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Robert Ingersoll Letters Indianapolis Clergy

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Indianapolis Clergy

Robert Green Ingersoll

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The Iconoclast, Indianapolis, Indiana. 1882

THE following questions have been submitted to me by the Rev.
David Walk, Dr. T.B. Taylor, the Rev. Myron W. Reed, and the Rev.
D. O'Donaghue, of Indianapolis, with the request that I answer


Question. Is the Character of Jesus of Nazareth, as described
in the Four Gospels, Fictional or Real? -- Rev. David Walk.

Answer. In all probability, there was a man by the name of
Jesus Christ, who was, in his day and generation, a reformer -- a
man who was infinitely shocked at the religion of Jehovah -- who
became almost insane with pity as he contemplated the sufferings of
the weak, the poor, and the ignorant at the hands of an intolerant,
cruel, hypocritical, and bloodthirsty church. It is no wonder that
such a man predicted the downfall of the temple. In all
probability, he hated, at last, every pillar and stone in it, and
despised even the "Holy of Holies." This man, of course, like other
men, grew. He did not die with the opinion he held in his youth. He
changed his views from time to time -- fanned the spark of reason
into a flame, and as he grew older his horizon extended and
widened, and he became gradually a wiser, greater, and better man.

I find two or three Christs described in the four Gospels. In
some portions you would imagine that he was an exceedingly pious
Jew. When he says that people must not swear by Jerusalem, because
it is God's holy city, certainly no Pharisee could have gone beyond
that expression. So, too, when it is recorded that he drove the
money changers from the temple. This, had it happened, would have
been the act simply of one who had respect for this temple and not
for the religion taught in it.

It would seem that, at first, Christ believed substantially in
the religion of his time; that afterward, seeing its faults, he
wished to reform it; and finally, comprehending it in all its
enormity, he devoted his life to its destruction. This view shows
that he "increased in stature and grew in knowledge."

This view is also supported by the fact that, at first,
according to the account, Christ distinctly stated that his gospel
was not for the Gentiles. At that time he had altogether more

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patriotism than philosophy. In my own opinion, he was driven to
like the Gentiles by the persecution he endured at home. He found,
as every Freethinker now finds, that there are many saints not in
churches and many devils not out.

The character of Christ, in many particulars, as described in
the Gospels, depends upon who wrote the Gospels. Each one
endeavored to make a Christ to suit himself. So that Christ, after
all, is a growth; and since the Gospels were finished, millions of
men have been adding to and changing the character of Christ.

There is another thing that should not be forgotten, and that
is that the Gospels were not written until after the Epistles. I
take it for granted that Paul never saw any of the Gospels, for the
reason that he quotes none of them. There is also this remarkable
fact: Paul quotes none of the miracles of the New Testament. He
says not one word about the multitude being fed miraculously, not
one word about the resurrection of Lazarus, nor of the widow's son.
He had never heard of the lame, the halt, and the blind that had
been cured; or if he had, he did not think these incidents of
enough importance to be embalmed in an epistle.

So we find that none of the early fathers ever quoted from the
four Gospels. Nothing can be more certain than that the four
Gospels were not written until after the Epistles, and nothing can
be more certain than that the early Christians knew nothing of what
we call the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. All these
things have been growths. At first it was believed that Christ was
a direct descendant from David. At that time the disciples of
Christ, of course, were Jews. The Messiah was expected through the
blood of David. -- for that reason, the genealogy of Joseph, a
descendant of David, was given. It was not until long after, that
the idea came into the minds of Christians that Christ was the son
of the Holy Ghost. If they, at the time the genealogy was given,
believed that Christ was in fact the son of the Holy Ghost, why did
they give the genealogy of Joseph to show that Christ was related
to David? In other words, why should the son of God attempt to get
glory out of the fact that he had in his veins the blood of a
barbarian king? There is only one answer to this. The Jews expected
the Messiah through David, and in order to prove that Christ was
the Messiah, they gave the genealogy of Joseph. Afterward, the idea
became popularized that Christ was the son of God, and then were
interpolated the words "as was supposed" in the genealogy of
Christ. It was a long time before the disciples became great enough
to include the world in their scheme, and before they thought it
proper to tell the "glad tidings of great joy" beyond the limits of

My own opinion is that the man called Christ lived; but
whether he lived in Palestine, or not, is of no importance. His
life is worth its example, its moral force, its benevolence, its
self-denial and heroism. It is of no earthly importance whether he
changed water into wine or not. All his miracles are simply dust
and darkness compared with what he actually said and actually did.
We should be kind to each other whether Lazarus was raised or not.
We should be just and forgiving whether Christ lived or not. All

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the miracles in the world are of no use to virtue, morality, or
justice. Miracles belong to superstition, to ignorance, to fear and

Neither does it make any difference who wrote the Gospels.
They are worth the truth that is in them and no more.

The words of Paul are often quoted, that "all scripture is
given by inspiration of God." Of course that could not have applied
to anything written after that time. It could have applied only to
the Scriptures then written and then known. It is perfectly clear
that the four Gospels were not at that time written, and therefore
this statement of Paul's does not apply to the four Gospels.
Neither does it apply to anything written after that statement was
written. Neither does it apply to that statement. If it applied to
anything it was the Old Testament, and not the New.

