"THE DIVIDED HOUSEHOLD OF FAITH"
things to destiny hold unbewailed their way."
THERE is a continual
effort in the mind of man to find the harmony that he knows must exist
between all known facts. It is hard for the scientist to implicitly
believe anything that he suspects to be inconsistent with a known fact.
He feels that every fact is a key to many mysteries--that every fact
is a detective, not only, but a perpetual witness. He knows that a fact
has a countless number of sides, and that all these sides will match
all other facts, and he also suspects that to understand one fact perfectly--like
the fact of the attraction of gravitation--would involve a knowledge
of the universe.
requires not only candor, but courage, to accept a fact. When a new
fact is found it is generally denied, resisted, and calumniated by
the conservatives until denial becomes absurd, and then they accept
it with the statement that they always supposed it was true.
The old is the ignorant
enemy of the new. The old has pedigree and respectability; it is filled
with the spirit of caste; it is associated with great events, and with
great names; it is intrenched; it has an income--it represents property.
Besides, it has parasites, and the parasites always defend themselves.
Long ago frightened
wretches who had by tyranny or piracy amassed great fortunes, were induced
in the moment of death to compromise with God and to let their money
 fall from their stiffening hands into the greedy palms of priests.
In this way many theological seminaries were endowed, and in this way
prejudices, mistakes, absurdities, known as religious truths, have been
perpetuated. In this way the dead hypocrites have propagated and supported
matter how honestly they originated--have been established by brute
force. Kings and nobles have used them as a means to enslave, to degrade
and rob. The priest, consciously and unconsciously, has been the betrayer
of his followers.
Near Chicago there
is an ox that betrays his fellows. Cattle--twenty or thirty at a time--are
driven to the place of slaughter. This ox leads the way--the others
follow. When the place is reached, this Bishop Dupanloup, turns and
goes back for other victims.
This is the worst
side: There is a better.
Honest men, believing
that they have found the whole truth--the real and only faith--filled
with enthusiasm, give all for the purpose of propagating the "divine
creed." They found colleges and universities, and in perfect, pious,
ignorant sincerity, provide that the creed, and nothing but the creed,
must be taught, and that if any professor teaches anything contrary
to that, he must be instantly dismissed--that is to say, the children
must be beaten with the bones of the dead.
These good religious
souls erect guide-boards with a provision to the effect that the guide-boards
must remain, whether the roads are changed or not, and with the further
provision that the professors who keep and repair the guide-boards must
always insist that the roads have not been changed.
There is still another
Professors do not
wish to lose their salaries. They love their families and have some
regard for themselves. There  is a compromise between their bread
and their brain. On pay-day they believe--at other times they have their
doubts. They settle with their own consciences by giving old words new
meanings. They take refuge in allegory, hide behind parables, and barricade
themselves with oriental imagery. They give to the most frightful passages
a spiritual meaning--and while they teach the old creed to their followers,
they speak a new philosophy to their equals.
There is still another
A vast number of
clergymen and laymen are perfectly satisfied. They have no doubts. They
believe as their fathers and mothers did. The "scheme of salvation"
suits them because they are satisfied that they are embraced within
its terms. They give themselves no trouble. They believe because they
do not understand. They have no doubts because they do not think. They
regard doubt as a thorn in the pillow of orthodox slumber. Their souls
are asleep, and they hate only those who disturb their dreams. These
people keep their creeds for future use. They intend to have them ready
at the moment of dissolution. They sustain about the same relation to
daily life that the small boats carried by steamers do to ordinary navigation--they
are for the moment of shipwreck. Creeds, like life-preservers, are to
be used in disaster.
We must also remember
that everything in nature--bad as well as good--has the instinct of
self-preservation. All lies go armed, and all mistakes carry concealed
weapons. Driven to the last corner, even non-resistance appeals to the
social, artistic, and individual--are interwoven with all creeds. Thousands
of millions of dollars have been invested; many millions of people obtain
their bread by the propagation and support of certain religious doctrines,
and many millions have been educated for that purpose and for that alone.
