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Robert Ingersoll Some Reasons Why

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Some Reasons Why

Robert Green Ingersoll

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RELIGION makes enemies instead of friends. That one word,
"religion," covers all the horizon of memory with visions of war,
of outrage, of persecution, of tyranny, and death. That one word
brings to the mind every instrument with which man has tortured
man. In that one word are all the fagots and flames and dungeons of
the past, and in that word is the infinite and eternal hell of the

In the name of universal benevolence Christians have hated
their fellow-men. Although they have been preaching universal love,
the Christian nations are the warlike nations of the world. The
most destructive weapons of war have been invented by Christians.
The musket, the revolver, the rifled canon, the bombshell, the
torpedo, the explosive bullet, have been invented by Christian
brains. Above all other arts, the Christian world has placed the
art of war.

A Christian nation has never had the slightest respect for the
rights of barbarians; neither has any Christian sect any respect
for the rights of other sects. Anciently, the sects discussed with
fire and sword, and even now, something happens almost every day to
show that the old spirit that was in the Inquisition still slumbers
in the Christian breast.

Whoever imagines himself a favorite with God, holds other
people in contempt.

Whenever a man believes that he has the exact truth from God,
there is in that man no spirit of compromise. He has not the
modesty born of the imperfections of human nature; he has the
arrogance of theological certainty and the tyranny born of ignorant
assurance. Believing himself to be the slave of God, he imitates
his master, and of all tyrants, the worst is a slave in power.

When a man really believes that it is necessary to do a
certain thing to be happy forever, or that a certain belief is
necessary to ensure eternal joy, there is in that man no spirit of
concession. He divides the whole world into saints and sinners,
into believers and unbelievers, into God's sheep and Devil's goats,
into people who will be glorified and people who will be damned.

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A Christian nation can make no compromise with one not
Christian; it will either compel that nation to accept its
doctrine, or it will wage war. If Christ, in fact, said "I came not
to bring peace but a sword," it is the only prophecy in the New
Testament that has been literally fulfilled.



RELIGION is supposed to consist in a discharge of the duties
we owe to God. In other words, we are taught that God is
exceedingly anxious that we should believe a certain thing. For my
part, I do not believe that there is any infinite being to whom we
owe anything. The reason I say this is, we can not owe any duty to
any being who requires nothing -- to any being that we cannot
possibly help, to any being whose happiness we cannot increase. If
God is infinite, we cannot make him happier than he is. If God is
infinite, we can neither give, nor can he receive, anything.
Anything that we do or fail to do, cannot, in the slightest degree,
affect an infinite God; consequently, no relations can exist
between the finite and the Infinite, if by relations is meant
mutual duties and obligations.

Some tell us that it is the desire of God that we should
worship him. What for? Why does he desire worship? Others tell us
that we should sacrifice something to him. What for? Is he in want?
Can we assist him? Is he unhappy? Is he in trouble? Does he need
human sympathy? We cannot assist the Infinite, but we can assist
our fellow-men. We can feed the hungry and clothe the naked, and
enlighten the ignorant, and we can help, in some degree at least,
toward covering this world with the mantle of joy.

I do not believe there is any being in this universe who gives
rain for praise, who gives sunshine for prayer, or who blesses a
man simply because he kneels.

The Infinite cannot receive praise or worship.

The Infinite can neither hear nor answer prayer.

An Infinite personality is an infinite impossibility.



We are told that we have in our possession the inspired will
of God. What is meant by the word "inspired" is not exactly known;
but whatever else it may mean, certainly it means that the
"inspired" must be the true. If it is true, there is, in fact, no
need of its being inspired -- the truth will take care of itself.

The church is forced to say that the Bible differs from all
other books; it is forced to say that it contains the actual will
of God. Let us then see what inspiration really is. A man looks at
the sea, and the sea says something to him. It makes an impression

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upon his mind. It awakens memory, and this impression depends upon
the man's experience -- upon his intellectual capacity. Another
looks upon the same sea. He has a different brain; he has had a
different experience. The sea may speak to him of Joy, to the other
of grief and tears. The sea cannot tell the same thing to any two
human beings, because no two human beings have had the same

A year ago, while the cars were going from Boston to
Gloucester, we passed through Manchester. As the cars stopped, a
lady sitting opposite, speaking to her husband, looking out of the
window and catching, for the first time, a view of the sea, cried
out, "Is it not beautiful!" and the husband replied, "I'll bet you
could dig clams right here!"

Another, standing upon the shore, listening to what the Greek
tragedian called "the multitudinous laughter of the sea," may say:
Every drop has visited all the shores of the earth; every one has
been frozen in the vast and icy North; every one has fallen in
snow, has been whirled by storms "around mountain peaks; every one
has been kissed to vapor by the sun; every one has worn the seven-
hued garment of light; every one has fallen in pleasant rain,
gurgled from springs and laughed in brooks while lovers wooed upon
the banks, and every one has rushed with mighty rivers back to the
sea's embrace. Everything in nature tells a different story to all
eyes that see and to all ears that hear.

Once in my life, and once only, I heard Horace Greeley deliver
a lecture. I think its title was, "Across the Continent." At last
he reached the mammoth trees of California, and I thought "Here is
an opportunity for the old man to indulge his fancy. Here are trees
that have outlived a thousand human governments. There are limbs
above his head older than the pyramids. While man was emerging from
barbarism to something like civilization, these trees were growing.
Older than history, every one appeared to be a memory, a witness,
and a prophecy. The same wind that filled the sails of the
Argonauts had swayed these trees. But these trees said nothing of
this kind to Mr. Greeley. Upon these subjects not a word was told
to him. Instead, he took his pencil, and after figuring awhile,
remarked: "One of these trees, sawed into inch-boards, would make
more than three hundred' thousand feet of lumber."

