Lectures of Col. R.G. Ingersoll, Volume 1


Now, they tell me—and there are several gentlemen who have spoken on this subject—the Rev. Mr. Collyer, a gentleman standing as high as anybody, and I have nothing to say against him—because I denounced God who upheld murder, and slavery and polygamy, he said that what I said was slang. I would like to have it compared with any sermon that ever issued from the lips of that gentleman. And before he gets through he admits that the Old Testament is a rotten tree that will soon fall into the earth and act as a fertilizer for his doctrine.

Is it honest in that man to assail my motive? Let him answer my argument! Is it honest and fair in him to say I am doing a certain thing because it is popular? Has it got to this, that, in this Christian country, where they have preached every day hundreds and thousands of sermons—has it got to this that infidelity is so popular in the United States?

If it has, I take courage. And I not only see the dawn of a brighter day, but the day is here. Think of it! A minister tells me in this year of grace, 1879, that a man is an infidel simply that he may be popular. I am glad of it. Simply that he may make money. Is it possible that we can make more money tearing up churches than in building them up? Is it possible that we can make more money denouncing the God of slavery than we can praising the God that took liberty from man? If so, I am glad.

I call publicly upon Robert Collyer—a man for whom I have great respect—I call publicly upon Robert Collyer to state to the people of this city whether he believes the Old Testament was inspired. I call upon him to state whether he believes that God ever upheld these institutions; whether God was a polygamist; whether he believes that God commanded Moses or Joshua or any one else to slay little children in the cradle. Do you believe that Robert Collyer would obey such an order? Do you believe that he would rush to the cradle and drive the knife of theological hatred to the tender heart of a dimpled child? And yet when I denounce a God that will give such a hellish order, he says it is slang.

I want him to answer; and when he answers he will say he does not believe the Bible is inspired. That is what he will say, and he holds these old worthies in the same contempt that I do. Suppose he should act like Abraham. Suppose he should send some woman out into the wilderness with his child in her arms to starve, would he think that mankind ought to hold up his name forever, for reverence.

Robert Collyer says that we should read and scan every word of the Old Testament with reverence; that we should take this book up with reverential hands. I deny it. We should read it as we do every other book, and everything good in it, keep it and everything that shocks the brain and shocks the heart, throw it away. Let us be honest.


Prof. Swing has made a few remarks on this subject, and I say the spirit he has exhibited has been as gentle and as sweet as the perfume of a flower. He was too good a man to stay in the Presbyterian church. He was a rose among thistles. He was a dove among vultures and they hunted him out, and I am glad he came out. I tell all the churches to drive all such men out, and when he comes I want him to state just what he thinks. I want him to tell the people of Chicago whether he believes the Bible is inspired in any sense except that in which Shakespeare was inspired. Honor bright, I tell you that all the sweet and beautiful things in the Bible would not make one play of Shakespeare; all the philosophy in the world would not make one scene in Hamlet; all the beauties of the Bible would not make one scene in the Midsummer Night's Dream; all the beautiful things about woman in the Bible would not begin to create such a character as Perditu or Imogene or Miranda. Not one.

I want him to tell whether he believes the Bible was inspired in any other way than Shakespeare was inspired. I want him to pick out something as beautiful and tender as Burns' poem to Mary in Heaven. I want him to tell whether he believes the story about the bears eating up children; whether that is inspired. I want him to tell whether he considers that a poem or not. I want to know if the same God made those bears that devoured the children because they laughed at an old man out of hair. I want to know if the same God that did that is the same God who said, "Suffer little children to come unto me, for such is the kingdom of Heaven." I want him to answer it, and answer it fairly. That is all I ask. I want just the fair thing.

Now, sometimes Mr. Swing talks as though he believed the Bible, and then he talks to me as though he didn't believe the Bible. The day he made this sermon I think he did, just a little, believe it. He is like the man that passed a ten dollar counterfeit bill. He was arrested and his father went to see him and said, "John, how could you commit such a crime? How could you bring my gray hairs in sorrow to the grave?" "Well," he says, "father, I'll tell you. I got this bill and some days I thought it was bad and some days I thought it was good, and one day when I thought it was good I passed it."

I want it distinctly understood that I have the greatest respect for Prof. Swing, but I want him to tell whether the 109th psalm is inspired. I want him to tell whether the passages I shall afterward read in this book are inspired. That is what I want.


