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Robert Ingersoll Talmage Interviews Talmage Interview 6

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Talmage Interview 6

Robert Green Ingersoll

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QUESTION. What do you think of the arguments presented by Mr.
Talmage in favor of the inspiration of the Bible?

ANSWER. Mr. Talmage takes the ground that there are more
copies of the Bible than of any other book, and that consequently
it must be inspired.

It seems to me that this kind of reasoning proves entirely too
much. If the Bible is the inspired word of God, it was certainly
just as true when there was only one copy, as it is to-day; and the
facts contained in it were just as true before they were written,
as afterwards. We all know that it is a fact in human nature, that
a man can tell a falsehood so often that he finally believes it
himself; but I never suspected, until now, that a mistake could be
printed enough times to make it true.

There may have been a time, and probably there was, when there
were more copies of the Koran than of the Bible. When most
Christians were utterly ignorant, thousands of Moors were educated;
and it is well known that the arts and sciences flourished in
Mohammedan countries in a far greater degree than in Christian.
Now, at that time, it may be that there were more copies of the
Koran than of the Bible. If some enterprising Mohammedan had only
seen the force of such a fact, he might have established the
inspiration of the Koran beyond a doubt; or, if it had been found
by actual count that the Koran was a little behind, a few years of
industry spent in the multiplication of copies, might have
furnished the evidence of its inspiration.

Is it not simply amazing that a doctor of divinity, a
Presbyterian clergyman, in this day and age, should seriously rely
upon the number of copies of the Bible to substantiate the
inspiration of that book? Is it possible to conceive of anything
more fig-leaflessly absurd? If there is anything at all in this
argument, it is, that all books are true in proportion to the
number of copies that exist. Of course, the same rule will work
with newspapers; so that; the newspaper having the largest
circulation can consistently claim infallibility. Suppose that an
exceedingly absurd statement should appear in The New York Harold,
and some one should denounce it as utterly without any foundation
in fact or probability; what would Mr. Talmage think if the editor
of the Harold, as an evidence of the truth of the statement, should
rely on the fact that his paper had the largest circulation of any

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in the city? One would think that the whole church had acted upon
the theory that a falsehood repeated often enough was as good as
the truth.

Another evidence brought forward by the reverend gentleman to
prove the inspiration of the Scriptures, is the assertion that if
Congress should undertake to pass a law to take the Bible from the
people, thirty millions would rise in defence of that book.

This argument also seems to me to prove too much, and as a
consequence, to prove nothing. If Congress should pass a law
prohibiting the reading of Shakespeare, every American would rise
in defence of his right to read the works of the greatest man this
world has known. Still, that would not even tend to show that
Shakespeare was inspired. The fact is, the American people would
not allow Congress to pass a law preventing them from reading any
good book. Such action would not prove the book to be inspired; it
would prove that the American people believe in liberty.

There are millions of people in Turkey who would peril their
lives in defence of the Koran. A fact like this does not prove the
truth of the Koran; it simply proves what Mohammedans think of that
book, and what they are willing to do for its preservation.

It can not be too often repeated, that martyrdom does not
prove the truth of the thing for which the martyr dies; it only
proves the sincerity of the martyr and the cruelty of his
murderers. No matter how many people regard the Bible as inspired,
-- that fact furnishes no evidence that it is inspired. Just as
many people have regarded other books as inspired; just as many
millions have been deluded about the inspiration of books ages and
ages before Christianity was born.

The simple belief of one man, or of millions of men, is no
evidence to another. Evidence must be based, not upon the belief of
other people, but upon facts. A believer may state the facts upon
which his belief is founded, and the person to whom he states them
gives them the weight that according to the construction and
constitution of his mind he must. But simple, bare belief is not
testimony. We should build upon facts, not upon beliefs of others,
nor upon the shifting sands of public opinion. So much for this

The next point made by the reverend gentleman is, that an
infidel cannot be elected to any office in the United States, in
any county, precinct, or ward.

For the sake of the argument, let us admit that this is true.
What does it prove? There was a time when no Protestant could have
been elected to any office. What did that prove? There was a time
when no Presbyterian could have been chosen to fill any public
station. What did that prove? The same may be said of the members
of each religious denomination. What does that prove?

Mr. Talmage says that Christianity must be true. because an
infidel cannot be elected to office. Now, suppose that enough
infidels should happen to settle in one precinct to elect one of

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their own number to office; would that prove that Christianity was
not true in that precinct? There was a time when no man could have
been elected to any office, who insisted on the rotundity of the
earth; what did that prove? There was a time when no man who denied
the existence of witches, wizards, spooks and devils, could hold
any position of honor; what did that prove? There was a time when
an abolitionist could not be elected to office in any State in this
Union; what did that prove? There was a time when they were not
allowed to express their honest thoughts; what does that prove?
There was a time when a Quaker could not have been elected to any
office; there was a time in the history of this country when but
few of them were allowed to live; what does that prove? Is it
necessary, in order to ascertain the truth of Christianity, to look
over the election returns? Is "inspiration" a question to be
settled by the ballot? I admit that it was once, in the first
place, settled that way. I admit that books were voted in and voted
out, and that the Bible was finally formed in accordance with a
vote; but does Mr. Talmage insist that the question is not still
open? Does he not know, that a fact cannot by any possibility be
affected by opinion? We make laws for the whole people, by the
whole people. We agree that a majority shall rule, but nobody ever
pretended that a question of taste could be settled by an appeal to
majorities, or that a question of logic could be affected by
numbers. In the world of thought, each man is an absolute monarch,
each brain is a kingdom, that cannot be invaded even by the tyranny
of majorities.

No man can avoid the intellectual responsibility of deciding
for himself.

Suppose that the Christian religion had been put to vote in
Jerusalem? Suppose that the doctrine of the "fall" had been settled
in Athens, by an appeal to the people, would Mr. Talmage have been
willing to abide by their decision? If he settles the inspiration
of the Bible by a popular vote, he must settle the meaning of the
Bible by the same means. There are more Methodists than
Presbyterians -- why does the gentleman remain a Presbyterian?
There are more Buddhists than Christians -- why does he vote
against majorities? He will remember that Christianity was once
settled by a popular vote -- that the divinity of Christ was
submitted to the people, and the people said: "Crucify him!"

The next, and about the strongest, argument Mr. Talmage makes
is. that I am an infidel because I was defeated for Governor of

When put in plain English. his statement is this: that I was
defeated because I was an infidel, and that I am an infidel because
I was defeated. This, I believe, is called reasoning in a circle.
The truth is, that a good many people did object to me because I
was an infidel, and the probability is, that if I had denied being
an infidel, I might have obtained an office. The wonderful part is,
that any Christian should deride me because I preferred honor to
political success. He who dishonors himself for the sake of being
honored by others, will find that two mistakes have been made --
one by himself, and the other, by the people.

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I presume that Mr.Talmage really thinks that I was extremely
foolish to avow my real opinions. After all, men are apt to judge
others somewhat by themselves. According to him. I made the mistake
of preserving my manhood and losing an office. Now, if I had in
fact been an infidel, and had denied it, for the sake of position,
then I admit that every Christian might have pointed at me the
finger of contempt. But I was an infidel, and admitted it. Surely,
I should not be held in contempt by Christians for having made the
admission. I was not a believer in the Bible, and I said so. I was
not a Christian, and I said so. I was not willing to receive the
support of any man under a false impression. I thought it better to
be honestly beaten, than to dishonestly succeed. According to the
ethics of Mr Talmage I made a mistake, and this mistake is brought
forward as another evidence of the inspiration of the Scriptures.
If I had only been elected Governor of Illinois, -- that is to say,
if I had been a successful hypocrite, I might now be basking in the
sunshine of this gentleman's respect. I preferred to tell the truth
-- to be an honest man, -- and I have never regretted the course I

There are many men now in office who, had they pursued a
nobler course, would be private citizens. Nominally, they are
Christians; actually, they are nothing; and this is the combination
that generally insures political success.