I was once riding on the cars in Illinois. There had been a
violent thunder-storm. The rain had ceased, the sun was going down.
The great clouds had floated toward the west, and there they
assumed most wonderful architectural shapes. There were temples and
palaces domed and turreted. and they were touched with silver, with
amethyst and gold. They looked like the homes of the Titans, or the
palaces of the gods. A man was sitting near me. I touched him and
said, "Did you ever see anything so beautiful!" He looked out. He
saw nothing of that cloud, nothing of the sun, nothing of the
color; he saw only the country and replied, "Yes, it is beautiful;
I always did like rolling land." On another occasion I was riding
in a stage. There had been a snow, and after the snow a sleet, and
all the trees were bent, and all the boughs were arched. Every
fence, every log cabin had been transfigured, touched with a glory
almost beyond this world. The great fields were a pure and perfect

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white; the forests, drooping beneath their load of gems, made
wonderful caves, from which one almost expected to see troops of
fairies come. The whole world looked like a bride, jewelled from
head to foot. A German on the back seat, hearing our talk, and our
exclamations of wonder leaned forward, looked out of the stage
window and said: "Yes, it looks like a clean table cloth!"

So, when we look upon a flower, a painting, a statue, a star,
or a violet, the more we know, the more we have experienced, the
more we have thought, the more we remember, the more the statue,
the star, the painting, the violet has to tell. Nature says to me
all that I am capable of understanding -- gives all that I can

As with star, or flower, or sea, so with a book. A man reads
Shakespeare. What does he get from him? All that he has the mind to
understand. He gets his little cup full. Let another read him who
knows nothing of the drama, nothing of the impersonations of
passion, and what does he get? Almost nothing. Shakespeare has a
different story for each reader. He is a world in which each
recognizes his acquaintances -- he may know a few, he may know all.

The impression that nature makes upon the mind, the stories
told by sea and star and flower, must be the natural food of
thought. Leaving out for the moment the impression gained from
ancestors, the hereditary fears and drifts and trends -- the
natural food of thought must be the impression made upon the brain
by coming in contact through the medium of the five senses with
what we call the outward world. The brain is natural. Its food is
natural. The result, thought, must be natural. The supernatural can
be constructed with no material except the natural. Of the
supernatural we can have no conception. Thought may be deformed,
and the thought of one may be strange to, and denominated as
unnatural by another; but it cannot be supernatural. It may be
weak, it may be insane, but it is not supernatural. Above the
natural man cannot rise, even with the aid of fancy's wings. There
can be deformed ideas, as there are deformed persons. There can be
religions monstrous and misshapen, but they must be naturally
produced. Some people have ideas about what they are pleased to
call the supernatural; but what they call the supernatural is
simply the deformed. The world is to each man according to each
man. It takes the world as it really is and that man to make that
man's world, and that man's world cannot exist without that man.

You may ask, and what of all this? I reply, as with everything
in nature, so with the Bible. It has a different story for each
reader. Is then the Bible a different book to every human being who
reads it? It is. Can God then, through the Bible, make the same
revelation to two persons? He cannot. Why? Because the man who
reads it is the man who inspires. Inspiration is in the man, as
well as in the book. God should have inspired readers as well as

You may reply: "God knew that his book would be understood
differently by each one, and that he really intended that it should
be understood as it is understood by each." If this is so, then my
understanding of the Bible is the real revelation to me. If this is
so, I have no right to take the understanding of another. I must

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take the revelation made to me through my understanding, and by
that revelation I must stand. Suppose then, that I do read this
Bible honestly, fairly, and when I get through I am compelled to
say, "The book is not true." If this is the honest result, then you
are compelled to say, either that God has made no revelation to me,
or that the revelation that it is not true, is the revelation made
to me, and by which I am bound. If the book and my brain are both
the work of the same Infinite God, whose fault is it that the book
and the brain do not agree? Either God should have written a book
to fit my brain, or should have made my brain to fit his book.

The inspiration of the Bible depends upon the ignorance of him
who reads. There was a time when its geology, its astronomy, its
natural history, were inspired. That time has passed. There was a
time when its morality satisfied the men who ruled mankind. That
time has passed. There was a time when the tyrant regarded its laws
as good; when the master believed in its liberty; when strength
gloried in its passages; but these laws never satisfied the
oppressed, they were never quoted by the slave.

We have a sacred book, an inspired Bible, and I am told that
this book was written by the same being who made every star, and
who peopled infinite space with infinite worlds. I am also told
that God created man, and that man is totally depraved. It has
always seemed to me that an infinite being has no right to make
imperfect things. I may be mistaken; but this is the only planet I
have ever been on; I live in what might be called one of the rural
districts of this universe, consequently I may be mistaken; I
simply give the best and largest thought I have.



The Bible tells us that men became so bad that God destroyed
them all with the exception of eight persons; that afterwards he
chose Abraham and some of his kindred, a wandering tribe, for the
purpose of seeing whether or no they could be civilized. He had no
time to waste with all the world. The Egyptians at that time, a
vast and splendid nation, having a system of laws and free schools,
believing in the marriage of the one man to the one woman;
believing, too, in the rights of woman -- a nation that had courts
of justice and understood the philosophy of damages -- these people
had received no revelation from God, -- they were left to grope in
Nature's night. He had no time to civilize India, wherein had grown
a civilization that fills the world with wonder still -- a people
with a language as perfect as ours, a people who had produced
philosophers, scientists, poets. He had no time to waste on them;
but he took a few, the tribe of Abraham. He established a perfect
despotism -- with no schools, with no philosophy, with no art, with
no music -- nothing but the sacrifices of dumb beasts -- nothing
but the abject worship of a slave. Not a word upon geology, upon
astronomy; nothing, even, upon the science of medicine. Thus God
spent hours and hours with Moses upon the top of Sinai, giving
directions for ascertaining the presence of leprosy and for
preventing its spread, but it never occurred to Jehovah to tell
Moses how it could be cured. He told them a few things about what

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they might eat -- prohibiting among other things four-footed birds,
and one thing upon the subject of cooking. From the thunders and
lightnings of Sinai he proclaimed this vast and wonderful fact:
"Thou shalt not seethe a kid in its mother's milk." He took these
people, according to our sacred Scriptures, under his immediate
care, and for the purpose of controlling them he wrought wonderful
miracles in their sight.