Then there is another gentleman here. His name is Herford. He says it is not fair to apply the test of truth to the Bible—I don't think it is myself. He says although Moses upheld slavery, that he improved it. They were not quite so bad as they were before, and Heaven justified slavery at that time. Do you believe that God ever turned the arms of children into chains of slavery? Do you believe that God ever said to a man: "You can't have your wife unless you will be a slave? You can not have your children unless you will lose your liberty; and unless you are willing to throw them from your heart forever, you can not be free?" I want Mr. Herford to state whether he loves such a God. Be honor bright about it. Don't begin to talk about civilization or what the church has done or will do. Just walk right up to the rack and say whether you love and worship a God that established slavery. Honest! And love and worship a God that would allow a little babe to be torn from the breast of its mother and sold into slavery. Now tell it fair, Mr. Herford, I want you to tell the ladies in your congregation that you believe in a God that allowed women to be given to the soldiers. Tell them that, and then if you say it was not the God of Moses, then don't praise Moses any more. Don't do it. Answer these questions.


Then here is another gentleman, Mr. Ryder, the Rev. Mr. Ryder, and he says that Calvinism is rejected by a majority of Christendom. He is mistaken. There is what they call the Evangelical Alliance. They met in this country in 1875 or 1876, and there were present representatives of all the evangelical churches in the world, and they adopted a creed, and that creed is that man is totally depraved. That creed is that there is an eternal, universal Hell, and that every man that does not believe in a certain way is bound to be damned forever, and that there is only one way to be saved, and that is by faith, and by faith alone; and they would not allow anybody to be represented there that did not believe that, and they would not allow a Unitarian there, and would not have allowed Dr. Ryder there, because he takes away from the Christian world the consolation naturally arising from the belief in Hell.

Dr. Ryder is mistaken. All the orthodox religion of the day is Calvinism. It believes in the fall of man. It believes in the atonement. It believes in the eternity of Hell, and it believes in salvation by faith; that is to say, by credulity.

That is what they believe, and he is mistaken; and I want to tell Dr. Kyder today, if there is a God, and He wrote the Old Testament, there is a Hell. The God that wrote the Old Testament will have a Hell. And I want to tell Dr. Ryder another thing, that the Bible teaches an eternity of punishment. I want to tell him that the Bible upholds the doctrine of Hell. I want to tell Him that if there is no Hell, somebody ought to have said so, and Jesus Christ should not have said: "I will at the last day say: 'Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.'" If there was not such a place, Christ would not have said: "Depart from me, ye cursed, and these shall go hence into everlasting fire." And if you, Dr. Ryder, are depending for salvation on the God that wrote the Old Testament, you will inevitably be eternally damned.

There is no hope for you. It is just as bad to deny Hell as it is to deny Heaven. It is just as much blasphemy to deny the devil as to deny God, according to the orthodox creed. He admits that the Jews were polygamists, but, he says, how was it they finally quit it? I can tell you—the soil was so poor they couldn't afford it. Prof. Swing says the Bible is a poem, Dr. Ryder says it is a picture. The Garden of Eden is pictorial; a pictorial snake and a pictorial woman, I suppose, and a pictorial man, and maybe it was a pictorial sin. And only a pictorial atonement.


Then there is another gentleman, and he a rabbi, a Rabbi Bien, or Bean, or whatever his name is, and he comes to the defense of the Great Law-giver. There was another rabbi who attacked me in Cincinnati, and I couldn't help but think of the old saying that a man got off when he said the tallest man he ever knew, his name was Short. And the fattest man he ever saw, his name was Lean. And it is only necessary for me to add that this rabbi in Cincinnati was Wise.

The rabbi here, I will not answer him, and I will tell you why. Because he has taken himself outside of all the limits of a gentleman; because he has taken it upon himself to traduce American women in language the beastliest I ever read; and any man who says that the American women are not just as good women as any God can make and pick his mud today, is an unappreciative barbarian.

I will let him alone because he denounced all the men in this country, all the members of Congress, all the members of the Senate, and all the judges upon the Bench; in his lecture he denounced them as thieves and robbers. That won't do. I want to remind him that in this country the Jews were first admitted to the privileges of citizens; that in this country they were first given all their rights, and I am as much in favor of their having their rights as I am in favor of having my own. But when a rabbi so far forgets himself as to traduce the women and men of this country, I pronounce him a vulgar falsifier, and let him alone.

Strange, that nearly every man that has answered me has answered me mostly on the same side. Strange, that nearly every man that thought himself called upon to defend the Bible was one who did not believe in it himself. Isn't it strange? They are like some suspected people, always anxious to show their marriage certificate. They want at least to convince the world that they are not as bad as I am.

