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Robert Ingersoll Letters Farrar

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Robert Green Ingersoll



This fragment (found among Col. Ingersoll's papers) is a mere
outline of a contemplated answer to Archdeacon Farrar's article in
the North American Review, May, 1890, entitled: "A Few Words on
Col. Ingersoll."

Archdeacon Farrar, in the opening of his article, in a burst
of confidence, takes occasion to let the world know how perfectly
angelic he intends to be. He publicly proclaims that he can
criticize the arguments of one with whom he disagrees, without
resorting to invective, or becoming discourteous. Does he call
attention to this because most theologians are hateful and
ungentlemanly? Is it a rare thing for the pious to be candid? Why
should an Archdeacon be cruel, or even ill-bred? Yet, in the very
beginning, the Archdeacon in effect says: Behold, I show you a
mystery -- a Christian who can write about an infidel, without
invective and without brutality. Is it then so difficult for those
who love their enemies to keep within the bounds of decency when
speaking of unbelievers who have never injured them?

As a matter of fact, I was somewhat surprised when I read the
proclamation to the effect that the writer was not to use
invective, and was to be guilty of no discourtesy; but on reading
the article, and finding that he had failed to keep his promise, I
was not surprised.

It is an old habit with theologians to beat the living with
the bones of the dead. The arguments that cannot be answered
provoke epithet.


Archdeacon Farrar criticizes several of my statements: The
same rules or laws of probability must govern in religious
questions as in others.

This apparently self-evident statement seems to excite almost
the ire of this Archdeacon, and for the purpose of showing that it
is not true, he states, first, that "the first postulate of
revelation is that it appeals to man's spirit;" second, that "the
spirit is a sphere of being which transcends the spheres of the
senses and the understanding;" third, that "if a man denies the
existence of a spiritual intuition, he is like a blind man
criticizing colors, or a deaf man critici harmonies;" fourth, that
"revelation must be judged by its own criteria;" and fifth, that
"St. Paul draws a marked distinction between the spirit of the
world and the spirit which is of God," and that the same Saint said
that "the natural man receiveth not the things of the spirit of
God, for they are foolishness unto him, and he cannot know them,
because they are spiritually discerned." Let us answer these
objections in their order.

1. "The first postulate of revelation is that it appeals to
man's spirit." What does the Archdeacon mean by "spirit"? A man

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says that he has received a revelation from God, and he wishes to
convince another man that he has received a revelation -- how does
he proceed? Does he appeal to the man's reason? Will he tell him
the circumstances under which he received the revelation? Will he
tell him why he is convinced that it was from God? Will the
Archdeacon be kind enough to tell how the spirit can be approached
passing by the reason, the understanding, the judgment and the
intellect? If the Archdeacon replies that the revelation itself
will bear the evidence within itself, what then, I ask, does he
mean by the word "evidence"? Evidence about what? Is it such
evidence as satisfies the intelligence, convinces the reason, and
is it in conformity with the known facts of the mind?

It may be said by the Archdeacon that anything that satisfies
what he is pleased to call the spirit, that furnishes what it seems
by nature to require, is of supernatural origin. We hear music, and
this music seems to satisfy the desire for harmony -- still, no one
argues, from that fact, that music is of supernatural origin. It
may satisfy a want in the brain -- a want unknown until the music
was heard -- and yet we all agree in saying that music has been
naturally produced, and no one claims that Beethoven, or Wagner,
was inspired by God.

The same may be said of things that satisfy the palate -- of
statues, of paintings, that reveal to him who looks, the existence
of that of which before that time he had not even dreamed, Why is
it that we love color -- that we are pleased with harmonies, or
with a succession of sounds rising and falling at measured
intervals? No one would answer this question by saying that
sculptors and painters and musicians were divinely inspired;
neither would they say that the first postulate of art is that it
appeals to man's spirit, and for that reason the rules or laws of
probability have nothing to do with the question of art.