Mr. Talmage is exceedingly proud of the fact that Christians
will not vote for infidels. In other words, he does not believe
that in our Government the church has been absolutely divorced from
the state. He believes that it is still the Christian's duty to
make the religious test. Probably he wishes to get his God into the
Constitution. My position is this:

Religion is an individual matter -- a something for each
individual to settle for himself, and with which no other human
being has any concern, provided the religion of each human being
allows liberty to every other. When called upon to vote for men to
fill the offices of this country, I do not inquire as to the
religion of the candidates. It is none of my business. I ask the
questions asked by Jefferson: "Is he "honest; is he capable?" It
makes no difference to me, if he is willing that others should be
free, what creed he may profess. The moment I inquire into his
religious belief, I found a little inquisition of my own; I repeat,
in a small way, the errors of the past, and reproduce, in so far as
I am capable, the infamy of the ignorant orthodox years.

Mr.Talmage will accept my thanks for his frankness. I now know
what controls a Presbyterian when he casts his vote. He cares
nothing for the capacity, nothing for the fitness, of the candidate
to discharge the duties of the office to which he aspires; he
simply asks: Is he a Presbyterian, is he a Protestant, does he
believe our creed? and then, no matter how ignorant he may be, how
utterly unfit, he receives the Presbyterian vote. According to Mr.
Talmage, he would vote for a Catholic who, if he had the power,
would destroy all liberty of conscience, rather than vote for an
infidel who, had he the power, would destroy all the religious
tyranny of the world, and allow every human being to think for
himself, and to worship God, or not, as and how he pleased.

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Mr. Talmage makes the serious mistake of placing the Bible
above the laws and Constitution of his country. He places Jehovah
above humanity. Such men are not entirely safe citizens of any
republic. And yet, I am in favor of giving to such men all the
liberty I ask for myself, trusting to education and the spirit of
progress to overcome any injury they may do, or seek to do.

When this country was founded, when the Constitution was
adopted, the churches agreed to let the State alone. They agreed
that all citizens should have equal civil rights. Nothing could be
more dangerous to the existence of this Republic than to introduce
religion into politics. The American theory is, that governments
are founded, not by gods, but by men, and that the right to govern
does not come from God, but "from the consent of the governed." Our
fathers concluded that the people were sufficiently intelligent to
take care of themselves -- to make good laws and to execute them.
Prior to that time, all authority was supposed to come from the
clouds. Kings were set upon thrones by God, and it was the business
of the people simply to submit. In all really civilized countries,
that doctrine has been abandoned. The source of political power is
here, not in heaven. We are willing that those in heaven should
control affairs there; we are willing that the angels should have
a government to suit themselves; but while we live here, and while
our interests are upon this earth, we propose to make and execute
our own laws.

If the doctrine of Mr. Talmage is the true doctrine, if no man
should be voted for unless he is a Christian, then no man should
vote unless he is a Christian. It will not do to say that sinners
may vote, that an infidel may be the repository of political power,
but must not be voted for. A decent Christian who is not willing
that an infidel should be elected to an office, would not be
willing to be elected to an office by infidel votes. If infidels
are too bad to be voted for, they are certainly not good enough to
vote, and no Christian should be willing to represent such an
infamous constituency.

If the political theory of Mr. Talmage is carried out, of
course the question will arise in a little while, What is a
Christian? It will then be necessary to write a creed to be
subscribed by every person before he is fit to vote or to be voted
for. This of course must be done by the State, and must be settled,
under our form of government, by a majority vote. Is Mr. Talmage
willing that the question, What is Christianity? should be so
settled? Will he pledge himself in advance to subscribe to such a
creed? Of course he will not. He will insist that he has the right
to read the Bible for himself, and that he must be bound by his own
conscience. In this he would be right. If he has the right to read
the Bible for himself, so have I. If he is to be bound by his
conscience, so am I. If he honestly believes the Bible to be true,
he must say so, in order to preserve his manhood; and if I honestly
believe it to be uninspired, -- filled with mistakes, -- I must say
so or lose my manhood. How infamous I would be should I endeavor to
deprive him of his vote, or of his right to be voted for, because
he had been true to his conscience! And how infamous he is to try
to deprive me of the right to vote, or to be voted for, because I
am true to my conscience!

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When we were engaged in civil war, did Mr. Talmage object to
any man's enlisting in the ranks who was not a Christian? Was he
willing, at that time, that sinners should vote to keep our flag in
heaven? Was he willing that the "unconverted" should cover the
fields of victory with their corpses, that this nation might not
die? At the same time, Mr. Talmage knew that every "unconverted"
soldier killed, went down to eternal fire. Does Mr. Talmage believe
that it is the duty of a man to fight for a government in which he
has no rights? Is the man who shoulders his musket in the defence
of human freedom good enough to cast a ballot? There is in the
heart of this priest the same hatred of real liberty that drew the
sword of persecution, that built dungeons, that forged chains and
made instruments of torture.

Nobody, with the exception of priests, would be willing to
trust the liberties of this country in the hands of any church. In
order to show the political estimation in which the clergy are
held, in order to show the confidence the people at large have in
the sincerity and wisdom of the clergy, it is sufficient to state.
that no priest, no bishop, could by any possibility be elected
President of the United States. No party could carry that load. A
fear would fall upon the mind and heart of every honest man that
this country was about to drift back to the Middle Ages, and that
the old battles were to be re-fought. If the bishop running for
President was of the Methodist Church, every other church would
oppose him. If he was a Catholic, the Protestants would as a body
combine against him. Why? The churches have no confidence in each
other. Why? Because they are acquainted with each other.

As a matter of fact, the infidel has a thousand times more
reason to vote against the Christian, than the Christian has to
vote against the infidel. The Christian believes in a book superior
to the Constitution -- superior to all Constitutions and all laws.
The infidel believes that the Constitution and laws are superior to
any book. He is not controlled by any power beyond the seas or
above the clouds. He does not receive his orders from Rome, or
Sinai. He receives them from his fellow-citizens, legally and
constitutionally expressed. The Christian believes in a power
greater than man, to which, upon the peril of eternal pain, he must
bow. His allegiance, to say the best of it, is divided. The
Christian puts the fortune of his own soul over and above the
temporal welfare of the entire world; the infidel puts the good of
mankind here and now, beyond and over all.

There was a time in New England when only church members were
allowed to vote, and it may be instructive to state the fact that
during that time Quakers were hanged, women were stripped, tied to
carts, and whipped from town to town. and their babes sold into
slavery, or exchanged for rum. Now in that same country, thousands
and thousands of infidels vote, and yet the laws are nearer just,
women are not whipped and children are not sold.

If all the convicts in all the penitentiaries of the United
States could be transported to some island in the sea, and there
allowed to make a government for themselves, they would pass better
laws than John Calvin did in Geneva. They would have clearer and
better views of the rights of men, than unconvicted Christians used

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to have. I do not say that these convicts are better people, but I
do say that. in my judgment, they would make better laws. They
certainly could not make worse.

If these convicts were taken from the prisons of the United
States, they would not dream of uniting church and state. They
would have no religious test. They would allow every man to vote
and to be voted for, no matter what his religious views might be.
They would not dream of whipping Quakers, of burning Unitarians, of
imprisoning or burning Universalists or infidels. They would allow
all the people to guess for themselves. Some of these convicts, of
course, would believe in the old ideas, and would insist upon the
suppression of free thought. Those coming from Delaware would
probably repeat with great gusto the opinions of Justice Comegys,
and insist that the whipping-post was the handmaid of Christianity.