Now, I want to read you just one or two things, and then I am going to let you go. I want to see if I have said such awful things, and whether I have got any scripture to stand by me. I will read only two or three verses. Does the Bible teach man to enslave his brother? If it does, it is not the word of God, unless God is a slaveholder.

"Moreover, all the children of the strangers that do sojourn among you, of them shall ye buy of their families which are with you, which they beget in your land, and they shall be your possession. Ye shall take them as an inheritance for your children after you to inherit them. They shall be your bondsmen forever."—(Old Testament.)

Upon the limbs of unborn babes this fiendish God put the chains of slavery. I hate him.

"Both thy bondmen and bondwomen shall be of the heathen round about thee and them shall ye buy, bondmen and bondwomen."

Now let us read what the New Testament has. I could read a great deal more, but that is enough.

"Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters, according to the flesh in fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ."

This is putting the dirty thief that steals your labor on an equality with God.

"Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle but also to the froward."

"For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully."

The idea of a man on account of conscience toward God stealing another man, or allowing him nothing but lashes on his back as legal-tender for labor performed.

"Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honor, that the name of God and His doctrine be not blasphemed."

How can you blaspheme the name of God by asserting your independence? How can you blaspheme the name of a God by striking fetters from the limbs of men? I wish some of your ministers would tell you that. "And they that have believing masters let them not despise them." That is to say, a good Christian could own another believer in Jesus Christ; could own a woman and her children, and could sell the child away from its mother. That is a sweet belief. O, hypocrisy!

"Let them not despise them because they are brethren, but rather do them service because they are faithful and beloved, partakers of the benefit."

Oh, what slush! Here is what they will tell the poor slave, so that he will serve the man that stole his wife and children from him:

"For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. Having food and raiment let us be therewith content."

Don't you think that it would do just as well to preach that to the thieving man as to the suffering slave? I think so. Then this same Bible teaches witchcraft, that spirits go into the bodies of the man, and pigs, and that God himself made a trade with the devil, and the devil traded him off—a man for a certain number of swine, and the devil lost money because the hogs ran right down into the sea. He got a corner on that deal.

Now let us see how they believed in the rights of children:

"If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not harken unto them, then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place. And they shall say unto the elders of his city, 'This, our son, is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice, he is a glutton and a drunkard.' And all the men of this city shall stone him with stones, that he die, so shalt thou put evil away."

That is a very good way to raise children. Here is the story of Jephthah. He went off and he asked the Lord to let him whip some people, and he told the Lord if He would let him whip them, he would sacrifice to the Lord the first thing that met him on his return; and the first thing that met him was his own beautiful daughter, and he sacrificed her. Is there a sadder story in all history than that? What do you think of a man that would sacrifice his own daughter? What do you think of a God that would receive that sacrifice? Now, then, they come to women in this blessed gospel, and let us see what the gospel says about women. Then you ought all to go to church, girls, next Sunday and hear it. "Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection; but I suffer not a woman to teach nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence for Adam was formed first, not Eve."

Don't you see?

"And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. Notwithstanding she shall be saved in child-bearing if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety." (That is Mr. Timothy.) "But I would have you know that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is the man, and the head of Christ is God."

I suppose that every old maid is acephalous.

"For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, for as much as he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of the man. For the man is not of the woman, but woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman, but the woman for the man." "Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husband as unto the Lord, for the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the Church."

Do you hear that? You didn't know how much we were above you. When you go back to the old testament, to the great law-giver, you find that the woman has to ask forgiveness for having borne a child. If it was a boy, thirty-three days she was unclean; if it was a girl, sixty-six. Nice laws! Good laws! If there is a pure thing in this world, if there is a picture of perfect purity, it is a mother with her child in her arms. Yes, I think more of a good woman and a child than I do of all the gods I have ever heard these people tell about. Just think of this:

"When thou goest forth to war against thine enemies, and the Lord thy God hath delivered them into thine hands, and thou hast taken them captive, and seest among the captives a beautiful woman and hast a desire unto her that thou wouldst have her to thy wife, then thou shalt bring her home to thine house, and she shall shave her head, and pare her nails."

Wherefore, ye must needs be subject not only for wrath but for conscience sake. "For this cause pay you tribute also, for they are God's ministers."

I despise this wretched doctrine. Wherever the sword of rebellion is drawn in favor of the right, I am a rebel. I suppose Alexander, czar of Russia, was put there by the order of God, was he? I am sorry he was not removed by the nihilist that shot at him the other day.

