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Robert Ingersoll Orthodoxy

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Robert Green Ingersoll

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It is utterly inconceivable that any man believing in the
truth of the Christian religion should Publicly deny it, because he
who believes in that religion would believe that, by a public
denial, he would peril the eternal salvation of his soul. It is
conceivable, and without any great effort of the mind, that
millions who do not believe in the Christian religion should openly
say that they did. In a country where religion is supposed to be in
power -- where it has rewards for pretence, where it pays a premium
upon hypocrisy, where it at least is willing to purchase silence --
it is easily conceivable that millions pretend to believe what they
do not. And yet I believe it has been charged against myself not
only that I was insincere, but that I took the side I am on for the
sake of popularity; and the audience to-night goes far toward
justifying the accusation.


It gives me immense pleasure to say to this audience that
orthodox religion is dying out of the civilized world. It is a sick
man. It has been attacked with two diseases -- softening of the
brain and ossification of the heart. It is a religion that no
longer satisfies the intelligence of this country; that no longer
satisfies the brain; a religion against which the heart of every
civilized man and woman protests. It is a religion that gives hope
only to a few; that puts a shadow upon the cradle; that wraps the
coffin in darkness and fills the future of mankind with flame and
fear. It is a religion that I am going to do what little I can
while I live to destroy. In its place I want humanity, I want good
fellowship, I want intellectual liberty -- free lips, the
discoveries and inventions of genius, the demonstrations of science
-- the religion of art, music and poetry -- of good houses, good
clothes, good wages -- that is to say, the religion of this world.


We must remember that this is a world of progress, a world of
perpetual change -- a succession of coffins and cradles. There is
perpetual death, and there is perpetual birth. By the grave of the
old, forever stand youth and joy; and when an old religion dies, a
better one is born. When we find out that an assertion is a
falsehood a shining truth takes its place, and we need not fear the
destruction of the false. The more false we destroy the more room
there will be for the true.

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There was a time when the astrologer sought to read in the
stars the fate of men and nations. The astrologer has faded from
the world, but the astronomer has taken his place. There was a time
when the poor alchemist, bent and wrinkled and old, over his
crucible endeavored to find some secret by which he could change
the baser metals into purest gold. The alchemist has gone; the
chemist took his place; and, although he finds nothing to change
metals into gold, he finds something that covers the earth with
wealth. There was a time when the soothsayer and augur flourished.
After them came the parson and the priest; and the parson and the
priest must go. The preacher must go, and in his place must come
the teacher -- the real interpreter of Nature. We are done with the
supernatural. We are through with the miraculous and the
impossible. There was once the prophet who pretended to read the
book of the future. His place has been taken by the philosopher,
who reasons from cause to effect -- who finds the facts by which we
are surrounded and endeavors to reason from these premises and to
tell what in all Probability will happen. The prophet has gone, the
philosopher is here. There was a time when man sought aid from
heaven -- when he prayed to the deaf sky. There was a time when
everything depended on the supernaturalist. That time in
Christendom is passing away. We now depend upon the naturalist --
not upon the believer in ancient falsehoods, but on the discoverer
of facts -- on the demonstrator of truths. At last we are beginning
to build on a solid foundation, and as we progress, the
supernatural dies. The leaders of the intellectual world deny the
existence of the supernatural. They take from all superstition its


Supernatural religion will fade from this world, and in its
place we shall have reason. In the place of the worship of
something we know not of, will be the religion of mutual love and
assistance -- the great religion of reciprocity. Superstition must
go. Science will remain. The church dies hard. The brain of the
world is not yet developed. There are intellectual diseases as well
as physical -- there are pestilences and plagues of the mind.

Whenever the new comes the old protests, and fights for its
place as long as it has a particle of power. We are now having the
same warfare between superstition and science that there was
between the stage coach and the locomotive. But the stage coach had
to go. It had its day of glory and power, but it is gone. It went
West. In a little while it will be driven into the Pacific. So we
find that there is the same conflict between the different sects
and different schools not only of philosophy but of medicine.

Recollect that everything except the demonstrated truth is
liable to die. That is the order of Nature. Words die. Every
language has a cemetery. Every now and then a word dies and a
tombstone is erected, and across it is written "obsolete." New
words are continually being born. There is a cradle in which a word
is rocked. A thought is married to a sound, and a child-word is
born. And there comes a time when the word gets old, and wrinkled,

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and expressionless, and is carried mournfully to the grave. So in
the schools of medicine. You can remember, so can I, when the old
allopathists, the bleeders and blisterers, reigned supreme. If
there was anything the matter with a man they let out his blood.
Called to the bedside, they took him on the point of a lancet to
the edge of eternity, and then practiced all their art to bring him
back. One can hardly imagine how perfect a constitution it took a
few years ago to stand the assault of a doctor. And long after the
old practice was found to be a mistake hundreds and thousands of
the ancient physicians clung to it, carried around with them, in
one pocket a bottle of jalap, and in the other a rusty lancet,
sorry that they could not find some patient with faith enough to
allow the experiment to be made again.

So these schools, and these theories, and these religions die
hard. What else can they do? Like the paintings of the old masters,
they are kept alive because so much money has been invested in
them. Think of the amount of money that has been invested in
superstition! Think of the schools that have been founded for the
more general diffusion of useless knowledge! Think of the colleges
wherein men are taught that it is dangerous to think, and that they
must never use their brains except in the act of faith! Think of
the millions and billions of dollars that have been expended in
churches, in temples, and in cathedrals! Think of the thousands and
thousands of men who depend for their living upon the ignorance of
mankind! Think of those who grow rich on credulity and who fatten
on faith! Do you suppose they are going to die without a struggle?
What are they to do? From the bottom of my heart I sympathize with
the poor clergyman that has had all his common sense educated out
of him, and is now to be thrown upon the cold and unbelieving
world. His prayers are not answered; he gets no help from on high,
and the pews are beginning to criticize the pulpit. What is the man
to do? If he suddenly changes he is gone. If he preaches what he
really believes he will get notice to quit. And yet, if he and the
congregation would come together and be perfectly honest, they
would all admit that they believe little and know nothing.

Only a little while ago a couple of ladies were riding
together from a revival, late at night, and one said to the other,
as they rode along: "I am going to say something that will shock
you, and I beg of you never to tell it to anybody else. I am going
to tell it to you." "Well, what is it?" Said she: "I do not believe
the Bible." The other replied: "Neither do I."

I have often thought how splendid it would be if the ministers
could but come together and say: "Now, let us be honest. Let us
tell each other, honor bright" -- like Dr. Curry, of Chicago, did
in the meeting the other day -- "just what we believe." They tell
a story that in the old time a lot of people, about twenty, were in
Texas in a little hotel, and one fellow got up before the fire, put
his hands behind him, and said: "Boys, let us all tell our real
names." If the ministers and their congregations would only tell
their real thoughts they would find that they are nearly as bad as
I am, and that they believe as little.

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Orthodoxy dies hard, and its defenders tell us that this fact
shows that it is of divine origin. Judaism dies hard. It has lived
several thousand years longer than Christianity. The religion of
Mohammed dies hard.

Buddhism dies hard. Why do all these religions die hard?
Because intelligence increases slowly.

Let me whisper in the ear of the Protestant: Catholicism dies
hard. What does that prove? It proves that the people are ignorant
and that the priests are cunning.

Let me whisper in the ear of the Catholic: Protestantism dies
hard. What does that prove? It proves that the people are
superstitious and the preachers stupid.

Let me whisper in all your ears: Infidelity is not dying -- it
is growing -- it increases every day. And what does that prove? lt
proves that the people are learning more and more -- that they are
advancing -- that the mind is getting free, and that the race is
being civilized.

The clergy know that I know that they know that they do not


Mohammed wrested from the disciples of the cross the finest
part of Europe. It was known that he was an impostor, and that fact
sowed the seeds of distrust and infidelity in the Christian world.
Christians made an effort to rescue from the infidels the empty
sepulchre of Christ. That commenced in the eleventh century and
ended at the close of the thirteenth. Europe was almost
depopulated. The fields were left waste, the villages were
deserted, nations were impoverished. every man who owed a debt was
discharged from payment if he put a cross upon his breast and
joined the Crusades. No matter what crime he had committed, the
doors of the prison were open for him to join the hosts of the
cross. They believed that God would give them victory, and they
carried in front of the first Crusade a goat and a goose, believing
that both those animals were blessed by the indwelling of the Holy
Ghost. And I may say that those same animals are in the lead to-day
in the orthodox world. Until the year 1291 they endeavored to gain
possession of that sepulchre, and finally the hosts of Christ were
driven back, baffled and beaten, -- a poor, miserable, religious
rabble. They were driven back, and that fact sowed the seeds of
distrust in Christendom. You know that at that time the world
believed in trial by battle -- that God would take the side of the
right -- and there had been a trial by battle between the cross and
the crescent, and Mohammed had been victorious. Was God at that
time governing the world? Was he endeavoring to spread his gospel?


You know that when Christianity came into power it destroyed
every statue it could lay its ignorant hands upon. It defaced and
obliterated every painting; it destroyed every beautiful building;

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it burned the manuscripts, both Greek and Latin; it destroyed all
the history, all the poetry, all the philosophy it could find, and
reduced to ashes every library that it could reach with its torch.
And the result was, that the night of the Middle Ages fell upon the
human race. But by accident, by chance, by oversight, a few of the
manuscripts escaped the fury of religious zeal; and these
manuscripts became the seed, the fruit of which is our civilization
of to-day. A few statues had been buried; a few forms of beauty
were dug from the earth that had protected them, and now the
civilized world is filled with art, the walls are covered with
paintings, and the niches filled with statuary. A few manuscripts
were found and deciphered. The old languages were learned, and
literature was again born. A new day dawned upon mankind. Every
effort at mental improvement had been opposed by the church, and
yet, the few things saved from the general wreck -- a few poems, a
few works of the ancient thinkers, a few forms wrought in stone.
produced a new civilization destined to overthrow and destroy the
fabric of superstition.