Christ has been belittled by his worshipers. When stripped of
the miraculous; when allowed to be, not divine but divinely human,
he will have gained a thousandfold in the estimation of mankind. I
think of him as I do of Buddha, as I do of Confucius, of Epictetus,
of Bruno. I place him with the great. the generous, the self-
denying of the earth, and for the man Christ, I feel only
admiration and respect. I think he was in many things mistaken. His
reliance upon the goodness of God was perfect. He seemed to believe
that his father in heaven would protect him. He thought that if God
clothed the lilies of the field in beauty, if he provided for the
sparrows, he would surely protect a perfectly just and loving man.
In this he was mistaken; and in the darkness of death, overwhelmed,
he cried out; "Why hast thou forsaken me?"

I do not believe that Christ ever claimed to be divine; ever
claimed to be inspired; ever claimed to work a miracle. In short,
I believe that he was an honest man. These claims were all put in
his mouth by others -- by mistaken friends, by ignorant worshipers,
by zealous and credulous followers, and sometimes by dishonest and
designing priests. This has happened to all the great men of the
world. All historical characters are, in part, deformed or reformed
by fiction. There was a man by the name of George Washington, but
no such George Washington ever existed as we find portrayed in
history. The historical Caesar never lived. The historical Mohammed
is simply a myth. It is the task of modern criticism to rescue
these characters, and in the mass of superstitious rubbish to find
the actual man. Christians borrowed the old clothes of the Olympian
gods and gave them to Christ. To me, Christ the man is far greater
than Christ the god.

To me, it has always been a matter of wonder that Christ said
nothing as to the obligation man is under to his country, nothing
as to the rights of the people as against the wish and will of
kings, nothing against the frightful system of human slavery --
almost universal in his time. What he did not say is altogether
more wonderful than what he did say. It is marvelous that he said
nothing upon the subject of intemperance, nothing about education,
nothing about philosophy, nothing about nature, nothing about art.
He said nothing in favor of the home, except to offer a reward to
those who would desert their wives and families. Of course, I do
not believe that he said the words that were attributed to him, in

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which a reward is offered to any man who will desert his kindred.
But if we take the account given in the four Gospels as the true
account, then Christ did offer a reward to a father who would
desert his children. It has always been contended that he was a
perfect example of mankind, and yet he never married. As a result
of what he did not teach in connection with what he did teach, his
followers saw no harm in slavery, no harm in polygamy. They
belittled this world and exaggerated the importance of the next.
They consoled the slave by telling him that in a little while he
would exchange his chains for wings. They comforted the captive by
saying that in a few days he would leave his dungeon for the bowers
of Paradise. His followers believed that he had said that
"Whosoever believeth not shall be damned." This passage was the
cross upon which intellectual liberty was crucified.

If Christ had given us the laws of health; if he had told us
how to cure disease by natural means; if he had set the captive
free; if he had crowned the people with their rightful power; if he
had placed the home above the church; if he had broken all the
mental chains; if he had flooded all the caves and dens of fear
with light, and filled the future with a common joy, he would in
truth have been the Savior of this world.

Question. How do you account for the difference between the
Christian and other modern civilizations?

Answer. I account for the difference between men by the
difference in their ancestry and surroundings -- the difference in
soil, climate, food. and employment. There would be no civilization
in England were it not for the Gulf Stream. There would have been
very little here had it not been for the discovery of Columbus. And
even now on this continent there would be but little civilization
had the soil been poor. I might ask: How do you account for the
civilization of Egypt? At one time that was the greatest
civilization in the world. Did that fact prove that the Egyptian
religion was of divine origin? So, too, there was a time when the
civilization of India was beyond all others. Does that prove that
Vishnu was a God? Greece dominated the intellectual world for
centuries. Does that fact absolutely prove that Zeus was the
creator of heaven and earth? The same may be said of Rome. There
was a time when Rome governed the world, and yet I have always had
my doubts as to the truth of the Roman mythology. As a matter of
fact, Rome was far better than any Christian nation ever was to the
end of the seventeenth century. A thousand years of Christian rule
produced no fellow for the greatest of Rome. There were no poets
the equals of Horace or Virgil, no philosophers as great as
Lucretius. no orators like Cicero, no emperors like Marcus
Aurelius, no women like the mothers of Rome.

The civilization of a country may he hindered by a religion,
but it has never been increased by any form of superstition. When
America was discovered it had the same effect upon Europe that it
would have, for instance, upon the city of Chicago to have Lake
Michigan put the other side of it. The Mediterranean lost its
trade. The centers of commerce became deserted. The prow of the
world turned westward, and as a result, France, England, and all
countries bordering on the Atlantic became prosperous. The world

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has really been civilized by discoverers -- by thinkers. The man
who invented powder, and by that means released hundreds of
thousands of men from the occupations of war, did more for mankind
than religion. The inventor of paper -- and he was not a Christian
-- did more than all the early fathers for mankind. The inventors
of plows, of sickles, of cradles, of reapers; the inventors of
wagons, coaches, locomotives; the inventors of skiffs, sail-
vessels, steamships; the men who have made looms -- in short, the
inventors of all useful things -- they are the civilizers taken in
connection with the great thinkers, the poets, the musicians, the
actors, the painters, the sculptors. The men who have invented the
useful, and the men who have made the useful beautiful, are the
real civilizers of mankind.

