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Talmage Interview 6
Robert Green Ingersoll
25 page printout. Reproducible Electronic Publishing can defeat censorship. **** **** This file, its printout, or copies of either are to be copied and given away, but NOT sold. The Bank of Wisdom, Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 The Works of ROBERT G. INGERSOLL **** **** SIXTH INTERVIEW. 1882 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 Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 1 SIXTH INTERVIEW. 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 argument. 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 Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 2 SIXTH INTERVIEW. 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 Illinois. 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. Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 3 SIXTH INTERVIEW. 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 pursued. 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. Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 4 SIXTH INTERVIEW. 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! Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 5 SIXTH INTERVIEW. 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 Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 6 SIXTH INTERVIEW. 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 Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 7 SIXTH INTERVIEW. 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 impossible. 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. Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 8 SIXTH INTERVIEW. "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. Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 9 SIXTH INTERVIEW. 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 world. 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 babes. 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. Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 10 SIXTH INTERVIEW. 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 Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 11 SIXTH INTERVIEW. 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 country. 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 Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 12 SIXTH INTERVIEW. 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 free. 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. Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 13 SIXTH INTERVIEW. 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. Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 14 SIXTH INTERVIEW. 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 Europe. 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. Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 15 SIXTH INTERVIEW. 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. Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 16 SIXTH INTERVIEW. 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 Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 17 SIXTH INTERVIEW. 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. Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 18 SIXTH INTERVIEW. 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 Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 19 SIXTH INTERVIEW. 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, Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 20 SIXTH INTERVIEW. 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 Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 21 SIXTH INTERVIEW. 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 then? 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 Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 22 SIXTH INTERVIEW. 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? Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 23 SIXTH INTERVIEW. 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. Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 24 SIXTH INTERVIEW. 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 time. 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 Psalm. **** **** 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 25