I tell you, in a country like that, where there are hundreds of girls not 16 years of age prisoners in Siberia, simply for giving their ideas about liberty, and we telegraphed to that country, congratulating that wretch that he was not killed, my heart goes into the prison, my heart goes with the poor girl working as a miner in the mines, crawling on her hands and knees getting the precious ore out of the mines, and my sympathies go with her, and my sympathies cluster around the point of the dagger.

Does the bible describe a god of mercy? Let me read you a verse or two:

"I will make mine arrows drunk with blood, and my sword shall devour flesh." "Thy foot may be dipped in the blood of thine enemies, and the tongue of thy dogs in the same."

"And the Lord thy God will put out those nations before thee by little and little; thou mayest not consume them at once, lest the beasts of the field increase upon thee.

"But the Lord thy God shall deliver them unto thee, and shall destroy them with a mighty destruction, until they be destroyed."

"And he shall deliver their kings into thine hand, and thou shalt destroy their name from under heaven; there shall no man be able to stand before thee, until thou have destroyed them."

I can see what he had her nails pared for. Does the bible teach polygamy? The Rev. Dr. Newman, consul general to all the world—had a discussion with Elder Heber of Kimball, or some such wretch in Utah—whether the bible sustains polygamy, and the Mormons have printed that discussion as a campaign document. Read the order of Moses in the 31st chapter of Numbers. A great many chapters I dare not read to you. They are too filthy. I leave all that to the clergy. Read the 31st chapter of Exodus, the 31st chapter of Deuteronomy, the life of Abraham, and the life of David, and the life of Solomon, and then tell me that the bible does not uphold polygamy and concubinage!

Let them answer. Then I said that the bible upheld tyranny. Let me read you a little: "Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God. The powers that be are ordained of God."

George III was king by the grace of God, and when our fathers rose in rebellion, according to this doctrine, they rose against the power of God; and if they did they were successful.

And so it goes on, telling of all the cities that were destroyed, and of the great-hearted men, that they dashed their brains out, and all the little babes, and all the sweet women that they killed and plundered—all in the name of a most merciful God. Well, think of it! The Old Testament is filled with anathemas, and with curses, and with words of revenge, and jealousy, and hatred, and meanness, and brutality. Have I read enough to show that what I said is so? I think I have. I wish I had time to read to you further of what the dear old fathers of the church said about woman—wait a minute, and I will read you a little. We have got them running. St. Augustine in his 22d book says: "A woman ought to serve her husband as unto God, affirming that woman ought to be braced and bridled betimes, if she aspire to any dominion, alleging that dangerous and perilous it is to suffer her to precede, although it be in temporal and corporeal things. How can woman be in the image of God, seeing she is subject to man, and hath no authority to teach, neither to be a witness, neither to judge, much less to rule or bear the rod of empire."

Oh, he is a good one. These are the very words of Augustine. Let me read some more. "Woman shall be subject unto man as unto Christ." That is St. Augustine, and this sentence of Augustine ought to be noted of all women, for in it he plainly affirms that women are all the more subject to man. And now, St. Ambrose, he is a good boy. "Adam was deceived by Eve—called Heva—and not Heva by Adam, and therefore just it is that woman receive and acknowledge him for governor whom she called sin, lest that again she slip and fall with womanly facility. Don't you see that woman has sinned once, and man never? If you give woman an opportunity, she will sin again, whereas if you give it to man, who never, never betrayed his trust in the world, nothing bad can happen. Let women be subject to their own husbands as unto the Lord, for man is the head of woman, and Christ is the head of the congregation." They are all real good men, all of them. "It is not permitted to woman to speak; let her be in silence; as the law said: unto thy husband shalt thou ever be, and he shall bear dominion over thee."

So St. Chrysostom. He is another good man. "Woman," he says, "was put under the power of man, and man was pronounced lord over her; that she should obey man, that the head should not follow the feet. False priests do commonly deceive women, because they are easily persuaded to any opinion,—especially if it be again given, and because they lack prudence and right reason to judge the things that be spoken; which should not be the nature of those that are appointed to govern others. For they should be constant, stable, prudent, and doing everything with discretion and reason, which virtues woman can not have in equality with man."

I tell you women are more prudent than men. I tell you, as a rule, women are more truthful than men. I tell you that women are more faithful than men—ten times as faithful as man. I never saw a man pursue his wife into the very ditch and dust of degradation and take her in his arms. I never saw a man stand at the shore where she had been morally wrecked, waiting for the waves to bring back even her corpse to his arms but I have seen woman do it. I have seen woman with her white arms lift man from the mire of degradation, and hold him to her bosom as though he were an angel.