What was the next blow that this church received? The
discovery of America. The Holy Ghost who inspired men to write the
Bible did not know of the existence of this continent, never
dreamed of the Western Hemisphere. The Bible left out half the
world. The Holy Ghost did not know that the earth is round. He did
not dream that the earth is round. He believed it was flat,
although he made it himself. At that time heaven was just beyond
the clouds. It was there the gods lived, there the angels were, and
it was against that heaven that Jacob's ladder leaned when the
angels went up and down. It was to that heaven that Christ ascended
after his resurrection. It was up there that the New Jerusalem was,
with its streets of gold, and under this earth was perdition. There
was where the devils lived; where a pit was dug for all
unbelievers, for men who had brains. I say that for this reason:
Just in proportion that you have brains, your chances for eternal
joy are lessened, according to this religion. And just in
proportion that you lack brains your chances are increased. At last
they found that the earth is round. It was circumnavigated by
Magellan. In 1519 that brave man set sail. The church told him:
"The earth is flat, my friend; don't go, you may fall off the
edge." Magellan said: "I have seen the shadow of the earth upon the
moon, and I have more confidence in the shadow than I have in the
church." The ship went round. The earth was circumnavigated.
Science passed its hand above it and beneath it, and where was the
old heaven and where was the hell? Vanished forever! And they dwell
now only in the religion of superstition. We found there was no
place there for Jacob's ladder to lean against; no place there for
the gods and angels to live; no place to hold the waters of the
deluge; no place to which Christ could have ascended. The
foundations of the New Jerusalem crumbled. The towers and domes
fell, and in their places infinite space, sown with an infinite
number of stars; not with New Jerusalem, but with countless

Then man began to grow great, and with that came Astronomy. In
1473 Copernicus was born. In 1543 his great work appeared. In 1616
the system of Copernicus was condemned by the pope, by the

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infallible Catholic Church, and the church was about as near right
upon that subject as upon any other. The system of Copernicus was
denounced. And how long do you suppose the church fought that? Let
me tell you. It was revoked by Pius VII. in the year of grace 1821.
For two hundred and seventy-eight years after the death of
Copernicus the church insisted that his system was false, and that
the old Bible astronomy was true. Astronomy is the first help that
we ever received from heaven. Then came Kepler in 1609, and you may
almost date the birth of science from the night that Kepler
discovered his first law. That was the break of the day. His first
law, that the planets do not move in circles but in ellipses; his
second law, that they describe equal spaces in equal times; his
third law, that the squares of their periodic times are
proportional to the cubes of their distances. That man gave us the
key to the heavens. He opened the infinite book, and in it read
three lines.

I have not time to speak of Galileo, of Leonardo da Vinci, of
Bruno, and of hundreds of others who contributed to the
intellectual wealth of the world.


The next thing that gave the church a blow was Statistics. We
found by taking statistics that we could tell the average length of
human life; that this human life did not depend upon infinite
caprice; that it depended upon conditions, circumstances, laws and
facts, and that these conditions, circumstances, and facts were
during long periods of time substantially the same. And now, the
man who depends entirely upon special providence gets his life
insured. He has more confidence even in one of these companies than
he has in the whole Trinity. We found by statistics that there were
just so many crimes on an average committed; just so many crimes of
one kind and so many of another; just so many suicides, so many
deaths by drowning, so many accidents on an average, so many men
marrying women, for instance. older than themselves; so many
murders of a particular kind; just the same number of mistakes; and
I say to-night, statistics utterly demolish the idea of special

Only the other day a gentleman was telling me of a case of
special providence. He knew it. He had been the subject of it. A
few years ago he was about to go on a ship when he was detained. He
did not go, and the ship was lost with all on board. "Yes!" I said,
"Do you think the people who were drowned believed in special
providence?" Think of the infinite egotism of such a doctrine. Here
is a man that fails to go upon a ship with five hundred passengers
and they go down to the bottom of the sea -- fathers, mothers,
children, and loving husbands and wives waiting upon the shores of
expectation. Here is one poor little wretch that did not happen to
go! And he thinks that God, the Infinite Being, interfered in his
poor little withered behalf and let the rest all go. That is
special providence. Why does special providence allow all the
crimes? Why are the wife-beaters protected, and why are the wives
and children left defenseless if the hand of God is over us all?
Who protects the insane? Why does Providence permit insanity? But
the church cannot give up special providence. If there is no such

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thing, then no prayers, no worship, no churches, no priests. What
would become of National Thanksgiving? You know we have a custom
every year of issuing a proclamation of thanksgiving. We say to
God, "Although you have afflicted all the other countries, although
you have sent war, and desolation, and famine on everybody else, we
have been such good children that you have been kind to us, and we
hope you will keep on." It does not make a bit of difference
whether we have good times or not -- the thanksgiving is always
exactly the same. I remember a few years ago a governor of Iowa got
out a proclamation of that kind. He went on to tell how thankful
the people were and how prosperous the State had been. There was a
young fellow in that State who got out another proclamation, saying
that he feared the Lord might be misled by official correspondence;
that the governor's proclamation was entirely false; that the State
was not prosperous; that the crops had been an almost utter
failure; that nearly every farm in the State was mortgaged, and
that if the Lord did not believe him, all he asked was that he
would send some angel in whom he had confidence, to look the matter
over and report.


This century will be called Darwin's century. He was one of
the greatest men who ever touched this globe. He has explained more
of the phenomena of life than all of the religious teachers. Write
the name of Charles Darwin on the one hand and the name of every
theologian who ever lived on the other, and from that name has come
more light to the world than from all of those. His doctrine of
evolution, his doctrine of the survival of the fittest, his
doctrine of the origin of species, has removed in every thinking
mind the last vestige of orthodox Christianity. He has not only
stated, but he has demonstrated, that the inspired writer knew
nothing of this world. nothing of the origin of man. nothing of
geology, nothing of astronomy, nothing of nature; that the Bible is
a book written by ignorance -- at the instigation of fear. Think of
the men who replied to him. Only a few years ago there was no
person too ignorant to successfully answer Charles Darwin, and the
more ignorant he was the more cheerfully he undertook the task. He
was held up to the ridicule, the scorn and contempt of the
Christian world, and yet when he died, England was proud to put his
dust with that of her noblest and her grandest. Charles Darwin
conquered the intellectual world, and his doctrines are now
accepted facts. His light has broken in on some of the clergy, and
the greatest man who to-day occupies the pulpit of one of the
orthodox churches, Henry Ward Beecher, is a believer in the
theories of Charles Darwin -- a man of more genius than all the
clergy of that entire church put together.

And yet we are told in this little creed that orthodox
religion is about to conquer the world! It will be driven to the
wilds of Africa. It must go to some savage country; it has lost its
hold upon civilization. It is unfortunate to have a religion that
cannot be accepted by the intellect of a nation. It is unfortunate
to have a religion against which every good and noble heart
protests. Let us have a good religion or none. My pity has been
excited by seeing these ministers endeavor to warp and twist the
passages of Scripture to fit the demonstrations of science. Of

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course, I have not time to recount all the discoveries and events
that have assisted in the destruction of superstition. Every fact
is an enemy of the church. Every fact is a heretic. Every
demonstration is an infidel. Everything that ever really happened
testifies against the supernatural.

The church teaches that man was created perfect, and that for
six thousand years he has degenerated. Darwin demonstrated the
falsity of this dogma. He shows that man has for thousands of ages
steadily advanced; that the Garden of Eden is an ignorant myth;
that the doctrine of original sin has no foundation in fact; that
the atonement is an absurdity; that the serpent did not tempt, and
that man did not "fall."

Charles Darwin destroyed the foundation of orthodox
Christianity. There is nothing left but faith in what we know could
not and did not happen. Religion and science are enemies. One is a
superstition; the other is a fact. One rests upon the false, the
other upon the true. One is the result of fear and faith, the other
of investigation and reason.


Often, after having delivered a lecture, I have met some good,
religious person who has said to me:

"You do not tell it as we believe it."

"Well, but I tell it as you have it written in your creed."

"Oh, we don't mind the creed any more."

"Then, why do you not change it?"

"Oh, well, we understand it as it is, and if we tried to
change it, maybe we would not agree."

Possibly the creeds are in the best condition now. There is a
tacit understanding that they do not believe them, that there is a
way to get around them, and that they can read between the lines;
that if they should meet now to form new creeds they would fail to
agree; and that now they can say as they please, except in public.
Whenever they do so in public the church, in self-defence, must try
them; and I believe in trying every minister that does not preach
the doctrine he agrees to. I have not the slightest sympathy with
a Presbyterian preacher who endeavors to preach infidelity from a
Presbyterian pulpit and receives Presbyterian money. When he
changes his views he should step down and out like a man, and say,
"I do not believe your doctrine, and I will not preach it. You must
hire some other man.


But I find that I have correctly interpreted the creeds. There
was put into my hands the new Congregational creed. I have read it,
and I will call your attention to it to-night, to find whether that
church has made any advance; to find whether the sun of science has

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risen in the heavens in vain; whether they are still the children
of intellectual darkness; whether they still consider it necessary
for you to believe something that you by no possibility can
understand, in order to be a winged angel forever. Now, let us see
what their creed is. I will read a little of it.

They commence by saying that they

"Believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and
earth, and of all things visible and invisible."

They say, now, that there is the one personal God; that he is
the maker of the universe and its ruler. I again ask the old
question; Of what did he make it? If matter has not existed through
eternity, then this God made it. Of what did he make it? What did
he use for the purpose? There was nothing in the universe except
this God. What had the God been doing for the eternity he had been
living? He had made nothing -- called nothing into existence; never
had had an idea, because it is impossible to have an idea unless
there is something to excite an idea. What had he been doing? Why
does not the Congregational Church tell us? How do they know about
this Infinite Being? And if he is infinite how can they comprehend
him? What good is it to believe in something that you know you do
not understand, and that you never can understand?

In the Episcopalian creed God is described as follows:

"There is but one living and true God, everlasting, without
body, parts or passions."

Think of that! -- without body, parts, or passions. I defy any
man in the world to write a better description of nothing. You
cannot conceive of a finer word-painting of a vacuum than "without
body, parts, or passions." And yet this God, without passions, is
angry at the wicked every day; this God, without passions, is a
jealous God, whose anger burneth to the lowest hell. This God,
without passions, loves the whole human race; and this God, without
passions, damns a large majority of mankind. This God without body,
walked in the Garden of Eden, in the cool of the day. This God,
without body, talked with Adam and Eve. This God, without body, or
parts met Moses upon Mount Sinai, appeared at the door of the
tabernacle, and talked with Moses face to face as a man speaketh to
his friend. This description of God is simply an effort of the
church to describe a something of which it has no conception.


So, too, I find the following:

"We believe that the Providence of God, by which he executes
his eternal purposes in the government of the world, is in and over
all events."