2. That "the spirit is a sphere of being which transcends the
spheres of the senses and the understanding." Let us imagine a man
without senses. He cannot feel, see, hear, taste, or smell. What is
he? Would it be possible for him to have an idea? Would such a man
have a spirit to which revelation could appeal, or would there be
locked in the dungeon of his brain a spirit, that is to say, a
"sphere of being which transcends the spheres of the senses and the
understanding"? Admit that in the person supposed, the machinery of
life goes on -- what is he more than an inanimate machine?

3. That "if a man denies the very existence of a spiritual
intuition, he is like a blind man critici colors, or a deaf man
critici harmonies." What do you mean by "spiritual intuition"? When
did this "spiritual intuition" become the property of man --
before, or after, birth? Is it of supernatural, or miraculous,
origin, and is it possible that this "spiritual intuition" is
independent of the man? Is it based upon experience? Was it in any
way born of the senses, or of the effect of nature upon the brain
-- that is to say, of things seen, or heard, or touched? Is
"spiritual intuition" an entity? If man can exist without the
"spiritual intuition," do you insist that the "spiritual intuition"
can exist without the man?

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You may remember that Mr. Locke frequently remarked: "Define
your terms." It is to be regretted that in the hurry of writing
your article, you forgot to give an explanation of "spiritual

I will also take the liberty of asking you how a blind man
could critici colors, and how a deaf man could critici harmonies.
Possibly you may Imagine that "spiritual intuition" can take
cognizance of colors, as well as of harmonies. Let me ask: Why
cannot a blind man critici colors? Let me answer: For the same
reason that Archdeacon Farrar can tell us nothing about an infinite

4. That "revelation must be judged by its own criteria."
Suppose the Bible had taught that selfishness, larceny and murder
were virtues; would you deny its inspiration? Would not your denial
be based upon a conclusion that had been reached by your reason
that no intelligent being could have been its author -- that no
good being could, by any possibility, uphold the commission of such
crimes? In that case would you be guided by "spiritual intuition,"
or by your reason?

When we examine the claims of a history -- as, for instance,
a history of England, or of America, are we to decide according to
"spiritual intuition," or in accordance with the laws or rules of
probability? Is there a different standard for a history written in
Hebrew, several thousand years ago, and one written in English in
the nineteenth century? If a history should now be written in
England, in which the most miraculous and impossible things should
be related as facts, and if I should deny these alleged facts,
would you consider that the author had overcome my denial by
saying, "history must be judged by its own criteria"?

5. That "the natural man receiveth not the things of the
spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him, and he cannot
know them, because they are spiritually discerned." The Archdeacon
admits that the natural man cannot know the things of the spirit,
because they are not naturally, but spiritually, discerned. On the
next page we are told, that "the truths which Agnostics repudiate
have been, and are, acknowledged by all except a fraction of the
human race." It goes without saying that a large majority of the
human race are natural; consequently, the statement of the
Archdeacon contradicts the statement of St. Paul. The Archdeacon
insists that all except a fraction of the human race acknowledge
the truths which Agnostics repudiate, and they must acknowledge
them because they are by them spiritually discerned; and yet, St.
Paul says that this is impossible, and insists that "the natural
man cannot know the things of the spirit of God, because they are
spiritually discerned."

There is only one way to harmonize the statement of the
Archdeacon and the Saint, and that is, by saying that nearly all of
the human race are unnatural, and that only a small fraction are
natural, and that the small fraction of men who are natural, are
Agnostics, and only those who accept what the Archdeacon calls
"truths" are unnatural to such a degree that they can discern
spiritual things.

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Upon this subject, the last things to which the Archdeacon
appeals, are the very things that he, at first, utterly repudiated.
He asks, "Are we contemptuously to reject the witness of
innumerable multitudes of the good and wise, that -- with a
spiritual reality more convincing to them than the material
evidences which converted the apostles -- they have seen, and
heard, and their hands have handled the "Word of Life"? Thus at
last the Archdeacon appeals to the evidences of the senses.