It would be hard to conceive of a much worse government than
that founded by the Puritans. They took the Bible for the
foundation of their political structure. They copied the laws given
to Moses from Sinai, and the result was one of the worst
governments that ever disgraced this world. They believed the Old
Testament to be inspired. They believed that Jehovah made laws for
all people and for all time. They had not learned the hypocrisy
that believes and avoids. They did not say: This law was once just,
but is now unjust; it was once good, but now it is infamous; it was
given by God once, but now it can only be obeyed by the devil. They
had not reached the height of biblical exegesis on which we find
the modern theologian perched, and who tells us that Jehovah has
reformed. The Puritans were consistent. They did what people must
do who honestly believe in the inspiration of the Old Testament. If
God gave laws from Sinai what right have we to repeal them?

As people have gained confidence in each other, they have lost
confidence in the sacred Scriptures. We know now that the Bible can
not be used as the foundation of government. It is capable of too
many meanings. Nobody can find out exactly what it upholds, what it
permits, what it denounces, what it denies. These things depend
upon what part you read. If it is all true, it upholds everything
bad and denounces everything good, and it also denounces the bad
and upholds the good. Then there are passages where the good is
denounced and the bad commanded; so that any one can go to the
Bible and find some text, some passage, to uphold anything he may
desire. If he wishes to enslave his fellowmen, he will find
hundreds of passages in his favor. If he wishes to be a polygamist,
he can find his authority there. If he wishes to make war, to
exterminate his neighbors, there his warrant can be found. If, on
the other hand, he is oppressed himself, and wishes to make war
upon his king, he can find a battle-cry. And if the king wishes to
put him down, he can find text for text on the other side. So, too,
upon all questions of reform. The teetotaler goes there to get his
verse, and the moderate drinker finds within the sacred lids his
best excuse.

Most intelligent people are now convinced that the bible is
not a guide; that in reading it you must exercise your reason; that
you can neither safely reject nor accept all; that he who takes one
passage for a staff, trips upon another; that while one text is a

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light, another blows it out; that it is such a mingling of rocks
and quicksand, such a labyrinth of clews and snares -- so few
flowers among so many nettles and thorns, that it misleads rather
than directs, and taken altogether, is a hindrance and not a help.

Another important point made by Mr. Talmage is, that if the
Bible is thrown away. we will have nothing left to swear witnesses
on, and that consequently the administration of justice will become

There was a time when the Bible did not exist, and if Mr.
Talmage is correct, of course justice was impossible then, and
truth must have been a stranger to human lips. How can we depend
upon the testimony of those who wrote the Bible, as there was no
Bible in existence while they were writing. and consequently there
was no way to take their testimony, and we have no account of their
having been sworn on the Bible after they got it finished. It is
extremely sad to think that all the nations of antiquity were left
entirely without the means of eliciting truth. No wonder that
Justice was painted blindfolded.

What perfect fetichism it is, to imagine that a man will tell
the truth simply because he has kissed an old piece of sheepskin
stained with the saliva of all classes. A farce of this kind adds
nothing to the testimony of an honest man; it simply allows a rogue
to give weight to his false testimony. This is really the only
result that can be accomplished by kissing the Bible. A desperate
villain, for the purpose of getting revenge, or making money, will
gladly go through the ceremony, and ignorant juries and
superstitious judges will be imposed upon. The whole system of
oaths is false, and does harm instead of good. Let every man walk
into court and tell his story, and let the truth of the story be
judged by its reasonableness, taking into consideration the
character of the witness, the interest he has. and the position he
occupies in the controversy, and then let it be the business of the
jury to ascertain the real truth -- to throw away the unreasonable
and the impossible, and make up their verdict only upon what they
believe to be reasonable and true. An honest man does not need the
oath, and a rascal uses it simply to accomplish his purpose. If the
history of courts proved that every man, after kissing the Bible,
told the truth, and that those who failed to kiss it sometimes
lied. I should be in favor of swearing all people on the Bible; but
the experience of very lawyer is, that kissing the Bible is not
always the preface of a true story. It is often the ceremonial
embroidery a falsehood.

If there is an infinite God who attends to the affairs of men,
it seems to me almost a sacrilege to publicly appeal to him in
every petty trial. If one will go into any court, and notice the
manner in which oaths are administered, -- the utter lack of
solemnity -- the matter-of-course air with which the whole thing is
done, he will be convinced that it is a form of no importance. Mr.
Talmage would probably agree with the judge of whom the following
story is told:

A witness was being sworn. The judge noticed that he was not
holding up his hand. He said to the clerk: "Let the witness hold up
his right hand." "His right arm was shot off." replied the clerk.

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"Let him hold up his left, then." "That was shot off, too, your
honor." "Well, then, let him raise one foot; no man can be sworn in
this court without holding something up."

My own opinion is, that if every copy of the Bible in the
world were destroyed, there would be some way to ascertain the
truth in judicial proceedings; and any other book would do just as
well to swear witnesses upon, or a block in the shape of a book
covered with some kind of calfskin could do equally well, or just
the calfskin would do. Nothing is more laughable than the
performance of this ceremony, and I have never seen in court one
calf kissing the skin of another, that I did not feel humiliated
that such things were done in the name of Justice.

Mr. Talmage has still another argument in favor of the
preservation of the Bible. He wants to know what book could take
its place on the center. table.

I admit that there is much force in this. Suppose we all
admitted the Bible to be an uninspired book, it could still he kept
on the center-table. It would be just as true then as it is now.
Inspiration can not add anything to a fact; neither can inspiration
make the immoral moral, the unjust just, or the cruel merciful. If
it is a fact that God established human slavery, that does not
prove slavery to be right; it simply shows that God was wrong. If
I have the right to use my reason in determining whether the Bible
is inspired or not, and if in accordance with my reason I conclude
that it is inspired, I have still the right to use my reason in
determining whether the commandments of God are good or bad. Now,
suppose we take from the Bible every word upholding slavery, every
passage in favor of polygamy, every verse commanding soldiers to
kill women and children, it would be just as fit for the center-
table as now. Suppose every impure word was taken from it; suppose
that the history of Tamar was left out, the biography of Lot, and
all other barbarous accounts of a barbarous people, it would look
just as well upon the center-table as now.

Suppose that we should become convinced that the writers of
the New Testament were mistaken as to the eternity of punishment,
or that all the passages now relied upon to prove the existence of
perdition were shown to be interpolations, and were thereupon
expunged, would not the book be dearer still to every human being
with a heart? I would like to see every good passage in the Bible
preserved. I would like to see, with all these passages from the
Bible, the loftiest sentiments from all other books that have ever
been uttered by men in all ages and of all races, bound in one
volume, and to see that volume, filled with the greatest, the
purest and the best, become the household book.

The average Bible, on the average center-table, is about as
much used as though it were a solid block. It is scarcely ever
opened, and people who see its covers every day are unfamiliar with
its every page.

I admit that some things have happened somewhat hard to
explain, and tending to show that the Bible is no ordinary book. I
heard a story, not long ago, bearing upon this very subject.

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A man was a member of the church, but after a time, having had
bad luck in business affairs, became somewhat discouraged. Not
feeling able to contribute his share to the support of the church,
he ceased going to meeting, and finally became an average sinner.
His bad luck pursued him until he found himself and his family
without even a crust to eat. At this point, his wife told him that
she believed they were suffering from a visitation of God, and
begged him to restore family worship, and see if God would not do
something for them. Feeling that he could not possibly make matters
worse, he took the Bible from its resting place on a shelf where it
had quietly slumbered and collected the dust of many months, and
gathered his family about him. He opened the sacred volume, and to
his utter astonishment, there, between the divine leaves, was a
ten-dollar bill. He immediately dropped on his knees. His wife
dropped on hers, and the children on theirs, and with streaming
eyes they returned thanks to God. He rushed to the butcher's and
bought some steak, to the baker's and bought some bread, to the
grocer's and got some eggs and butter and tea, and joyfully
hastened home. The supper was cooked, it was on the table, grace
was said, and every face was radiant with joy. Just at that happy
moment a knock; was heard, the door was opened, and a policeman
entered and arrested the father for passing counterfeit money.