Nothing is more natural  than that they should defend themselves--that
they should cling to a creed that gives them roof and raiment.
Only a few years
ago Christianity was a complete system. It included and accounted for
all phenomena; it was a philosophy satisfactory to the ignorant world;
it had an astronomy and geology of its own; it answered all questions
with the same readiness and the same inaccuracy; it had within its sacred
volumes the history of the past, and the prophecies of all the future;
it pretended to know all that was, is, or ever will be necessary for
the well-being of the human race, here and hereafter.
When a religion has
been founded, the founder admitted the truth of everything that was
generally believed that did not interfere with his system. Imposture
always has a definite end in view, and for the sake of the accomplishment
of that end, it will admit the truth of anything and everything that
does not endanger its success.
The writers of all
sacred books--the inspired prophets--had no reason for disagreeing with
the common people about the origin of things, the creation of the world,
the rising and setting of the sun, and the uses of the stars, and consequently
the sacred books of all ages have indorsed the belief general at the
time. You will find in our sacred books the astronomy, the geology,
the philosophy and the morality of the ancient barbarians. The religionist
takes these general ideas as his foundation, and upon them builds the
supernatural structure. For many centuries the astronomy, geology, philosophy
and morality of our Bible were accepted. They were not questioned, for
the reason that the world was too ignorant to question.
A few centuries ago
the art of printing was invented. A new world was discovered. There
was a complete revolution in commerce. The arts were born again. The
world was filled with adventure; millions became self-reliant; old ideas
were abandoned--old theories were put aside--and  suddenly, the
old leaders of thought were found to be ignorant, shallow and dishonest.
The literature of the classic world was discovered and translated into
modern languages. The world was circumnavigated; Copernicus discovered
the true relation sustained by our earth to the solar system, and about
the beginning of the seventeenth century many other wonderful discoveries
were made. In 1609, a Hollander found that two lenses placed in a certain
relation to each other magnified objects seen through them. This discovery
was the foundation of astronomy. In a little while it came to the knowledge
of Galileo; the result was a telescope, with which man has read the
volume of the skies.
On the 8th day of
May, 1618, Kepler discovered the greatest of his three laws. These were
the first great blows struck for the enfranchisement of the human mind.
A few began to suspect that the ancient Hebrews were not astronomers.
From that moment the church became the enemy of science. In every possible
way the inspired ignorance was defended--the lash, the sword, the chain,
the fagot and the dungeon were the arguments used by the infuriated
To such an extent
was the church prejudiced against the new philosophy, against the new
facts, that priests refused to look through the telescope of Galileo.
At last it became
evident to the intelligent world that the inspired writings, literally
translated, did not contain the truth--the Bible was in danger of being
driven from the heavens.
The church also had
its geology. The time when the earth was created had been definitely
fixed and was certainly known. This fact had not only been stated by
inspired writers, but their statement had been indorsed by priests,
by bishops, cardinals, popes and ecumenical councils; that was settled.
 But a few men had learned the art of seeing. There were some eyes
not always closed in prayer. They looked at the things about them; they
observed channels that had been worn in solid rock by streams; they
saw the vast territories that had been deposited by rivers; their attention
was called to the slow inroads upon continents by seas--to the deposits
by volcanoes--to the sedimentary rocks--to the vast reefs that had been
built by the coral, and to the countless evidences of age, of the lapse
of time--and finally it was demonstrated that this earth had been pursuing
its course about the sun for millions and millions of ages.
The church disputed
every step, denied every fact, resorted to every device that cunning
could suggest or ingenuity execute, but the conflict could not be maintained.
The Bible, so far as geology was concerned, was in danger of being driven
from the earth.
Beaten in the open
field, the church began to equivocate, to evade, and to give new meanings
to inspired words. Finally, falsehood having failed to harmonize the
guesses of barbarians with the discoveries of genius, the leading churchmen
suggested that the Bible was not written to teach astronomy, was not
written to teach geology, and that it was not a scientific book, but
that it was written in the language of the people, and that as to unimportant
things it contained the general beliefs of its time.