The Archdeacon then proceeds to attack the following
statement: There is no subject, and can be none, concerning which
any human being is under any obligation to believe without

One would suppose that it would be impossible to formulate an
objection to this statement. What is or is not evidence, depends
upon the mind to which it is presented. There is no possible
"insinuation" in this statement, one way or the other. There is
nothing sinister in it, any more than there would be in the
statement that twice five are ten. How did it happen to occur to
the Archdeacon that when I spoke of believing without evidence, I
referred to all people who believe in the existence of a God, and
that I intended to say "that one-third of the world's inhabitants
had embraced the faith of Christians without evidence"?

Certain things may convince one mind and utterly fail to
convince others. Undoubtedly the persons who have believed in the
dogmas of Christianity have had what was sufficient evidence for
them. All I said was, that "there is no subject, and can be none,
concerning which any human being is under any obligation to believe
without evidence." Does the Archdeacon insist that there is an
obligation resting on any human mind to believe without evidence?
Is he willing to go a step further and say that there is an
obligation resting upon the minds of men to believe contrary to
evidence? If one is under obligation to believe without evidence,
it is just as reasonable to say that he is under obligation to
believe in spite of evidence. What does the word "evidence" mean?
A man in whose honesty I have great confidence, tells me that he
saw a dead man raised to life, I do not believe him. Why? His
statement is not evidence to my mind. Why? Because it contradicts
all of my experience, and, as I believe, the experience of the
intelligent world.

No one pretends that "one-third of the world's inhabitants
have embraced the faith of Christians without evidence" -- that is,
that all Christians have embraced the faith without evidence. In
the olden time, when hundreds of thousands of men were given their
choice between being murdered and baptized, they generally accepted
baptism -- probably they accepted Christianity without critically
examining the evidence.

Is it historically absurd that millions of people have
believed in systems of religion without evidence? Thousands of
millions have believed that Mohammed was a prophet of God. And not
only so, but have believed in his miraculous power. Did they
believe without evidence? Is it historically absurd to say that

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Mohammedism is based upon mistake? What shall we say of the
followers of Buddha, who far outnumber the followers of Christ?
Have they believed without evidence? And is it historically absurd
to say that our ancestors of a few hundred years ago were as
credulous as the disciples of Buddha? Is it not true that the same
gentlemen who believed thoroughly in all the miracles of the New
Testament also believed the world to be flat, and were perfectly
satisfied that the sun made its daily journey around the earth? Did
they have any evidence? Is it historically absurd to say that they
believed without evidence?


Neither is there any intelligent being who can by any possi-
bility be flattered by the exercise of ignorant credulity.

The Archdeacon asks what I "gain by stigmatizing as ignorant
credulity that inspired, inspiring, invincible conviction -- the
formative principle of noble efforts and self-sacrificing lives,
which at this moment, as during all the long millenniums of the
past, has been held not only by the ignorant and the credulous, but
by those whom all the ages have regarded as the ablest, the wisest,
the most learned and the most gifted of mankind?"

Does the Archdeacon deny that credulity is ignorant? In this
connection, what does the word "credulity" mean? It means that
condition or state of the mind in which the impossible, or the
absurd, is accepted as true, Is not such credulity ignorant? Do we
speak of wise credulity -- of intelligent credulity? We may say
theological credulity, or Christian credulity, but certainly not
intelligent credulity. Is the flattery of the ignorant and
credulous -- the flattery being based upon that which ignorance and
credulity have accepted -- acceptable to any intelligent being? Is
it possible that we can flatter God by pretending to believe, or by
believing, that which is repugnant to reason, that which upon
examination is seen to he absurd? The Archdeacon admits that God
cannot possibly be so flattered. If, then, he agrees with my
statement, why endeavor to controvert it?


The man who without prejudice reads and understands the Old
and New Testaments will cease to be an orthodox Christian.


