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Robert Ingersoll Which Way

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Which Way

Robert Green Ingersoll

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There are two ways, -- the natural and the supernatural.

One way is to live for the world we are in, to develop the
brain by study and investigation, to take, by invention, advantage
of the forces of nature, to the end that we may have good houses,
raiment and food, to the end that the hunger of the mind may be fed
through art and science.

The other way is to live for another world that we expect, to
sacrifice this life that we have for another that we know not of.
The other way is by prayer and ceremony to obtain the assistance,
the protection of some phantom above the clouds.

One way is to think -- to investigate, to observe, and follow,
the light, of reason. The other way is to believe, to accept, to
follow, to deny the authority of your own senses, your own reason,
and bow down to those who are impudent enough to declare that they

One way is to live for the benefit of your fellowmen -- for
your wife and children -- to make those you love happy and to
shield them from the sorrows of life.

The other way is to live for ghosts, goblins, phantoms and
gods with the hope that they will reward you in another world.

One way is to enthrone reason and rely on facts, the other to
crown credulity and live on faith.

One way is to walk by the light within -- by the flame that
illumines the brain, verifying all by the senses -- by touch and
sight and sound.

The other way is to extinguish the sacred light and follow
blindly the steps of another.

One way is to be an honest man, giving to others your thought,
standing erect, intrepid, careless of phantoms and hells.

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The other way is to cringe and crawl, to betray your nobler
self and to deprive others of the liberty that you have not the
courage to enjoy.

Do not imagine that I hate the ones who have taken the wrong
side and traveled the wrong road.

Our fathers did the best they could. They believed in the
Supernatural, and they thought that sacrifices and prayer, fasting
and weeping, would induce the Supernatural to give them sunshine,
rain and harvest -- long life in this world and eternal joy in
another. To them, God was an absolute monarch, quick to take
offence, sudden in anger, terrible in punishment, jealous, hateful
to his enemies, generous to his favorites. They believed also in
the existence of an evil God, almost the equal of the other God in
strength, and a little superior in cunning. Between these two Gods
was the soul of man like a mouse between two paws.

Both of these Gods inspired fear. Our fathers did not quite
love God, nor quite hate the Devil, but they were afraid of both.
They really wished to enjoy themselves with God in the next world
and with the Devil in this, they believed that the course of Nature
was affected by their conduct; that floods and storms, diseases,
earthquakes and tempests were sent as punishments, and that all
good phenomena were rewards.

Everything was under the direction and control of supernatural
powers. The air, the darkness, were filled with angels and devils;
witches and wizards planned and plotted against the pious --
against the true believers. Eclipses were produced by the sins of
the people, and the unusual was regarded as the miraculous in the
good old times Christendom was an insane asylum, and insane priests
and prelates were the keepers. There was no science. The people did
not investigate -- did not think. They trembled and believed.
Ignorance and superstition ruled the Christian world.

At last a few began to observe, to make records, and to think.

It was found that eclipses came at certain intervals, and that
their coming could be foretold. This demonstrated that the actions
of men had nothing to do with eclipses. A few began to suspect that
earthquakes and storms had natural causes, and happened without the
slightest reference to mankind.

Some began to doubt the existence of evil spirits, or the
interference of good ones in the affairs of the world. Finding out
something about astronomy, the great number of the stars, the
certain and continuous motions of the planets, and the fact that
many of them were vastly larger than the earth; ascertaining
something about the earth, the slow development of forms, the
growth and distribution of plants, the formation of islands and
continents, the parts played by fire, water and air through
countless centuries; the kinship of all life; fixing the earth's
place in the constellation of the sun; by experiment and research
discovering a few secrets of chemistry; by the invention of
printing, and the preservation and dissemination of facts, theories
and thoughts, they were enabled to break a few chains of

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superstition, to free themselves a little from the dominion of the
supernatural, and to set their faces toward the light. Slowly the
number of investigators and thinkers increased, slowly the real
facts were gathered, the sciences began to appear, the old beliefs
grew a little absurd, the supernatural retreated and ceased to
interfere in the ordinary affairs of men.

Schools were founded, children were taught, books were printed
and the thinkers increased. Day by day confidence lessened in the
supernatural, and day by day men were more and more impressed with
the idea that man must be his own protector, his own providence.
From the mists and darkness of savagery and superstition emerged
the dawn of the Natural. A sense of freedom took possession of the
mind, and the soul began to dream of its power. On every side were
invention and discovery, and bolder thought. The church began to
regard the friends of science as its foes. Theologians resorted to
chain and fagot -- to mutilation and torture.