Mr. Talmage is also convinced that the Bible is inspired and
should be preserved because there is no other book that a mother
could give her son as he leaves the old home to make his way in the

Thousands and thousands of mothers have presented their sons
with Bibles without knowing really what the book contains. They
simply followed the custom, and the sons as a rule honored the
Bible, not because they knew anything of it, but because it was a
gift from mother. But surely, if all the passages upholding
polygamy were out, the mother would give the book to her son just
as readily, and he would receive it just as joyfully. If there were
not one word in it tending to degrade the mother, the gift would
certainly be as appropriate. The fact that mothers have presented
Bibles to their sons does not prove that the book is inspired. The
most that can be proved by this fact is that the mothers believed
it to be inspired. It does not even tend to show what the book is,
neither does it tend to establish the truth of one miracle recorded
upon its pages. We cannot believe that fire refused to burn, simply
because the statement happens to be in a book presented to a son by
his mother, and if all the mothers of the entire world should give
Bibles to all their children, this would not prove that it was once
right to murder mothers, or to enslave mothers, or to sell their

The inspiration of the Bible is not a question of natural
affection. It can not be decided by the love a mother bears her
son. It is a question of fact, to be substantiated like other
facts. If the Turkish mother should give a copy of the Koran to her
son, I would still have my doubts about the inspiration of that
book; and if some Turkish soldier saved his life by having in his
pocket a copy of the Koran that accidentally stopped a bullet just
opposite his heart, I should still deny that Mohammed was a prophet
of God.

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Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201


Nothing can be more childish than to ascribe mysterious powers
to inanimate objects. To imagine that old rags made into pulp,
manufactured into paper, covered with words, and bound with the
skin of a calf or a sheep, can have any virtues when thus put
together that did not belong to the articles out of which the book
was constructed, is of course infinitely absurd.

In the days of slavery, negroes used to buy dried roots of
other negroes, and put these roots in their pockets, so that a
whipping would not give them pain. Kings have bought diamonds to
give them luck. Crosses and scapularies are still worn for the
purpose of affecting the inevitable march of events. People still
imagine that a verse in the Bible can step in between a cause and
its effect; really believe that an amulet, a charm, the bone of
some saint, a piece of a cross, a little image of the Virgin, a
picture of a priest, will affect the weather, will delay frost,
will prevent disease, will insure safety at sea, and in some cases
prevent hanging. The banditti of Italy have great confidence in
these things, and whenever they start upon an expedition of theft
and plunder, they take images and pictures of saints with them,
such as have been blest by a priest or pope. They pray sincerely to
the Virgin, to give them luck, and see not the slightest
inconsistency tn appealing to all the saints in the calendar to
assist them in robbing honest people.

Edmund About tells a story that illustrates the belief of the
modern Italian. A young man was gambling. Fortune was against him.
In the room was a little picture representing the Virgin and her
child. Before this picture he crossed himself, and asked the
assistance of the child. Again he put down his money and again
lost. Returning to the picture, he told the child that he had lost
all but one piece, that he was about to hazard that, and made a
very urgent request that he would favor him with divine assistance.
He put down the last piece. He lost. Going to the picture and
shaking his fist at the child, he cried out: "Miserable bambino, I
am glad they crucified you!"

The confidence that one has in an image, in a relic, in a
book, comes from the same source, -- fetichism. To ascribe
supernatural virtues to the skin of a snake, to a picture, or to a
bound volume, is intellectually the same.

Mr. Talmage has still another argument in favor of the
inspiration of the Scriptures. He takes the ground that the Bible
must be inspired, because so many people believe it.

Mr. Talmage should remember that a scientific fact does not
depend upon the vote of numbers; -- it depends simply upon
demonstration; it depends upon intelligence and investigation, not
upon an ignorant multitude; it appeals to the highest, instead of
to the lowest. Nothing can be settled by popular prejudice.

According to Mr. Talmage, there are about three hundred
million Christians in the world. Is this true? In all countries
claiming to be Christian -- including all of civilized Europe,
Russia in Asia, and every country on the Western hemisphere, we
have nearly four hundred millions of people. Mr. Talmage claims

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Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201


that three hundred millions are Christians. I suppose he means by
this, that if all should perish tonight, about three hundred
millions would wake up in heaven -- having lived and died good and
consistent Christians.

There are in Russia about eighty millions of people -- how
many Christians? I admit that they have recently given more
evidence of orthodox Christianity than formerly. They have been
murdering old men; they have thrust daggers into the breasts of
women; they have violated maidens -- because they were Jews.
Thousands and thousands are sent each year to the mines of Siberia,
by the Christian government of Russia. Girls eighteen years of age,
for having expressed a word in favor of human liberty, are to-day
working like beasts of burden, with chains upon their limbs and
with the marks of whips upon their backs. Russia, of course, is
considered by Mr. Talmage as a Christian country -- a country
utterly, destitute of liberty -- without freedom of the press,
without freedom of speech, where every mouth is locked and every
tongue a prisoner -- a country filled with victims, soldiers,
spies, thieves and executioners. What would Russia be, in the
opinion of Mr. Talmage, but for Christianity? How could it be
worse, when assassins are among the best people in it? The truth
is, that the people in Russia, to-day, who are in favor of human
liberty, are not Christians. The men willing to sacrifice their
lives for the good of others, are not believers in the Christian
religion. The men who wish to break chains are infidels; the men
who make chains are Christians. Every good and sincere Catholic of
the Greek Church is a bad citizen, an enemy of progress, a foe of
human liberty. Yet Mr. Talmage regards Russia as a Christian

The sixteen millions of people in Spain are claimed as
Christians. Spain, that for centuries was the assassin of human
rights; Spain, that endeavored to spread Christianity by flame and
fagot; Spain, the soil where the Inquisition flourished, where
bigotry grew, and where cruelty was worship, -- where murder was
prayer. I admit that Spain is a Christian nation. I admit that
infidelity has gained no foothold beyond the Pyrenees. The
Spaniards are orthodox. They believe in the inspiration of the Old
and New Testaments. They have no doubts about miracles -- no doubts
about heaven, no doubts about hell. I admit that the priests, the
highwaymen, the bishops and thieves, are equally true believers.
The man who takes your purse on the highway, and the priest who
forgives the robber, are alike orthodox.

It gives me pleasure, however, to say that even in Spain there
is a dawn. Some great men, some men of genius, are protesting
against the tyranny of Catholicism. Some men have lost confidence
in the cathedral, and are beginning to ask the State to erect the
schoolhouse. They are beginning to suspect that priests are for the
most pan impostors and plunderers.

According to Mr. Talmage, the twenty-eight millions in Italy
are Christians. There the Christian Church was early established,
and the popes are today the successors of St. Peter. For hundreds
and hundreds of years, Italy was the beggar of the world, and to
her, from every land, flowed streams of gold and silver. The

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Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201


country was covered with convents, and monasteries, and churches,
and cathedrals filled with monks and nuns. Its roads were crowded
with pilgrims, and its dust was on the feet of the world. What has
Christianity done for Italy -- Italy, its soil a blessing, its sky
a smile -- Italy, with memories great enough to kindle the fires of
enthusiasm in any human breast?

Had it not been for a few Freethinkers, for a few infidels,
for such men as Garibaldi and Mazzini, the heaven of Italy would
still have been without a star. I admit that Italy, with its popes
and bandits, with its superstition and ignorance, with its
sanctified beggars, is a Christian nation; but in a little while,
-- in a few days, -- when according to the prophecy of Garibaldi
priests, with spades in their hands, will dig ditches to drain the
Pontine marshes; in a little while, when the pope leaves the
Vatican, and seeks the protection of a nation he has denounced, --
asking alms of intended victims; when the nuns shall marry, and the
monasteries shall become factories, and the whirl of wheels shall
take the place of drowsy prayers -- then, and not until then, will
Italy be, -- not a Christian nation, but great, prosperous, and

In Italy, Giordano Bruno was burned. Some day, his monument
will rise above the cross of Rome.