The ground was then
taken that, while it was not inspired in its science, it was inspired
in its morality, in its prophecy, in its account of the miraculous,
in the scheme of salvation, and in all that it had to say on the subject
The moment it was
suggested that the Bible was not inspired in everything within its lids,
the seeds of suspicion were sown. The priest became less arrogant. The
church was forced to explain. The pulpit had one language for 
the faithful and another for the philosophical, i. e., it became
dishonest with both.
The next question
that arose was as to the origin of man.
The Bible was being
driven from the skies. The testimony of the stars was against the sacred
volume. The church had also been forced to admit that the world was
not created at the time mentioned in the Bible--so that the very stones
of the earth rose and united with the stars in giving testimony against
the sacred volume.
As to the creation
of the world, the church resorted to the artifice of saying that "days"
in reality meant long periods of time; so that no matter how old the
earth was, the time could be spanned by six periods--in other words,
that the years could not be too numerous to be divided by six.
But when it came
to the creation of man, this evasion, or artifice, was impossible. The
Bible gives the date of the creation of man, because it gives the age
at which the first man died, and then it gives the generations from
Adam to the flood, and from the flood to the birth of Christ, and in
many instances the actual age of the principal ancestor is given. So
that, according to this account--according to the inspired figures--man
has existed upon the earth only about six thousand years. There is no
room left for any people beyond Adam.
If the Bible is true,
certainly Adam was the first man; consequently, we know, if the sacred
volume be true, just how long man has lived and labored and suffered
on this earth.
The church cannot
and dare not give up the account of the creation of Adam from the dust
of the earth, and of Eve from the rib of the man. The church cannot
give up the story of the Garden of Eden--the serpent--the fall and the
expulsion; these must be defended because they are vital. Without these
absurdities, the system known as Christianity cannot exist. Without
the fall, the atonement is a non  sequitur. Facts
bearing upon these questions were discovered and discussed by the greatest
and most thoughtful of men. Lamarck, Humboldt, Haeckel, and above all,
Darwin, not only asserted, but demonstrated, that man is not a special
creation. If anything can be established by observation, by reason,
then the fact has been established that man is related to all life below
him--that he has been slowly produced through countless years--that
the story of Eden is a childish myth--that the fall of man is an infinite
If anything can be
established by analogy and reason, man has existed upon the earth for
many millions of ages. We know now, if we know anything, that people
not only existed before Adam, but that they existed in a highly civilized
state; that thousands of years before the Garden of Eden was planted
men communicated to each other their ideas by language, and that artists
clothed the marble with thoughts and passions.
This is a demonstration
that the origin of man given in the Old Testament is untrue--that the
account was written by the ignorance, the prejudice and the egotism
of the olden time.
So, if anything outside
of the senses can be known, we do know that civilization is a growth--that
man did not commence a perfect being, and then degenerate, but that
from small beginnings he has slowly risen to the intellectual height
he now occupies.
The church, however,
has not been willing to accept these truths, because they contradict
the sacred word. Some of the most ingenious of the clergy have been
endeavoring for years to show that there is no conflict--that the account
in Genesis is in perfect harmony with the theories of Charles Darwin,
and these clergymen in some way manage to retain their creed and to
accept a philosophy that utterly destroys it. 
But in a few years
the Christian world will be forced to admit that the Bible is not inspired
in its astronomy, in its geology, or in its anthropology--that is to
say, that the inspired writers knew nothing of the sciences, knew nothing
of the origin of the earth, nothing of the origin of man--in other words,
nothing of any particular value to the human race.
It is, however, still
insisted that the Bible is inspired in its morality. Let us examine
We must admit, if
we know anything, if we feel anything, if conscience is more than a
word, if there is such a thing as right and such a thing as wrong beneath
the dome of heaven--we must admit that slavery is immoral. If we are
honest, we must also admit that the Old Testament upholds slavery. It
will be cheerfully admitted that Jehovah was opposed to the enslavement
of one Hebrew by another. Christians may quote the commandment "Thou
shalt not steal" as being opposed to human slavery, but after that commandment
was given, Jehovah himself told his chosen people that they might "buy
their bondmen and bondwomen of the heathen round about, and that they
should be their bondmen and their bondwomen forever." So all that Jehovah
meant by the commandment "Thou shalt not steal" was that one Hebrew
should not steal from another Hebrew, but that all Hebrews might steal
from the people of any other race or creed.