The thinkers were denounced as heretics and Atheists -- as the
minions of Satan and the defamers of Christ. All the ignorance,
prejudice and malice of superstition were aroused and all united
for the destruction of investigation and thought. For centuries
this conflict was waged. Every outrage was perpetrated, every crime
committed by the believers in the supernatural. But, in spite of
all, the disciples of the Natural increased, and the power of the
church waned. Now the intelligence of the world is on the side of
the Natural. Still the conflict goes on -- the supernatural
constantly losing, and the Natural constantly gaining. In a few
years the victory of science over superstition will be complete and

So, there have been for many centuries two philosophies of
life; one in favor of the destruction of the passions -- the
lessening of wants, -- and absolute reliance on some higher power;
the other, in favor of the reasonable gratification of the
passions, the increase of wants, and their supply by industry,
ingenuity and invention, and the reliance of man on his own
efforts. Diogenes, Eipictetus, Socrates to some extent, Buddha and
Christ, all taught the first philosophy. All despised riches and
luxury, all were the enemies of art and music, the despisers of
good clothes and good food and good homes. They were the
philosophers of poverty and rags, of huts and hovels, of ignorance
and faith. They preached the glories of another world and the
miseries of this. They derided the prosperous, the industrious,
those who enjoyed life, and reserved heaven for beggars.

This philosophy is losing authority, and now most people are
anxious to be happy here in this life. Most people want food and
roof and raiment -- books and pictures, luxury and leisure. They
believe in developing the brain -- in making servants and slaves of
the forces of Nature.

Now the intelligent men of the world have cast aside the
teachings, the philosophy of the ascetics. They no longer believe
in the virtue of fasting and self-torture. They believe that
happiness is the only good, and that the time to be happy is now --
here, in this world. They no longer believe in the rewards and

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punishments of the supernatural. They believe in consequences, and
that the consequences of bad actions are evil, and the consequences
of good actions are good.

They believe that man by investigation, by reason, should find
out the conditions of happiness, and then live and act in
accordance with such conditions. They do not believe that
earthquakes, or tempests, or volcanoes, or eclipses, are caused by
the conduct of men. They no longer believe in the supernatural.
They do not regard themselves as the serfs, servants or favorites
of any celestial king. They feel that many evils can be avoided by
knowledge, and for that reason they believe in the development of
the brain. The schoolhouse is their church and the university their
cathedral. So, there have been for some centuries two theories of
government, -- one theological, the other secular.

The king received his power directly from God. It was the
business of the people to obey. The priests received their creeds
from God and it was the duty of the people to believe.

The theological government is growing somewhat unpopular. In
England, Parliament has taken the place of God, and in the United
States, government derives its powers from the consent of the
governed, Probably Emperor William is the only man in Germany who
really believes that God placed him on the throne and will keep him
there whether the German people are satisfied or not. Italy has
retired the Catholic God from politics, France belongs to and is
governed by the French, and even in Russia there are millions who
hold the Czar and all his divine pretensions in contempt.

The theological governments are passing away and the secular
are slowly taking their places. Man is growing greater and the Gods
are becoming vague and indistinct. These "divine" governments rest
on the fear and ignorance of the many, the cunning, the impudence
and the mendacity of the few. A secular government is born of the
intelligence, the honesty and the courage, not only of the few, but
of the many.

We have found that man can govern himself without the
assistance of priest or pope, of ghost or God. We have found that
religion is not self-evident, and that to believe without evidence
is not a praiseworthy action. We know that the self-evident is the
square and compass of the brain, the polar star in the firmament of
mind. And we know that no one denies the self-evident. We also know
that there is no particular goodness in believing when the evidence
is sufficient, and certainly there is none in saying that you
believe when the evidence is insufficient.

The believers have not all been good. Some of the worst people
in the whole world have been believers. The gentlemen who made
Socrates drink hemlock were believers. The Jews who crucified
Christ were believers in and worshipers of God. The devil believes
in the Trinity, the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, and yet it does not
seem to have affected his moral character. According to the Bible,
he trembles, but he does not reform. At last we have concluded that
we have a right to examine the religion of our fathers.

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All Christians know that all the gods, except Jehovah, were
created by man; that they were, and are, false, foolish and
monstrous; that all the heathen temples were built and all their
altars erected in vain; that the sacrifices were wasted, that the
priests were hypocrites, that their prayers were unanswered and
that the poor people were deceived, robbed and enslaved. But after
all, is our God superior to the gods of the heathen?

We can ask this question now because we are prosperous, and
prosperity gives courage. If we should have a few earthquakes or a
pestilence we might fall on our knees, shut our eyes and ask the
forgiveness of God for ever having had a thought. We know that
famine is the friend of faith and that calamity is the sunshine of
superstition. But as we have no pestilence or famine, and as the
crust of the earth is reasonably quiet, we can afford to examine
into the real character of our God.

It must be admitted that the use of power is an excellent test
of character.

Would a good God appeal to prejudice, the armor, fortress,
sword and shield of ignorance? to credulity, the ring in the
priest-led nose of stupidity? to fear, the capital stock of
imposture, the lever of hypocrisy? Would a good God frighten or
enlighten his children? Would a good God appeal to reason or
ignorance, to justice or selfishness, to liberty or the lash?

To our first parents in the Garden of Eden, our God said
nothing about the sacredness of love, nothing about children,
nothing about education, about justice or liberty.

After they had violated his command he became ferocious as a
wild beast. He cursed the earth and to Eve he said: -- "I will
greatly multiply thy sorrow. In sorrow shalt thou bring forth
children. Thy husband shall rule over thee."

Our God made love the slave of pain, made wives serfs, and
brutalized the firesides of the world.