Is God the governor of the world? Is this established by the
history of nations? What evidence: can you find, if you are
absolutely honest and not frightened, in the history of the world,
that this universe is presided over by an infinitely wise and good

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How do you account for Russia? How do you account for Siberia?
How do you account for the fact that whole races of men toiled
beneath the master's lash for ages without recompense and without
reward? How do you account for the fact that babes were sold from
the arms of mothers -- arms that had been reached toward God in
supplication? How do you account for it? How do you account for the
existence of martyrs? How do you account for the fact that this God
allows people to be burned simply for loving him? Is justice always
done? Is innocence always acquitted? Do the good succeed? Are the
honest fed? Are the charitable clothed? Are the virtuous shielded?
How do you account for the fact that the world has been filled with
pain, and grief, and tears? How do you account for the fact that
people have been swallowed by earthquakes, overwhelmed by
volcanoes, and swept from the earth by storms? Is it easy to
account for famine, for pestilence and plague if there be above us
all a Ruler infinitely good, powerful and wise?

I do not say there is none. I do not know. As I have said
before, this is the only planet I was ever on. I live in one of the
rural districts of the universe and do not know about these things
as much as the clergy pretend to, but if they know no more about
the other world than they do about this, it is not worth

How do they answer all this? They say that God "permits" it.
What would you say to me if I stood by and saw a ruffian beat out
the brains of a child, when I had full and perfect power to prevent
it? You would say truthfully that I was as bad as the murderer. Is
it possible for this God to prevent it? Then, if he does not he is
a fiend; he is no god. But they say he "permits" it. What for? So
that we may have freedom of choice. What for? So that God may find,
I suppose, who are good and who are bad. Did he not know that when
he made us? Did he not know exactly just what he was making? Why
should he make those whom he knew would be criminals? If I should
make a machine that would walk your streets and take the lives of
people you would hang me. And if God made a man whom he knew would
commit murder, then God is guilty of that murder. If God made a man
knowing that he would beat his wife, that he would starve his
children, that he would strew on either side of his path of life
the wrecks of ruined homes, then I say the being who knowingly
called that wretch into existence is directly responsible. And yet
we are to find the providence of God in the history of nations.
What little I have read shows me that when man has been helped, man
has done it; when the chains of slavery have been broken, they have
been broken by man; when something bad has been done in the
government of mankind, it is easy to trace it to man, and to fix
the responsibility upon human beings. You need not look to the sky;
you need throw neither praise nor blame upon gods; you can find the
efficient causes nearer home -- right here.


What is the next thing I find in this creed?

"We believe that man was made in the image of God, that he
might know, love, and obey God, and enjoy him forever."

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I do not believe that anybody ever did love God, because
nobody ever knew anything about him. We love each other. We love
something that we know. We love something that our experience tells
us is good and great and beautiful. We cannot by any possibility
love the unknown. We can love truth, because truth adds to human
happiness. We can love justice, because it preserves human joy. We
can love charity. We can love every form of goodness that we know,
or of which we can conceive, but we cannot love the infinitely
unknown. And how can we be made in the image of something that has
neither body, parts, nor passions?


The Congregational Church has not outgrown the doctrine of
"original sin." We are told that:

"Our first parents, by disobedience, fell under the
condemnation of God, and that all men are so alienated from God
that there is no salvation from guilt and power of sin except
through God's redeeming power."

Is there an intelligent man or woman now in the world who
believes in the Garden of Eden story? If you find any man who
believes it, strike his forehead and you will hear an echo.
Something is for rent. Does any intelligent man now believe that
God made man of dust, and woman of a rib, and put them in a garden,
and put a tree in the midst of it? Was there not room outside of
the garden to put his tree, if he did not want people to eat his

If I did not want a man to eat my fruit, I would not put him
in my orchard.

Does anybody now believe in the story of the serpent? I pity
any man or woman who, in this nineteenth century, believes in that
childish fable. Why did Adam and Eve disobey? Why, they were
tempted. By whom? The devil. Who made the devil? God. What did God
make him for? Why did he not tell Adam and Eve about this serpent?
Why did he not watch the devil, instead of watching Adam and Eve?
Instead of turning them out, why did he not keep him from getting
in? Why did he not have his flood first, and drown the devil,
before he made a man and woman.

And yet, people who call themselves intelligent -- professors
in colleges and presidents of venerable institutions -- teach
children and young men and women that the Garden of Eden story is
an absolute historical fact. I defy any man to think of a more
childish thing. This God, waiting around Eden -- knowing all the
while what would happen -- having made them on purpose so that it
would happen, then does what? Holds all of us responsible, and we
were not there. Here is a representative before the constituency
had been born. Before I am bound by a representative I want a
chance to vote for or against him; and if I had been there, and
known all the circumstances, I should have voted "No!" And yet, I
am held responsible.

"Sin and death entered the world."

Bank of Wisdom
Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201


According to this, just as soon as Adam and Eve had partaken
of the forbidden fruit, God began to contrive ways by which he
could destroy the lives of his children. He invented all the
diseases -- all the fevers and coughs and colds -- all the pains
and plagues and pestilences -- all the aches and agonies, the
malaria and spores; so that when we take a breath of air we admit
into our lungs unseen assassins; and, fearing that some might live
too long, even under such circumstances, God invented the
earthquake and volcano, the cyclone and lightning, animalcules to
infest the heart and brain. so small that no eye can detect -- no
instrument reach. This was all owing to the disobedience of Adam
and Eve!

In His infinite goodness, God invented rheumatism and gout and
dyspepsia, cancers and neuralgia, and is still inventing new
diseases. Not only this, but he decreed the pangs of mothers, and
that by the gates of love and life should crouch the dragons of
death and pain. Fearing that some might, by accident, live too
long, he planted poisonous vines and herbs that looked like food.
He caught the serpents he had made and gave them fangs and curious
organs, ingeniously devised to distill and deposit the deadly drop.
He changed the nature of the beasts, that they might feed on human
flesh. He cursed a world, and tainted every spring and source of
joy. He poisoned every breath of air; corrupted even light, that it
might bear disease on every ray; tainted every drop of blood in
human veins; touched every nerve, that it might bear the double
fruit of pain and joy; decreed all accidents and mistakes that maim
and hurt and kill, and set the snares of life-long grief, baited
with present pleasure, -- with a moment's joy. Then and there he
foreknew and foreordained all human tears. And yet all this is but
the prelude, the introduction, to the infinite revenge of the good
God. Increase and multiply all human griefs until the mind has
reached imagination's farthest verge, then add eternity to time,
and you may faintly tell, but never can conceive, the infinite
horrors of this doctrine called "The Fall of Man."


We are further told that:

"All believe that the love of God to sinful man has found its
highest expression in the redemptive work of his Son, who became
man, uniting his divine nature with our human nature in one person;
who was tempted like other men and yet without sin, and by his
humiliation, his holy obedience, his sufferings, his death on the
cross, and his resurrection, became a perfect redeemer; whose
sacrifice of himself for the sins of the world declares the
righteousness of God, and is the sole and sufficient ground of
forgiveness and of reconciliation with him."

The absurdity of the doctrine known as "The Fall of Man," gave
birth to that other absurdity known as "The Atonement." So that now
it is insisted that, as we are rightfully charged with the sin of
somebody else, we can rightfully be credited with the virtues of
another. Let us leave out of our philosophy both these absurdities.
Our creed will read a great deal better with both of them out, and
will make far better sense.

Bank of Wisdom
Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201


Now, in consequence of Adam's sin, everybody is alienated from
God. How? Why? Oh, we are all depraved, you know; we all do wrong.
Well, why? Is that because we are depraved? No. Why do we make so
many mistakes? Because there is only one right way, and there is an
almost infinite number of wrong ways; and as long as we are not
perfect in our intellects we must make mistakes. "There is no
darkness but ignorance," and alienation, as they call it, from God,
is simply a lack of intellect. Why were we not given better brains?
That may account for the alienation.

The church teaches that every soul that finds its way to the
shore of this world is against God -- naturally hates God; that the
little dimpled child in the cradle is simply a chunk of depravity.
Everybody against God! It is a libel upon the human race; it is a
libel upon all the men who have worked for wife and child; upon all
mothers who have suffered and labored, wept and worked; upon all
the men who have died for their country; upon all who have fought
for human liberty. Leave out the history of religion and there is
little left to prove the depravity of man.

Everybody that comes is against God! Every soul, they think,
is like the wrecked Irishman, who drifted to an unknown island, and
as he climbed the shore saw a man and said to him, "Have you a
Government here?" The man replied "We have." "Well," said he, "I'm
against it!"

The church teaches us that such is the attitude of every soul
in the universe of God. Ought a god to take any credit to himself
for making depraved people? A god that cannot make a soul that is
not totally depraved, I respectfully suggest, should retire from
the business. And if a god has made us, knowing that we are totally
depraved, why should we go to the same being to be "born again?"


The church insists that we must be "born again," and that all
who are not the subjects of this second birth are heirs of
everlasting fire. Would it not have been much better to have made
another Adam and Eve? Would it not have been better to change Noah
and his people, so that after that a second birth would not have
been necessary? Why not purify the fountain of all human life? Why
allow the earth to he peopled with depraved and monstrous beings,
each one of whom must be re-made, re-formed, and born again?

And yet, even reformation is not enough. If the man who steals
becomes perfectly honest, that is not enough; if the man who hates
his fellow-man, changes and loves his fellow-man, that is not
enough; he must go through that mysterious thing called the second
birth; he must be born again. He must have faith; he must believe
something that he does not understand, and experience what they
call "conversion." According to the church, nothing so excites the
wrath of God -- nothing so corrugates the brows of Jehovah with
hatred -- as a man relying on his own good works. He must admit
that he ought to be damned, and that of the two he prefers it,
before God will consent to save him.

Bank of Wisdom
Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201


I met a man the other day, who said to me, "I am a Unitarian
Universalist." "What do you mean by that?" I asked. "Well," said
he, "this is what I mean: the Unitarian thinks he is too good to be
damned, and the Universalist thinks God is too good to damn him,
and I believe them both."

Is it possible that the sacrifice of a perfect being was
acceptable to God? Will he accept the agony of innocence for the
punishment of guilt? will he release Barabbas and crucify Christ?


What is the next thing in this great creed?

"We believe that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments
are the record of God's revelation of Himself in the work of
redemption; that they were written by man under the special
guidance of the holy spirit; that they are able to make wise into
salvation; and that they constitute an authoritative standard by
which religious teaching and human conduct are to be regulated and

This is the creed of the Congregational Church; that is, the
result reached by a high-joint commission appointed to draw up a
creed for their churches; and there we have the statement that the
Bible was written "by men under the special guidance of the Holy

What part of the Bible? All of it? All of it. And yet what is
this Old Testament that was written by an infinitely good God? The
being who wrote it did not know the shape of the world he had made;
knew nothing of human nature. He commands men to love him, as if
one could love upon command. The same God upheld the institution of
human slavery; and the church says that the Bible that upholds that
institution was written by men under the guidance of the Holy
Spirit. Then I disagree with the Holy Spirit.