The priests, in all ages, have been hindrances -- stumbling-
blocks. They have prevented man from using his reason. They have
told ghost stories to courage until courage became fear. They have
done all in their power to keep men from growing intellectually, to
keep the world in a state of childhood, that they themselves might
be deemed great and good and wise. They have always known that
their reputation for wisdom depended upon the ignorance of the

I account for the civilization of France by such men as
Voltaire. He did good by assisting to destroy the church. Luther
did good exactly in the same way. He did harm in building another
church. I account, in part, for the civilization of England by the
fact that she had interests greater than the church could control;
and by the further fact that her greatest men cared nothing for the
church. I account in part for the civilization of America by the
fact that our fathers were wise enough, and jealous of each other
enough, to absolutely divorce church and state. They regarded the
church as a dangerous mistress -- one not fit to govern a
president. This divorce was obtained because men like Jefferson and
Paine were at that time prominent in the councils of the people.
There is this peculiarity in our country -- the only men who can be
trusted with human liberty are the ones who are not to be angels
hereafter. Liberty is safe so long as the sinners have an
opportunity to be heard.

Neither must we imagine that our civilization is the only one
in the world. They had no locks and keys in Japan until that
country was visited by Christians, and they are now used only in
those ports where Christians are allowed to enter. It has often
been claimed that there is but one way to make a man temperate, and
that is by making him a Christian and this is claimed in face of
the fact that Christian nations are the most intemperate in the
world. For nearly thirteen centuries the followers of Mohammed have
been absolute teetotalers -- not one drunkard under the flag of the
star and crescent. Wherever, in Turkey, a man is seen under the
influence of liquor. they call him a Christian. You must also
remember that almost every Christian nation has held slaves. Only
a few years ago England was engaged in the slave trade. A little
while before that our Puritan ancestors sold white Quaker children
in the Barbados. and traded them for rum, sugar. and negro slaves.
Even now the latest champion of Christianity upholds slavery,
polygamy, and wars of extermination.

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Sometimes I suspect that our own civilization is not
altogether perfect. When I think of the penitentiaries crammed to
suffocation, and of the many who ought to be in; of the want, the
filth, the depravity of the great cities; of the starvation in the
manufacturing centers of Great Britain, and, in fact, of all
Europe; when I see women working like beasts of burden, and little
children deprived, not simply of education, but of air, light and
food, there is a suspicion in my mind that Christian civilization
is not a complete and overwhelming success.

After all, I am compelled to account for the advance that we
have made, by the discoveries and inventions of men of genius. For
the future I rely upon the sciences; upon the cultivation of the
intellect. I rely upon labor; upon human interest in this world;
upon the love of wife and children and home. I do not rely upon
sacred books, but upon good men and women. I do not rely upon
superstition, but upon knowledge; not upon miracles, but upon
facts; not upon the dead, but upon the living; and when we become
absolutely civilized, we shall look back upon the superstitions of
the world, not simply with contempt, but with pity.

Neither do I rely upon missionaries to convert those whom we
are pleased to call "the heathen." Honest commerce is the great
civilizer. We exchange ideas when we exchange fabrics. The effort
to force a religion upon the people always ends in war. Commerce,
founded upon mutual advantage makes peace. An honest merchant is
better than a missionary.

Spain was blessed with what is called Christian civilization,
and yet, for hundreds of years, that government was simply an
organized crime. When one pronounces the name of Spain, he thinks
of the invasion of the New World, the persecution in the
Netherlands, the expulsion of the Jews, and the Inquisition. Even
to-day, the Christian nations of Europe preserve themselves from
each other by bayonet and ball. Prussia has a standing army of six
hundred thousand men, France a half million, and all their
neighbors a like proportion. These countries are civilized. They
are in the enjoyment of Christian governments -- have their
hundreds of thousands of ministers, and the land covered with
cathedrals and churches -- and yet every nation is nearly beggared
by keeping armies in the field. Christian kings have no confidence
in the promises of each other. What they call peace is the little
time necessarily spent in reloading their guns. England has
hundreds of ships of war to protect her commerce from other
Christians, and to force China to open her ports to the opium
trade. Only the other day the Prime Minister of China, in one of
his dispatches to the English government, used substantially the
following language: "England regards the opium question simply as
one of trade, but to China, it has a moral aspect." Think of
Christian England carrying death and desolation to hundreds of
thousands in the name of trade. Then think of heathen China
protesting in the name of morality. At the same time England has
the impudence to send missionaries to China.

What has been called Christianity has been a disturber of the
public peace in all countries and at all times. Nothing has so
alienated nations, nothing has so destroyed the natural justice of

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mankind, as what has been known as religion. The idea that all men
must worship the same God, believe the same dogmas, has for
thousands of years plucked with bloody hands the flower of pity
from the human heart.

Our civilization is not Christian. It does not come from the
skies. It is not a result of "inspiration." It is the child of
invention, of discovery. of applied knowledge -- that is to say, of
science. When man becomes great and grand enough to admit that all
have equal rights; when thought is untrammeled; when worship shall
consist in doing useful things; when religion means the discharge
of obligations to our fellow-men, then, and not until then, will
the world be civilized.