Our God drowned the whole world, with the exception of eight
people; made the earth one vast and shoreless sea covered with

Why did he cover the world with men, women and children
knowing that he would destroy them? "Why did he not try to reform
them? Why would he create people, knowing that they could not be

Is it possible that our God was intelligent and good?

After the flood our God selected the Jews and abandoned the
rest of his children. He paid no attention to the Hindoos,
neglected the Egyptians, ignored the Persians, forgot the Assyrians
and failed to remember the Greeks. And yet he was the father of
them all. For many centuries he was only a tribal God, protecting

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the few and despising the many. Our God was ignorant, knew nothing
of astronomy or geology. He did not even know the shape of the
earth, and thought the stars were only specks.

He knew nothing of disease. He thought that the blood of a
bird that had been killed over running water was good medicine. He
was revengeful and cruel, and assisted some of his children to
butcher and destroy others. He commanded them to murder men, wives
and children, and to keep alive the maidens and distribute them
among his soldiers.

Our God established slavery -- commanded men to buy their
fellow-men, to make merchandise of wives and babes. Our God
sanctioned polygamy and made wives the property of their husbands.
Our God murdered the people for the crimes of kings.

No man of intelligence, no one whose brain has not been
poisoned by superstition, paralyzed by fear, can read the Old
Testament without being forced to the conclusion that our God was
a wild beast.

If we must have a god, let him be merciful. Let us remember
that "the quality of mercy is not strained." Let us remember that
when the sword of Justice becomes a staff to support the weak, it
bursts into blossom, and that the perfume of that flower is the
only incense, the only offering, the only sacrifice that mercy will

So, there have been two theories about the cause and cure of
disease. One is the theological, the other the scientific.


According to the theological idea, diseases were produced by
evil spirits, by devils who entered into the bodies of people.

These devils could be cast out by prophets, inspired men and

While Christ was upon earth his principal business was to cast
out evil spirits.

For many centuries the priests followed his example, and
during the Middle Ages millions of devils were driven from the
bodies of men. Diseases were cured with little images of
consecrated pewter, with pieces of paper, with crosses worn about
the neck -- by having plaster of Paris Virgins and clay Christs at
the head of the bed, by touching the bones of dead saints, or
pieces of the true cross, or one of the nails that was driven
through the flesh of Christ, or a garment that had been worn by the
Virgin Mary, or by sprinkling the breast with holy water, or saying
prayers, or counting beads, or making the stations of the cross, or
by going without meat, or wearing haircloth, or in some way
torturing the body. All diseases were supposed to be of
supernatural origin and all cures were of the same nature.
Pestilences were stopped by processions, led by priests carrying
the Host. Nothing was known of natural causes and effects.

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Everything was miraculous and mysterious. The priests were
cunning and the people credulous.

Slowly another theory as to the cause and cure of disease took
possession of the mind. A few discarded the idea of devils, and
took the ground that diseases were naturally produced, and that
many of them could be cured by natural means.

At first the physician was exceedingly ignorant, but he knew
more than the priest. Slowly but surely he pushed the priest from
the bedside. Some people finally became intelligent enough to trust
their bodies to the doctors, and remained ignorant enough to leave
the care of their souls with the priests. Among civilized people
the theological theory has been cast aside, and the miraculous, the
supernatural, no longer has a place in medicine. In Catholic
countries the peasants are still cured by images, prayers, holy
water and the bones of saints, but when the priests are sick they
send for a physician, and now even the Pope, God's agent, gives his
sacred body to the care of a doctor.

The scientific has triumphed to a great extent over the

No intelligent person now believes that devils inhabit the
bodies of men. No intelligent person now believes that devils are
trying to control the actions of men. No intelligent person now
believes that devils exist.

And yet, at the present time, in the city of New York,
Catholic priests are exhibiting a piece of one of the bones of
Saint Anne, the supposed mother of the Virgin Mary. Some of these
priests may be credulous imbeciles and some may be pious rogues. If
they have any real intelligence they must know that there is no
possible way of proving that the piece of bone ever belonged to
Saint Anne. And if they have any real intelligence they must know
that even the bones of Saint Anne were substantially like the bones
of other people, made of substantially the same material, and that
the medical and miraculous qualities of all human bones must be
substantially the same. And yet these priests are obtaining from
their credulous dupes thousands and thousands of dollars for the
privilege of seeing this bone and kissing the box that contains the
"sacred relic."

Archbishop Corrigan knows that no one knows who the mother of
the Virgin Mary was, that no one knows about any of the bones of
this unknown mother, knows that the whole thing is a theological
fraud, knows that his priests, or priests under his jurisdiction,
are obtaining money under false pretenses. Cardinal Gibbons knows
the same, but neither of these pious gentlemen has one word to say
against this shameless crime. They are willing that priests for the
benefit of the church should make merchandise of the hopes and
fears of ignorant believers; willing that fraud that produces
revenue should live and thrive.

This is the honesty of the theologian. If these gentlemen
should be taken sick they would not touch the relic. They would
send for a physician.

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Let me tell you a Japanese story that is exactly in point;

An old monk was in charge of a monastery that had been built
above the bones of a saint. These bones had the power to cure
diseases and they were so placed that by thrusting the arm through
an orifice they could be touched by the hand of the pilgrim. Many
people, afflicted in many ways, came and touched these bones. Many
thought they had been benefitted or cured, and many in gratitude
left large sums of money with the monk. One day the old monk
addressed his assistant as follows: "My dear son, business has
fallen off, and I can easily attend to all who come. You will have
to find another place. I will give you the white donkey, a little
money, and my blessing."