Is it not a little curious that no priest of one religion has
ever been able to astonish a priest of another religion by telling
a miracle? Our missionaries tell the Hindoos the miracles of the
Bible, and the Hindoo priests, without the movement of a muscle,
hear them and then recite theirs, and theirs do not astonish our
missionaries in the least! Is it not a little curious that the
priests of one religion never believe the priests of another? Is it
not a little strange that the believers in sacred books regard all
except their own as having been made by hypocrites and fools?

I heard the other day a story. A gentleman was telling some
wonderful things and the listeners, with one exception, were
saying, as he proceeded with his tale, "Is it possible?" "Did you
ever hear anything so wonderful?" and when he had concluded, there
was a kind of chorus of "Is it possible?" and "Can it be?" One man,
however, sat perfectly quiet, utterly unmoved. Another listener
said to him "Did you hear that?" and he replied "Yes." "Well," said
the other, "You did not manifest much astonishment." "Oh, no," was
the answer, "I am a liar myself." I am told by the sacred
Scriptures that, as a matter of fact, God, even with the help of
miracles, failed to civilize the Jews, and this shows of how little
real benefit, after all, it is to have a ruler much above the
people, or to simply excite the wonder of mankind. Infinite wisdom,
if the account be true, could not civilize a single tribe. Laws
made by Jehovah himself were not obeyed, and every effort of
Jehovah failed. It is claimed that God made known his law and
inspired men to write and teach his will, and yet, it was found
utterly impossible to reform mankind.



In all civilized countries, it is now passionately asserted
that slavery is a crime; that a war of conquest is murder; that
polygamy enslaves woman, degrades man and destroys home; that
nothing is more infamous than the slaughter of decrepid men, of
helpless mothers, and of prattling babes; that captured maidens
should not be given to their captors; that wives should not be
stoned to death for differing with their husbands on the subject of
religion. We know that there was a time, in the history of most
nations, when all these crimes were regarded as divine
institutions. Nations entertaining this view now are regarded as
savage, and, with the exception of the South Sea Islanders,
Feejees, a few tribes in Central Africa, and some citizens of
Delaware, no human beings are found degraded enough to agree upon
these subjects with Jehovah. The only evidence we can have that a
nation has ceased to be savage, is that it has abandoned these
doctrines of savagery.

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To every one except a theologian, it is easy to account for
these mistakes and crimes by saying that civilization is a painful
growth; that the moral perceptions are cultivated through ages of
tyranny, of crime, and of heroism; that it requires centuries for
man to put out the eyes of self and hold in lofty and in equal
poise the golden scales of Justice. Conscience is born of
suffering. Mercy is the child of the imagination. Man advances as
he becomes acquainted with his surroundings, with the mutual
obligations of life, and learns to take advantage of the forces of

The believer in the inspiration of the Bible is compelled to
say, that there was a time when slavery was right, when women could
sell their babes, when polygamy was the highest form of virtue,
when wars of extermination were waged with the sword of mercy, when
religious toleration was a crime, and when death was the just
penalty for having expressed an honest thought. He is compelled to
insist that Jehovah is as bad now as he was then; that he is as
good now as he was then. Once, all the crimes that I have mentioned
were commanded by God; now they are prohibited. Once, God was in
favor of them all; now the Devil is their defender. In other words,
the Devil entertains the same opinion to-day that God held four
thousand years ago. The Devil is as good now as Jehovah was then,
and God was as bad then as the Devil is now. Other nations besides
the Jews had similar laws and ideas -- believed in and practiced
the same crimes, and yet, it is not claimed that they received a
revelation. They had no knowledge of the true God, and yet they
practiced the same crimes, of their own motion, that the Jews did
by command of Jehovah. From this it would seem that man can do
wrong without a special revelation.

The passages upholding slavery, polygamy, war and religious
persecution are certainly not evidences of the inspiration of that
book. Suppose nothing had been in the Old Testament upholding these
crimes, would the modern Christian suspect that it was not inspired
on that account? Suppose nothing had been in the Old Testament
except laws in favor of these crimes, would it still be insisted
that it was inspired? If the Devil had inspired a book, will some
Christian tell us in what respect, on the subjects of slavery,
polygamy, war and liberty, it would have differed from some parts
of the Old Testament? Suppose we knew that after inspired men had
finished the Bible the Devil had gotten possession of it and had
written a few passages, what part would Christians now pick out as
being probably his work? Which of the following passages would be
selected as having been written by the Devil: "Love thy neighbor as
thyself" or "Kill all the males among the little ones, and kill
every woman, but all the women children keep alive for yourselves"?

Is there a believer in the Bible who does not now wish that
God, amid the thunders and lightnings of Sinai, had said to Moses
that man should not own his fellow-man; that women should not sell
their babes; that all men should be allowed to think and
investigate for themselves, and that the sword never should be
unsheathed to shed innocent blood? Is there a believer who would
not be delighted to find that every one of the infamous passages
are interpolations, and that the skirts of God were never reddened
by the blood of maiden, wife, or babe? Is there an honest man who

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does not regret that God commanded a husband to stone his wife for
suggesting the worship of some other God? Surely we do not need an
inspired book to teach us that slavery is right, that polygamy is
virtue, and that intellectual liberty is a crime.



Let us compare the gems of Jehovah with Pagan paste. It may be
that the best way to illustrate what I have said, is to compare the
supposed teachings of Jehovah with those of persons who never wrote
an inspired line. In all ages of which any record has been
preserved, men have given their ideas of justice, charity, liberty,
love and law. If the Bible is the work of God, it should contain
the sublimest truths, it should excel the works of man, it should
contain the loftiest definitions of justice, the best conceptions
of human liberty, the clearest outlines of duty, the tenderest and
noblest thoughts. Upon every page should be found the luminous
evidence of its divine origin. It should contain grander and more
wonderful things than man has written.

It may be said that it is unfair to call attention to bad
things in the Bible. To this it may be replied that a divine being
ought not to put bad things in his book. If the Bible now upholds
what we call crimes, it will not do to say that it is not verbally
inspired. If the words are not inspired, what is? It may be said,
that the thoughts are inspired. This would include only thoughts
expressed without words. If ideas are inspired, they must be
expressed by inspired words -- that is to say, by an inspired
arrangement of words. If a sculptor were inspired of God to make a
statue, we would not say that the marble was inspired, but the
statue -- that is to say, the relation of part to part, the married
harmony of form and function. The language, the words, take the
place of the marble, and it is the arrangement of the words that
Christians claim to be inspired. If there is an uninspired word, or
a word in the wrong place, until that word is known a doubt is cast
on every word the book contains.

