I have been in this city there have been some "replies" to me. They have been almost idiotic. A Catholic priest asked me how I had the impudence to differ with Newton. Newton, he says, believed in a God; and I ask this Catholic priest how he has the impudence to differ with Newton. Newton was a Protestant. This simply shows the absurdity of using men's names for arguments, This same priest proves the existence of God by a pagan orator. Is it Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 13 INTERVIEWS - FIFTH SERIES possible that God's last witness died with Cicero? If it is necessary to believe in a God now, the witnesses ought to be on hand now. Another man, pretending to answer me, quotes Le Conte, a geologist; and according to this geologist we are "getting very near to the splendors of the great white throne." Where is the great white throne? Can any one, by studying geology, find the locality of the great white throne? To what stratum docs it belong? In what geologic period was the great white throne formed? What on earth has geology to do with the throne of God? The truth is, there can be no reply to the argument that man should be governed by his reason; that he should depend upon observation and experience; that he should use the faculties he has for his own benefit, and the benefit of his fellow-men. There is no answer. It is not within the power of man to substantiate the supernatural. It is beyond the power of evidence. Question. Why do the theological seminaries find it difficult to get students? Answer. I was told last spring, at New Haven, that the "theologs," as they call the young men there being fitted for the ministry, were not regarded as intellectual by all the other students. The orthodox pulpit has no rewards for genius. It has rewards only for stupidity, for belief -- not for investigation, not for thought; and the consequence is that young men of talent avoid the pulpit. I think I heard the other day that of all the students at Harvard only nine are preparing for the ministry. The truth is, the ministry is not regarded as an intellectual occupation. The average church now consists of women and children. Men go to please their wives, or stay at home and subscribe to please their wives; and the wives are beginning to think, and many of them are staying at home. Many of them now prefer the theater or the opera or the Park or the seashore or the forest or the companionship of their husbands and children at home. Question. How does the religious state of California compare with the rest of the Union? Answer. I find that sensible people everywhere are about the same, and the proportion of Freethinkers depends on the proportion of sensible folks. I think that California has her full share of sensible people. I find everywhere the best people and the brightest people -- the people with the most heart and the best brain -- all tending toward free thought. Of course, a man of brain cannot believe the miracles of the Old and New Testaments. A man of heart cannot believe in the doctrine of eternal pain. We have found that other religions are like ours with precisely the same basis, the same idiotic miracles the same martyrs, the same early fathers, and, as a rule, the same Christ or Savior. It will hardly do to say that all others like ours are false, and ours the only true one, when others substantially like it are thousands of years older. We have at last found that a religion is simply an effort on the part of man to account for what he sees, what he experiences, what he feels, what he fears, and what he hopes. Every savage has his philosophy. That is his religion and his science. Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 14 INTERVIEWS - FIFTH SERIES The religions of to-day are the sciences of the past; and it may be that the sciences of to-day will be the religions of the future, and that other sciences will be as far beyond them as the science of to-day is beyond the religion of to-day. As a rule, religion is a sanctified mistake, and heresy a slandered fact. In other words, the human mind grows -- and as it grows it abandons the old, and the old gets it revenge by maligning the new. -- The San Franciscan, San Francisco, October 4, 1884. **** **** ESSAY ON CHRISTMAS. MY family and I regard Christmas as a holiday -- that is to say, a day of rest and pleasure -- a day to get acquainted with each other, a day to recall old memories, and for the cultivation of social amenities. The festival now called Christmas is far older than Christianity. It was known and celebrated for thousands of years before the establishment of what is known as our religion. It is a relic of sun-worship. It is the day on which the sun triumphs over the hosts of darkness, and thousands of years before the New Testament was written, thousands of years before the republic of Rome existed, before one stone of Athens was laid, before the Pharaohs ruled in Egypt, before the religion of Brahma, before Sanskrit was spoken, men and women crawled out of their caves, pushed the matted hair from their eyes, and greeted the triumph of the sun over the powers of the night. There are many relics of this worship -- among which is the shaving of the priest's head, leaving the spot shaven surrounded by hair, in imitation of the rays of the sun. There is still another relic -- the ministers of our day close their eyes in prayer. When men worshiped the sun-when they looked at that luminary and implored its assistance -- they shut their eyes as a matter of necessity. Afterward the priests looking at their idols glittering with gems, shut their eyes in flattery, pretending that they could not bear the effulgence of the presence; and to-day, thousands of years after the old ideas have passed away, the modern parson, without knowing the origin of the custom, closes his eyes when he prays. There are many other relics and souvenirs of the dead worship of the sun, and this festival was adopted by Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, and by Christians. As a matter of fact, Christianity furnished new steam for an old engine, infused a new spirit into an old religion, and, as a matter of course, the old festival remained. For all of our festivals you will find corresponding pagan festivals. For instance, take the eucharist, the communion, where persons partake of the body and blood of the Deity. This is an exceedingly old custom. Among the ancients they ate cakes made of corn, in honor of Ceres and they called these cakes the flesh of the goddess, and they drank wine in honor of Bacchus, and called this the blood of their god. And so I could go on giving the pagan origin of every Christian ceremony and custom. The probability is Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 15 ESSAY ON CHRISTMAS. that the worship of the sun was once substantially universal, and consequently the festival of Christ was equally wide spread. As other religions have been produced, the old customs have been adopted and continued, so that the result is, this festival of Christmas is almost world-wide. It is popular because it is a holiday. Overworked people are glad of days that bring rest and recreation and allow them to meet their families and their friends. They are glad of days when they give and receive gifts -- evidences of friendship, of remembrance and love. It is popular because it is really human, and because it is interwoven with our customs, habits, literature, and thought. For my part I am willing to have two or three a year -- the more holidays the better. Many people have an idea that I am opposed to Sunday. I am perfectly willing to have two a week. All I insist on is that these days shall be for the benefit of the people, and that they shall be kept not in a way to make folks miserable or sad or hungry, but in a way to make people happy, and to add a little to the joy of life. Of course, I am in favor of everybody keeping holidays to suit himself, provided he does not interfere with others, and I am perfectly willing that everybody should go to church on that day, provided he is willing that I should go somewhere else. -- The Tribune, New York, December, 1889. **** **** Electronic Publishing can defeat censorship. The Bank of Wisdom is a collection of the most thoughtful, scholarly and factual books. These computer books are reprints of suppressed books and will cover American and world history; the Biographies and writings of famous persons, and especially of our nations Founding Fathers. They will include philosophy and religion. all these subjects, and more, will be made available to the public in electronic form, easily copied and distributed, so that America can again become what its Founders intended -- The Free Market-Place of Ideas. The Bank of Wisdom is always looking for more of these old, hidden, suppressed and forgotten books that contain needed facts and information for today. If you have such books please contact us, we need to give them back to America. **** **** Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 16