So the young man mounted upon the beast and went his way. In
a few days his money was gone and the white donkey died. An idea
took possession of the young man's mind. By the side of the road he
buried the donkey, and then to every passer-by held out his hands
and said in solemn tones: "I pray thee give me a little money to
build a temple above the bones of the sinless one."

Such was his success that he built the temple, and then
thousands came to touch the bones of the sinless one. The young man
became rich, gave employment; to many assistants and lived in the
greatest luxury.

One day he made up his mind to visit his old master. Taking
with him a large retinue of servants he started for the old home.
When he reached the place the old monk was seated by the doorway.
With great astonishment he looked at the young man and his retinue.
The young man dismounted and made himself known, and the old monk

"Where hast thou been? Tell me, I pray thee, the story of thy
success." "Ah," the young man replied, "old age is stupid, but
youth has thoughts. Wait until we are alone and I will tell you

So that night the young man told his story, told about the
death and burial of the donkey, the begging of money to build a
temple over the bones of the sinless one, and of the sums of money
he had received for the cures the bones had wrought.

When he finished a satisfied smile crept over his pious face
as he added. "Old age is stupid, but youth has thoughts."

"Be not so fast," said the old monk, as he placed his
trembling hand on the head of his visitor,

"Young man" this monastery in which your youth was passed, in
which you have seen so many miracles performed, so many diseases
cured, was built above the sacred bones of the mother of your
little jackass."

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There are two ways of accounting for the sacred books and
religions of the world.

One is to say that the sacred hooks were written by inspired
men, and that our religion was revealed to us by God.

The other is to say that all books have been written by men,
without any aid from supernatural powers, and that all religions
have been naturally produced.

We find that other races and peoples have sacred books and
prophets, priests and Christs; we find too that their sacred books
were written by men who had the prejudices and peculiarities of the
race to which they belonged, and that they contain the mistakes and
absurdities peculiar to the people who produced them.

Christians are perfectly satisfied that all the so-called
sacred books, with the exception of the Old and New Testaments,
were written by men, and that the claim of inspiration is perfectly
absurd. So they believe that all religions, except Judaism and
Christianity, were invented by men. The believers in other
religions take the ground that their religion was revealed by God,
and that all others, including Judaism and Christianity, were made
by men. All are right and all are wrong. When they say that "other"
religions were produced by men, they are right; when they say that
their religion was revealed by God, they are wrong.

Now we know that all tribes and nations have had some kind of
religion; that they have believed in the existence of good and evil
beings, spirits or powers, that could be softened by gifts or
prayer. Now we know that at the foundation of every religion, of
all worship, is the pale and bloodless face of fear. Now we know
that all religions and all sacred books have been naturally
produced -- all born of ignorance, fear and cunning.

Now we know that the gifts, sacrifices and prayers were all in
vain; that no god received and that no god heard or answered.

A few years ago prayers decided the issue of battle, and
priests, through their influence with God, could give the victory.
Now no intelligent man expects any answer to prayer. He knows that
nature pursues her course without reference to the wishes of men,
that the clouds float, the winds blow, the rain falls and the sun
shines without regard to the human race. Yet millions are still
praying, still hoping that they can gain the protection of some
god, that some being will guard them from accident and disease.
Year after year the ministers make the same petitions, pray for the
same things, and keep on in spite of the fact that nothing is

Whenever good men do some noble thing the clergy give their
God the credit, and when evil things are done they hold the men who
did the evil responsible, and forget to blame their God.

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Praying has become a business, a profession, a trade. A
minister is never happier than when praying in public. Most of them
are exceedingly familiar with their God. Knowing that he knows
everything, they tell him the needs of the nation and the desires
of the people, they advise him what to do and when to do it. They
appeal to his pride, asking him to do certain things for his own
glory. They often pray for the impossible. In the House of
Representatives in Washington I once heard a chaplain pray for what
he must have known was impossible. Without a change of countenance,
without a smile, with a face solemn as a sepulchre, he said: "I
pray thee, O God, to give Congress wisdom." It may be that
ministers really think that their prayers do good and it may be
that frogs imagine that their croaking brings spring.

The men of thought now know that all religions and all sacred
books have been made by men; that no revelation has come from any
being superior to nature; that all the prophecies were either false
or made after the event; that no miracle ever was or ever will be
performed; that no God wants the worship or the assistance of man;
that no prayer has ever coaxed one drop of rain from the sky, one
ray of light from the sun; that no prayer has stayed the flood, or
the tides of the sea, or folded the wings of the storm; that no
prayer has given water to the cracked and bleeding lips of thirst,
or food to the famishing; that no prayer has stopped the
pestilence, stilled the earthquake or quieted the volcano; that no
prayer has shielded the innocent, succored the oppressed, unlocked
the dungeon's door, broke the chains of slaves, rescued the good
and noble from the scaffold, or extinguished the fagot's flame.