It is perfectly apparent
that the Ten Commandments were made only for the Jews, not for the world,
because the author of these commandments commanded the people to whom
they were given to violate them nearly all as against the surrounding
A few years ago it
did not occur to the Christian world that slavery was wrong. It was
upheld by the church. Ministers bought and sold the very people for
whom they declared that Christ had died. Clergymen of the English 
church owned stock in slave-ships, and the man who denounced slavery
was regarded as the enemy of morality, and thereupon was duly mobbed
by the followers of Jesus Christ. Churches were built with the results
of labor stolen from colored Christians. Babes were sold from mothers
and a part of the money given to send missionaries from America to heathen
lands with the tidings of great joy. Now every intelligent man on the
earth, every decent man, holds in abhorrence the institution of human
So with the institution
of polygamy. If anything on the earth is immoral, that is. If there
is anything calculated to destroy home, to do away with human love,
to blot out the idea of family life, to cover the hearthstone with serpents,
it is the institution of polygamy. The Jehovah of the Old Testament
was a believer in that institution.
Can we now say that
the Bible is inspired in its morality? Consider for a moment the manner
in which, under the direction of Jehovah, wars were waged. Remember
the atrocities that were committed. Think of a war where everything
was the food of the sword. Think for a moment of a deity capable of
committing the crimes that are described and gloated over in the Old
Testament. The civilized man has outgrown the sacred cruelties and absurdities.
There is still another
side to this question.
A few centuries ago
nothing was more natural than the unnatural. Miracles were as plentiful
as actual events. In those blessed days, that which actually occurred
was not regarded of sufficient importance to be recorded. A religion
without miracles would have excited derision. A creed that did not fill
the horizon--that did not account for everything--that could not answer
every question, would have been regarded as worthless.
After the birth of
Protestantism, it could not be admitted by the leaders of the Reformation
that the Catholic Church  still had the power of working miracles.
If the Catholic Church was still in partnership with God, what excuse
could have been made for the Reformation? The Protestants, took the
ground that the age of miracles had passed. This was to justify the
new faith. But Protestants could not say that miracles had never been
performed, because that would take the foundation not only from the
Catholics but from themselves; consequently they were compelled to admit
that miracles were performed in the apostolic days, but to insist that,
in their time, man must rely upon the facts in nature. Protestants were
compelled to carry on two kinds of war; they had to contend with those
who insisted that miracles had never been performed; and in that argument
they were forced to insist upon the necessity for miracles, on the probability
that they were performed, and upon the truthfulness of the apostles.
A moment afterward, they had to answer those who contended that miracles
were performed at that time; then they brought forward against the Catholics
the same arguments that their first opponents had brought against them.
This has made every
Protestant brain "a house divided against itself." This planted in the
Reformation the "irrepressible conflict."
But we have learned
more and more about what we call Nature--about what we call facts. Slowly
it dawned upon the mind that force is indestructible--that we cannot
imagine force as existing apart from matter--that we cannot even think
of matter existing apart from force--that we cannot by any possibility
conceive of a cause without an effect, of an effect without a cause,
of an effect that is not also a cause. We find no room between the links
of cause and effect for a miracle. We now perceive that a miracle must
be outside of Nature--that it can have no father, no mother--that is
to say, that it is an impossibility.
world has abandoned the miraculous.  Most ministers are now ashamed
to defend a miracle. Some try to explain miracles, and yet, if a miracle
is explained, it ceases to exist. Few congregations could keep from
smiling were the minister to seriously assert the truth of the Old Testament
Miracles must be
given up. That field must be abandoned by the religious world. The evidence
accumulates every day, in every possible direction in which the human
mind can investigate, that the miraculous is simply the impossible.