This church tells us that men under the guidance of the Holy
Spirit upheld the institution of polygamy -- I deny it; that under
the guidance of the Holy Spirit these men upheld wars of
extermination and conquest -- I deny it; that under the guidance of
the Holy Spirit these men wrote that it was right for a man to
destroy the life of his wife if she happened to differ with him on
the subject of religion -- I deny it. And yet that is the book now
upheld in this creed of the Congregational Church.

If the devil had written upon the subject of slavery, which
side would he have taken? Let every minister answer. If you knew
the devil had written a work on human slavery, in your judgment,
would he uphold slavery, or denounce it? Would you regard it as any
evidence that he ever wrote it, if it upheld slavery? And yet, here
you have a work upholding slavery, and you say that it was written
by an infinitely good God! If the devil upheld polygamy, would you
be surprised? If the devil wanted to kill men for differing with
him would you be astonished? If the devil told a man to kill his
wife, would you be shocked? And yet, you say, that is exactly what
God did. If there be a God, then that creed is blasphemy. That

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Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201


creed is a libel upon him who sits on heaven's throne. If there be
a God, I ask him to write in the book in which my account is kept,
that I denied these lies for him.

I do not believe in a slaveholding God! I do not worship a
polygamous Holy Ghost, nor a Son who threatens eternal pain; I will
not get upon my knees before any being who commands a husband to
slay his wife because she expresses her honest thought. Suppose a
book should be found old as the Old Testament in which slavery,
polygamy and war are all denounced, would Christians think that it
was written by the devil?

Did it ever occur to you that if God wrote the Old Testament,
and told the Jews to crucify or kill anybody that disagreed with
them on religion, and that this God afterward took upon himself
flesh and came to Jerusalem, and taught a different religion, and
the Jews killed him -- did it ever occur to you that he reaped
exactly what he had sown? Did it ever occur to you that he fell a
victim to his own tyranny, and was destroyed by his own hand? Of
course I do not believe that any God ever was the author of the
Bible, or that any God was ever crucified, or that any God was ever
killed, or ever will be. but I want to ask you that question.

Take this Old Testament, then, with all its stories of murder
and massacre; with all its foolish and cruel fables; with all its
infamous doctrines; with its spirit of caste; with its spirit of
hatred, and tell me whether it was written by a good God. If you
will read the maledictions and curses of that book, you will think
that God, like Lear, had divided heaven among his daughters, and
then, in the insanity of despair, had launched his curses on the
human race.

And yet, I must say -- I must admit -- that the Old Testament
is better than the New. In the Old Testament, when God had a man
dead, he let him alone. When he saw him quietly in his grave he was
satisfied. The muscles relaxed, and the frown gave place to a
smile. But in the New Testament the trouble commences at death. In
the New Testament God is to wreak his revenge forever and ever. It
was reserved for one who said, "Love your enemies," to tear asunder
the veil between time and eternity and fix the horrified gaze of
man upon the gulfs of eternal fire. The New Testament is just as
much worse than the Old, as hell is worse than sleep; just as much
worse, as infinite cruelty is worse than dreamless dust; and yet,
the New Testament is claimed to be a gospel of love and peace.

Is it possible that: "The Scriptures constitute the
authoritative standard by which religious teaching and human
conduct are to be regulated and judged"?

Are we to judge of conduct by the Old Testament, by the New,
or by both? According to the Old, the slave-holder was a just and
generous man; a polygamist was a model of virtue. According to the
New, the worst can be forgiven and the best can be lost. How can
any book be a standard, when the standard itself must be measured
by human reason? Is there a standard of a standard? Must not the
reason be convinced? and, if so, is not the reason of each man the
final arbiter of that man? If he takes a book as a standard, does

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Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201


he so take it because it is to him reasonable? In what way is the
human reason to be ignored? Why should a book take its place,
unless the reason has been convinced that the book is the proper
standard? If this is so, the book rests upon the reason of those
who adopt it. Are they to be saved because they act in accordance
with their reason, and are others to be damned because they act by
the same standard -- their reason? No two are alike. Can we demand
of all the same result? Suppose the compasses were not constant to
the pole -- no two compasses exactly alike -- would you expect all
ships to reach the same harbor?


I also find in this creed the following:

"We believe that Jesus Christ come to establish among men the
Kingdom of God, the reign of truth and love, of righteousness and

Well, that may have been the object of Jesus Christ. I do not
deny it. But what was the result? The Christian world has caused
more war than all the rest of the world beside. Most of the cunning
instruments of death have been devised by Christians. All the
wonderful machinery by which the life is blown from men, by which
nations are conquered and enslaved -- all these machines have been
born in Christian brains. And yet he came to bring peace, they say;
but the Testament says otherwise: "I came not to bring peace, but
a sword." And the sword was brought. What are the Christian nations
doing to-day in Europe? Is there a solitary Christian nation that
will trust any other? How many millions of Christians are in the
uniform of forgiveness, armed with the muskets of love?

There was an old Spaniard on the bed of death, who sent for a
priest, and the priest told him that he would have to forgive his
enemies before he died. He said, "I have none." "What! no enemies?"
"Not one," said the dying man; "I killed the last one three months

How many millions of Christians are now armed and equipped to
destroy their fellow-Christians? Who are the men in Europe crying
against war? Who wishes to have the nations disarmed? Is it the
church? No; the men who do not believe in what they call this
religion of peace. When there is a war, and when they make a few
thousand widows and orphans; when they strew the plain with dead
patriots, Christians assemble in their churches and sing "Te Deum
Laudamus." Why? Because he has enabled a few of his children to
kill some others of his children. This is the religion of peace --
the religion that invented the Krupp gun, that will hurl a ball
weighing two thousand pounds through twenty-four inches of solid
steel. This is the religion of peace that covers the sea with men-
of-war, clad in mail, in the name of universal forgiveness. This is
the religion that drills and uniforms five millions of men to kill
their fellows.

What effect has this religion had upon the nations of the
earth? What have the nations been fighting about? What was the
Thirty Years' War in Europe for? What was the war in Holland for?

Bank of Wisdom
Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201


Why was it that England persecuted Scotland? Why is it that England
persecutes Ireland even to this day? At the bottom of every one of
these conflicts you will find a religious question. The religion of
Jesus Christ, as preached by his church, causes war, bloodshed,
hatred, and all uncharitableness; and why? Because, they say, a
certain beliefs necessary to salvation. They do not say, if you
behave yourself you will get there; they do not say, if you pay
your debts and love your wife and love your children, and are good
to your friends, and your neighbors, and your country, you will get
there; that will do you no good; you have got to believe a certain
thing. No matter how bad you are, you can instantly be forgiven;
and no matter how good you are, if you fail to believe that which
you cannot understand. the moment you get to the day of judgment
nothing is left but to damn you, and all the angels will shout

What do they teach to-day? Nearly every murderer goes to
heaven; there is only one step from the gallows to God, only one
jerk between the halter and heaven. That is taught by this church.

I believe there ought to be a law to prevent the giving of the
slightest religious consolation to any man who has been found
guilty of murder. Let a Catholic understand that if he imbrues his
hands in his brother's blood, he can have no extreme unction. Let
it be understood that he can have no forgiveness through the
church; and let the Protestant understand that when he has
committed that crime the community will not pray him into heaven.
Let him go with his victim. The victim, dying in his sins, goes to
hell, and the murderer has the happiness of seeing him there. If
heaven grows dull and monotonous, the murderer can again give life
to the nerve of pleasure by watching the agony of his victim.

The truth is, Christianity has not made friends; it has made
enemies. It is not, as taught, the religion of peace, it is the
religion of war. Why should a Christian hesitate to kill a man that
his God is waiting to damn? Why should a Christian not destroy an
infidel who is trying to assassinate his soul? Why should a
Christian pity an unbeliever -- one who has rejected the Bible --
when he knows that God will be pitiless forever? And yet we are
told, in this creed, that "we believe in the ultimate prevalence of
the Kingdom of Christ over all the earth."

What makes you? Do you judge from the manner in which you are
getting along now? How many people are being born a year? About
fifty millions. How many are you converting a year, really,
truthfully? Five or six thousand. I think I have overstated the
number. Is orthodox Christianity on the increase? No. There are a
hundred times as many unbelievers in orthodox Christianity as there
were ten years ago. What are you doing in the missionary world? How
long is it since you converted a Chinaman? A fine missionary
religion, to send missionaries with their Bibles and tracts to
China, but if a Chinaman comes here, mob him, simply to show him
the difference between the practical and theoretical workings of
the Christian religion. How long since you have had an intelligent
convert in India? In my judgment, never; there never has been an
intelligent Hindoo converted from the time the first missionary put
his foot on that soil; and never, in my judgment, has an

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Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201


intelligent Chinaman been converted since the first missionary
touched that shore. Where are they? We hear nothing of them, except
in the reports. They get money from poor old ladies, trembling on
the edge of the grave, and go and tell them stories, how hungry the
average Chinaman is for a copy of the New Testament and paint the
sad condition of a gentleman in the interior of africa without the
works of Dr. McCosh, longing for a copy of The Princeton Review, --
in my judgment, a pamphlet that would suit a savage. Thus money is
scared from the dying, and frightened from the old and feeble.

About how long is it before this kingdom is to be established?
No one objects to the establishment of peace and good will. Every
good man longs for the time when war shall cease. We are all hoping
for a day of universal justice -- a day of universal freedom --
when man shall control himself, when the passions shall become
obedient to the intelligent will. But the coming of that day will
not be hastened by preaching the doctrines of total depravity and
eternal revenge. That sun will not rise the quicker for preaching
salvation by faith. The star that shines above that dawn, the
herald of that day, is Science, not superstition. -- Reason, not

To show you how little advance has been made, how many
intellectual bats and mental owls still haunt the temple, still
roost above the altar, I call your attention to the fact that the
Congregational Church, according to this creed, still believes in
the resurrection of the dead, and in their Confession of Faith,
attached to the creed, I find that they also believe in the literal
resurrection of the body.


Does anybody believe that, who has the courage to think for
himself? Here is a man, for instance, that weighs 200 pounds and
gets sick and dies weighing 120; how much will he weigh in the
morning of the resurrection? Here is a cannibal, who eats another
man; and we know that the atoms you eat go into your body and
become a part of you. After the cannibal has eaten the missionary,
and appropriated his atoms to himself, he then dies, to whom will
the atoms belong in the morning of the resurrection? Could the
missionary maintain an action of replevin, and if so, what would
the cannibal do for a body? It has been demonstrated, in so far as
logic can demonstrate anything, that there is no creation and no
destruction in Nature. It has been demonstrated, again and again,
that the atoms in us have been in millions of other beings; have
grown in the forests and in the grass, have blossomed in flowers,
and been in the metals. In other words, there are atoms in each one
of us that have been in millions of others; and when we die, these
atoms return to the earth, again appear in grass and trees, are
again eaten by animals, and again devoured by countless vegetable
mouths and turned into wood; and yet this church, in the nineteenth
century, in a council composed of and presided over by professors
and presidents of colleges and theologians, solemnly tells us that
it believes in the literal resurrection of the body. This is almost
enough to make one despair of the future -- almost enough to
convince a man of the immortality of the absurd. They know better.
There is not one so ignorant but knows better.