The intelligent man now knows that we live in a natural world,
that gods and devils and the sons of God are all phantoms, that our
religion and our Deity are much like the religion and deities of
other nations, and that the stone god of a savage answers prayer
and protects his worshipers precisely the same, and to just the
same extent, as the Father, Son and Holy Ghost.


There are two theories about morals. One theory is that the
moral man obeys the commands of a supposed God, without stopping to
think whether the commands are right or wrong. He believes that the
will of the God is the source and fountain of right. He thinks a
thing is wrong because the God prohibits it, not that the God
prohibits it because it is wrong. This theory calls not for
thought, but for obedience. It does not appeal to reason, but to
the fear of punishment, the hope of reward. God is a king whose
will is law, and men are serfs and slaves.

Many contend that without a belief in the existence of God
morality is impossible and that virtue would perish from the earth.

This absurd theory, with its "Thus saith the Lord" has been
claimed to be independent of and superior to reason.

The other theory is that right and wrong exist in the nature
of things; that certain actions preserve or increase the happiness
of man, and that other actions cause sorrow and misery; that all

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those actions that cause happiness are moral, and that all others
are evil, or indifferent. Right and wrong are not revelations from
some supposed god, but have been discovered through the experience
and intelligence of man. There is nothing miraculous or
supernatural about morality. Neither has morality anything to do
with another world, or with, an infinite being. It applies to
conduct here, and the effect of that conduct on ourselves and
others determines its nature.

In this world people are obliged to supply their wants by
labor. Industry is a necessity, and those who work are the natural
enemies of those who steal.

It required no revelation from God to make larceny unpopular.
Human beings naturally object to being injured, maimed, or killed,
and so everywhere, and at all times, they have tried to protect

Men did not require a revelation from God to put in their
minds the thought of self-preservation. To defend yourself when
attacked is as natural as to eat when you are hungry.

To determine the quality of an action by showing that it is in
accordance with, or contrary to the command of some supposed God,
is superstition pure and simple. To test all actions by their
consequences is scientific and in accord with reason.

According to the supernatural theory, natural consequences are
not taken into consideration. Actions are wrong because they have
been prohibited and right because they have been commanded.
According to the Catholic Church, eating meat on Friday is a sin
that deserves eternal punishment. And yet, in the nature of things,
the consequences of eating meat on that day must be exactly the
same as eating meat on any other. So, all the churches teach that
unbelief is a crime, not in the nature of things, but by reason of
the will of God.

Of course this is absurd and idiotic. If there be an infinite
God he cannot make that wrong which in the nature of things is
right. Neither can he make an action good the natural consequences
of which are evil. Even an infinite God cannot change a fact. In
spite of him the relation between the diameter and circumference of
a circle would remain the same.

All the relations of things to things, of forces to forces, of
acts to acts, of causes to effects in the domain of what is called
matter, and in the realm of what is called mind, are just as
certain, just as unchangeable as the relation between the diameter
and circumference of a circle.

An infinite God could not make ingratitude a virtue any easier
than he could make a square triangle.

So, the foundations of the moral and the immoral are in the
nature of things -- in the necessary relation between conduct and
well-being, and an infinite God cannot change these foundations,
and cannot increase or diminish the natural consequences of

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In this world there is neither chance nor caprice, neither
magic nor miracle. Behind every event, every thought and dream, is
the efficient, the natural and necessary cause.

The effort to make the will of a supposed God the foundation
of morality, has filled the world with misery and crime,
extinguished in millions of minds the light of reason, and in
countless ways hindered and delayed the progress of our race.

Intelligent men now know, that if there he an infinite God,
man cannot in any way increase or decrease the happiness of such a
being. They know that man can only commit crimes against sentient
beings who, to some extent at least, are within his power, and that
a crime by a finite being against an infinite being is an infinite


For many thousands of years man has believed in and sought for
the impossible. In chemistry he has searched for a universal
solvent, for some way in which to change the baser metals into
gold. Even Lord Bacon was a believer in this absurdity. Thousands
of men, during many centuries, in thousands of ways, sought to
change the nature of lead and iron so that they might be
transformed to gold. They had no conception of the real nature of
things. They supposed that they had originally been created by a
kind of magic, and could by the same kind of magic he changed into
something else. They were all believers in the supernatural. So, in
mechanics, men sought for the impossible. They were believers in
perpetual motion and they tried to make machines that would through
a combination of levers furnish the force that propelled them.

Thousands of ingenious men wasted their lives in the vain
effort to produce machines that would in some wonderful way create
a force. They did not know that force is eternal, that it can
neither be created nor destroyed. They did not know that a machine
having perpetual motion would necessarily be a universe within
itself, or independent of this, and in which the force called
friction would be necessarily changed, without loss, into the force
that propelled, -- the machine itself causing or creating the
original force that put it in motion. And yet in spite of all the
absurdities involved, for many centuries men, regarded by their
fellows as intelligent and learned, tried to discover the great
principle of "perpetual motion."