Confidence in the
eternal constancy of Nature increases day by day. The scientist has
perfect confidence in the attraction of gravitation--in chemical affinities--in
the great fact of evolution, and feels absolutely certain that the nature
of things will remain forever the same.
We have at last ascertained
that miracles can be perfectly understood; that there is nothing mysterious
about them; that they are simply transparent falsehoods.
The real miracles
are the facts in nature. No one can explain the attraction of gravitation.
No one knows why soil and rain and light become the womb of life. No
one knows why grass grows, why water runs, or why the magnetic needle
points to the north. The facts in nature are the eternal and the only
mysteries. There is nothing strange about the miracles of superstition.
They are nothing but the mistakes of ignorance and fear, or falsehoods
framed by those who wished to live on the labor of others.
In our time the champions
of Christianity, for the most part, take the exact ground occupied by
the Deists. They dare not defend in the open field the mistakes, the
cruelties, the immoralities and the absurdities of the Bible. They shun
the Garden of Eden as though the serpent was still there. They have
nothing to say about the fall of man. They are silent as to the laws
upholding slavery and polygamy. They are ashamed to defend the miraculous.
They talk  about these things to Sunday schools and to the elderly
members of their congregations; but when doing battle for the faith,
they misstate the position of their opponents and then insist that there
must be a God, and that the soul is immortal.
We may admit the
existence of an infinite Being; we may admit the immortality of the
soul, and yet deny the inspiration of the Scriptures and the divine
origin of the Christian religion. These doctrines, or these dogmas,
have nothing in common. The pagan world believed in God and taught the
dogma of immortality. These ideas are far older than Christianity, and
they have been almost universal.
more than this. It is based upon the inspiration of the Bible, on the
fall of man, on the atonement, on the dogma of the Trinity, on the divinity
of Jesus Christ, on his resurrection from the dead, on his ascension
not simply the immortality of the soul--not simply the immortality of
joy--but it teaches the immortality of pain, the eternity of sorrow.
It insists that evil, that wickedness, that immorality and that every
form of vice are and must be perpetuated forever. It believes in immortal
convicts, in eternal imprisonment and in a world of unending pain. It
has a serpent for every breast and a curse for nearly every soul. This
doctrine is called the dearest hope of the human heart, and he who attacks
it is denounced as the most infamous of men.
Let us see what the
church, within a few years, has been compelled substantially to abandon,--that
is to say, what it is now almost ashamed to defend.
astronomy of the sacred Scriptures; second, the geology; third,
the account given of the origin of man; fourth, the doctrine
of original sin, the fall of the human race; fifth, the mathematical
contradiction known as the  Trinity; sixth, the atonement--because
it was only on the ground that man is accountable for the sin of another,
that he could be justified by reason of the righteousness of another;
seventh, that the miraculous is either the misunderstood or the
impossible; eighth, that the Bible is not inspired in its morality,
for the reason that slavery is not moral, that polygamy is not good,
that wars of extermination are not merciful, and that nothing can be
more immoral than to punish the innocent on account of the sins of the
guilty; and ninth, the divinity of Christ.
All this must be
given up by the really intelligent, by those not afraid to think, by
those who have the courage of their convictions and the candor to express
their thoughts. What then is left?
Let me tell you.
Everything in the Bible that is true, is left; it still remains and
is still of value. It cannot be said too often that the truth needs
no inspiration; neither can it be said too often that inspiration cannot
help falsehood Every good and noble sentiment uttered in the Bible is
still good and noble. Every fact remains. All that is good in the Sermon
on the Mount is retained. The Lord's Prayer is not affected. The grandeur
of self-denial, the nobility of forgiveness, and the ineffable splendor
of mercy are with us still. And besides, there remains the great hope
for all the human race.
What is lost? All
the mistakes, all the falsehoods, all the absurdities, all the cruelties
and all the curses contained in the Scriptures. We have almost lost
the "hope" of eternal pain--the "consolation" of perdition; and in time
we shall lose the frightful shadow that has fallen upon so many hearts,
that has darkened so many lives.