Question. Since Laplace and other most distinguished
astronomers hold to the theory that the earth was originally in a
gaseous state, and then a molten mass in which the germs, even, of
vegetable or animal life, could not exist, how do you account for
the origin of life on this planet without a "Creator"? -- Dr. T.B.

Answer. Whether or not "the earth was originally in a gaseous
state and afterwards a molten mass in which the germs of vegetable
and animal life could not exist," I do not know. My belief is that
the earth as it is, and as it was, taken in connection with the
influence of the sun, and of other planets, produced whatever has
existed or does exist on the earth. I do not see why gas would not
need a "creator" as much as a vegetable. Neither can I imagine that
there is any more necessity for some one to start life than to
start a molten mass. There may be now portions of the world in
which there is not one particle of vegetable life. It may be that
on the wide waste fields of the Arctic zone there are places where
no vegetable life exists, and there may be many thousand miles
where no animal life can be found. But if the poles of the earth
could be changed, and if the Arctic zone could be placed in a
different relative position to the sun, the snows would melt, the
hills would appear, and in a little while even the rocks would be
clothed with vegetation. After a time vegetation would produce more
soil, and in a few thousand years forests would be filled with
beasts and birds.

I think it was Sir William Thomson who, in his effort to
account for the origin of life upon this earth, stated that it
might have come from some meteoric stone falling from some other
planet having in it the germs of life. What would you think of a
farmer who would prepare his land and wait to have it planted by
meteoric stones? So, what would you think of a Deity who would make
a world like this, and allow it to whirl thousands and millions of
years, barren as a gravestone, waiting for some vagrant comet to
sow the seeds of life?

I believe that back of animal life is the vegetable, and back
of the vegetable, it may be, is the mineral. It may be that
crystallization is the first step toward what we call life, and yet
I believe life is back of that. In my judgment, if the earth ever

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was in a gaseous state, it was filled with life. These are subjects
about which we know but little. How do you account for chemistry?
How do you account for the fact that just so many particles of one
kind seek the society of just so many particles of another, and
when they meet they instantly form a glad and lasting union? How do
you know but atoms have love and hatred? How do you know that the
vegetable does not enjoy growing, and that crystallization itself
is not an expression of delight? How do you know that a vine
bursting into flower does not feel a thrill? We find sex in the
meanest weeds -- how can you say they have no loves?

After all, of what use is it to search for a creator? The
difficulty is not thus solved. You leave your creator as much in
need of a creator as anything your creator is supposed to have
created. The bottom of your stairs rests on nothing, and the top of
your stairs leans upon nothing. You have reached no solution.
The word "God" is simply born of our ignorance. We go as far as
we can, and we say the rest of the way is "God." We look as far as
we can, and beyond the horizon, where there is nought so far as we
know but blindness, we place our Deity. We see an infinitesimal
segment of a circle, and we say the rest is "God."

Man must give up searching for the origin of anything. No one
knows the origin of life, or of matter, or of what we call mind.
The whence and the whither are questions that no man can answer. In
the presence of these questions all intellects are upon a level.
The barbarian knows exactly the same as the scientist, the fool as
the philosopher. Only those who think that they have had some
supernatural information pretend to answer these questions, and the
unknowable, the impossible, the unfathomable, is the realm wholly
occupied by the "inspired."

We are satisfied that all organized things must have had a
beginning. but we cannot conceive that matter commenced to be.
Forms change, but substance remains eternally the same. A beginning
of substance is unthinkable. It is just as easy to conceive of
anything commencing to exist without a cause as with a cause. There
must be something for cause to operate upon. Cause operating upon
nothing -- were such a thing possible -- would produce nothing.
There can be no relation between cause and nothing. We can
understand how things can be arranged -- joined or separated -- and
how relations can be changed or destroyed, but we cannot conceive
of creation -- of nothing being changed into something, nor of
something being made -- except from preexisting materials.

Question. Since the universal testimony of the ages is in the
affirmative of phenomena that attest the continued existence of man
after death -- which testimony is overwhelmingly sustained by the
phenomena of the nineteenth century -- what further evidence should
thoughtful people require in order to settle the question, "Does
death end all?"

Answer. I admit that in all ages men have believed in spooks
and ghosts and signs and wonders. This, however, proves nothing.
Men have for thousands of ages believed the impossible, and
worshiped the absurd. Our ancestors have worshiped snakes and birds
and beasts. I do not admit that any ghost ever existed. I know that

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no miracle was ever performed except in imagination; and what you
are pleased to call the "phenomena of the nineteenth century,"
(Spiritualism) I fear are on an exact equality with the phenomena
of the Dark Ages.