Our ancestors studied the stars because in them they thought
it possible to learn the fate of nations, the life and destiny of
the individual. Eclipses, wandering comets, the relations of
certain stars were the forerunners or causes of prosperity or
disaster, of the downfall or upbuilding of kingdoms. Astrology was
believed to be a science, and those who studied the stars were
consulted by warriors. statesmen and kings. The account of the star
that led the wise men of the East to the infant Christ was written
by a believer in astrology. It would be hard to overstate the time
and talent wasted in the study of this so-called science. The men

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who believed in astrology thought that they lived in a supernatural
world -- a world in which causes and effects had no necessary
connection with each other -- in which all events were the result
of magic and necromancy.

Even now, at the close of the nineteenth century, there are
hundreds and hundreds of men who make their living by casting the
horoscopes of idiots and imbeciles.

The "perpetual motion" of the mechanic, the universal solvent
of the chemist, the changing of lead into gold, the foretelling
events by the relations of stars were all born of the same
ignorance of nature that caused the theologian to imagine an
uncaused cause as the cause of all causes and effects.

The theologian insisted that there was something superior to
nature, and that that something was the creator and preserver of

Of course there is no more evidence of the existence of that
"something" than there is of the philosopher's stone.

The mechanics who now believe in perpetual motion are insane,
so are the chemists who seek to change one metal into another, so
are the honest astrologers, and in a few more years the same can
truthfully be said of the honest theologians.

Many of our ancestors believed in the existence of and sought
for the Fountain of Perpetual Youth. They believed that an old man
could stoop and drink from this fountain and that while he drank
his gray hairs would slowly change, that the wrinkles would
disappear, that his dim eyes would brighten and grow clear, his
heart throb with manhood's force and rhythm, while in his pallid
cheeks would burst into blossom the roses of health.

They were believers in the supernatural, the miraculous, and
nothing seemed more probable than the impossible.


Most people use names in place of arguments. They are
satisfied to be disciples, followers of the illustrious dead. Each
church, each party has a list of "great men," and they throw the
names of these men at each other when discussing their dogmas and

Men prove the inspiration of the Bible, the divinity of Christ
by the admissions of soldiers, statesmen and kings. And in the same
way they establish the existence of heaven and hell. Dispute one of
their dogmas and you will instantly be told that Isaac Newton or
Matthew Hale was on the other side, and you will be asked whether
you claim to be superior to Newton or Hale. In our own country the
ministers, to establish their absurdities, quote the opinions of
Webster and of other successful politicians as though such opinions
were demonstrations.

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Most Protestants will cheerfully admit that they are inferior
in brain and genius to some men who have lived and died in the
Catholic faith; that in the matter of preaching funeral sermons
they are not equal to Bossuet; that their letters are not as
interesting and polished as those written by Pascal; that
Torquemada excelled them in the genius of organization, and that
for planning a massacre they would not for a moment claim the palm
from Catherine de Medici, and yet after these admissions, these
same Protestants would insist that the Pope is an unblushing
impostor, and the Catholic Church a vampire.

The so-called "great men" of the world have been mistaken in
many things. Lord Bacon denied the Copernican system of astronomy
and believed to the day of his death that the sun and stars
journeyed about this little earth. Matthew Hale was a firm believer
in the existence of witches and wizards. John Wesley believed that
earthquakes were caused by sin and that they could be prevented by
believing in the Lord Jesus Christ. John Calvin regarded murder as
one of the means to preserve the purity of the gospel. Martin
Luther denounced Galileo as a fool because he was opposed to the
astronomy of Moses. Webster was in favor of the Fugitive Slave Law
and held the book of Job in high esteem. He wanted votes and he
knelt to the South. He wanted votes and he flattered the church.


Volumes might be written on the follies and imbecilities of
"great" men.

Only a few years ago the really great men were persecuted,
imprisoned or burned. In this way the church was enabled to keep
the "great" men on her side.

As a matter of fact it is impossible to tell what the "great"
men really thought. We only know what they said. These "great" men
had families to support, they had a prejudice against prisons and
objected to being burned, and it may be that they thought one way
and talked another.

The priests said to these men; "Agree with the creed" talk on
our side, or you will be persecuted to the death." Then the priests
turned to the people and cried: "Hear what the great men say."

For a few years we have had something like liberty of speech
and many men have told their thoughts. Now the theologians are not
quite so apt to appeal to names as formerly. The really great are
not on their side. The leaders of modern thought are not
Christians. Now the unbelievers can repeat names -- names that
stand for intellectual triumphs. Humboldt, Helmholtz, Haeckel and
Huxley, Darwin, Spencer and Tyndall and many others, stand for
investigation, discovery, for vast achievements in the world of
thought. These men were and are thinkers and they had and have the
courage to express their thoughts. They were not and are not
puppets of priests, or the trembling worshipers of ghosts.

For many years, most of the presidents of American colleges
have been engaged in the pious work of trying to prevent the

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Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201


intellectual advancement of the race. To such an extent have they
succeeded that none of their students have been or are great

For the purpose of bolstering their creed the orthodox do not
now repeat the names of the living, their witnesses are in the
cemetery. All the "great" Christians are dead.

To-day we want arguments, not names, reasons, not opinions. It
is degrading to blindly follow a man, or a church. Nothing is
nobler than to be governed by reason. To be vanquished by the truth
is to be a victor. The man who follows is a slave. The man who
thinks is free.