And these men thought woman not fit to be held as pure in the sight of God as man. I never saw a man that pretended that he didn't love a woman; that pretended that he loved God better than he did a woman, that he didn't look hateful to me, hateful and unclean. I could read you twenty others, but I haven't time to do it. They are all to the same effect exactly. They hate woman, and say man is as much above her as God is above man. I am a believer in absolute equality. I am a believer in absolute liberty between man and wife. I believe in liberty, and I say, "Oh, liberty, float not forever in the far horizon—remain not forever in the dream of the enthusiast, the philanthropist and poet; but come and make thy home among the children of men."

I know not what discoveries, what inventions, what thoughts may leap from the brain of the world. I know not what garments of glory may be woven by the years to come. I can not dream of the victories to be won. I do know that, coming upon the field of thought; but down the infinite sea of the future, there will never touch this "bank and shoal of time" a richer gift, a rarer blessing than liberty for man, woman and child.

I never addressed a more magnificent audience in my life, and I thank you, I thank you a thousand times over.


Nothing is more gratifying than to see ideas that were received with scorn, flourishing in the sunshine of approval. Only a few weeks ago I stated that the Bible was not inspired; that Moses was mistaken, that the "flood" was a foolish myth; that the Tower of Babel existed only in credulity; that God did not create the universe from nothing, that He did not start the first woman with a rib; that He never upheld slavery; that He was not a polygamist; that He did not kill people for making hair-oil, that He did not order His Generals to kill the dimpled babes; that He did not allow the roses of love and the violets of modesty to be trodden under the brutal feet of lust; that the Hebrew language was written without vowels; that the Bible was composed of many books written by unknown men; that all translations differed from each other, and that this book had filled the world with agony and crime.

At that time I had not the remotest idea that the most learned clergymen in Chicago would substantially agree with me—in public. I have read the replies of the Rev. Robert Collyer, Dr. Thomas, Rabbi Kohler, Rev. Brooke Herford, Prof. Swing, and Dr. Ryder, and will now ask them a few questions, answering them in their own words.


Question. What is your opinion of the Bible? Answer. "It is a splendid book. It makes the noblest type of Catholics and the meanest bigots. Through this book men give their hearts for good to God, or for evil to the Devil. The best argument for the intrinsic greatness of the book is that it can touch such wide extremes, and seem to maintain us in the most unparalleled cruelty, as well as the most tender mercy; that it can inspire purity like that of the great saints and afford arguments in favor of polygamy. The Bible is the text book of ironclad Calvinism and sunny Universalism. It makes the Quaker quiet and the Millerite crazy. It inspired the Union soldier to live and grandly die for the right, and Stonewall Jackson to live nobly and die grandly for the wrong."

Q. But, Mr. Collyer, do you really think that a book with as many passages in favor of wrong as right, is inspired? A. I look upon the Old Testament as a rotting tree. When it falls it will fertilize a bank of violets.

Q. Do you believe that God upheld slavery and polygamy? Do you believe that He ordered the killing of babes and the violation of maidens? A. "There is three-fold inspiration in the Bible, the first peerless and perfect, the Word of God to man;—the second simply and purely human, and then below this again, there is an inspiration born of an evil heart, ruthless and savage there and then as anything well can be. A three-fold inspiration, of Heaven first, then of the Earth, and then of Hell, all in the same book, all sometimes in the same chapter, and then, besides, a great many things that need no inspiration."

Q. Then, after all, you do not pretend that the Scriptures are really inspired? A. "The Scriptures make no such claim for themselves as the Church make's for them. They leave me free to say this is false, or this is true. The truth even within the Bible dies and lives, makes on this side and loses on that."

Q. What do you say to the last verse in the Bible, where a curse is threatened to any man who takes from or adds to the book? A. "I have but one answer to this question, and it is: Let who will have written this, I can not for an instant believe that it was written by a divine inspiration. Such dogmas and threats as these are not of God, but of man, and not of any man of a free spirit and heart eager for the truth, but a narrow man who would cripple and confine the human soul in its quest after the whole truth of God, and back those who have done the shameful things in the name of the Most High."

Q. Do you not regard such talk as slang?

(Supposed) Answer. If an infidel had said that the writer of Revelations was narrow and bigoted, I might have denounced his discourse as "slang," but I think that Unitarian ministers can do so with the greatest propriety.