We do not yet understand the action of the brain. No one knows
the origin of a thought. No one knows how he thinks, or why he
thinks, any more than one knows why or how his heart beats. People,
I imagine, have always had dreams. In dreams they often met persons
whom they knew to be dead, and it may be that much of the
philosophy of the present was born of dreams. I cannot admit that
anything supernatural ever has happened or ever will happen. I
cannot admit the truth of what you call the "phenomena of the
nineteenth century," if by such "phenomena" you mean the
reappearance of the dead. I do not deny the existence of a future
state, because I do not know. Neither do I aver that there is one,
because I do not know. Upon this question I am simply honest. I
find that people who believe in immortality -- or at least those
who say they do -- are just as afraid of death as anybody else. I
find that the most devout Christian weeps as bitterly above his
dead, as the man who says that death ends all. You see the promises
are so far away, and the dead are so near. Still, I do not say that
man is not immortal; but I do say that there is nothing in the
Bible to show that he is. The Old Testament has not a word upon the
subject -- except to show us how we lost immortality. According to
that book, man was driven from the Garden of Eden, lest he should
put forth his hand and eat of the fruit of the tree of life and
live forever. So the fact is, the Old Testament shows us how we
lost immortality. In the New Testament we are told to seek for
immortality, and it is also stated that "God alone hath

There is this curious thing about Christians and
Spiritualists: The Spiritualists laugh at the Christians for
believing the miracles of the New Testament; they laugh at them for
believing the story about the witch of Endor. And then the
Christians laugh at the Spiritualists for believing that the same
kind of things happen now. As a matter of fact, the Spiritualists
have the best of it, because their witnesses are now living,
whereas the Christians take simply the word of the dead -- of men
they never saw and of men about whom they know nothing. The
Spiritualist, at least, takes the testimony of men and women that
he can cross-examine. It would seem as if these gentlemen ought to
make common cause. Then the Christians could prove their miracles
by the Spiritualists, and the Spiritualists could prove their
"phenomena" by the Christians.

I believe that thoughtful people require some additional
testimony in order to settle the question, "Does death end all?" If
the dead return to this world they should bring us information of
value. There are thousands of questions that studious historians
and savants are endeavoring to settle -- questions of history, of
philosophy, of law, of art, upon which a few intelligent dead ought
to be able to shed a flood of light. All the questions of the past
ought to be settled. Some modern ghosts ought to get acquainted
with some of the Pharaohs, and give us an outline of the history of
Egypt. They ought to be able to read the arrow-headed writing and

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all the records of the past. The hieroglyphics of all ancient
peoples should be unlocked, and thoughts and facts that have been
imprisoned for so many thousand years should be released and once
again allowed to visit brains. The Spiritualists ought to be able
to give us the history of buried cities. They should clothe with
life the dust of all the past. If they could only bring us valuable
information; if they could only tell us about some steamer in
distress so that succor could be sent: if they could only do
something useful, the world would cheerfully accept their theories
and admit their "facts." I think that thoughtful people have the
right to demand such evidence. I would like to have the spirits
give us the history of all the books of the New Testament and tell
us who first told of the miracles. If they could give us the
history of any religion, or nation, or anything, I should have far
more confidence in the "phenomena of the nineteenth century."

There is one thing about the Spiritualists I like, and that
is, they are liberal. They give to others the rights they claim for
themselves. They do not pollute their souls with the dogma of
eternal pain. They do not slander and persecute even those who deny
their "phenomena." But I cannot admit that they have furnished
conclusive evidence that death does not end all. Beyond the horizon
of this life we have not seen. From the mysterious beyond no
messenger has come to me.

For the whole world I would not blot from the sky of the
future a single star. Arched by the bow of hope let the dead sleep.

Question. How, when, where, and by whom was our present
calendar originated. -- that is "Anno Domini," -- and what event in
the history of the nations does it establish as a fact, if not the
birth of Jesus of Nazareth?

Answer. I have already said, in answer to a question by
another gentleman, that I believe the man Jesus Christ existed, and
we now date from somewhere near his birth. I very much doubt about
his having been born on Christmas, because in reading other
religions, I find that that time has been celebrated for thousands
of years, and the cause of it is this:

About the 21st or 22d of December is the shortest day. After
that the days begin to lengthen and the sun comes back, and for
many centuries in most nations they had a festival in commemoration
of that event. The Christians, I presume, adopted this day, and
made the birth of Christ fit it. Three months afterward -- the 21st
of March -- the days and nights again become equal, and the day
then begins to lengthen. For centuries the nations living in the
temperate zones have held festivals to commemorate the coming of
spring -- the yearly miracle of leaf, of bud and flower. This is
the celebration known as Easter, and the Christians adopted that in
commemoration of Christ's resurrection. So that, as a matter of
fact, these festivals of Christmas and Easter do not even tend to
show that they stand for or are in any way connected with the birth
or resurrection of Christ. In fact the evidence is overwhelmingly
the other way.

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While we are on the calendar business it may be well enough to
say that we get our numerals from the Arabs, from whom also we
obtained our ideas of algebra. The higher mathematics came to us
from the same source. So from the Arabs we receive chemistry, and
our first true notions of geography. They gave us also paper and

Owing to the fact that the earth does not make its circuit in
the exact time of three hundred and sixty-five days and a quarter,
and owing to the fact that it was a long time before any near
approach was made to the actual time, all calendars after awhile
became too inaccurate for general use, and they were from time to
time changed.

Right here, it may be well enough to remark, that all the
monuments and festivals in the world are not sufficient to
establish an impossible event. No amount of monumental testimony,
no amount of living evidence, can substantiate a miracle. The
monument only proves the belief of the builders.