We have in our day one example, -- and so far as I know,
history records no other, -- of the resurrection of a nation. Italy
has been called from the grave of superstition. She is "the first
fruits of them that slept."

I admit with Mr. Talmage that Portugal is a Christian country
-- that she engaged for hundreds of years in the slave trade, and
that she Justified the infamous traffic by passages in the Old
Testament. I admit, also, that she persecuted the Jews in
accordance with the same divine volume. I admit that all the crime,
ignorance, destitution, and superstition in that country were
produced by the Catholic Church. I also admit that Portugal would
be better if it were Protestant. Every Catholic is in favor of
education enough to change a barbarian into a Catholic; every
Protestant is in favor of education enough to change a Catholic
into a Protestant; but Protestants and Catholics alike are opposed
to education that will lead to any real philosophy and science. I
admit that Portugal is what it is, on account of the preaching of
the gospel. I admit that Portugal can point with pride to the
triumphs of what she calls civilization within her borders, and
truthfully ascribe the glory to the church. But in a little while,
when more railroads are built, when telegraphs connect her people
with the civilized world, a spirit of doubt, of investigation, will
manifest itself in Portugal.

When the people stop counting beads, and go to the study of
mathematics; when they think more of plows than of prayers for
agricultural purposes; when they find that one fact gives more
light to the mind than a thousand tapers, and that nothing can by
any possibility be more useless than a priest, -- then Portugal
will begin to cease to be what is called a Christian nation.

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Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201


I admit that Austria, with her thirty-seven millions, is a
Christian nation -- including her Croats, Hungarians, Servians, and
Gypsies. Austria was one of the assassins of Poland. When we
remember that John Sobieski drove the Mohammedans from the gates of
Vienna, and rescued from the hand of the "infidel" the beleaguered
city, the propriety of calling Austria a Christian nation becomes
still more apparent. If one wishes to know exactly how "Christian"
Austria is, let him read the history of Hungary, let him read the
speeches of Kossuth. There is one good thing about Austria: slowly
but surely she is undermining the church by education. Education is
the enemy of superstition. Universal education does away with the
classes born of the tyranny of ecclesiasticism -- classes founded
upon cunning, greed, and brute strength. Education also tends to do
away with intellectual cowardice. The educated man is his own
priest, his own pope, his own church.

When cunning collects tolls from fear, the church prospers.

Germany is another Christian nation. Bismarck is celebrated
for his Christian virtues.

Only a little while ago, Bismarck, when a bill was under
consideration for ameliorating the condition of the Jews, stated
publicly that Germany was a Christian nation, that her business was
to extend and protect the religion of Jesus Christ, and that being
a Christian nation, no laws should he passed ameliorating the
condition of the Jews. Certainly a remark like this could not have
been made in any other than a Christian nation. There is no freedom
of the press, there is no freedom of speech, in Germany. The
Chancellor has gone so far as to declare that the king is not
responsible to the people. Germany must be a Christian nation. The
king gets his right to govern, not from his subjects, but from God.
He relies upon the New Testament. He is satisfied that "the powers
that be in Germany are ordained of God." He is satisfied that
treason against the German throne is treason against Jehovah. There
are millions of Freethinkers in Germany. They are not in the
majority, otherwise there would be more liberty in that country.
Germany is not an infidel nation, or speech would be free, and
every man would be allowed to express his honest thoughts.

Wherever I see Liberty in chains, wherever the expression of
opinion is a crime, I know that that country is not infidel; I know
that the people are not ruled by reason. I also know that the
greatest men of Germany -- her Freethinkers, her scientists, her
writers, her philosophers, are, for the most part, infidel. Yet
Germany is called a Christian nation, and ought to be so called
until her citizens are free.

France is also claimed as a Christian country. This is not
entirely true. France once was thoroughly Catholic, completely
Christian. At the time of the massacre of Saint Bartholomew, the
French were Christians. Christian France made exiles of the
Huguenots. Christian France for years and years was the property of
the Jesuits. Christian France was ignorant, cruel, orthodox and
infamous. When France was Christian, witnesses were cross-examined
with instruments of torture.

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Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201


Now France is not entirely under Catholic control, and yet she
is by far the most prosperous nation in Europe. I saw, only the
other day, a letter from a Protestant bishop, in which he states
that there are only about a million Protestants in France, and only
four or five millions of Catholics, and admits, in a very
melancholy way, that thirty-four or thirty-five millions are
Freethinkers. The bishop is probably mistaken in his figures, but
France is the best housed, the best fed, the best clad country in

Only a little while ago, France was overrun. trampled into the
very earth, by the victorious hosts of Germany, and France
purchased her peace with the savings of centuries. And yet France
is now rich and Prosperous and free, and Germany poor, discontented
and enslaved. Hundreds and thousands of Germans, unable to find
liberty at home, are coming to the United States.

I admit that England is a Christian country. Any doubts upon
this point can be dispelled by reading her history -- her career in
India, what she has done in China, her treatment of Ireland, of the
American Colonies, her attitude during our Civil war; all these
things show conclusively that England is a Christian nation.

Religion has filled Great Britain with war. The history of the
Catholics, of the Episcopalians, of Cromwell -- all the burnings,
the maimings, the brandings, the imprisonments, the confiscations,
the civil wars, the bigotry, the crime -- show conclusively that
Great Britain has enjoyed to the full the blessings of "our most
holy religion."

Of course, Mr. Talmage claims the United States as a Christian
country. The truth is, our country is not as Christian as it once
was. When heretics were hanged in New England, when the laws of
Virginia and Maryland provided that the tongue of any man who
denied the doctrine of the Trinity should be bored with hot iron,
and that for the second offence he should suffer death, I admit
that this country was Christian. When we engaged in the slave
trade, when our flag protected piracy and murder in every sea,
there is not the slightest doubt that the United States was a
Christian country. When we believed in slavery, and when we
deliberately stole the labor of four millions of people; when we
sold women and babes, and when the people of the North enacted a
law by virtue of which every Northern man was bound to turn hound
and pursue a human being who was endeavoring to regain his liberty,
I admit that the United States was a Christian nation. I admit that
all these things were upheld by the Bible -- that the slave trader
was justified by the Old Testament, that the bloodhound was a kind
of missionary in disguise, that the auction block was an altar, the
slave pen a kind of church, and that the whipping-post was
considered almost as sacred as the cross. At that time, our country
was a Christian nation.

I heard Frederick Douglass say that he lectured against
slavery for twenty years before the doors of a single church were
opened to him. In New England, hundreds of ministers were driven
from their pulpits because they preached against the crime of human
slavery. At that time, this country was a Christian nation.

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Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201


Only a few years ago, any man speaking in favor of the rights
of man, endeavoring to break a chain from a human limb, was in
danger of being mobbed by the Christians of this country. I admit
that Delaware is still a Christian State. I heard a story about
that State the other day.

About fifty years ago, an old Revolutionary soldier applied
for a pension. He was asked his age, and he replied that he was
fifty years old. He was told that if that was his age, he could not
have been in the Revolutionary War, and consequently was not
entitled to any pension. He insisted, however, that he was only
fifty years old. Again they told him that there must be some
mistake. He was so wrinkled, so bowed, had so many marks of age,
that he must certainly be more than fifty years old. "Well," said
the old man. "if I must explain, I will: I lived forty years in
Delaware; but I never counted that time, and I hope God won't."

The fact is, we have grown less and less Christian every year
from 1620 until now, and the fact is that we have grown more and
more civilized, more and more charitable, nearer and nearer just.