We must remember that most men have been controlled by their
surroundings. Most of the intelligent men in Turkey are followers
of Mahomet. They were rocked in the cradle of the Koran, they
received their religious opinions as they did their features --
from their parents. Their opinion on the subject of religion is of
no possible value. The same may be said of the Christians of our
country. Their belief is the result, not of thought, of
investigation, but of surroundings.

All religions have been the result of ignorance, and the seeds
were sown and planted in the long night of savagery.

In the decline of the Roman power, in the times when
prosperity died, when commerce almost ceased, when the scepter of
authority fell from weak and nerveless hands, when arts were lost
and the achievements of the past forgotten or unknown, then
Christians came, and holding in contempt all earthly things, told
their fellows of another world of joy eternal beyond the clouds. If
learning had not been lost, if the people had been educated, if
they had known the literature of Greece and Rome, if they had been
familiar with the tragedies of AEschylus, Sophocles and Euripides,
with the philosophy of Zeno and Epicurus, with the orations of
Demosthenes; if they had known the works of art, the miracles of
genius, the passions in marble, the dreams in stone; if they had
known the history of Rome; if they had understood Lucretius, Cicero
and Caesar; if they had studied the laws, the decisions of the
Praetors; if they had known the thoughts of all the mighty dead,
there would have been no soil on which the seeds of Christian
superstition could have taken root and grown.

But the early Christians hated art, and song, and joy. They
slandered and maligned the human race, insisted that the world had
been blighted by the curse of God, that this life should be used
only in making preparation for the next, that education filled the
mind with doubt, and science led the soul from God.


There are two ways. One is to live for God. That has been
tried, and the result has always been the same. It was tried in
Palestine many years ago and the people who tried it were not
protected by their God. They were conquered, overwhelmed and
exiled. They lost their country and were scattered over the earth.

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Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201


For many centuries they expected assistance from their God. They
believed that they would be gathered together again, that their
cities and temples and altars would be rebuilt, that they would
again be the favorites of Jehovah, that with his help they would
overcome their enemies and rule the world. Century by century the
hope has grown weaker and weaker, until now it is regarded by the
intelligent as a foolish dream.

Living for God was tried in Switzerland and it ended in
slavery and torture. Every avenue that led to improvement, to
progress, was closed. Only those in authority were allowed to
express their thoughts. No one tried to increase the happiness of
people in this world. Innocent pleasure was regarded as sin,
laughter was suppressed, all natural joy despised, and love itself
denounced as sin.

They amused themselves with fasting and prayer, hearing
sermons, talking about endless pain, committing to memory the
genealogies in the Old Testament, and now and then burning one of
their fellow-men.

Living for God was tried in Scotland. The people became the
serfs and slaves of the blessed Kirk. The ministers became petty
tyrants. They poisoned the very springs of life. They interfered
with every family, invaded the privacy of every home, sowed the
seeds of superstition and fear, and filled the darkness with
devils. They claimed to be divinely inspired, that they delivered
the messages of God, that to deny their authority was blasphemy,
and that all who refused to do their bidding would suffer eternal
pain. Under their government Scotland was a land of sighing and
sorrow, of grief and pain. The people were slaves.

Living for God was tried in New England. A government was
formed in accordance with the Old Testament. The laws, for the most
part, were petty and absurd, the penalties cruel and bloody to the
last degree. Religious liberty was regarded as a crime, as an
insult to God. Persons differing in belief from those in power,
were persecuted, whipped, maimed and exiled. People supposed to be
in league with the devil were imprisoned or killed. A theological
government was established, ministers were the agents of God, they
dictated the laws and fixed the penalties. Everything was under the
supervision of the clergy. They had no pity, no mercy. With all
their hearts they hated the natural. They promised happiness in
another world, and did all they could to destroy the pleasures of

Their greatest consolation, their purest Joy was found in
their belief that all who failed to obey their words, to wear their
yoke, would suffer infinite torture in the eternal dungeons of

Living for God was tried in the Dark Ages. Thousands of
scaffolds were wet with blood, countless swords were thrust through
human hearts. The flames of fagots consumed the flesh of men,
dungeons became the homes of those who thought. In the name of God
every cruelty was practiced, every crime committed, and liberty
perished from the earth. Everywhere the result has been the same.
Living for God has filled the world with blood and flame.

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Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201


There is another way, Let us live for man, for this world. Let
us develop the brain and civilize the heart. Let us ascertain the
conditions of happiness and live in accordance with them. Let us do
what we can for the destruction of ignorance, poverty and crime.
Let us do our best to supply the wants of the body, to satisfy the
hunger of the mind, to ascertain the secrets of nature, to the end
that we may make the invisible forces the tireless servants of the
human race, and fill the world with happy homes.

Let the gods take care of themselves. Let us live for man. Let
us remember that those who have sought for the truths of nature
have never persecuted their fellow-men. The astronomers and
chemists have forged no chains, built no dungeons. The geologists
have invented no instrument of torture. The philosophers have not
demonstrated the truth of their theories by burning their
neighbors. The great infidels, the thinkers, have lived for the
good of man.

It is noble to seek for truth, to be intellectually honest, to
give to others a true transcript of your mind, a photograph of your
thoughts in honest words.