If we rely upon the evidence of monuments, calendars, dates,
and festivals, all the religions on the earth can be substantiated.
Turkey is filled with such monuments and much of the time wasted in
such festivals. We celebrate the Fourth of July, but such
celebration does not even tend to prove that God, by his special
providence, protected Washington from the arrows of an Indian. The
Hebrews celebrate what is called the Passover, but this celebration
does not even tend to prove that the angel of the Lord put blood on
the door-posts in Egypt. The Mohammedans celebrate to-day the
flight of Mohammed, but that does not tend to prove that Mohammed
was inspired and was a prophet of God.

Nobody can change a falsehood to a truth by the erection of a
monument. Monuments simply prove that people endeavor to
substantiate truths and falsehoods by the same means.


Question. Letting the question as to hell hereafter rest for
the present, how do you account for the hell here -- namely, the
existence of pain? There are people who, by no fault of their own,
are at this present time in misery. If for these there is no life
to come, their existence is a mistake; but if there is a life to
come, it may be that the sequel to the acts of the play to come
will justify the pain and misery of this present time? -- Rev.
Myron W. Reed.

Answer. There are four principal theories:

First -- there is behind the universe a being of infinite
power and wisdom, kindness, and justice.

Second -- That the universe has existed from eternity, and
that it is the only eternal existence, and that behind it is no

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Third -- That there is a God who made the universe, but who is
not all-powerful and who is, under the circumstances, doing the
best he can.

Fourth -- That there is an all-powerful God who made the
universe, and that there is also a nearly all-powerful devil, and
this devil ravels about as fast as this God knits.

By the last theory, as taught by Plato, it is extremely easy
to account for the misery in this world. If we admit that there is
a malevolent being with power enough, and with cunning enough, to
frequently circumvent God, the problem of evil becomes solved so
far as this world is concerned. But why this being was evil is
still unsolved; why the devil is malevolent is still a mystery.
Consequently you will have to go back of this world, on that
theory, to account for the origin of evil. If this devil always
existed, then, of course, the universe at one time was inhabited
only by this God and this devil.

If the third theory is correct, we can account for the fact
that God does not see to it that justice is always done.

If the second theory is true, that the universe has existed
from eternity, and is without a creator, then we must account for
the existence of evil and good, not by personalities behind the
universe. but by the nature of things.

If there is an infinitely good and wise being who created all,
it seems to me that he should have made a world in which innocence
should be a sufficient shield. He should have made a world where
the just man should have nothing to fear.

My belief is this: We are surrounded by obstacles. We are
filled with wants. We must have clothes. We must have food. We must
protect ourselves from sun and storm, from heat and cold. In our
conflict with these obstacles, with each other, and with what may
be called the forces of nature, all do not succeed. It is a fact in
nature that like begets like; that man gives his constitution, at
least in part, to his children; that weakness and strength are in
some degree both hereditary. This is a fact in nature. I do not
hold any god responsible for this fact -- filled as it is with pain
and joy. But it seems to me that an infinite God should so have
arranged matters that the bad would not pass -- that it would die
with its possessor -- that the good should survive, and that the
man should give to his son, not the result of his vices, but the
fruit of his virtues.

I cannot see why we should expect an infinite God to do better
in another world than he does in this. If he allows injustice to
prevail here, why will he not allow the same thing in the world to
come? If there is any being with power to prevent it, why is crime
permitted? If a man standing upon the railway should ascertain that
a bridge had been carried off by a flood, and if he also knew that
the train was coming filled with men, women, and children; with
husbands going to their wives, and wives rejoining their families;
if he made no effort to stop that train; if he simply sat down by
the roadside to witness the catastrophe, and so remained until the

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Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201


train dashed off the precipice, and its load of life became a mass
of quivering flesh, he would be denounced by every good man as the
most monstrous of human beings. And yet this is exactly what the
supposed God does. He, if he exists, sees the train rushing to the
gulf, He gives no notice. He sees the ship rushing for the hidden
rock. He makes no sign. And he so constructed the world that
assassins lurk in the air -- hide even in the sunshine -- and when
we imagine that we are breathing the breath of life, we are taking
into ourselves the seeds of death.

There are two facts inconsistent in my mind -- a martyr and a
God. Injustice upon earth renders the justice of heaven impossible.

I would not take from those suffering in this world the hope
of happiness hereafter. My principal object has been to take away
from them the fear of eternal pain hereafter. Still, it is
impossible for me to explain the facts by which I am surrounded. if
I admit the existence of an infinite Being. I find in this world
that physical and mental evils affect the good. It seems to me that
I have the same reason to expect the bad to be rewarded hereafter.
I have no right to suppose that infinite wisdom will ever know any
more, or that infinite benevolence will increase in kindness, or
that the Justice of the eternal can change. If, then, this eternal
being allows the good to suffer pain here, what right have we to
say that he will not allow them to suffer forever?

Some people have insisted that this life is a kind of school
for the production of self-denying men and women -- that is, for
the production of character. The statistics show that a large
majority die under five years of age. What would we think of a
schoolmaster who killed the most of his pupils the first day? If
this doctrine is true, and if manhood cannot be produced in heaven,
those who die in childhood are infinitely unfortunate.

I admit that, although I do not understand the subject, still,
all pain, all misery may be for the best. I do not know. If there
is an infinitely wise Being, who is also infinitely powerful, then
everything that happens must be for the best, That philosophy of
special providence, going to the extreme, is infinitely better than
most of the Christian creeds. There seems to be no half-way house
between special providence and atheism. You know some of the
Buddhists say that when a man commits murder, that is the best
thing he could have done, and that to he murdered was the best
thing that could have happened to the killed. They insist that
every step taken is the necessary step and the best step; that
crimes are as necessary as virtues, and that the fruit of crime and
virtue is finally the same.