The Archdeacon says that he cannot pretend to imagine what my
definition of an orthodox Christian is. I will use his own language
to express my definition. "By an orthodox Christian I mean one who
believes what is commonly called the Apostles' Creed. I also
believe that the essential doctrines of the church must be judged
by her universal formulae, not by the opinions of this or that
theologian, however eminent, or even of any number of theologians,
unless the church has stamped them with the sanction of her formal
and distinct acceptance."

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This is the language of the Archdeacon himself, and I accept
it as a definition of orthodoxy. With this definition in mind, I
say that the man who without prejudice reads and understands the
Old and New Testaments will cease to be an orthodox Christian. By
"prejudice," I mean the tendencies and trends given to his mind by
heredity, by education, by the facts and circumstances entering
into the life of man. We know how children are poisoned in the
cradle, how they are deformed in the Sunday School, how they are
misled by the pulpit. And we know how numberless interests unite
and conspire to prevent the individual soul from examining for
itself. We know that nearly all rewards are in the hands of
Superstition -- that she holds the sweet wreath, and that her hands
lead the applause of what is called the civilized world. We know
how many men give up their mental independence for the sake of pelf
and power. We know the influence of mothers and fathers -- of
Church and State -- of Faith and Fashion. All these influences
produce in honest minds what may be known as prejudice, -- in other
minds, what may be known as hypocrisy.

It is hardly worth my while to speak of the merits of students
of Holy Writ "who," the Archdeacon was polite enough to say, "know
ten thousand times more of the Scriptures" than I do. This, to say
the least of it, is a gratuitous assertion, and one that does not
tend to throw the slightest ray of light on any matter in
controversy. Neither is it true that it was my "point" to say that
all people are prejudiced, merely because they believe in God; it
was my point to say that no man can read the miracles of the Old
Testament, without prejudice, and believe them; it was my point to
say that no man can read many of the cruel and barbarous laws said
to have been given by God himself, and yet believe, -- unless he
was prejudiced, -- that these laws were divinely given.

Neither do I believe that there is now beneath the cope of
heaven an intelligent man, without prejudice, who believes in the
inspiration of the Bible.

The intelligent man who investigates the religion of any
country, without fear and without prejudice, will not and cannot be
a believer.

In answering this statement the Archdeacon says: "Argal, every
believer in any religion is either an incompetent idiot, or coward
-- with a dash of prejudice."

I hardly know what the gentleman means by an "incompetent
idiot," as I know of no competent ones. It was not my intention to
say that believers in religion are idiots or cowards. I did not
mean, by using the word "fear," to say that persons actuated by
fear are cowards. That was not in my mind. By "fear," I intended to
convey that fear commonly called awe, or superstition, -- that is
to say, fear of the supernatural, -- fear of the gods -- fear of
punishment in another world -- fear of some Supreme Being; not feat
of some other man -- not the fear that is branded with cowardice.
And, of course, the Archdeacon perfectly understood my meaning; but
it was necessary to give another meaning in order to make the
appearance of an answer possible.

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By "prejudice," I mean that state of mind that accepts the
false for the true. All prejudice is honest. And the probability
is, that all men are more or less prejudiced on some subject. But
on that account I do not call them "incompetent idiots, or cowards,
with a dash of prejudice."

I have no doubt that the Archdeacon himself believes that all
Mohammedans are prejudiced, and that they are actuated more or less
by fear, inculcated by their parents and by society at large.
Neither have I any doubt that he regards all Catholics as
prejudiced, and believes that they are governed more or less by
fear. It is no answer to what I have said for the Archdeacon to say
that "others have studied every form of religion with infinitely
greater power than I have done." This is a personality that has
nothing to do with the subject in hand. It is no argument to repeat
a list of names. It is an old trick of the theologians to use names
instead of arguments -- to appeal to persons instead of principles
-- to rest their case upon the views of kings and nobles and others
who pretend eminence in some department of human learning or
ignorance, rather that on human knowledge.