Mr. Talmage speaks as though all the people in what he calls
the civilized world were Christians. Admitting this to be true, I
find that in these countries millions of men are educated, trained
and drilled to kill their fellow Christians. I find Europe covered
with forts to protect Christians from Christians, and the seas
filled with men-of-war for the purpose of ravaging the coasts and
destroying the cities of Christian nations. These countries are
filled with prisons, with workhouses, with jails and with toiling,
ignorant and suffering millions. I find that Christians have
invented most of the instruments of death, that Christians are the
greatest soldiers, fighters, destroyers. I find that every
Christian country is taxed to its utmost to support these soldiers;
that every Christian nation is now groaning beneath the grievous
burden of monstrous debt, and that nearly all these debts were
contracted in waging war. These bonds, these millions, these almost
incalculable amounts, were given to pay for shot and shell, for
rifle and torpedo, for men-of-war, for forts and arsenals, and all
the devilish enginery of death. I find that each of these nations
prays to God to assist it as against all others; and when one
nation has overrun, ravaged and pillaged another, it immediately
returns thanks to the Almighty, and the ravaged and pillaged kneel
and thank God that it is no worse.

Mr. Talmage is welcome to all the evidence he can find in the
history of what he is pleased to call the civilized nations of the
world, tending to show the inspiration of the Bible.

And right here it may be well enough to say again, that the
question of inspiration can not be settled by the votes of the
superstitious millions. It can not be affected by numbers. It must
be decided by each human being for himself. If every man in this
world, with one exception, believed the Bible to be the inspired
word of God, the man who was the exception could not lose his right
to think, to investigate, and to judge for himself.

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Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201


QUESTION. You do not think, then, that any of the arguments
brought forward by Mr. Talmage for the purpose of establishing the
inspiration of the Bible, are of any weight whatever?

ANSWER. I do not. I do not see how it is possible to make
poorer, weaker or better arguments than he has made.

Of course, there can be no "evidence" of the inspiration of
the Scriptures. What is "inspiration"? Did God use the prophets
simply as instruments? Bid he put his thoughts in their minds. and
use their hands to make a record? Probably few Christians will
agree as to what they mean by "inspiration." The general idea is,
that the minds of the writers of the books of the Bible were
controlled by the divine will in such a way that they expressed,
independently of their own opinions, the thought of God. I believe
it is admitted that God did not choose the exact words, and is not
responsible for the punctuation or syntax. It is hard to give any
reason for claiming more for the Bible than is claimed by those who
wrote it. There is no claim of "inspiration" made by the writer of
First and Second Kings. Not one word about the author having been
"inspired" is found in the book of Job, or in Ruth, or in
Chronicles, or in the Psalms, or Ecclesiastes, or in Solomon's
Song, and nothing is said about the author of the book of Esther
having been "inspired." Christians now say that Matthew, Mark, Luke
and John were "inspired" to write the four gospels, and yet neither
Mark, nor Luke, nor John, nor Matthew claims to have been
"inspired." If they were "inspired," certainly they should have
stated that fact. The very first thing stated in each of the
gospels should have been a declaration by the writer that he had
been "inspired," and that he was about to write the book under the
guidance of God, and at the conclusion of each gospel there should
have been a solemn statement that the writer had put down nothing
of himself, but had in all things followed the direction and
guidance of the divine will. The church now endeavors to establish
the inspiration of the Bible by force, by social ostracism, and by
attacking the reputation of every man who denies or doubts. In all
Christian countries, they begin with the child in the cradle. Each
infant is told by its mother, by its father, or by some of its
relatives, that "the Bible is an inspired book." This pretended
fact, by repetition "in season and out of season," is finally
burned and branded into the brain to such a degree that the child
of average intelligence never outgrows the conviction that the
Bible is, in some peculiar sense, an "inspired" book. The question
has to be settled for each generation. The evidence is not
sufficient, and the foundation of Christianity is perpetually
insecure. Beneath this great religious fabric there is no rock. For
eighteen centuries, hundreds and thousands and millions of people
have been endeavoring to establish the fact that the Scriptures are
inspired, and since the dawn of science, since the first star
appeared in the night of the Middle Ages, until this moment, the
number of people who have doubted the fact of inspiration has
steadily increased. These doubts have not been born of ignorance,
they have not been suggested by the unthinking. They have forced
themselves upon the thoughtful, upon the educated, and now the
verdict of the intellectual world is, that the Bible is not
inspired. Notwithstanding the fact that the church has taken
advantage of infancy, has endeavored to control education, has

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Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201


filled all primers and spelling books and readers and text books
with superstition -- feeding all minds with the miraculous and
supernatural, the growth toward a belief in the natural and toward
the rejection of the miraculous has been steady and sturdy since
the sixteenth century. There has been, too, a moral growth, until
many passages in the Bible have become barbarous, inhuman and
infamous. The Bible has remained the same, while the world has
changed. In the light of physical and moral discovery, "the
inspired volume" seems in many respects absurd. If the same
progress is made in the next, as in the last, century, it is very.
easy to predict the place that will then be occupied by the Bible.
By comparing long periods of time, it is easy to measure the
advance of the human race. Compare the average sermon of to-day
with the average sermon of one hundred years ago. Compare what
ministers teach to-day with the creeds they profess to believe, and
you will see the immense distance, that even the church has
traveled in the last century.

The Christians tell us that scientific men have made mistakes,
and that there is very little certainty in the domain of human
knowledge. This I admit. The man who thought the world was flat,
and who had a way of accounting for the movement of the heavenly
bodies, had what he was pleased to call a philosophy. He was, in
his way, a geologist and an astronomer. We admit that he was
mistaken; but if we claimed that the first geologist and the first
astronomer were inspired, it would not do for us to admit that any
advance had been made, or that any errors of theirs had been
corrected. We do not claim that the first scientists were inspired.
We do not claim that the last are inspired. We admit that all
scientific men are fallible. We admit that they do not know
everything. We insist that they know but little, and that even in
that little which they are supposed to know, there is the
possibility of error. The first geologist said: "The earth is
flat." Suppose that the geologists of to-day should insist that
that man was inspired, and then endeavor to show that the word
"flat," in the "Hebrew, did not mean quite flat, but just a little
rounded; what would we think of their honesty? The first astronomer
insisted that the sun and moon and stars revolve around this earth
-- hat this little earth was the center of the entire system.
Suppose that the astronomers of to-day should insist that that
astronomer was inspired, and should try to explain, and say that he
simply used the language of the common people, and when he stated
that the sun and moon and stars revolved around the earth, he
merely meant that they "apparently revolved," and that the earth,
in fact, turned over, would we consider them honest men? You might
as well say that the first painter was inspired, or that the first
sculptor had the assistance of God, as to say that the first
writer, or the first bookmaker, was divinely inspired. It is more
probable that the modern geologist is inspired than that the
ancient one was, because the modern geologist is nearer right. It
is more probable that William Lloyd Garrison was inspired upon the
question of slavery than that Moses was. It is more probable that
the author of the Declaration of Independence spoke by divine
authority than that the author of the Pentateuch did. In other
words, if there can be any evidence of "inspiration," it must lie
in the fact of doing or saying the best possible thing that could
have been done or said at that time or upon that subject.

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Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201


To make myself clear: The only possible evidence of
"inspiration" would be perfection -- a perfection excelling
anything that man unaided had ever attained. An inspired "book
should excel all other books; an inspired statue should be the best
in this world; an inspired painting should be beyond all others. If
the Bible. has been improved in any particular, it was not, in that
particular, "inspired." If slavery is wrong, the Bible is not
inspired. If polygamy is vile and loathsome, the Bible is not
inspired. If wars of extermination are cruel and heartless. the
Bible is not "inspired." If there is within that book a
contradiction of any natural fact; if there is one ignorant
falsehood, if there is one mistake, then it is not "inspired." I do
not mean mistakes that have grown out of translations; but if there
was in the original manuscript one mistake, then it is not
"inspired." I do not demand a miracle; I do not demand a knowledge
of the future; I simply demand an absolute knowledge of the past.
I demand an absolute knowledge of the then present; I demand a
knowledge of the constitution of the human mind -- of the facts in
nature, and that is all I demand.

QUESTION. If I understand you, you think that all political
power should come from the people; do you not believe in any
"special providence," and do you take the ground that God does not
interest himself in the affairs of nations and individuals?