If it was worth God's while to make a revelation at all, it
was certainly worth his while to see that it was correctly made --
that it was absolutely preserved. Why should God allow an inspired
book to be interpolated? If it was worth while to inspire men to
write it, it was worth while to inspire men to preserve it; and why
should he allow another person to interpolate in it that which was
not inspired? He certainly would not have allowed the man he
inspired to write contrary to the inspiration. He should have
preserved his revelation. Neither will it do to say that God
adapted his revelation to the prejudices of man. It was necessary
for him to adapt his revelation to the capacity of man, but
certainly God would not confirm a barbarian in his prejudices. He
would not fortify a heathen in his crimes.

If a revelation is of any importance, it is to eradicate
prejudice. They tell us now that the Jews were so ignorant, so bad,
that God was compelled to justify their crimes, in order to have
any influence with them. They say that if he had declared slavery

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and polygamy to be crimes, the Jews would have refused to receive
the Ten Commandments. They tell us that God did the best he could;
that his real intention was to lead them along slowly, so that in
a few hundred years they would be induced to admit that larceny and
murder and polygamy and slavery were not virtues. I suppose if we
now wished to break a cannibal of the bad habit of devouring
missionaries, we would first induce him to cook them in a certain
way, saying: "To eat cooked missionary is one step in advance of
eating your missionary raw. After a few years, a little mutton
could be cooked with missionary, and year after year the amount of
mutton could be increased and the amount of missionary decreased,
until in the fullness of time the dish could he entirely mutton,
and after that the missionaries would be absolutely safe."

If there is anything of value, it is liberty -- liberty of
body, liberty of mind. The liberty of body is the reward of labor.
Intellectual liberty is the air of the soul, the sunshine of the
mind, and without it, the world is a prison, the universe a

If the Bible is really inspired, Jehovah commanded the Jewish
people to buy the children of the strangers that sojourned among
them, and ordered that the children thus bought should be an
inheritance for the children of the Jews, and that they should be
bondmen and bondwomen forever. Yet Epictetus, a man to whom no
revelation was ever made, a man whose soul followed only the light
of nature, and who had never heard of the Jewish God, was great
enough to say: "Will you not remember that your servants are by
nature your brothers, the children of God? In saying that you have
bought them, you look down on the earth, and into the pit, on the
wretched law of men long since dead, but you see not the laws of
the gods."

We find that Jehovah, speaking to his chosen people, assured
them that their bondmen and their bondmaids must be "of the heathen
that were round about them." "Of them," said Jehovah, "shall ye buy
bondmen and bondmaids." And yet Cicero, a pagan, Cicero, who had
never been enlightened by reading the Old Testament, had the moral
grandeur to declare: "They who say that we should love our fellow-
citizens but not foreigners, destroy the universal brotherhood of
mankind, without which benevolence and justice would perish

If the Bible is inspired, Jehovah, God of all worlds, actually
said: "And if a man smite his servant or his maid with a rod, and
he die under his hand, he shall be sorely punished; not with-
standing, if he continue a day or two, he shall not be punished,
for he is his money." And yet Zeno, founder of the Stoics,
centuries before, Christ was born, insisted that man could not be
the owner of another, and that title was bad, whether the slave had
become so by conquest or by purchase.

Jehovah ordered a Jewish general to make war, and gave, among
others, this command; "When the Lord thy God shall drive them
before thee, thou shalt smite them and utterly destroy them; thou
shalt make no covenant with them, nor show mercy unto them." And
yet Epictetus, whom we have already quoted, gave this marvelous

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rule for the guidance of human conduct: "Live with thy inferiors as
thou wouldst have thy superiors live with thee."

Is it possible, after all, that a being of infinite goodness
and wisdom said: "I will heap mischief upon them; I will send mine
arrows upon them; they shall be burned with hunger, and devoured
with burning heat, and with bitter destruction. I will send the
tooth of beasts upon them, with the poison of serpents of the dust.
The sword without, and terror within, shall destroy both the young
man and virgin, the suckling also, with the man of gray hairs:"
while Seneca, an uninspired Roman, said: "The wise man will not
pardon any crime that ought be punished, but he will accomplish, in
a nobler way, all that is sought in pardoning. He will spare some
and watch over some, because of their youth, and others on account
of their ignorance. His clemency will not fall short of Justice,
but will fulfill it perfectly."

Can we believe that God ever said to any one: Let his children
be fatherless and his wife a widow; let his children be continually
vagabonds, and beg; them seek their bread also out of their
desolate places; let the extortioner catch all that he hath, and
let the stranger spoil his labor; let there be none to extend mercy
unto him, neither let there be any to favor his fatherless
children." If he ever said these words, surely he had never heard
this line, this strain of music from the Hindu: "Sweet is the lute
to those who have not heard the prattle of their own children."

Jehovah, "from the clouds and darkness of Sinai" said to the
Jews: "Thou shalt have no other gods before me. . . . Though shalt
not bow down thyself to them nor serve them; for I, the Lord thy
God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquities of the fathers upon
the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate
me." Contrast this with the words put by the Hindu in the mouth of
Brahma: "I am the same to all mankind. They who honestly serve
other gods involuntarily worship me, I am he who partakest of all
worship, and I am the reward of all worshipers."

Compare these passages; the first a dungeon where crawl the
things begot of jealous slime; the other, great as the domed
firmament inlaid with suns.

Is it possible that the real God ever said:

"And if the prophet be deceived when he hath spoken a thing,
I, the Lord, have deceived that prophet; and I will stretch out my
hand upon him and will destroy him from the midst of my people."

Compare that passage with one from a Pagan.

"It is better to keep silence for the remainder of your life
than to speak falsely."

Can we believe that a being of infinite mercy gave this

"Put every man his sword by his side, and go in and out from
gate to gate, throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother,

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and every man his companion, and every man his neighbor; consecrate
yourselves to-day to the Lord, even every man upon his son and upon
his brother, that he may bestow a blessing upon you this day."