Bank of Wisdom
Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201



And what is the next thing?

"We believe in a final judgement, the issues of which are
everlasting punishment and everlasting life."

At the final judgment all of us will be there. The thousands,
and millions, and billions, and trillions, and quadrillions that
have died will he there. The books will be opened, and each case
will be called. The sheep and the goats will be divided. The
unbelievers will be sent to the left, while the faithful will
proudly walk to the right. The saved, without a tear, will bid an
eternal farewell to those who loved them here -- to those they
loved. Nearly all the human race will go away to everlasting
punishment, and the fortunate few to eternal life. This is the
consolation of the Congregational Church! This is the hope that
dispels the gloom of life!


When the clergy are caught, they give a different meaning to
the words and say the world was not made in seven days. They say
"good whiles" -- "epochs."

And in this same Confession of Faith and in this creed they
say that the Lord's day is holy -- every seventh day. Suppose you
lived near the North Pole where the day is three months long. Then
which day would you keep? If you could get to the South Pole you
could prevent Sunday from ever overtaking you. You could walk
around the other way faster than the world could revolve. How would
you keep Sunday then? Suppose we invent something that can go one
thousand miles an hour? We can chase Sunday clear around the globe.
Is there anything that can be more perfectly absurd than that a
space of time can be holy? You might as well talk about a virtuous
vacuum. We are now told that the Bible is not a scientific book,
and that after all we cannot depend on what God said four thousand
years ago -- that his ways are not as our ways -- that we must
accept without evidence, and believe without understanding.

I heard the other night of an old man. He was not very well
educated, and he got into the notion that he must have reading of
the Bible and family worship. There was a bad boy in the family,
and they were reading the Bible by course. In the fifteenth chapter
of Corinthians is this passage: "Behold, brethren, I show you a
mystery; we shall not all die, but we shall all be changed." This
boy had rubbed out the "c" in "changed." So when the old man put on
his spectacles, and got down his Bible, he read: "Behold, brethren,
I show you a mystery, we shall not all die, but we shall all be
hanged." The old lady said, "Father, I don't think it reads that
way." He said, "Who is reading this?" "Yes mother, it says
'hanged,' and, more than that, I see the sense of it. Pride is the
besetting sin of the human heart, and if there is anything
calculated to take the pride out of a man it is hanging." It is in
this way that ministers avoid and explain the discoveries of

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Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201


People ask me, if I take away the Bible what are we going to
do? How can we get along without the revelation that no one
understands? What are we going to do if we have no Bible to quarrel
about? What are we to do without hell? What are we going to do with
our enemies? What are we going to do with the people we love but
don't like?


They tell me that there never would have been any civilization
if it had not been for this Bible. The Jews had a Bible; the Romans
had not. Which had the greater and the grander government? Let us
be honest. Which of those nations produced the greatest poets, the
greatest soldiers, the greatest orators, the greatest statesmen,
the greatest sculptors? Rome had no Bible. God cared nothing for
the Roman Empire. He let the men come up by chance. His time was
taken up with the Jewish people. And yet Rome conquered the world,
including the chosen people of God. The people who had the Bible
were defeated by the people who had not. How was it possible for
Lucretius to get along without the Bible? -- how did the great and
glorious of that empire? And what shall we say of Greece? No Bible.
Compare Athens with Jerusalem. From Athens come the beauty and
intellectual grace of the world. Compare the mythology of Greece
with the mythology of Judea; one covering the earth with beauty,
and the other filling heaven with hatred and injustice. The Hindoos
had no Bible; they had been forsaken by the Creator, and yet they
became the greatest metaphysicians of the world. Egypt had no
Bible. Compare Egypt with Judea. What are we to do without the
Bible? What became of the Jews who had a Bible? Their temple was
destroyed and their city was taken; and they never found real
prosperity until their God deserted them. The Turks attributed all
their victories to the Koran. The Koran gave them their victories
over the believers in the Bible. The priests of each nation have
accounted for the prosperity of that nation by its religion.

The Christians mistake an incident for a cause, and honestly
imagine that the Bible is the foundation of modern liberty and law.
They forget physical conditions, make no account of commerce, care
nothing for inventions and discoveries, and ignorantly give the
credit to their inspired book.

The foundations of our civilization were laid centuries before
Christianity was known. The intelligence of courage, of self-
government, of energy, of industry, that uniting made the
civilization of this century, did not come alone from Judea, but
from every nation of the ancient world.


There are many things in the New Testament that I cannot
accept as true.

I cannot believe in the miraculous origin of Jesus Christ. I
believe he was the son of Joseph and Mary; that Joseph and Mary had
been duly and legally married; that he was the legitimate offspring
of that union. Nobody ever believed the contrary until he had been
dead at least one hundred and fifty years. Neither Matthew, Mark,
nor Luke ever dreamed that he was of divine origin. He did not say

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Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201


to either Matthew, Mark, or Luke, or to any one in their hearing,
that he was the Son of God, or that he was miraculously conceived.
He did not say it. It may be asserted that he said it to John, but
John did not write the gospel that bears his name. The angel
Gabriel, who, they say, brought the news, never wrote a word upon
the subject. The mother of Christ never wrote a word upon the
subject. His alleged father never wrote a word upon the subject,
and Joseph never admitted the story. We are lacking in the matter
of witnesses. I would not believe such a story now. I cannot
believe that it happened then. I would not believe people I know,
much less would I believe people I do not know.

At that time Matthew and Luke believed that Christ was the son
of Joseph and Mary. And why? They say he descended from David, and
in order to show that he was of the blood of David, they gave the
genealogy of Joseph. And if Joseph was not his father, why did they
not give the genealogy of Pontius Pilate or of Herod? Could they,
by giving the genealogy of Joseph, show that he was of the blood of
David if Joseph was in no way related to Christ? And yet that is
the position into which the Christian world is driven. In the New
Testament we find that in giving the genealogy of Christ it says,
"who was the son of Joseph?" and the church has interpolated the
words "as was supposed." Why did they give a supposed genealogy? It
will not do. And that is a thing that cannot in any way, by any
human testimony, he established.

If it is important for us to know that he was the Son of God,
I say, then, that it devolves upon God to give us the evidence. Let
him write it across the face of the heavens, in every language of
mankind. If it is necessary for us to believe it, let it grow on
every leaf next year. No man should be damned for not believing,
unless the evidence is overwhelming. And he ought not to be made to
depend upon say so, or upon "as was supposed." He should have it
directly, for himself. A man says that God told him a certain
thing, and he tells me, and I have only his word. He may have been
deceived. If God has a message for me he ought to tell it to me,
and not to somebody that has been dead four or five thousand years,
and in another language.

Besides, God may have changed his mind on many things; he has
on slavery, and polygamy at least, according to the church; and yet
his church now wants to go and destroy polygamy in Utah with the
sword. Why do they not send missionaries there with copies of the
Old Testament? By reading the lives of Abraham and Isaac, and Lot,
and a few other patriarchs who ought to have been in the
penitentiary, maybe they can soften their hearts.


There is another miracle I do not believe, -- the
resurrection. I want to speak about it as we would about any
ordinary transaction. In the first place, I do not believe that any
miracle was ever performed, and if there was, you cannot prove it.
Why? Because it is altogether more reasonable to believe that the
people were mistaken about it than that it happened. And why?
Because, according to human experience, we know that people will
not always tell the truth, and we never saw a miracle ourselves,

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and we must be governed by our experience; and if we go by our
experience, we must say that the miracle never happened -- that the
witnesses were mistaken.

A man comes into Jerusalem, and the first thing he does is to
cure the blind. He lets the light of day visit the night of
blindness. The eyes are opened, and the world is again pictured
upon the brain. Another man is clothed with leprosy. He touches him
and the disease falls from him, and he stands pure, and clean, and
whole. Another man is deformed, wrinkled, and bent. He touches him,
and throws around him again the garment of youth! A man is in his
grave, and he says, "Come forth!" And the man walks in life,
feeling his heart throb and his blood going joyously through his
veins. They say that actually happened. I do not know.

There is one wonderful thing about the dead people that were
raised -- we do not hear of them any more. What became of them? If
there was a man in this city who had been raised from the dead, I
would go to see him to-night. I would say, "Where were you when you
got the notice to come back? What kind of a country is it? What
kind of opening there for a young man? How did you like it? Did you
meet there the friends you had lost? Is there a world without
death, without pain, without a tear? Is there a land without a
grave, and where good-bye is never heard? Nobody ever paid the
slightest attention to the dead who had been raised. They did not
even excite interest when they died the second time. Nobody said,
"Why, that man is not afraid. He has been there once. He has walked
through the valley of the shadow." Not a word. They pass quietly

I do not believe these miracles. There is something wrong
somewhere about that business. I may suffer eternal punishment for
all this, but I cannot, I do not, believe.

There was a man who did all these things, and thereupon they
crucified him. Let us be honest. Suppose a man came into this city
and should meet a funeral procession, and say. "Who is dead?" and
they should reply, "The son of a widow; her only support." Suppose
he should say to the procession, "Halt!" and to the undertaker,
"Take out that coffin, unscrew that lid. Young man, I say unto
thee, arise! " and the dead should step from the coffin and in a
moment afterward hold his mother in his arms. Suppose this stranger
should go to your cemetery and find some woman holding a little
child in each hand. while the tears fell upon a new-made grave. and
he should say to her, "Who lies buried here?" and she should reply,
"My husband;" and he should cry, "I say unto thee, oh grave, give
up thy dead!" and the husband should rise, and in a moment after
have his lips upon his wife's, and the little children with their
arms around his neck; do you think that the people of this city
would kill him? Do you think any one would wish to crucify him? Do
you not rather believe that every one who had a loved one out in
that cemetery would go to him, even upon their knees, and beg him
to give back their dead. Do you believe that any man was ever
crucified who was the master of death?