This is the argument of the old against the new, and on this
appeal the old must of necessity have the advantage. When some man
announces the discovery of a new truth, or of some great fact
contrary to the opinions of the learned, it is easy to overwhelm
him with names. There is but one name on his side -- that is to
say, his own. All others who are living, and the dead, are on the
other side. And if this argument is good, it ought to have ended
all progress many thousands of years ago. If this argument is
conclusive, the first man would have had freedom of opinion; the
second man would have stood an equal chance; but if the third man
differed from the other two, he would have been gone. Yet this is
the argument of the church. They say to every man who advances
something new: Are you greater than the dead? The man who is right
is generally modest. Men in the wrong, as a rule, are arrogant; and
arrogance is generally in the majority.

The Archdeacon appeals to certain names to show that I am
wrong. In order for this argument to be good -- that is to say, to
be honest -- he should agree with all the opinions of the men whose
names he gives. He shows, or endeavors to show, that I am wrong,
because I do not agree with St. Augustine. Does the Archdeacon
agree with St. Augustine? Does he now believe that the bones of a
saint were taken to Hippo -- that being in the diocese of St.
Augustine -- and that five corpses, having been touched with these
bones, were raised to life? Does he believe that a demoniac, on
being touched with one of these bones, was relieved of a multitude
of devils, and that these devils then and there testified to the
genuineness of the bones, not only, but told the hearers that the
doctrine of the Trinity was true? Does the Archdeacon agree with
St. Augustine that over seventy miracles were performed with these
bones, and that in a neighboring town many hundreds of miracles
were performed? Does he agree with St. Augustine in his estimate of
women -- placing them on a par with beasts?

I admit that St. Augustine had great influence with the people
of his day -- but what people? I admit also that he was the founder

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of the first begging brotherhood -- that he organized mendicancy --
and that he most cheerfully lived on the labor of others.

If St. Augustine lived now he would be the inmate of an
asylum. This same St. Augustine believed that the fire of hell was
material -- that the body itself having influenced the soul to sin,
would be burned forever, and that God by a perpetual miracle would
save the body from being annihilated and devoured in those eternal

Let me ask the Archdeacon a question: Do you agree with St.
Augustine? If you do not, do you claim to be a greater man? Is
"your mole-hill higher than his Dhawalagiri"? Are you looking down
upon him from the altitude of your own inferiority?

Precisely the same could be said of St. Jerome. The Archdeacon
appeals to Charlemagne, one of the great generals of the world --
a man who in his time shed rivers of blood, and who on one occasion
massacred over four thousand helpless prisoners -- a Christian
gentleman who had, I think, about nine wives, and was the supposed
father of some twenty children. This same Charlemagne had laws
against polygamy, and yet practiced it himself. Are we under the
same obligation to share his vices as his views? It is wonderful
how the church has always appealed to the so-called great -- how it
has endeavored to get certificates from kings and queens, from
successful soldiers and statesmen, to the truth of the Bible and
the moral character of Christ! How the saints have crawled in the
dust before the slayers of mankind! Think of proving the religion
of love and forgiveness by Charlemagne and Napoleon!

An appeal is also made to Roger Bacon, Yet this man attained
all his eminence by going contrary to the opinions and teachings of
the church. In his time, it was matter of congratulation that you
knew nothing of secular things. He was a student of Nature, an
investigator, and by the very construction of his mind was opposed
to the methods of Catholicism.

Copernicus was an astronomer, but he certainty did not get his
astronomy from the church, nor from General Joshua, nor from the
story of the Jewish king for whose benefit the sun was turned back
in heaven ten degrees.

Neither did Kepler find his three laws in the Sermon on the
Mount, nor were they the utterances of Jehovah on Mount Sinai. He
did not make his discoveries because he was a Christian; but in
spite of that fact.