Surely, that God was not animated by so great and magnanimous
a spirit as was Antoninus, a Roman emperor, who declared that, "he
had rather keep a single Roman citizen alive than slay a thousand

Compare the laws given to the children of Israel, as it is
claimed by the Creator of us all, with the following from Marcus

"I have formed the ideal of a state, in which there is the
same law for all, and equal rights, and equal liberty of speech
established; an empire where nothing is honored so much as the
freedom of the citizen.

In the Avesta I fond this: "I belong to five: to those who
think good, to those who speak good, to those who do good, to those
who hear, and to those who are pure."

"Which is the one prayer which in greatness, goodness, and
beauty is worth all that is between heaven and earth and between
this earth and the stars? And he replied: To renounce all evil
thoughts and words and works."


It is claimed by the Christian world that one of the great
reasons for giving an inspired book to the Jews was, that through
them the world might learn there is but one God. This piece of
information has been supposed to be of infinite value. As a mater
of fact, long before Moses was born, the Egyptians believed and
taught that there was but one God that is to say, that above all
intelligences there was the one Supreme. They were guilty, too, of
the same inconsistencies of modern Christians. They thought the
doctrine of the Trinity -- God the Father. the Mother, and God the
Son. God was frequently represented as father, mother and babe.
They also taught that the soul had a divine origin; that after
death it was to be judged according to the deeds done in the body;
that those who had done well passed into perpetual joy, and those
who had done evil into endless pain. In this they agreed with the
most approved divine of the nineteenth century. Women were the
equals of men, and Egypt was often governed by queens. In this, her
government was vastly better than the one established by God. The
laws were administered by courts much like ours. In Egypt there was
a system of schools that gave the son of poverty a chance of
advancement, and the highest offices were open to the successful
scholar. The Egyptian married one wife. The wife was called "the
lady of the house." The women were not secluded. The people were
not divided into castes. There was nothing to prevent the rise of
able and intelligent Egyptians. But like the Jehovah of the Jews,
they made slaves of the captives of war.

The ancient Persians believed in one God; and women helped to
found the Parsee religion. Nothing can exceed some of the maxims of
Zoroaster. The Hindoos taught that above all, and over all, was one

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eternal Supreme. They had a code of laws. They understood the
philosophy of evidence and of damages. They knew better than to
teach the doctrine of an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.
They knew that when one man maimed another, it was not to the
interest of society to have that man maimed, thus burdening the
people with two cripples, but that it was better to make the man
who maimed the other work to support him. In India, upon the death
of a father, the daughters received twice as much from the estate
as the sons.

The Romans built temples to Truth, Faith, Valor, Concord,
Modesty, and Charity, in which they offered sacrifices to the
highest conceptions of human excellence. Women had rights; they
presided in the temple; they officiated in holy offices; they
guarded the sacred fires upon which the safety of Rome depended;
and when Christ came, the grandest figure in the known world was
the Roman mother.

It will not do to say that some rude statue was made by an
inspired sculptor, and that the Apollo of Belvidere, Venus de Milo,
and the Gladiator were made by unaided men; that the daubs of the
early ages were painted by divine assistance, while the Raphaels,
the Angelos, and the Rembrandts did what they did without the help
of heaven. It will not do to say, that the first hut was built by
God, and the last palace by degraded man; that the hoarse songs of
the savage tribes were made by the Deity, but that Hamlet and Lear
were written by man; that the pipes of Pan were invented in heaven,
and all other musical instruments on the earth.

If the Jehovah of the Jews had taken upon himself flesh, and
dwelt as a man among the people he endeavored to govern, had he
followed his own teachings, he would have been a slave-holder, a
buyer of babes, and a beater of women. He would have waged wars of
extermination. He would have killed grey-haired and trembling age,
and would have sheather his sword, in prattling, dimpled babes. He
would have been a polygamist, and would have butchered his wife for
differing with him on the subject of religion.



One great objection to the Old Testament is the cruelty said
to have been commanded by God. All these cruelties ceased with
death. The vengeance of Jehovah stopped at the tomb. He never
threatened to punish the dead; and there is not one word, from the
first mistake in Genesis to the last curse of Malachi, containing
the slightest intimation that God will take his revenge in another
world. It was reserved for the New Testament to make known the
doctrine of eternal pain. The teacher of universal benevolence rent
the veil between time and eternity, and fixed the horrified gaze of
man upon the lurid gulf of hell. Within the breast of non-
resistance coiled the worm that never dies. Compared with this, the
doctrine of slavery, the wars of extermination, the curses, the
punishments of the Old Testament were all merciful and just.

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There is no time to speak of the conflicting statements in the
various books composing the New Testament -- no time to give the
history of the manuscripts, the errors in translation, the
interpolations made by the fathers and by their successors, the
priests, and only time to speak of a few objections, including some
absurdities and some contradictions.

Where several witnesses testify to the same transaction, no
matter how honest they may be, they will disagree upon minor
matters, and such testimony is generally considered as evidence
that the witnesses have not conspired among themselves. The
differences in statement are accounted for from the facts that all
do not see alike, and that all have not equally good memories; but
when we claim that the witnesses are inspired, we must admit that
he who inspired them did know exactly what occurred, and
consequently there should be no disagreement, even in the minutest
detail. The accounts should not only be substantially, but they
should be actually, the same. The differences and contradictions
can be accounted for by the weaknesses of human nature, but these
weaknesses cannot be predicated of divine wisdom.

And here let me ask: Why should there have been more than one
correct account of what really happened? Why were four gospels
necessary? It seems to me that one inspired gospel, containing all
that happened, was enough. Copies of the one correct one could have
been furnished to any extent. According to Doctor Davidson Irenaeus
argues that the gospels were four in number, because there are four
universal winds, four corners of the globe. Others have said,
because there are four seasons: and these gentlemen might have
added, because a donkey has four legs. For my part, I cannot even
conceive of a reason for more than one gospel.