The great trouble
for many years has been, and still is, that the clergy are not quite
candid. They are disposed to defend the old creed. They have been educated
in the universities of the Sacred Mistake--universities that Bruno 
would call "the widows of true learning." They have been taught to measure
with a false standard; they have weighed with inaccurate scales. In
youth, they became convinced of the truth of the creed. This was impressed
upon them by the solemnity of professors who spoke in tones of awe.
The enthusiasm of life's morning was misdirected. They went out into
the world knowing nothing of value. They preached a creed outgrown.
Having been for so many years entirely certain of their position, they
met doubt with a spirit of irritation--afterward with hatred. They are
hardly courageous enough to admit that they are wrong.
Once the pulpit was
the leader--it spoke with authority. By its side was the sword of the
state, with the hilt toward its hand. Now it is apologized for--it carries
a weight. It is now like a living man to whom has been chained a corpse.
It cannot defend the old, and it has not accepted the new. In some strange
way it imagines that morality cannot live except in partnership with
the sanctified follies and falsehoods of the past.
The old creeds cannot
be defended by argument. They are not within the circumference of reason--they
are not embraced in any of the facts within the experience of man. All
the subterfuges have been exposed; all the excuses have been shown to
be shallow, and at last the church must meet, and fairly meet, the objections
of our time.
Solemnity is no longer
an argument. Falsehood is no longer sacred. People are not willing to
admit that mistakes are divine. Truth is more important than belief--far
better than creeds, vastly more useful than superstitions. The church
must accept the truths of the present, must admit the demonstrations
of science, or take its place in the mental museums with the fossils
and monstrosities of the past.
The time for personalities
has passed; these questions cannot be determined by ascertaining the
character of the  disputants; epithets are no longer regarded as
arguments; the curse of the church produces laughter; theological slander
is no longer a weapon; argument must be answered with argument, and
the church must appeal to reason, and by that standard it must stand
or fall. The theories and discoveries of Darwin cannot be answered by
the resolutions of synods, or by quotations from the Old Testament.
The world has advanced.
The Bible has remained the same. We must go back to the book--it cannot
come to us--or we must leave it forever. In order to remain orthodox
we must forget the discoveries, the inventions, the intellectual efforts
of many centuries; we must go back until our knowledge--or rather our
ignorance--will harmonize with the barbaric creeds.
It is not pretended
that all the creeds have not been naturally produced. It is admitted
that under the same circumstances the same religions would again ensnare
the human race. It is also admitted that under the same circumstances
the same efforts would be made by the great and intellectual of every
age to break the chains of superstition.
There is no necessity
of attacking people--we should combat error. We should hate hypocrisy,
but not the hypocrite--larceny, but not the thief--superstition, but
not its victim. We should do all within our power to inform, to educate,
and to benefit our fellow-men.
There is no elevating
power in hatred. There is no reformation in punishment. The soul grows
greater and grander in the air of kindness, in the sunlight of intelligence.
We must rely upon
the evidence of our senses, upon the conclusions of our reason.
For many centuries
the church has insisted that man is totally depraved, that he is naturally
wicked, that all of his natural desires are contrary to the will of
God. Only a few years ago it was solemnly asserted that our senses were
 originally honest, true and faithful, but having been debauched
by original sin, were now cheats and liars; that they constantly deceived
and misled the soul; that they were traps and snares; that no man could
be safe who relied upon his senses, or upon his reason;--he must simply
rely upon faith; in other words, that the only way for man to really
see was to put out his eyes.
There has been a
rapid improvement in the intellectual world. The improvement has been
slow in the realm of religion, for the reason that religion was hedged
about, defended and barricaded by fear, by prejudice and by law. It
was considered sacred. It was illegal to call its truth in question.
Whoever disputed the priest became a criminal; whoever demanded a reason,
or an explanation, became a blasphemer, a scoffer, a moral leper.
The church defended
its mistakes by every means within its power.