As to Lord Bacon, let me ask, are you willing to accept his
ideas? If not, why do you quote his name? Am I bound by the
opinions of Bacon in matters of religion, and not in matters of
science? Bacon denied the Copernican system, and died a believer in
the Ptolemaic -- died believing that the earth is stationary and
that the sun and stars move around it as a center, Do you agree
with Bacon? If not, do you pretend that your mind is greater? Would
it be fair for a believer in Bacon to denounce you as an egotist
and charge you with "obstrepemusness" because you merely suggested
that Mr. Bacon was a little off in his astronomical opinions? Do

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you not see that you have furnished the cord for me to tie your
hands behind you?

I do not know how you ascertained that Shakespeare was what
you call a believer. Substantially all that we know of Shakespeare
is found in what we know as his "works" All else can be read in one
minute. May I ask, how you know that Shakespeare was a believer? Do
you prove it by the words he put in the mouths of his characters?
If so, you can prove that he was anything, nothing, and everything.
Have you literary bread to eat that I know not of? Whether Dante
was, or was not, a Christian, I am not prepared to say. I have
always admired him for one thing: he had the courage to see a pope
in hell.

Probably you are not prepared to agree with Milton --
especially in his opinion that marriage had better be by contract,
for a limited time. And if you disagree with Milton on this point,
do you thereby pretend to say that you could have written a better
poem than Paradise Lost?

So Newton is supposed to have been a Trinitarian. And yet it
is said that, after his death, there was found an article, which
had been published by him in Holland, against the dogma of the

After all, it is quite difficult to find out what the great
men have believed. They have been actuated by so many unknown
motives; they have wished for place; they have desired to be
Archdeacons, Bishops, Cardinals, Popes; their material interests
have sometimes interfered with the expression of their thoughts.
Most of the men to whom you have alluded lived at a time when the
world was controlled by what may be called a Christian mob -- when
the expression of an honest thought would have cost the life of the
one who expressed it -- when the followers of Christ were ready
with sword and fagot to exterminate philosophy and liberty from the

Is it possible that we are under any obligation to believe the
Mosaic account of the Garden of Eden, or of the talking serpent,
because "Whewell had an encyclopedic range of knowledge"? Must we
believe that Joshua stopped the sun, because Faraday was "the most
eminent man of science of his day"? Shall we believe the story of
the fiery furnace, because "Mr, Spottiswoode was president of the
Royal Society" -- had "rare mathematical genius" -- so rare that he
was actually "buried in Westminster Abbey"? Shall we believe that
Jonah spent three days and nights in the inside of a whale because
"Professor Clark Maxwell's death was mourned by all"?

Are we under any obligation to believe that an infinite God
sent two she bears to tear forty children in pieces because they
laughed at a prophet without hair? Must we believe this because
"Sir Gabriel Stokes is the living president of the Royal Society,
and a Churchman" besides? Are we bound to believe that Daniel spent
one of the happiest evenings of his life in the lion's den, because
"Sir William Dawson of Canada, two years ago, presided over the
British Association"? And must we believe in the ten plagues of
Egypt, including the lice, because "Professor Max Muller made an

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eloquent plea in Westminster Abbey in favor of Christian missions"?
Possibly he wanted missionaries to visit heathen lands so that they
could see the difference for themselves between theory and
practice, in what is known as the Christian religion.

Must we believe the miracles of the New Testament -- the
casting out of devils -- because "Lord Tennyson and Mr. Browning
stand far above all other poets of this generation in England," or
because "Longfellow, Holmes, and Lowell and Whittier" occupy the
same position in America? Must we admit that devils entered into
swine because "Bancroft and Parkman are the leading prose writers
of America" -- which I take this occasion to deny?

It is to be hoped that some time the Archdeacon will read that
portion of Mr. Bancroft's history in which he gives the account of
how the soldiers, commonly called Hessians, were raised by the
British Government during the American Revolution.

These poor wretches were sold at so much apiece. For every one
that was killed, so much was paid, and for every one that was
wounded a certain amount was given. Mr. Bancroft tells us that God
was not satisfied with this business, and although he did not
interfere in any way to save the poor soldiers, he did visit the
petty tyrants who made the bargains with his wrath. I remember that
as a punishment to one of these, his wife was induced to leave him;
another one died a good many years afterwards; and several of them
had exceedingly bad luck.