ANSWER. The Christian idea is that God made the world, and
made certain laws for the government of matter and mind, and that
he never interferes except upon special occasions, when the
ordinary laws fail to work out the desired end. Their notion is,
that the Lord now and then stops the horses simply to show that he
is driving. It seems to me that if an infinitely wise being made
the world, he must have made it the best possible; and that if he
made laws for the government of matter and mind, he must have made
the best possible laws. If this is true, not one of these laws can
he violated without producing a positive injury. It does not seem
probable that infinite wisdom would violate a law that infinite
wisdom had made.

Most ministers insist that God now and then interferes in the
affairs of this world; that he has not interfered as much lately as
he did formerly. When the world was comparatively new, it required
altogether more tinkering and fixing than at present. Things are at
last in a reasonably good condition, and consequently a great
amount of interference is not necessary. In old times it was found
necessary frequently to raise the dead, to change the nature of
fire and water, to punish people with plagues and famine, to
destroy cities by storms of fire and brimstone, to change women
into salt, to cast hailstones upon heathen, to interfere with the
movements of our planetary system, to stop the earth not only, but
sometimes to make it turn the other way, to arrest the moon, and to
make water stand up like a wall. Now and then, rivers were divided
by striking them with a coat, and people were taken to heaven in
chariots of fire. These miracles. in addition to curing the sick,
the halt, the deaf and blind, were in former times found necessary,
but since the "apostolic age," nothing of the kind has been
resorted to except in Catholic countries. Since the death of the
last apostle, God has appeared only to members of the Catholic

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Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201


Church, and all modern miracles have been performed for the benefit
of Catholicism. There is no authentic account of the Virgin Mary
having ever appeared to a Protestant. The bones of Protestant
saints have never cured a solitary disease. Protestants now say
that the testimony of the Catholics can not be relied upon. and
yet, the authenticity of every book in the New Testament was
established by Catholic testimony. Some few miracles were performed
in Scotland, and in fact in England and the United States, but they
were so small that they are hardly worth mentioning. Now and then.
a man was struck dead for taking the name of the Lord in vain. Now
and then, people were drowned who were found in boats on Sunday.
Whenever anybody was about to commit murder, God has not interfered
-- the reason being that he gave man free-will, and expects to hold
him accountable in another world, and there is no exception to this
free-will doctrine, but in cases where men swear or violate the
Sabbath. They are allowed to commit all other crimes without any
interference on the part of the Lord.

My own opinion is, that the clergy found it necessary to
preserve the Sabbath for their own uses, and for that reason
endeavored to impress the people with the enormity of its
violation, and for that purpose, gave instances of people being
drowned and suddenly struck dead for working or amusing themselves
on that day. The clergy have objected to any other places of
amusement except their own, being opened on that day. They wished
to compel people either to go to church or stay at home. They have
also known that profanity tended to do away with the feelings of
awe they wished to cultivate, and for that reason they have
insisted that swearing was one of the most terrible of crimes,
exciting above all others the wrath of God.

There was a time when people fell dead for having spoken
disrespectfully to a priest. The priest at that time pretended to
be the visible representative of God, and as such, entitled to a
degree of reverence amounting almost to worship. Several cases are
given in the ecclesiastical history of Scotland where men were
deprived of speech for having spoken rudely to a parson.

These stories were calculated to increase the importance of
the clergy and to convince people that they were under the special
care of the Deity. The story about the bears devouring the little
children was told in the first place, and has been repeated since,
simply to protect ministers from the laughter of children. There
ought to be carved on each side of every pulpit a bear with
fragments of children in its mouth, as this animal has done so much
to protect the dignity of the clergy.

Besides the protection of ministers, the drowning of breakers
of the Sabbath, and striking a few people dead for using profane
language, I think there is no evidence of any providential
interference in the affairs of this world in what may be called
modern times. Ministers have endeavored to show that great
calamities have been brought upon nations and cities as a
punishment for the wickedness of the people. They have insisted
that some countries have been visited with earthquakes because the
people had failed to discharge their religious duties; but as
earthquakes happened in uninhabited countries, and often at sea,

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where no one is hurt, most people have concluded that they are not
sent as punishments. They have insisted that cities have been
burned as a punishment, and to show the indignation of the Lord,
but at the same time they have admitted that if the streets had
been wider, the fire departments better organized, and wooden
buildings fewer, the design of the Lord would have been frustrated.

After reading the history of the world, it is somewhat
difficult to find which side the Lord is really on. He has allowed
Catholics to overwhelm and destroy Protestants, and then he has
allowed Protestants to overwhelm and destroy Catholics. He has
allowed Christianity to triumph over Paganism, and he allowed
Mohammedans to drive back the hosts of the cross from the sepulchre
of his son. It is curious that this God would allow the slave trade
to go on, and yet punish the violators of the Sabbath. It is simply
wonderful that he would allow kings to wage cruel and remorseless
war, to sacrifice millions upon the altar of heartless ambition,
and at the same time strike a man dead for taking his name in vain.
It is wonderful that he allowed slavery to exist for centuries in
the United States; that he allows polygamy now in Utah; that he
cares nothing for liberty in Russia, nothing for free speech in
Germany. nothing for the sorrows of the overworked, underpaid
millions of the world; that he cares nothing for the innocent
languishing in prisons, nothing for the patriots condemned to
death, nothing for the heart-broken widows and orphans, nothing for
the starving, and yet has ample time to note a sparrow's fall. If
he would only strike dead the would-be murderers; if he would only
palsy the hands of husbands uplifted to strike their wives; if he
would render speechless the cursers of children, he could afford to
overlook the swearers and breakers of his Sabbath.

For one, I am not satisfied with the government of this world,
and I am going to do what little I can to make it better. I want
more thought and less fear, more manhood and less superstition,
less prayer and more help, more education, more reason, more
intellectual hospitality. and above all, and over all, more liberty
and kindness.

QUESTION. Do you think that God, if there be one, when he
saves or damns a man, will take into consideration all the
circumstances of the man's life?

ANSWER. Suppose that two orphan boys, James and John, are
given homes. James is taken into a Christian family and John into
an infidel. James becomes a Christian, and dies in the faith. John
becomes an infidel, and dies without faith in Christ. According to
the Christian religion, as commonly preached, James will go to
heaven, and John to hell.

Now, suppose that God knew that if James had been raised by
the infidel family, he would have died an infidel, and that if John
had been raised by the Christian family, he would have died a
Christian. What then? Recollect that the boys did not choose the
families in which they were placed.

Suppose that a child, cast away upon an island in which he
found plenty of food, grew to manhood; and suppose that after he
had reached mature years, the island was visited by a missionary

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who taught a false religion; and suppose that this islander was
convinced that he ought to worship a wooden idol; and suppose,
further, that the worship consisted in sacrificing animals; and
suppose the islander, actuated only by what he conceived to be his
duty and by thankfulness, sacrificed a toad every night and every
morning upon the altar of his wooden god; that when the sky looked
black and threatening he sacrificed two toads; that when feeling
unwell he sacrificed three; and suppose that in all this he was
honest, that he really believed that the shedding of toad-blood
would soften the heart of his god toward him? And suppose that
after he had become fully convinced of the truth of his religion,
a missionary of the "true religion" should visit the island, and
tell the history of the Jews -- unfold the whole scheme of
salvation? And suppose that the islander should honestly reject the
true religion? Suppose he should say that he had "internal
evidence" not only, but that many miracles had been performed by
his god, in his behalf; that often when the sky was black with
storm, he had sacrificed a toad, and in a few moments the sun was
again visible, the heavens blue, and without a cloud; that on
several occasions, having forgotten at evening to sacrifice his
toad, he found himself unable to sleep -- that his conscience smote
him, he had risen, made the sacrifice, returned to his bed, and in
a few moments sunk into a serene and happy slumber? And suppose,
further, that the man honestly believed that the efficacy of the
sacrifice depended largely on the size of the toad? Now suppose
that in this belief the man had died, -- what then?