According to one of these gospels, and according to the
prevalent Christian belief, the Christian religion rests upon the
doctrine of the atonement. If this doctrine is without foundation,
the fabric falls; and it is without foundation, for it is repugnant
to justice and mercy. The church tells us that the first man
committed a crime for which all others are responsible. This
absurdity was the father and mother of another -- that a man can be
rewarded for the good action of another. We are told that God made
a law, with the penalty of eternal death. All men, they tell us,
have broken this law. The law had to be vindicated. This could be
done by damning everybody, but through what is known as the
atonement the salvation of the few was made possible. They insist
that the law demands the extreme penalty, that justice calls for
its victim, that mercy ceases to plead, and that God by allowing
the innocent to suffer in the place of the guilty settled
satisfactory with the law. To carry out this scheme God was born as
a babe, grew in stature, increased in knowledge, and at the age of
thirty-three years having lived a life filled with kindness, having
practiced every virtue, he was sacrificed as an atonement for man.
It is claimed that he took our place, bore our sins, our guilt, and
in this way satisfied the justice of God.

Under the Mosaic dispensation there was no remission of sin
except through the shedding of blood. When a man sinned he must
bring to the priest a lamb, a bullock, a goat, or a pair of turtle-
doves, The priest would lay his hand upon the animal and the sin of

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the man would be transferred to the beast. Then the animal would be
killed in place of the sinner, and the blood thus shed would he
sprinkled upon the altar. In this way Jehovah was satisfied. The
greater the crime, the greater the sacrifice. There was a ratio
between the value of the animal and the enormity of the sin.

The most minute directions were given as to the killing of
these animals. Every priest became a butcher, every synagogue a
slaughter-house. Nothing could be more utterly shocking to a
refined soul, nothing better calculated to harden the heart, than
the continual shedding of innocent blood. This terrible system
culminated in the sacrifice of Christ. His blood took the place of
all other. It is not necessary to shed any more. The law at last is
satisfied, satiated, surfeited.

The idea that God wants blood is at the bottom of the
atonement, and rests upon the most fearful savagery; and yet the
Mosaic dispensation was better adapted to prevent the commission of
sin than the Christian system. Under that dispensation, if you
committed a sin, you had to bring a sacrifice -- dove, sheep, or
bullock, now, when a sin is committed, the Christian says, "Charge
it," "Put it on the slate, If I don't pay it the Savior will." In
this way, rascality is sold on a credit, and the credit system of
religion breeds extravagance in sin. The Mosaic dispensation was
based upon far better business principles. The debt had to be paid,
and by the man who owed it. We are told that the sinner is in debt
to God, and that the obligation is discharged by the Savior. The
best that can be said of such a transaction is that the debt is
transferred, not paid. As a matter of fact, the sinner is in debt
to the person he has injured. If you injure a man, it is not enough
to get the forgiveness of God -- you must get the man's
forgiveness, you must get your own. If a man puts his hand in the
fire and God forgives him, his hand will smart just as badly. You
must reap what you sow. No God can give you wheat when you sow
tares, and no Devil can give you tares when you sow wheat. We must
remember that in nature there are neither rewards nor punishments
there are consequences. The life and death of Christ do not
constitute an atonement. They are worth the example, the moral
force, the heroism of benevolence, and in so far as the life of
Christ produces emulation in the direction of goodness, it has been
of value to mankind.

To make innocence suffer is the greatest sin, and it may be
the only sin. How, then, is it possible to make the consequences of
sin an atonement for sin, when the consequences of sin are to be
borne by one who has not sinned, and the one who has sinned is to
reap the reward of virtue? No honorable man should be willing that
another should suffer for him. No good law can accept the
sufferings of innocence as an atonement for the guilty; and
besides, if there was no atonement until the crucifixion of Christ,
what became of the countless millions who died before that time? We
must remember that the Jews did not kill animals for the Gentiles.
Jehovah hated foreigners. There was no way provided for the
forgiveness of a heathen. What has become of the millions who have
died since, without having heard of the atonement? What becomes of
those who hear and do not believe? Can there be a law that demands
that the guilty be rewarded. And yet, to reward the guilty is far

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nearer justice than to punish the innocent. If the doctrine of the
atonement is true, there would have been no heaven had no atonement
been made.

If Judas had understood the Christian system, if he knew that
Christ must be betrayed, and that God was depending on him to
betray him, and that without the betrayal no human soul could be
saved, what should Judas have done?

Jehovah took special charge of the Jewish people. He did this
for the purpose of civilizing them. If he had succeeded in
civilizing them, he would have made the damnation of the entire
human race a certainty; because if the Jews had been a civilized
people when Christ appeared -- a people who had not been hardened
by the laws of Jehovah -- they would not have crucified Christ, and
as a consequence, the world would have been lost. If the Jews had
believed in religious freedom, in the rights of thought and speech,
if the Christian religion is true, not a human soul ever could have
been saved. If, when Christ was on his way to Calvary, some brave
soul had rescued him from the pious mob, he would not only have
been damned for his pains. but would have rendered impossible the
salvation of any human being.

The Christian world has been trying for nearly two thousand
years to explain the atonement, and every effort has ended in an
admission that it cannot be understood, and a declaration that it
must be believed. Has the promise and hope of forgiveness ever
prevented the commission of a sin? Can men be made better by being
taught that sin gives happiness here; that to live a virtuous life
is to bear a cross; that men can repent between the last sin and
the last breath; and that repentance washes every stain of the soul
away? Is it good to teach that the serpent of regret will not hiss
in the ear of memory; that the saved will not even pity the victims
of their crimes; and that sins forgiven cease to affect the unhappy
wretches sinned against?

Another objection is, that a certain belief is necessary to
save the soul. This doctrine, I admit, is taught in the gospel
according to John, and in many of the epistles; I deny that it is
taught in Matthew, Mark, or Luke. It is, however, asserted by the
church that to believe is the only safe way. To this, I reply:
Belief is not a voluntary thing. A man believes or disbelieves in
spite of himself, They tell us that to believe is the safe way; but
I say, the safe way is to be honest. Nothing can be safer than
that. No man in the hour of death ever regretted having been
honest. No man when the shadows of the last day were gathering
about the pillow of death, ever regretted that he had given to his
fellow-man his honest thought. No man, in the presence of eternity,
ever wished that he had been a hypocrite. No man ever then
regretted that he did not throw away his reason. It certainly
cannot be necessary to throw away your reason to save your soul,
because after that, your soul is not worth saving. The soul has a
right to defend itself. My brain is my castle; and when I waive the
right to defend it, I become an intellectual serf and slave.