There are two ways: The narrow way along which the selfish go
in single file, not wide enough for husband and wife to walk side
by side while children clasp their hands. The narrow road over the
desert of superstition "with here and there a traveler." The narrow
grass-grown path, filled with flints and broken glass, bordered by
thistles and thorns, where the twice-born limping walk with
bleeding feet. If by this path you see a flower, do not pick it. It
is a temptation. Beneath its leaves a serpent lies. Keep your eyes
on the New Jerusalem. Do not look back for wife or child or friend.
Think only of saving your own soul. You will be just as happy in
heaven with all you love in hell. Believe, have faith, and you will
be rewarded for the goodness of another. Look neither to the right
nor left. Keep on, straight on, and you will save your worthless,
withered, selfish soul.

This is the narrow road that leads from earth to the
Christian's heartless heaven.

There is another way -- the broad road. Give me the wide and
ample way, the way broad enough for us all to go together. The
broad way where the birds sing, where the sun shines and the
streams murmur. The broad way, through the fields where the flowers
grow, over the daisied slopes where sunlight, lingering, seems to
sleep and dream.

Let us go the broad way with the great world, with science and
art, with music and the drama, with all that gladdens, thrills,
refines and calms.

Let us go the wide road with husband and wife, with children
and friends and with all there is of joy and love between the dawn
and dusk of life's strange day.

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This world is a great orange tree filled with blossoms, with
ripening and ripened fruit, while, underneath the bending boughs,
the fallen slowly turn to dust.

Each orange is a life. Let us squeeze it dry, get all the
juice there is, so that when death comes we can say; "There is
nothing left but withered peel,"

Let us travel the broad and natural way. Let us live for man.

To think of what the world has suffered from superstition,
from religion, from the worship of beast and stone and god, is
almost enough to make one insane. Think of the long, long night of
ignorance and fear! Think of the agony, the sufferings of the past,
of the days that are dead!

I look. In gloomy caves I see the sacred serpents coiled,
waiting for their sacrificial prey. I see their open jaws, their
restless tongues, their glittering eyes, their cruel fangs. I see
them seize and crush in many horrid folds the helpless children
given by fathers and mothers to appease the Serpent-God. I look
again. I see temples wrought of stone and gilded with barbaric
gold. I see altars red with human blood. I see the solemn priests
thrust knives in the white breasts of girls. I look again. I see
other temples and other altars, where greedy flames devour the
flesh and blood of babes. I see other temples and other priests and
other altars dripping with the blood of oxen, lambs and doves.

I look again. I see other temples and other priests and other
altars on which are sacrificed the liberties of man. I look. I see
the cathedrals of God, the huts of peasants, the robes of priests
and kings, the rags of honest men. I look again. The lovers of God
are the murderers of men. I see dungeons filled with the noblest
and the best. I see exiles, wanderers, outcasts, millions of
martyrs, widows and orphans. I see the cunning instruments of
torture and hear the shrieks and sobs and moans of millions dead.

I see the dungeon's gloom, I hear the clank of chains. I see
the fagot's flames, the scorched and blackened face, the writhing
limbs. I hear the jeers and scoffs of pious fiends. I see the
victim on the rack, I hear the tendons as they break. I see a world
beneath the feet of priests, liberty in chains, every virtue a
crime, every crime a virtue, intelligence despised, stupidity
sainted, hypocrisy crowned and the white forehead of honor wearing
the brand of shame. This was.

I look again, and in the East of hope's fair sky the first
pale light shed by the herald star gives promise of another dawn.
I look, and from the ashes, blood and tears the heroes leap to
bless the future and avenge the past. I see a world at war, and in
the storm and chaos of the deadly strife thrones crumble, altars
fall, chains break, creeds change.

The highest peaks are touched with holy light. The dawn has
blossomed. I look again. I see discoverers sailing across
mysterious seas. I see inventors cunningly enslave the forces of

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Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201


the world. I see the houses being built for schools. Teachers,
interpreters of nature, slowly take the place of priests.
Philosophers arise, thinkers give the world their wealth of brain,
and lips grow rich with words of truth. This is.

I look again, but toward the future now. The popes and priests
and kings are gone, -- the altars and the thrones have mingled with
the dust, -- the aristocracy of land and cloud have perished from
the earth and air, and all the gods are dead. A new religion sheds
its glory on mankind. It is the gospel of this world, the religion
of the body, of the heart and brain, the evangel of health and joy.
I see a world at peace, where labor reaps its true reward, a world
without prisons, without workhouses, without asylums for the
insane, a world on which the gibbet's shadow does not fall, a world
where the poor girl, trying to win bread with the needle, the
needle that has been called "the asp for the breast of the poor,"
is not driven to the desperate choice of crime or death, of suicide
or shame. I see a world without the beggar's outstretched palm, the
miser's heartless, stony stare, the piteous wail of want, the
pallid face of crime, the livid lips of lies, the cruel eyes of
scorn. I see a race without disease of flesh or brain, shapely and
fair, the married harmony of form and use, and as I look life
lengthens, fear dies, joy deepens, love intensifies. The world is
free. This shall be.

****     ****

Reproducible Electronic Publishing can defeat censorship.

The Bank of Wisdom Inc. 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.

****     ****

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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