Let me tell you to-night if there shall ever appear upon this
earth the master, the monarch, of death, all human knees will touch
the earth. He will not be crucified. All the living who fear death;

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all the living who have lost a loved one, will bow to him. And yet
we are told that this worker of miracles, this man who could clothe
the dead dust in the throbbing flesh of life, was crucified. I do
not believe that he worked the miracles, I do not believe that he
raised the dead, I do not believe that he claimed to be the Son of
God. These things were told long after he was dead; told because
the ignorant multitude demanded mystery and wonder; told, because
at that time the miraculous was believed of all the illustrious
dead. Stories that made Christianity powerful then, weaken it now.
He who gains a triumph in a conflict with a devil, will be defeated
by science.

There is another thing about these foolish miracles. All could
have been imitated. Men could pretend to be blind; confederates
could feign sickness, and even death.

It is not very difficult to limp or to hold an arm as though
it were paralyzed; or to say that one is afflicted with "an issue
of blood." It is easy to say that the son of a widow was raised
from the dead, and if you fail to give the name of the son, or his
mother, or the time and place where the wonder occurred, it is
quite difficult to show that it did not happen.

No one can be called upon to disprove anything that has not
apparently been established. I say apparently, because there can he
no real evidence in support of a miracle.

How could we prove, for instance, the miracle of the loaves
and fishes? There were plenty of other loaves and other fishes in
the world? Each one of the five thousand could have had a loaf and
a fish with him. We would have to show that there was no other
possible way for the people to get the bread and fish except by
miracle, and then we are only half through. We must then show that
they did, in fact, get enough to feed five thousand people, and
that more was left than was had in the beginning.

Of course this is simply impossible. And let me ask, why was
not the miracle substantiated by some of the multitude?

Would it not have been a greater wonder if Christ had created
instead of multiplied the loaves and fishes?

How can we now prove that a certain person more than eighteen
hundred years ago was possessed by seven devils?

How was it ever possible to prove a thing like that?

How can it be established that some evil spirits could talk
while others were dumb, and that the dumb ones were the hardest to

If Christ wished to convince his fellow-men by miracles, why
did he not do something that could not by any means have been a

Instead of healing a withered arm, why did he not find some
man whose arm had been cut off, and make another grow?

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If he wanted to raise the dead, why did he not raise some man
of importance, some one known to all?

Why did he do his miracles in the obscurity of the village, in
the darkness of the hovel? Why call back to life people so
insignificant that the public did not know of their death?

Suppose that in May, 1865, a man had pretended to raise some
person by the name of Smith from the dead, and suppose a religion
had been founded on that miracle, would it not be natural for
people, hundreds of years after the pretended miracle, to ask why
the founder of that religion did not raise from the dead Abraham
Lincoln, instead of the unknown and obscure Mr. Smith?

How could any man now, in any court, by any known rule of
evidence, substantiate one of the miracles of Christ?

Must we believe anything that cannot in any way be

If miracles were necessary to convince men eighteen centuries
ago, are they not necessary now?

After all, how many men did Christ convince with his miracles?
How many walked beneath the standard of the master of Nature?

How did it happen that so many miracles convinced so few? I
will tell you. The miracles were never performed. No other
explanation is possible.

It is infinitely absurd to say that a man who cured the sick,
the halt and blind, raised the dead, cast out devils, controlled
the winds and waves, created food and held obedient to his will the
forces of the world, was put to death by men who knew his
superhuman power and who had seen his wondrous works. If the
crucifixion was public, the miracles were private. If the miracles
had been public, the crucifixion could not have been. Do away with
the miracles, and the superhuman character of Christ is destroyed.
He becomes what he really was -- a man. Do away with the wonders,
and the teachings of Christ cease to be authoritative. They are
then worth the reason, the truth that is in them, and nothing more.
Do away with the miracles, and then we can measure the utterances
of Christ with the standard of our reason. We are no longer
intellectual serfs, believing what is unreasonable in obedience to
the command of a supposed god. We no longer take counsel of our
fears, of our cowardice, but boldly defend what our reason

Christ takes his appropriate place with the other teachers of
mankind. His life becomes reasonable and admirable. We have a man
who hated oppression; who despised and denounced superstition and
hypocrisy; who attacked the heartless church of his time; who
excited the hatred of bigots and priests, and who rather than be
false to his conception of truth, met and bravely suffered even

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The miracle of the resurrection I do not and cannot believe.
If it was the fact, if the dead Christ rose from the grave, why did
he not appear to his enemies? Why did he not visit Pontius Pilate?
Why did he not call upon Caiaphas, the high priest? upon Herod? Why
did he not again enter the temple and end the old dispute with
demonstration? Why did he not confront the Roman soldiers who had
taken money to falsely swear that his body had been stolen by his
friends? Why did he not make another triumphal entry into
Jerusalem? Why did he not say to the multitude: "Here are the
wounds in my feet, and in my hands, and in my side. I am the one
you endeavored to kill, but Death is my slave"? Simply because the
resurrection is a myth. It makes no difference with his teachings.
They are just as good whether he wrought miracles or not. Twice two
are four: that needs no miracle. Twice two are five -- a miracle
can not help that. Christ's teachings are worth their effect upon
the human race. It makes no difference about miracle or wonder. In
that day every one believed in the impossible. Nobody had any
standing as teacher, philosopher, governor, king, general, about
whom there was not supposed to be something miraculous. The earth
was covered with the sons and daughters of gods and goddesses.

In Greece, in Rome, in Egypt, in India, every great man was
supposed to have had either a god for his father, or a goddess for
his mother. They accounted for genius by divine origin. Earth and
heaven were at that time near together. It was but a step for the
gods from the blue arch to the green earth. Every lake and valley
and mountain top was made rich with legends of the loves of gods.
How could the early Christians have made converts to a man, among
a people who believed so thoroughly in gods -- in gods that had
lived upon the earth; among a people who had erected temples to the
sons and daughters of gods? Such people could not have been induced
to worship a man -- a man born among barbarous people, citizen of
a nation weak and poor and paying tribute to the Roman power. The
early Christians therefore preached the gospel of a god.


I cannot believe in the miracle of the ascension, in the
bodily ascension of Jesus Christ. Where was he going? In the light
shed upon this question by the telescope, I again ask, where was he
going? The New Jerusalem is not above us. The abode of the gods is
not there. Where was he going? Which way did he go? Of course that
depends upon the time of day he left. If he left in the evening, he
went exactly the opposite way from that he would have gone had he
ascended in the morning. What did he do with his body? How high did
he go? In what way did he overcome the intense cold? The nearest
station is the moon, two hundred and forty thousand miles away.
Again I ask, where did he go? He must have had a natural body, for
it was the same body that died. His body must have been material,
otherwise he would not as he rose have circled with the earth, and
he would have passed from the sight of his disciples at the rate of
more than a thousand miles per hour.

It may be said that his body was "spiritual." Then what became
of the body that died? Just before his ascension we are told that
he partook of broiled fish with his disciples. Was the fish

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Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201


Who saw this miracle?

They say the disciples saw it. Let us see what they say.
Matthew did not think it was worth mentioning. He does not speak of
it. On the contrary, he says that the last words of Christ were:
"Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world." Is it
possible that Matthew saw this, the most miraculous of miracles,
and yet forgot to put it in his life of Christ? Think of the little
miracles recorded by this saint, and then determine whether it is
probable that he witnessed the ascension of Jesus Christ.

Mark says: "So, then, after the Lord had spoken unto them he
was received up into heaven and sat on the right hand of God." This
is all he says about the most wonderful vision that ever astonished
human eyes, a miracle great enough to have stuffed credulity to
bursting; and yet all we have is this one, poor, meager verse. We
know now that most of the last chapter of Mark is an interpolation,
and as a matter of fact, the author of Mark's gospel said nothing
about the ascension one way or the other.

Luke says: "And it came to pass while he blessed them he was
parted from them and was carried up into Heaven."

John does not mention it. He gives as Christ's last words this
address to Peter: "Follow thou Me." Of course, he did not say that
as he ascended. It seems to have made very little impression upon
him; he writes the account as though tired of the story. He
concludes with an impatient wave of the hand.

In the Acts we have another account. A conversation is given
not spoken of in any of the others, and we find there two men clad
in white apparel, who said: "Ye men of Galilee why stand ye here
gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus that was taken up into
heaven shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go up into

Matthew did not see the men in white apparel, did not see the
ascension. Mark forgot the entire transaction, and Luke did not
think the men in white apparel worth mentioning. John had not
confidence enough in the story to repeat it. And yet, upon such
evidence, we are bound to believe in the bodily ascension, or
suffer eternal pain.

And here let me ask, why was not the ascension in public.


Most of the miracles said to have been wrought by Christ were
recorded to show his power over evil spirits. On many occasions, he
is said to have "cast out devils" -- devils who could speak, and
devils who were dumb.

For many years belief in the existence of evil spirits has
been fading from the mind, and as this belief grew thin, ministers
endeavored to give new meanings to the ancient words. They are
inclined now to put "disease" in the place of "devils," and most of
them say, that the poor wretches supposed to have been the homes of

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Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201


fiends were simply suffering from epileptic fits! We must remember
that Christ and these devils often conversed together. Is it
possible that fits can talk? These devils often admitted that
Christ was God. Can epilepsy certify to divinity? On one occasion
the fits told their name, and made a contract to leave the body of
a man provided they would be permitted to take possession of a herd
of swine. Is it possible that fits carried Christ himself to the
pinnacle of a temple? Did fits pretend to be the owner of the whole
earth? Is Christ to be praised for resisting such a temptation? Is
it conceivable that fits wanted Christ to fall down and worship

The church must not abandon its belief in devils. Orthodoxy
cannot afford to put out the fires of hell. Throw away a belief in
the devil, and most of the miracles of the New Testament become
impossible, even if we admit the supernatural. If there is no
devil, who was the original tempter in the garden of Eden? If there
is no hell, from what are we saved? to what purpose is the
atonement? Upon the obverse of the Christian shield is God, upon
the reverse, the devil. No devil, no hell. No hell, no atonement.
No atonement, no preaching, no gospel.


Does belief depend upon evidence? I think it does somewhat in
some cases. How is it when a jury is sworn to try a case, hearing
all the evidence, hearing both sides, hearing the charge of the
judge, hearing the law, are upon their oaths equally divided. six
for the plaintiff and six for the defendant? Evidence does not have
the same effect upon all people. Why? Our brains are not alike.
They are not the same shape. We have not the same intelligence, or
the same experience, the same sense. And yet I am held accountable
for my belief. I must believe in the Trinity -- three times one is
one, once one is three, and my soul is to be eternally damned for
failing to guess an arithmetical conundrum. That is the poison part
of Christianity -- that salvation depends upon belief. That is the
accursed part, and until that dogma is discarded Christianity will
be nothing but superstition.