I do not admit that a man by doing me an injury can place me
under obligations to do him a service. To render benefits for
injuries is to ignore all distinctions between actions. He who

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treats friends and enemies alike has neither love nor justice. The
idea of non-resistance never occurred to a man with power to defend
himself. The mother of this doctrine was weakness. To allow a crime
to be committed, even against yourself, when you can prevent it, is
next to committing the crime yourself. The church has preached the
doctrine of non-resistance, and under that banner has shed the
blood of millions. In the folds of her sacred vestments have
gleamed for centuries the daggers of assassination. With her
cunning hands she wove the purple for hypocrisy and placed the
crown upon the brow of crime. For more than a thousand years
larceny held the scales of justice, hypocrisy wore the maitre and
tiara, while beggars scorned the royal sons of toil, and ignorant
fear denounced the liberty of thought.



Christ came, they tell us, to make a revelation, and what did
he reveal? "Love thy neighbor as thyself"? That was in the Old
Testament. "Love God with all thy heart"? That was in the Old
Testament. "Return good for evil"? That was said by Buddha, seven
hundred years before Christ was born. "Do unto others as ye would
that they should do unto you"? That was the doctrine of Lao-tsze.
Did he come to give a rule of action? Zoroaster had done this long
before "Whenever thou art in doubt as to whether an action is good
or bad, abstain from it." Did he come to tell us of another world?
The immortality of the soul had been taught by the Hindoos,
Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans hundreds of years before he was born.
What argument did he make in favor of immortality? What facts did
he furnish? What star of hope did he put above the darkness of this
world? Did he come simply to tell us that we should not revenge
ourselves upon our enemies?

Long before, Socrates had said; "One who is injured ought not
to return the injury, for on no account can it be right to do an
injustice; and it is not right to return an injury, or to do evil
to any man, however much we have suffered from him." And Cicero,
had said. "Let us not listen to those who think we ought to be
angry with our enemies, and who believe this to be great and manly.
Nothing is so praiseworthy, nothing so clearly shows a great and
noble soul, as clemency and readiness to forgive." Is there
anything in the literature of the world more nearly perfect than
this thought?

Was it from Christ the world learned the first lesson of
forbearance, when centuries and centuries before, Chrishna had
said, "If a man strike thee, and in striking drop his staff, pick
it up and hand it to him again?" Is it possible that the son of God
threatened to say to a vast majority of his children, "Depart from
me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his
angels," while the Buddhist was great and tender enough to say:
"Never will I seek nor receive private individual salvation; never
enter into final peace alone; but forever and everywhere will I
live and strive for the universal redemption of every creature
throughout all worlds. Never will I leave this world of sin and
sorrow and struggle until all are delivered. Until then, I will
remain and suffer where I am?"

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Is there anything in the New Testament as beautiful as this,
from a Sufi? -- "Better one moment of silent contemplation and
inward love than seventy thousand years of outward worship."

Is there anything comparable to this? -- "Whoever carelessly
treads on a worm that crawls on the earth, that heartless one is
darkly alienate from God."

Is there anything in the New Testament more beautiful than the
story of the Sufi?

For seven years a Sufi practiced every virtue, and then he
mounted the three steps that lead to the doors of Paradise. He
knocked and a voice said "Who is there?" The Sufi replied. "Thy
servant, O God." But the doors remained closed.

Yet seven other years the Sufi engaged in every good work. He
comforted the sorrowing and divided his substance with the poor.
Again he mounted the three steps, again knocked at the doors of
Paradise, and again the voice asked; "Who is there?" and the Sufi
replied; "Thy slave, O God." -- But the doors remained closed.

Yet seven other years the Sufi spent in works of charity, in
visiting the imprisoned and the sick. Again he mounted the steps,
again knocked at the celestial doors. Again he heard the question,
"Who is there?" and he replied. "Thyself' O God." -- The gates wide
open flew.

Is it possible that St. Paul was inspired of God, when he said
"Let the women learn in silence, with all subjection." --

"Neither was the man created for the woman, but the woman for
the man?"

And is it possible that Epictetus, without the slightest aid
from heaven, gave to the world this gem of love:

"What is more delightful than to be so dear to your wife, as
to be on that account dearer to yourself?"

Did St. Paul express the sentiments of God when he wrote --

"But I would have you know that the head of every man is
Christ, and the head of every woman is the man, and the head of
Christ is God. Wives, submit yourselves unto your husbands as unto
the Lord?"

And was the author of this, a poor despised heathen? --

"In whatever house the husband is contented with the wife, and
the wife with the husband, in that house will fortune dwell; but
upon the house where women are not honored, let a curse be
pronounced. Where the wife is honored, there the gods are truly

Is there anything in the New Testament as beautiful as this?

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"Shall I tell thee where nature is most blest and fair? It is
where those we love abide. Though that space be small, it is ample
above kingdoms; though it be a desert, through it run the rivers of

After reading the curses pronounced in the Old Testament upon
Jew and heathen, the descriptions of slaughter, of treachery and of
death, the destruction of women and babes; after you shall have
read all the chapters of horror in the New Testament, the
threatening of fire and flame, then read this, from the greatest of
human beings: "The quality of mercy is not strained: It droppeth as
the gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath. It is twice
blessed; It blesseth him that gives and him that takes. 'Tis
mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes The throned monarch better
than his crown."