After reading this philosophic dissertation on the dealings of
Providence, I doubt if the Archdeacon will still remain of the
opinion that Mr. Bancroft is one of the leading prose writers of
America. If the Archdeacon will read a few of the sermons of
Theodore Parker, and essays of Ralph Waldo Emerson, if he will read
the life of Voltaire by James Parton, he may change his opinion as
to the great prose writers of America.

My argument against miracles is answered by reference to "Dr.
Lightfoot, a man of such immense learning that he became the equal
of his successor Dr. Westcott." And when I say that there are
errors and imperfections in the Bible, I am told that Dr. Westcott
"investigated the Christian religion and its earliest documents au
fond and was an orthodox believer." Of course the Archdeacon knows
that no one now knows who wrote one of the books of the Bible. He
knows that no one now lives who ever saw one of the original
manuscripts, and that no one now lives who ever saw anybody who had
seen anybody who had seen an original manuscript.


Is it possible for the human mind to conceive of an infinite

The Archdeacon says that it is, and yet in the same article he
quotes the following from Job: "Canst thou by searching find out
God?" "It is as high as Heaven; what canst thou do? deeper than
Hell; what canst thou know?" And immediately after making these

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quotations, the Archdeacon takes the ground of the agnostic, and
says, "with the wise ancient Rabbis, we learn to say, I do not

It is impossible for me to say what any other human being
cannot conceive; but I am absolutely certain that my mind cannot
conceive of an infinite personality -- of an infinite Ego.

Man is conscious of his individuality. Man has wants. A
multitude of things in nature seems to work against him; and others
seem to be favorable to him. There is conflict between him and
nature, In the midst of this conflict he says "I."

If man had no wants -- if there where no conflict between him
and any other being, or any other thing, he could not say "I" --
that is to say, he could not be conscious of personality.

Now, it seems to me that an infinite personality is a
contradiction in terms.


The same line of argument applies to the next statement that
is criticized by the Archdeacon: Can the human mind conceive a
beginningless being?

We know that there is such a thing as matter, but we do not
know that there is a beginningless being. We say, or some say, that
matter is eternal, because the human mind cannot conceive of its
commencing. Now, if we knew of the existence of an Infinite Being,
we could not conceive of his commencing. But we know of no such
being. We do know of the existence of matter; and my mind is so,
that I cannot conceive of that matter having been created by a
beginningless being. I do not say that there is not a beginningless
being, but I do not believe there is, and it is beyond my power to
conceive of such a being.

The Archdeacon also says that "space is quite as impossible to
conceive as God." But nobody pretends to love space -- no one gives
intention and will to space -- no one, so far as I know, builds
altars or temples to space. Now, if God is as inconceivable as
space, why should we pray to God?

The Archdeacon, however, after quoting Sir William Hamilton as
to the inconceivability of space as absolute or infinite, takes
occasion to say that "space is an entity." May I be permitted to
ask how he knows that space is an entity? As a matter of fact, the
conception of infinite space is a necessity of the mind, the same
as eternity is a necessity of the mind.


The next sentence or statement to which the Archdeacon objects
is as follows:

He who cannot harmonize the cruelties of the Bible with the
goodness of Jehovah, cannot harmonize the cruelties of Nature with

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Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201


the goodness or wisdom of a supposed Deity. He will find it
impossible to account for pestilence and famine, for earthquakes
and storm, for slavery, and for the triumph of the strong over the

One objection that he urges to this statement is that St. Paul
had made a stronger one in the same direction. The Archdeacon
however insists that "a world without a contingency, or an agony,
could have had no hero and no saint," and that "science enables us
to demonstrate that much of the apparent misery and anguish is
transitory and even phantasmal; that many of the seeming forces of
destruction are overruled to ends of beneficence; that most of
man's disease and anguish is due to his own sin and folly and

I will not say that these things have been said before, but I
will say that they have been answered before. The idea that the
world is a school in which character is formed and in which men are
educated is very old. If, however, the world is a school, and there
is trouble and misfortune, and the object is to create character --
that is to say, to produce heroes and saints -- then the question
arises, what becomes of those who die in infancy? They are left
without the means of education. Are they to remain forever without
character? Or is there some other world of suffering and sorrow?