No man can control his belie. If I hear certain evidence I
will believe a certain thing. If I fail to hear it I may never
believe it. If it is adapted to my mind I may accept it; if it is
not, I reject it. And what am I to go by? My brain. That is the
only light I have from Nature, and if there be a God it is the only
torch that this God has given me to find my way through the
darkness and night called life. I do not depend upon hearsay for
that. I do not have to take the word of any other man nor get upon
my knees before a book. Here in the temple of the mind I consult
the God, that is to say my reason, and the oracle speaks to me and
I obey the oracle. What should I obey? Another man's oracle? Shall
I take another man's word -- not what he thinks, but what he says
some God has said to him?

I would not know a god if I should see one. I have said
before, and I say again, the brain thinks in spite of me, and I am
not responsible for my thoughts. I cannot control the beating of my
heart. I cannot stop the blood that flows through the rivers of my

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Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201


veins. And yet I am held responsible for my belief. Then why does
not God give me the evidence? They say he has. In what? In an
inspired book. But I do not understand it as they do. Must I be
false to my understanding? They say: "When you come to die you will
be sorry if you do not." Will I be sorry when I come to die that I
did not live a hypocrite? Will I be sorry that I did not say I was
a Christian when I was not? Will the fact that I was honest put a
thorn in the pillow of death? Cannot God forgive me for being
honest? They say that when he was in Jerusalem he forgave his
murderers, but now he will not forgive an honest man for differing
from him on the subject of the Trinity.

They say that God says to me, "Forgive your enemies." I say,
"I do;" but he says. "I will damn mine." God should be consistent.
If he wants me to forgive my enemies he should forgive his. I am
asked to forgive enemies who can hurt me. God is only asked to
forgive enemies who cannot hurt him. He certainly ought to be as
generous as he asks us to be. And I want no God to forgive me
unless I am willing to forgive others, and unless I do forgive
others. All I ask, if that be true, is that this God should act
according to his own doctrine. If I am to forgive my enemies, I ask
him to forgive his. I do not believe in the religion of faith, but
of kindness, of good deeds. The idea that man is responsible for
his belief is at the bottom of religious intolerance and

How inconsistent these Christians are! In St. Louis the other
day I read an interview with a Christian minister -- one who is now
holding a revival. They call him the boy preacher -- a name that he
has borne for fifty or sixty years. The question was whether in
these revivals, when they were trying to rescue souls from eternal
torture, they would allow colored people to occupy seats with white
people; and that revivalist, preaching the unsearchable riches of
Christ, said he would not allow the colored people to sit with
white people; they must go to the back of the church. These same
Christians tell us that in heaven there will be no distinction.
That Christ cares nothing for the color of the skin. That in
Paradise white and black will sit together, swap harps, and cry
hallelujah in chorus; yet this minister, believing as he says he
does, that all men who fail to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ
will eternally perish, was not willing that a colored man should
sit by a white man and hear the gospel of everlasting peace.

According to this revivalist, the ship of the world is going
down; Christ is the only life-boat; and yet he is not willing that
a colored man, with a soul to save, shall sit by the side of a
white brother, and be rescued from eternal death. He admits that
the white brother is totally depraved; that if the white brother
had justice done him he would be damned: that it is only through
the wonderful mercy of God that the white man is not in hell; and
yet such a being, totally depraved, is too good to sit by a colored
man! Total depravity becomes arrogant; total depravity draws the
color line in religion, and an ambassador of Christ says to the
black man, "Stand away; let your white brother hear first about the
love of God."

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Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201


I believe in the religion of humanity. It is far better to
love our fellow-men than to love God. We can help them. We cannot
help him. We had better do what we can than to be always pretending
to do what we cannot.

Virtue is of no color; kindness, justice and love, of no


Now I come to the last part of this creed -- the doctrine of
eternal punishment. I have concluded that I will never deliver a
lecture in which I will not attack the doctrine of eternal pain.
That part of the Congregational creed would disgrace the lowest
savage that crouches and crawls in the jungles of Africa. The man
who now, in the nineteenth century, preaches the doctrine of
eternal punishment, the doctrine of an eternal hell, has lived in
vain. Think of that doctrine! The eternity of punishment! I find in
this same creed -- in this latest utterance of Congregationalism --
that Christ is finally going to triumph in this world and establish
his kingdom. This creed declares that "we believe in the ultimate
prevalence of the kingdom of God over all the earth." If their
doctrine is true he will never triumph in the other world. The
Congregational Church does not believe in the ultimate prevalence
of the kingdom of Christ in the world to come. There he is to meet
with eternal failure. He will have billions in hell forever.

In this world we never will be perfectly civilized as long as
a gallows casts its shadow upon the earth. As long as there is a
penitentiary, within the walls of which a human being is immured,
we are not a perfectly civilized people. We shall never be
perfectly civilized until we do away with crime. And yet, according
to this Christian religion, God is to have an eternal penitentiary;
he is to be an everlasting jailer an everlasting turnkey, a warden
of an infinite dungeon. and he is going to keep prisoners there
forever, not for the purpose of reforming them -- because they are
never going to get any better, only worse -- but for the purpose of
purposeless punishment. And for what? For something they failed to
believe in this world. Born in ignorance, supported by poverty,
caught in the snares of temptation, deformed by toil, stupefied by
want -- and yet held responsible through the countless ages of
eternity! No man can think of a greater horror; no man can dream of
a greater absurdity. For the growth of that doctrine ignorance was
soil and fear was rain. It came from the fanged mouths of serpents,
and yet it is called "glad tidings of great joy."


We are told "God so loved the world" that he is going to damn
almost everybody. If this orthodox religion be true, some of the
greatest, and grandest, and best who ever lived are suffering God's
torments to-night. It does not appear to make much difference with
the members of the church. They go right on enjoying themselves
about as well as ever. If this doctrine is true, Benjamin Franklin.
one of the wisest and best of men, who did so much to give us here
a free government, is suffering the tyranny of God to-night,
although he endeavored to establish freedom among men. If the

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Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201


churches were honest, their preachers would tell their hearers:
"Benjamin Franklin is in hell, and we warn all the youth not to
imitate Benjamin Franklin. Thomas Jefferson, author of the
Declaration of Independence, with its self-evident truths, has been
damned these many years." That is what all the ministers ought to
have the courage to say. Talk as you believe. Stand by your creed,
or change it. I want to impress it upon your minds, because the
thing I wish to do in this world is to put out the fires of hell.
I will keep on as long as there is one little red coal left in the
bottomless pit. As long as the ashes are warm I shall denounce this
infamous doctrine.

I want you to know that according to this creed the men who
founded this great and splendid Government are in hell to-night.
Most of the men who fought in the Revolutionary war, and wrested
from the clutch of Great Britain this continent, have been rewarded
by the eternal wrath of God. Thousands of the old Revolutionary
soldiers are in torment tonight. Let the preachers have the courage
to say so. The men who fought in 1812, and gave to the United
States the freedom of the seas, have nearly all been damned.
Thousands of heroes who served our country in the Civil war,
hundreds who starved in prisons, are now in the dungeons of God,
compared with which, Andersonville was Paradise. The greatest of
heroes are there; the greatest of poets, the greatest scientists,
the men who have made the world beautiful -- they are all among the
damned if this creed is true.

Humboldt, who shed light, and who added to the intellectual
wealth of mankind; Goethe, and Schiller, and Lessing, who almost
created the German language -- all gone -- all suffering the wrath
of God tonight, and every time an angel thinks of one of those men
he gives his harp an extra twang. Laplace, who read the heavens
like an open book -- he is there. Robert Burns, the poet of human
love -- he is there. He wrote the "Prayer of Holy Willie." He
fastened on the cross the Presbyterian creed, and there it is, a
lingering crucifixion. Robert Burns increased the tenderness of the
human heart. Dickens put a shield of pity before the flesh of
childhood -- God is getting even with him. Our own Ralph Waldo
Emerson, although he had a thousand opportunities to hear Methodist
clergymen, scorned the means of grace, lived to his highest ideal,
gave to his fellow-men his best and truest thought, and yet his
spirit is the sport and prey of fiends to-night.

Longfellow, who has refined thousands of homes, did not
believe in the miraculous origin of the Savior, doubted the report
of Gabriel, loved his fellow-men, did what he could to free the
slaves, to increase the happiness of man, yet God was waiting for
his soul -- waiting to cast him out and down forever. Thomas Paine,
author of the "Rights of Man;" offering his life in both
hemispheres for the freedom of the human race; one of the founders
of this Republic, is now among the damned; and yet it seems to me
that if he could only get God's attention long enough to point him
to the American flag he would let him out. Auguste Comte, author of
the "Positive Philosophy," who loved his fellow-men to that degree
that he made of humanity a god, who wrote his great work in
poverty, with his face covered with tears -- they are getting their
revenge on him now.

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Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201


Voltaire, who abolished torture in France; who did more for
human liberty than any other man, living or dead; who was the
assassin of superstition, and whose dagger still rusts in the heart
of Catholicism -- he is with the rest. All the priests who have
been translated have had their happiness increased by looking at

Giordano Bruno, the first star of the morning after the long
night; Benedict Spinoza, the pantheist, the metaphysician, the pure
and generous man; Diderot, the encyclopedist, who endeavored to get
all knowledge in a small compass, so that he could put the peasant
on an equality intellectually with the prince; Diderot, who wished
to sow all over the world the seed of knowledge, and loved to labor
for mankind, while the priests wanted to burn; did all he could to
put out the fires -- he was lost, long, long ago. His cry for water
has become so common that his voice is now recognized through all
the realms of heaven, and the angels laughing, say to one another,
"That is Diderot."

David Hume, the Scotch philosopher, is there, with his inquiry
about the "Human Understanding" and his argument against miracles.
Beethoven, master of music, and Wagner, the Shakespeare of harmony,
who made the air of this world rich forever, they are there; and
to-night they have better music in hell than in heaven!