It must be remembered that God knew when the missionary of the
false religion went to the island; and knew that the islander would
be convinced of the truth of the false religion; and he also knew
that the missionary of the true religion could not, by any
possibility, convince the islander of the error of his way; what

If God is infinite, we cannot speak of him as making efforts,
as being tired. We cannot consistently say that one thing is easy
to him, and another thing is hard, providing both are possible.
This being so, why did not God reveal himself to every human being?
Instead of having an inspired book, why did he not make inspired
folks? Instead of having his commandments put on tables of stone,
why did he not write them on each human brain? Why was not the mind
of each man so made that every religious truth necessary to his
salvation was an axiom?

Do we not know absolutely that man is greatly influenced by
his surroundings? If Mr. Talmage had been born in Turkey, is it not
probable that he would now be a whirling Dervish? If he had first
seen the light in Central Africa, he might now have been prostrate
before some enormous serpent; if in India, he might have been a
Brahmin. running a prayer-machine; if in Spain, he would probably
have been a priest, with his beads and holy water. Had he been born
among the North American Indians, he would speak of the "Great
Spirit," and solemnly smoke the pipe of peace.

Mr. Talmage teaches that it is the duty of children to
perpetuate the errors of their parents; consequently, the religion
of his parents determined his theology. It is with him not a

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question of reason, but of parents; not a question of argument, but
of filial affection. He does not wish to be a philosopher, but an
obedient son. Suppose his father had been a Catholic, and his
mother a Protestant, -- what then? Would he show contempt for his
mother by following the path of his father; or would he show
disrespect for his father, by accepting the religion of his mother;
or would he have become a Protestant with Catholic proclivities, or
a Catholic with Protestant leanings? Suppose his parents had both
been infidels -- what then?

Is it not better for each one to decide honestly for himself?
Admitting that your parents were good and kind; admitting that they
were honest in their views, why not have the courage to say, that
in your opinion, father and mother were both mistaken? No one can
honor his parents by being a hypocrite, or an intellectual coward.
Whoever is absolutely true to himself, is true to his parents, and
true to the whole world. Whoever is untrue to himself, is false to
all mankind. Religion must be an individual matter. If there is a
God, and if there is a day of judgment, the church that a man
belongs to will not be tried, but the man will be tried.

It is a fact that the religion of most people was made for
then, by others; that they have accepted certain dogmas, not
because they have examined them, but because they were told that
they were true. Most of the people in the United States, had they
been born in Turkey, would now be Mohammedans, and most of the
Turks, had they been born in Spain, would now be Catholics.

It is almost, if not quite, impossible for a man to rise
entirely above the ideas, views, doctrines and religions of his
tribe or country. No one expects to find philosophers in Central
Africa, or scientists among the Feejees. No one expects to find
philosophers or scientists in any country where the church has
absolute control.

If there is an infinitely good and wise God, of course he will
take into consideration the surroundings of every human being. He
understands the philosophy of environment, and of heredity. He
knows exactly the influence of the mother, of all associates, of
all associations. He will also take into consideration the amount,
quality and form of each brain, and whether the brain was healthy
or diseased. He will take into consideration the strength of the
passions, the weakness of the judgment. He will know exactly the
force of all temptation -- what was resisted. He will take an
account of every effort made in the right direction, and will
understand all the winds and waves and quicksand and shores and
shallows in, upon and around the sea of every life.

My own opinion is, that if such a being exists, and all these
things are taken into consideration, we will be absolutely amazed
to see how small the difference is between the "good" and the
"bad." Certainly there is no such difference as would justify a
being of infinite wisdom and benevolence in rewarding one with
eternal joy and punIshing the other with eternal pain.

QUESTION. What are the principal reasons that: have satisfied
you that the Bible is not an inspired book?

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ANSWER. The great evils that have afflicted this world are:

First. Human slavery -- where men have bought and sold their
fellow-men -- sold babes from mothers, and have practiced every
conceivable cruelty upon the helpless.

Second. Polygamy -- an institution that destroys the home,
that treats woman as a simple chattel, that does away with the
sanctity of marriage, and with all that is sacred in love.

Third. Wars of conquest and extermination -- by which nations
have been made the food of the sword.

Fourth. The idea entertained by each nation that all other
nations are destitute of rights -- in other words, patriotism
founded upon egotism, prejudice, and love of plunder.

Religious. Religious persecution.

Sixth. The divine right of kings -- an idea that rests upon
the inequality of human rights, and insists that people should be
governed without their consent; that the right of one man to govern
another comes from God, and not from the consent of the governed.
This is caste -- one of the most odious forms of slavery.

Seventh. A belief in malicious supernatural beings -- devils,
witches, and wizards.

Eighth. A belief in an infinite being who ordered, commanded,
established and approved all these evils.

Ninth. The idea that one man can be good for another, or bad
for another -- that is to say, that one can be rewarded for the
goodness of another, or justly punished for the sins of another.

Tenth. The dogma that a finite being can commit an infinite
sin, and thereby incur the eternal displeasure of an infinitely
good being, and be justly subjected to eternal torment.

My principal objection to the Bible is that it sustains all of
these ten evils -- that it is the advocate of human slavery, the
friend of polygamy; that within its pages I find the command to
wage wars of extermination; that I find also that the Jews were
taught to hate foreigners -- to consider all human beings as
inferior to themselves; I also find persecution commanded as a
religious duty; that kings were seated upon their thrones by the
direct act of God. and that to rebel against a king was rebellion
against God. I object to the Bible also because I find within its
pages the infamous spirit of caste -- I see the sons of Levi set
apart as the perpetual beggars and governors of a people; because
I find the air filled with demons seeking to injure and betray the
sons of men; because this book is the fountain of modern
superstition, the bulwark of tyranny and the fortress of caste.
This book also subverts the idea of justice by threatening infinite
punishment for the sins of a finite being.

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Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201


At the same time, I admit -- as I always have admitted -- that
there are good passages in the Bible -- good laws, good teachings,
with now and then a true line of history. But when it is asserted
that every word was written by inspiration -- that a being of
infinite wisdom and goodness is its author, -- then I raise the
standard of revolt.

QUESTION. What do you think of the declaration of Mr. Talmage
that the Bible will be read in heaven throughout all the endless
ages of eternity?

ANSWER. Of course I know but very little as to what is or will
be done in heaven. My knowledge of that country is somewhat
limited, and it may be possible that the angels will spend most of
their time in turning over the sacred leaves of the Old Testament.
I can not positively deny the statement of the Reverend Mr. Talmage
as I have but very little idea as to how the angels manage to kill

The Reverend Mr. Spurgeon stated in a sermon that some people
wondered what they would do through all eternity in heaven. He said
that, as for himself, for the first hundred thousand years he would
look at the wound in one of the Savior's feet, and for the next
hundred thousand years he would look at the wound in his other
foot, and for the next hundred thousand years he would look at the
wound in one of his hands, and for the next hundred thousand years
he would look at the wound in the other hand, and for the next
hundred thousand years he would look at the wound in his side.

Surely, nothing could be more delightful than this A man
capable of being happy in such employment, could of course take
great delight in reading even the genealogies of the Old Testament.
It is very easy to see what a glow of joy would naturally
overspread the face of an angel while reading the history of the
Jewish wars, how the seraphim and cherubim would clasp their rosy
palms in ecstasy over the fate of Korah and his company. and what
laughter would wake the echoes of the New Jerusalem as some one
told again the story of the children and the bears; and what happy
groups, with folded pinious, would smilingly listen to the 109th
****     ****
Reproducible Electronic Publishing can defeat censorship.

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

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

Bank of Wisdom

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

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

Reproducible Electronic Publishing can defeat censorship.

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

The Free Market-Place of Ideas.

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

Bank of Wisdom
Box 926
Louisville, KY 40201