Is it possible to form character in heaven? How did the angels
become good? How do you account for the justice of God? Did he
attain character through struggle and suffering?

What would you say of a school teacher who should kill
one-third of the children on the morning of the first day? And what
can you say of God, -- if this world is a school, -- who allows a
large per cent. of his children to die in infancy -- consequently
without education -- therefore, without character?

If the world is the result of infinite wisdom and goodness,
why is the Christian Church engaged in endeavoring to make it
better; or, rather, in an effort to change it? Why not leave it as
an infinite God made it?

Is it true that most of man's diseases are due to his own sin
and folly and wilfulness? Is it not true that no matter how good
men are they must die, and will they not die of diseases? Is it
true that the wickedness of man has created the microbe? Is it
possible that the sinfulness of man created the countless enemies
of human life that lurk in air and water and food? Certainly the
wickedness of man has had very little influence on tornadoes,
earthquakes and floods. Is it true that "the signature of beauty
with which God has stamped the visible world -- alike in the sky
and on the earth -- alike in the majestic phenomena of an
intelligent creation and in its humblest and most microscopic
production -- is a perpetual proof that God is a God of love"?

Let us see. The scientists tell us that there is a little
microscopic animal, one who is very particular about his food -- so
particular, that he prefers to all other things the optic nerve,
and after he has succeeded in destroying that nerve and covering

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Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201


the eye with the mask of blindness, he has intelligence enough to
bore his way through the bones of the nose in search of the other
optic nerve. Is it not somewhat difficult to discover "the
signature of beauty with which God has stamped" this animal? For my
part, I see but little beauty in poisonous serpents, in man-eating
sharks, in crocodiles, in alligators. It would be impossible for me
to gaze with admiration upon a cancer. Think, for a moment, of a
God ingenious enough and good enough to feed a cancer with the
quivering flesh of a human being, and to give for the sustenance of
that cancer the life of a mother.

It is well enough to speak of "the myriad voices of nature in
their mirth and sweetness," and it is also well enough to think of
the other side. The singing birds have a few notes of love -- the
rest are all of warning and of fear. Nature, apparently with
infinite care, produces a living thing, and at the same time is
just as diligently at work creating another living thing to devour
the first, and at the same time a third to devour the second, and
so on around the great circle of life and death, of agony and joy
-- tooth and claw, fang and tusk, hunger and rapine, massacre and
murder, violence and vengeance and vice everywhere and through all
time. [Here the manuscript ends, with the following notes.]

"The rain seems hardest when the Wigwam leaks."

"When the tracks get too large and too numerous, the wise
Indian says that He is hunting something else."

"A little crook in the arrow makes a great miss."

"A great Chief counts scalps, not hairs."

"you cannot strengthen the bow by poisoNing the arrows."

"No one saves water in a flood."

Origin considered that the punishment of the wicked consisted
in separation from God. There was too much pity in his heart to
believe in the flames of hell. But he was condemned as heretical by
the Council of Carthage, A.D., 398, and afterwards by other

St. Augustine censures origin For his merciful view, and says:
"The church, not without reason, condemned him for this error." He
also held that hell was in the center of the earth, and that God
supplied the center with perpetual fire by a miracle.

Dante is a wonderful mixture of melancholy and malice, of
religion and revenge, and he represents himself as so pitiless that

when he found his political opponents in hell, he struck their
faces and pulled the hair of the tormented.

Aquinas believed the same. He was the loving gentleman who
believed in the undying worm.


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