Shelley, whose soul, like his own "Skylark," was a winged joy,
has been damned for many, many years; and Shakespeare, the greatest
of the human race, who did more to elevate mankind than all the
priests who ever lived and died, he is there; but founders of
inquisitions, builders of dungeons, makers of chains, inventors of
instruments of torture, tearers, and burners, and branders of human
flesh, stealers of babes, and sellers of husbands and wives and
children, and they who kept the horizon lurid with the fagot's
flame for a thousand years -- are in heaven to-night. I wish heaven

That is the doctrine with which we are polluting the souls of
children. That is the doctrine that puts a fiend by the dying bed
and a prophecy of hell over every cradle. That is "glad tidings of
great joy." Only a little while ago, when the great flood came upon
the Ohio, sent by him who is ruling the world and paying particular
attention to the affairs of nations, just in the gray of the
morning they saw a house floating down and on its top a human
being. A few men went out to the rescue. They found there a woman,
a mother, and they wished to save her life. She said: "No, I am
going to stay where I am. In this house I have three dead babes; I
will not desert them." Think of a love so limitless -- stronger and
deeper than despair and death! And yet, the Christian religion
says, that if that woman, that mother, did not happen to believe in
their creed God would send her soul to eternal fire! If there is
another world, and if in heaven they wear hats, when such a woman
climbs the opposite bank of the Jordan, Christ should lift his to

The doctrine of eternal pain is my trouble with this Christian
religion. I reject it on account of its infinite heartlessness. I
cannot tell them too often, that during our last war Christians,

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who knew that if they were shot they would go right to heaven, went
and hired wicked men to take their places, perfectly willing that
these men should go to hell provided they could stay at home. You
see they are not honest in it, or they do not believe it, or as the
people say, "they don't sense it." They have not imagination enough
to conceive what it is they believe, and what a terrific falsehood
they assert. And I beg of every one who hears me to-night, I beg,
I implore, I beseech you, never to give another dollar to build a
church in which that lie is preached. Never give another cent to
send a missionary with his mouth stuffed with that falsehood to a
foreign land. Why, they say, the heathen will go to heaven, any
way, if you let them alone. What is the use of sending them to hell
by enlightening them? Let them alone. The idea of going and telling
a man a thing that if he does not believe, he will be damned, when
the chances are ten to one that he will not believe it, is
monstrous. Do not tell him here, and as quick as he gets to the
other world and finds it is necessary to believe, he can say "Yes."
Give him a chance.


My objection to orthodox religion is that it destroys human
love, and tells us that the love of this world is not necessary to
make a heaven in the next.

No matter about your wife, your children, your brother, your
sister -- no matter about all the affections of the human heart --
when you get there, you will be with the angels. I do not know
whether I would like the angels. I do not know whether the angels
would like me. I would rather stand by the ones who have loved me
and whom I know; and I can conceive of no heaven without the loved
of this earth. That is the trouble with this Christian religion.
Leave your father, leave your mother, leave your wife, leave your
children, leave everything and follow Jesus Christ. I will not. I
will stay with my people. I will not sacrifice on the altar of a
selfish fear all the grandest and noblest promptings of my heart.

Do away with human love and what are we? What would we be in
another world, and what would we be here? Can any one conceive of
music without human love? Of art, or joy? Human love builds every
home. Human love is the author of all beauty. Love paints every
picture, and chisels every statue. Love builds every fireside. What
could heaven be without human love? And yet that is what we are
promised -- a heaven with your wife lost, your mother lost, some of
your children gone. And you expect to be made happy by falling in
with some angel! Such a religion is infamous. Christianity holds
human love for naught; and yet --

Love is the only bow on Life's dark cloud. It is the morning
and the evening star. It shines upon the babe, and sheds its
radiance on the quiet tomb. It is the mother of art, inspirer of
poet, patriot and philosopher. It is the air and light of every
heart -- builder of every home, kindler of every fire on every
hearth. It was the first to dream of immortality. It fills the
world with melody -- for music is the voice of love. Love is the
magician, the enchanter, that changes worthless things to Joy, and
makes royal kings and queens of common clay. It is the perfume of

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that wondrous flower, the heart, and without that sacred passion,
that divine swoon, we are less than beasts; but with it, earth is
heaven, and we are gods.

And how are you to get to this heaven? On the efforts of
another. You are to be a perpetual heavenly pauper, and you will
have to admit through all eternity that you never would have been
there if you had not been frightened. "I am here," you will say, "I
have these wings, I have this musical instrument, because I was
scared. That's why I am here. The ones who loved me are among the
damned; the ones I loved are also there -- but I am here, that is
enough." What a glorious world heaven must be! No reformation in
that world -- not the slightest. If you die in Arkansas that is the
end of you! Think of telling a boy in the next world, who lived and
died in Delaware, that he had been fairly treated! Can anything be
more infamous?

All on an equality -- the rich and the poor, those with
parents loving them, those with every opportunity for education, on
an equality with the poor, the abject and the ignorant -- and this
little day called life, this moment with a hope, a shadow and a
tear, this little space between your mother's arms and the grave,
balances eternity.

God can do nothing for you when you get there. A Methodist
preacher can do more for the soul here than its creator can there.
The soul goes to heaven, where there is nothing but good society;
no bad examples; and they are all there, Father, Son and Holy
Ghost, and yet they can do nothing for that poor unfortunate except
to damn him. Is there any sense in that?

Why should this be a period of probation? It says in the
Bible, I believe, "Now is the accepted time." When does that mean?
That means whenever the passage is pronounced. "Now is the accepted
time." It will be the same to-morrow, will it not? And just as
appropriate then as to-day, and if appropriate at any time,
appropriate through all eternity.

What I say is this: There is no world -- there can be no world
-- in which every human being will not have the eternal opportunity
of doing right.

That is my objection to this Christian religion; and if the
love of earth is not the love of heaven, if those we love here are
to be separated from us there, then I want eternal sleep. Give me
a good cool grave rather than the furnace of Jehovah's wrath. I
pray the angel of the resurrection to let me sleep. Gabriel, do not
blow! Let me alone! If, when the grave bursts, and I am not to meet
the faces that have been my sunshine in this life, let me sleep.
Rather than that this doctrine of endless punishment should be
true, I would gladly see the fabric of our civilization crumbling
fall to unmeaning chaos and to formless dust, where oblivion broods
and even memory forgets. I would rather that the blind Samson of
some imprisoned force, released by chance, should so wreck and
strand the mighty world that man in stress and strain of want and
fear should shudderingly crawl back to savage and barbaric night.
I would rather that every planet should in its orbit wheel a barren

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I think it is better to love your children than to love God,
a thousand times better, because you can help them, and I am
inclined to think that God can get along without you. Certainly we
cannot help a being without body, parts, or passions!

I believe in the religion of the family. I believe that the
roof-tree is sacred, from the smallest fibre that feels the soft
cool clasp of earth, to the topmost flower that spreads its bosom
to the sun, and like a spendthrift gives its perfume to the air.
The home where virtue dwells with love is like a lily with a heart
of fire -- the fairest flower in all the world. And I tell you God
cannot afford to damn a man in the next world who has made a happy
family in this. God cannot afford to cast over the battlements of
heaven the man who has a happy home upon this earth. God cannot
afford to be unpitying to a human heart capable of pity. God cannot
clothe with fire the man who has clothed the naked here; and God
cannot send to eternal pain a man who has done something toward
improving the condition of his fellow-man. If he can, I had rather
go to hell than to heaven and keep the company of such a god.


They tell me that the next terrible thing I do is to take away
the hope of immortality! I do not, I would not, I could not.
Immortality was first dreamed of by human love; and yet the church
is going to take human love out of immortality. We love, therefore
we wish to live. A loved one dies and we wish to meet again; and
from the affection of the human heart grew the great oak of the
hope of immortality. Around that oak has climbed the poisonous
vines of superstition. Theologians, pretenders, soothsayers,
parsons, priests, popes, bishops, have taken advantage of that.
They have stood by graves and promised heaven. They have stood by
graves and prophesied a future filled with pain. They have erected
their toll-gates on the highway of life and have collected money
from fear.

Neither the Bible nor the church gave us the idea of
immortality. The Old Testament tells us how we lost immortality,
and it does not say a word about another world, from the first
mistake in Genesis to the last curse in Malachi. There is not in
the Old Testament a burial service.

No man in the Old Testament stands by the dead and says, "We
shall meet again." From the top of Sinai came no hope of another

And when we get to the New Testament, what do we find? "They
that are accounted worthy to obtain that world and the resurrection
of the dead." As though some would be counted unworthy to obtain
the resurrection of the dead. And in another place. "Seek for
honor, glory, immortality." If you have it, why seek it? And in
another place, "God, who alone hath immortality." Yet they tell us
that we get our idea of immortality from the Bible. I deny it.

I would not destroy the faintest ray of human hope, but I deny
that we got our idea of immortality from the Bible. It existed long

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before Moses. We find it symbolized through all Egypt, through all
India. Wherever man has lived and loved he has made another world
in which to meet the lost of this.

The history of this belief we find in tombs and temples
wrought and carved by those who wept and hoped. Above their dead
they laid the symbols of another life.

We do not know. We do not prophesy a life of pain. We leave
the dead with Nature, the mother of us all. Under the bow of hope,
under the sevenhued arch, let the dead sleep.

If Christ was in fact God, why did he not plainly say there is
another life? Why did he not tell us something about it? Why did he
not turn the tearstained hope of immortality into the glad
knowledge of another life? Why did he go dumbly to his death and
leave the world in darkness and in doubt? Why? Because he was a man
and did not know.

What consolation has the orthodox religion for the widow of
the unbeliever, the widow of a good, brave, kind man? What can the
orthodox minister say to relieve the bursting heart of that woman?
What can he say to relieve the aching hearts of the orphans as they
kneel by the grave of that father, if that father did not happen to
be an orthodox Christian? What consolation have they? When a
Christian loses a friend the tears spring from his eyes as quickly
as from the eyes of others. Their tears are as bitter as ours. Why?
The echoes of the words spoken eighteen hundred years ago are so
low, and the sounds of the clods upon the coffin are so loud; the
promises are so far away, and the dead are so near.

We do not know, we cannot say, whether death is a wall or a
door; the beginning or end of a day; the spreading of pinions to
soar, or the folding forever of wings; the rise or the set of a
sun, or an endless life that brings the rapture of love to every


There is the fable of Orpheus and Eurydice. Eurydice had been
captured and taken to the infernal regions, and Orpheus went after
her, taking with him his harp and playing as he went. When he came
to Pluto's realm he began to play, and Sysiphus, charmed by the
music, sat down upon the stone that he had been heaving up the
mountain's side for so many years, and which continually rolled
back upon him; Ixion paused upon his wheel of fire; Tantalus ceased
his vain efforts for water; the daughters of the Danaides left off
trying to fill their sieves with water; Pluto smiled, and for the
first time in the history of hell the cheeks of the Furies were wet
with tears. The god relented, and said, "Eurydice may go with you,
but you must not look back." So Orpheus again threaded the caverns,
playing as he went, and as he reached the light he failed to hear
the footsteps of Eurydice. He looked back, and in a moment she was
gone. Again and again Orpheus sought his love. Again and again
looked back.

This fable gives the idea of the perpetual effort made by the
human mind to rescue truth from the clutch of error.

Some time Orpheus will not look back. Some day Eurydice will
reach the blessed light, and at last there will fade from the
memory of men the monsters of superstition.
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