But in spite of all
this there has been advancement, and there are enough of the orthodox
clergy left to make it possible for us to measure the distance that
has been traveled by sensible people.
The world is beginning
to see that a minister should be a teacher, and that "he should not
endeavor to inculcate a particular system of dogmas, but to prepare
his hearers for exercising their own judgments."
As a last resource,
the orthodox tell the thoughtful that they are not "spiritual"--that
they are "of the earth, earthy"--that they cannot perceive that which
is spiritual. They insist that "God is a spirit, and must be worshiped
But let me ask, What
is it to be spiritual? In order to be really spiritual, must a man sacrifice
this world for the sake of another? Were the selfish hermits, who deserted
their wives and children for the miserable purpose of saving their own
little souls, spiritual ? Were those who put  their fellow-men
in dungeons, or burned them at the stake on account of a difference
of opinion, all spiritual people? Did John Calvin give evidence of his
spirituality by burning Servetus? Were they spiritual people who invented
and used instruments of torture--who denied the liberty of thought and
expression--who waged wars for the propagation of the faith? Were they
spiritual people who insisted that Infinite Love could punish his poor,
ignorant children forever? Is it necessary to believe in eternal torment
to understand the meaning of the word spiritual? Is it necessary to
hate those who disagree with you, and to calumniate those whose argument
you cannot answer, in order to be spiritual? Must you hold a demonstrated
fact in contempt; must you deny or avoid what you know to be true, in
order to substantiate the fact that you are spiritual?
What is it to be
spiritual? Is the man spiritual who searches for the truth--who lives
in accordance with his highest ideal--who loves his wife and children--who
discharges his obligations--who makes a happy fireside for the ones
he loves--who succors the oppressed--who gives his honest opinions--who
is guided by principle--who is merciful and just?
Is the man spiritual
who loves the beautiful--who is thrilled by music, and touched to tears
in the presence of the sublime, the heroic and the self-denying? Is
the man spiritual who endeavors by thought and deed to ennoble the human
The defenders of
the orthodox faith, by this time, should know that the foundations are
They should have
the courage to defend, or the candor to abandon. If the Bible is an
inspired book, it ought to be true. Its defenders must admit that Jehovah
knew the facts not only about the earth, but about the stars, and that
the Creator of the universe knew all about geology and astronomy even
four thousand years ago. 
The champions of
Christianity must show that the Bible tells the truth about the creation
of man, the Garden of Eden, the temptation, the fall and the flood.
They must take the ground that the sacred book is historically correct;
that the events related really happened; that the miracles were actually
performed; that the laws promulgated from Sinai were and are wise and
just, and that nothing is upheld, commanded, indorsed, or in any way
approved or sustained that is not absolutely right. In other words,
if they insist that a being of infinite goodness and intelligence is
the author of the Bible, they must be ready to show that it is absolutely
perfect. They must defend its Astronomy, geology, history, miracle and
If the Bible is true,
man is a special creation, and if man is a special creation, millions
of facts must have conspired, millions of ages ago, to deceive the scientific
world of to-day.
If the Bible is true,
slavery is right, and the world should go back to the barbarism of the
lash and chain. If the Bible is true, polygamy is the highest form of
virtue. If the Bible is true, nature has a master, and the miraculous
is independent of and superior to cause and effect. If the Bible is
true, most of the children of men are destined to suffer eternal pain.
If the Bible is true, the science known as astronomy is a collection
of mistakes--the telescope is a false witness, and light is a luminous
liar. If the Bible is true, the science known as geology is false and
every fossil is a petrified perjurer.
The defenders of
orthodox creeds should have the courage to candidly answer at least
two questions: First, Is the Bible inspired? Second, Is the Bible true?
And when they answer these questions, they should remember that if the
Bible is true, it needs no inspiration, and that if not true, inspiration
can do it no good.
of Robert G. Ingersoll, Vol. XI (New York: Dresden Publishing Co.,
1909), 215-233. This essay was originally published in the North
American Review (August 1888). Paragraph numbers have been added,
and the original pagination appears in brackets.