But whatever theories we have, we have at last to be governed
by the facts. We are in a world where vice, deformity, weakness,
and disease are hereditary. In the presence of this immense and
solemn truth rises the religion of the body. Every man should
refuse to increase the misery of this world. And it may be that the
time will come when man will be great enough and grand enough
utterly to refrain from the propagation of disease and deformity,
and when only the healthy will be father and mothers. We do know
that the misery in this world can be lessened; consequently I

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Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201


believe in the religion of this world. And whether there is a
heaven or hell here, or hereafter, every good man has enough to do
to make this world a little better than it is. Millions of lives
are wasted in the vain effort to find the origin of things, and the
destiny of man. This world has been neglected. We have been taught
that life should be merely a preparation for death.

To avoid pain we must know the conditions of health. For the
accomplishment of this end we must rely upon investigation instead
of faith, upon labor in place of prayer. Most misery is produced by
ignorance. Passions sow the seeds of pain.

Question. State with what words you can comfort those who
have, by their own fault, or by the fault of others, found this
life not worth living?

Answer. If there is no life beyond this, and so believing I
come to the bedside of the dying -- of one whose life has been a
failure -- a "life not worth living," I could at least say to such
an one, "Your failure ends with your death. Beyond the tomb there
is nothing for you -- neither pain nor misery, neither grief nor
joy." But if I were a good orthodox Christian, then I would have to
say to this man, "Your life has been a failure; you have not been
a Christian, and the failure will be extended eternally: you have
not only been a failure for a time, but you will be a failure

Admitting that there is another world, and that the man's life
had been a failure in this, then I should say to him, "If you live
again, you will have the eternal opportunity to reform. There will
be no time, no date, no matter how many millions and billions of
ages may have passed away, at which you will not have the
opportunity of doing right."

Under no circumstances could I consistently say to this man:
"Although your life has been a failure; although you have made
hundreds and thousands of others suffer; although you have deceived
and betrayed the woman who loved you; although you have murdered
your benefactor; still, if you will now repent and believe a
something that is unreasonable or reasonable to your mind, you
will, at the moment of death, be transferred to a world of eternal
joy." This I could not say. I would tell him, "If you die a bad man
here, you will commence the life to come with the same character
you leave this. Character cannot be made by another for you. You
must be the architect of your own." There is to me unspeakably more
comfort in the idea that every failure ends here, than that it is
to be perpetuated forever.

How can a Christian comfort the mother of a girl who has died
without believing in Christ? What doctrine is there in Christianity
to wipe away her tears? What words of comfort can you offer to the
mother whose brave boy fell in defence of his country, she knowing
and you knowing, that the boy was not a Christian, that he did not
believe in the Bible, and had no faith in the blood of the
atonement? What words of comfort have you for such fathers and for
such mothers?

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Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201


To me, there is no doctrine so infinitely absurd as the idea
that this life is a probationary state that the few moments spent
here decide the fate of a human soul forever. Nothing can be
conceived more merciless, more unjust. I am doing all I can to
destroy that doctrine. I want, if possible, to get the shadow of
hell from the human heart.

Why has any life been a failure here? If God is a being of
infinite wisdom and kindness, why does he make failures? What
excuse has infinite wisdom for peopling the world with savages? Why
should one feel grateful to God for having made him with a poor,
weak and diseased brain; for having allowed him to be the heir of
consumption, of scrofula. or of insanity? Why should one thank God,
who lived and died a slave?

After all, is it not of more importance to speak the absolute
truth? Is it not manlier to tell the fact than to endeavor to
convey comfort through falsehood? People must reap not only what
they sow, but what others have sown. The people of the whole world
are united in spite of themselves.

Next to telling a man, whose life has been a failure, that he
is to enjoy an immortality of delight -- next to that, is to assure
him that a place of eternal punishment does not exist.

After all, there are but few lives worth living in any great
and splendid sense. Nature seems filled with failure, and she has
made no exception in favor of man. To the greatest, to the most
successful, there comes a time when the fevered lips of life long
for the cool, delicious kiss of death -- when, tired of the dust
and glare of day, they hear with joy the rustling garments of the


"Archibald Armstrong and Jonathan Newgate were fast friends.
Their views in regard to the question of a future life, and the
existence of a God, were in perfect accord. They said: We know so
little about these matters that we are not justified in giving them
any serious consideration. Our motto and rule of life shall be for
each one to make himself as comfortable as he can, and enjoy every
pleasure within his reach, not allowing himself to be influenced at
all by thoughts of a future life.'

"Both had some money. Archibald had a large amount. Once upon
a time when no human eye saw him -- and he had no belief in a God
-- Jonathan stole every dollar of his friend's wealth, leaving him
penniless. He had no fear, no remorse; no one saw him do the deed.
He became rich, enjoyed life immensely, lived in contentment and
pleasure, until in mellow old age he went the way of all flesh.
Archibald fared badly. The odds were against him. His money was
gone. He lived in penury and discontent, dissatisfied with mankind
and with himself, until at last, overcome by misfortune, and
depressed by an incurable malady, he sought rest in painless

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Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201


Question. What are we to think of the rule of life laid down
by these men? Was either of them inconsistent or illogical? Is
there no remedy to correct such irregularities? -- Rev. D.