Upon passages in the New Testament rests the doctrine of
eternal pain. This doctrine subverts every idea of justice. A
finite being can neither commit an infinite sin, nor a sin against
the Infinite. A being of infinite goodness and wisdom has no right
to create any being whose life is not a blessing. Infinite wisdom
has no right to create a failure, and surely a man destined to
everlasting failure is not a conspicuous success. The doctrine of
eternal punishment is the most infamous of all doctrines -- born of
ignorance, cruelty and fear. Around the angel of immortality,
Christianity has coiled this serpent. Upon Love's breast the church
has placed the eternal asp. And yet in the same book in which is
taught this most frightful of dogmas, we are assured that "the Lord
is good to all, and his tender mercies are over all his works." A
few days ago upon the wide sea, was found a barque called "The
Tiger," Captain Kreuger, in command. The vessel had been one
hundred and twenty-six days upon the sea. For days the crew had
been without water, without food, and were starving. For nine days
not a drop had passed their lips. The crew consisted of the
captain, a mate, and eleven men. At the end of one hundred and
eighteen days from Liverpool they killed the captain's Newfoundland
dog. This lasted them four days. During the next five days they had
nothing. For weeks they had had no light and were unable to see the
compass at night. On the one hundred and twenty-fifth day Captain
Kreuger, a German, took a revolver in his hand, stood up before the
men, and placing the weapon at his temple said "Boys, we can't
stand this much longer, and to save you all, I am willing to die."
The mate grasped the revolver and begged the captain to wait
another day. The next day, upon the horizon of their despair, they
saw the smoke of the steamship Nebo. They were rescued. Suppose
that Captain Kreuger was not a Christian, and suppose that he had
sent the ball crashing through his brain, and had done so simply to
keep the crew from starvation, do you tell me that a God of
infinite mercy would forever damn that man?

Do not misunderstand me. I insist that every passage in the
Bible upholding crime was written by savage man. I insist that if
there is a God, he is not, never was, and never will be in favor of

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slavery, polygamy, wars of extermination, or religious persecution.
Does any Christian believe that if the real God were to write a
book now, he would uphold the crimes commanded in the Old
Testament? Has Jehovah improved? Has infinite mercy become more
merciful? Has infinite wisdom intellectually advanced?


Will any one claim that the passages upholding slavery have
liberated mankind? Are we indebted to polygamy for our modern
homes? Was religious liberty born of that infamous verse in which
the husband is commanded to kill his wife for worshiping an unknown

The usual answer to these objections is, that no country has
ever been civilized without a Bible. The Jews were the only people
to whom Jehovah made his will directly known. Were they better than
other nations? They read the Old Testament and one of the effects
of such reading was, that they crucified a kind, loving, and
perfectly innocent man. Certainly they could not have done worse,
without a Bible. In crucifying Christ the Jews followed the
teachings of his Father. If Jehovah was in fact God, and if that
God took upon himself flesh and came among the Jews, and preached
what the Jews understood to be blasphemy; and if the Jews in
accordance with the laws given by this same Jehovah to Moses,
crucified him, then I say, and I say it with infinite reverence, he
reaped what he had sown. He became the victim of his own injustice.

But I insist that these things are not true. I insist that the
real God, if there is one, never commanded man to enslave his
fellow-man, never told a mother to sell her babe, never established
polygamy, never urged one nation to exterminate another, and never
told a husband to kill his wife because she suggested the worship
of another God.

From the aspersions of the pulpit, from the slanders of the
church, I seek to rescue the reputation of the Deity. I insist that
the Old Testament would be a better book with all these passages
left out; and whatever may be said of the rest of the Bible, the
passages to which I have called attention can, with vastly more
propriety, be attributed to a devil than to a god.

Take from the New Testament the idea that belief is necessary
to salvation; that Christ was offered as an atonement for the sins
of mankind; that heaven is the reward of faith, and hell the
penalty of honest investigation, and that the punishment of the
human soul will go on forever; take from it all miracles and
foolish stories, and I most cheerfully admit that the good passages
are true. If they are true, it makes no difference whether they are
inspired or not. Inspiration is only necessary to give authority to
that which is repugnant to human reason. Only that which never
happened needs to be substantiated by a miracle.

The universe is natural.

The church must cease to insist that passages upholding the
institutions of savage men were inspired of God. The dogma of
atonement must be abandoned. Good deeds must take the place of

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faith. The savagery of eternal punishment must be renounced. It
must be admitted that credulity is not a virtue, and that
investigation is not a crime. It must be admitted that miracles are
the children of mendacity, and that nothing can be more wonderful
than the majestic, unbroken, sublime, and eternal procession of
causes and effects. Reason must be the arbiter. Inspired books
attested by miracles cannot stand against a demonstrated fact. A
religion that does not command the respect of the greatest minds
will, in a little while, excite the mockery of all.

A man who does not believe in intellectual liberty is a
barbarian. Is it possible that God is intolerant? Could there be
any progress, even in heaven, without intellectual liberty? Is the
freedom of the future to exist only in perdition? Is it not, after
all, barely possible that a man acting like Christ can be saved? Is
a man to be eternally rewarded for believing according to evidence,
without evidence, or against evidence? Are we to be saved because
we are good, or because another was virtuous? Is credulity to be
winged and crowned, whilst honest doubt is chained and damned.

If Jehovah, was in fact God, he knew the end from the
beginning. He knew that his Bible would be a breast-work behind
which all tyranny and hypocrisy would crouch. He knew that his
Bible would be the auction-block on which women would stand while
their babes were sold from their arms. He knew that this Bible
would be quoted by tyrants; that it would be the defence of robbers
called kings, and of hypocrites called priests. He knew that he had
taught the Jewish people nothing of importance. He knew that he had
found them free and left them slaves. He knew that he had never
fulfilled a single promise made to them. He knew that while other
nations had advanced in art and science his chosen people were
savage still. He promised them the world, and gave them a desert.
He promised them liberty and he made them slaves. He promised them
victory and he gave them defeat. He said they should be kings and
he made them serfs. He promised them universal empire and gave them
exile. When one finishes the Old Testament he is compelled to say:
"Nothing can add to the misery of a nation whose king is Jehovah!"

The Old Testament filled this world with tyranny and
injustice, and the New gives us a future filled with pain for
nearly all of the sons of men.

The Old Testament describes the hell of the past, and the New
the hell of the future.

The Old Testament tells us the frightful things that God has
done, the New the frightful things that he will do.

These two books give us the sufferings of the past and the
future -- the injustice, the agony and the tears of both worlds.

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

Reproducible Electronic Publishing can defeat censorship.

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

The Free Market-Place of Ideas.

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

Bank of Wisdom
Box 926
Louisville, KY 40201