Answer. The Rev. Mr. O'Donaghue seems to entertain strange
ideas as to right and wrong. He tells us that Archibald Armstrong
and Jonathan Newgate concluded to make themselves as comfortable as
they could and enjoy every pleasure within their reach, and the
Rev. Mr. O'Donaghue states that one of the pleasures within the
reach of Mr. Newgate was to steal what little money Mr. Armstrong
had. Does the reverend gentleman think that Mr. Newgate made or
could make himself comfortable in that way? He tells us that Mr.
Newgate "had no remorse," -- that he "became rich and enjoyed life
immensely," -- that he "lived in contentment and pleasure, until,
in mellow old age, he went the way of all flesh."

Does the reverend gentleman really believe that a man can
steal without fear, without remorse? Does he really suppose that
one can enjoy the fruits of theft, that a criminal can live a
contented and happy life, that one who has robbed his friend can
reach a mellow and delightful old age? Is this the philosophy of
the Rev. Mr. O'Donaghue?

And right here I may be permitted to ask, Why did the Rev. Mr.
O'Donaghue's God allow a thief to live without fear, without
remorse, to enjoy life immensely and to reach a mellow old age? And
why did he allow Mr. Armstrong, who had been robbed, to live in
penury and discontent, until at last, overcome by misfortune, he
sought rest in suicide? Does the Rev. Mr. O'Donaghue mean to say
that if there is no future life it is wise to steal in this? If the
grave is the eternal home, would the Rev. Mr. O'Donaghue advise
people to commit crimes in order that they may enjoy this life?
Such is not my philosophy. Whether there is a God or not, truth is
better than falsehood. Whether there is a heaven or hell, honesty
is always the best policy. There is no world, and can be none,
where vice can sow the seed of crime and reap the sheaves of joy.

According to my view, Mr. Armstrong was altogether more
fortunate than Mr. Newgate. I had rather be robbed than to be a
robber, and I had rather be of such a disposition that I would be
driven to suicide by misfortune than to live in contentment upon
the misfortunes of others. The reverend gentleman, however, should
have made his question complete -- he should have gone the entire
distance. He should have added that Mr. Newgate, after having
reached a mellow old age, was suddenly converted, joined the
church, and died in the odor of sanctity on the very day that his
victim committed suicide.

But I will answer the fable of the reverend gentleman with a

A young man was in love with a girl. She was young, beautiful,
and trustful. She belonged to no church -- new nothing about a
future world -- basked in the sunshine of this. All her life had
been filled with gentle deeds. The tears of pity had sanctified her
cheeks. She believed in no religion, worshiped no God, believed no

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Bible, but loved everything. Her lover in a fit of jealous rage
murdered her. He was tried; convicted; a motion for a new trial
overruled and a pardon refused. In his cell, in the shadow of
death, he was converted -- he became a Catholic. With the white
lips of fear he confessed to a priest. He received the sacrament.
He was hanged, and from the rope's end winged his way to the realms
of bliss. For months the murdered girl had suffered all the pains
and pangs of hell.

The poor girl will endure the agony of the damned forever,
while her murderer will be ravished with angelic chant and song.
Such is the justice of the orthodox God.

Allow me to use the language of the reverend gentleman: "Is
there no remedy to correct such irregularities?"

As long as the idea of eternal punishment remains a part of
the Christian system, that system will be opposed by every man of
heart and brain. Of all religious dogmas it is the most shocking,
infamous, and absurd. The preachers of this doctrine are the
enemies of human happiness; they are the assassins of natural joy.
Every father, every mother, every good man, every loving woman,
should hold this doctrine in abhorrence; they should refuse to pay
men for preaching it; they should not build churches in which this
infamy is taught; they should teach their little children that it
is a lie; they should take this horror from childhood's heart
-- a horror that makes the cradle as terrible as the coffin.

****     ****

Reproducible 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 --

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The Bank of Wisdom is always looking for more of these old,
hidden, suppressed and forgotten books that contain needed facts
and information for today. If you have such books please contact
us, we need to give them back to America.

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The Bank of Wisdom is run by Emmett Fields out of his home in Kentucky. He painstakingly scanned in these works and put them on disks for others to have available. Mr. Fields makes these disks available for only the cost of the media.

Files made available from the Bank of Wisdom may be freely reproduced and given away, but may not be sold.

Reproducible Electronic Publishing can defeat censorship.

Bank of WisdomThe Bank of Wisdom is a collection of the most thoughtful, scholarly and factual books. These computer books are reprints of suppressed books and will cover American and world history; the Biographies and writings of famous persons, and especially of our nations Founding Fathers. They will include philosophy and religion. all these subjects, and more, will be made available to the public in electronic form, easily copied and distributed, so that America can again become what its Founders intended --

The Free Market-Place of Ideas.

The Bank of Wisdom is always looking for more of these old, hidden, suppressed and forgotten books that contain needed facts and information for today. If you have such books please contact us, we need to give them back to America.

Bank of Wisdom
Box 926
Louisville, KY 40201