Q. Do you believe in the stories of the Bible, about Jael, and the sun standing still, and the walls falling at the blowing of horns? A. "They may be legends, myths, poems, or what they will, but they are not the Word of God. So I say again, it was not the God and Father of us all who inspired the woman to drive that nail crashing through the king's temple after she had given him that bowl of milk and bid him sleep in safety, but a very mean Devil of hatred and revenge that I should hardly expect to find in a squaw on the plains. It was not the ram's horns and the shouting before which the walls fell flat. If they went down at all, it was through good solid pounding. And not for an instant did the steady sun stand still or let his planet stand still while barbarian fought barbarian. He kept just the time then he keeps now. They might believe it who made the record. I do not. And since the whole Christian world might believe it, still we do not who gather in this church. A free and reasonable mind stands right in our way. Newton might believe it as a Christian and disbelieve it as a philosopher. We stand then with the philosopher against the Christian, for we must believe what is true to us in the last test, and these things are not true."


Question. What is your opinion of the Old Testament? Answer. "My opinion is that it is not one book, but many—thirty-nine books bound up in one. The date and authorship of most of these books are wholly unknown. The Hebrews wrote without vowels and without dividing the letters into syllables, words or sentences. The books were gathered up by Ezra. At that time only two of the Jewish tribes remained. All progress had ceased. In gathering up the sacred book, copyists exercised great liberty in making changes and additions."

Q. Yes, we know all that, but is the Old Testament inspired? A. "There maybe the inspiration of art, of poetry, or oratory; of patriotism—and there are such inspirations. There are moments when great truths and principles come to men. They seek the man and not the man them."

Q. Yes, we will admit that, but is the Bible inspired? A. "But still I know of no way to convince any one of spirit and inspiration and God only as His reason may take hold of these things."

Q. Do you think the Old Testament true? A. "The story of Eden may be an allegory; the history of the children of Israel may have mistakes."

Q. Must inspiration claim infallibility? A. "It is a mistake to say that if you believe one part of the Bible you must believe all. Some of the thirty-nine books may be inspired, others not; or there may be degrees of inspiration."

Q. Do you believe that God commanded the soldiers to kill the children and the married women and save for themselves the maidens, as recorded in Numbers 31:2? Do you believe that God upheld slavery? Do you believe that God upheld polygamy? A. "The Bible may be wrong in some statements. God and right can not be wrong. We must not exalt the Bible above God. It may be that we have claimed too much for the Bible, and thereby given not a little occasion for such men as Mr. Ingersoll to appear at the other extreme, denying too much."

Q. What then shall be done? A. "We must take a middle ground. It is not necessary to believe that the bears devoured the forty-two children, nor that Jonah was swallowed by the whale."


Question. What is your opinion about the Old Testament? Answer. "I will not make futile attempts of artificially interpreting the letter of the Bible so as to make it reflect the philosophical, moral and scientific views of our time. The Bible is a sacred record of humanity's childhood."

Q. Are you an orthodox Christian? A. "No. Orthodoxy, with its face turned backward to a ruined temple or a dead Messiah, is fast becoming like Lot's wife, a pillar of salt."

Q. Do you really believe the Old Testament was inspired? A. "I greatly acknowledge our indebtedness to men like Voltaire and Thomas Paine, whose bold denial and cutting wit were so instrumental in bringing about this glorious era of freedom, so congenial and blissful, particularly to the long-abused Jewish race."

Q. Do you believe in the inspiration of the Bible? A. "Of course there is a destructive ax needed to strike down the old building in order to make room for the grander new. The divine origin claimed by the Hebrews for their national literature was claimed by all nations for their old records and laws as preserved by the priesthood. As Moses—the Hebrew law giver, is represented as having received the law from God on the holy mountains, so is Zoroaster, the Persian, Manu, the Hindoo, Minos, the Cretan, Lycurgus, the Spartan, and Numa, the Roman."

Q. Do you believe all the stories in the Bible? A. "All that can and must be said against them is that they have been too long retained around the arms and limbs of grown-up manhood to check the spiritual progress of religion; that by Jewish ritualism and Christian dogmatism they became fetters unto the soul, turning the light of heaven into a misty haze to blind the eye, and even into a Hell fire of fanaticism to consume souls."

Q. Is the Bible inspired? A. "True, the Bible is not free from errors, nor is any work of man and time. It abounds in childish views and offensive matters. I trust it will, in a time not far off, be presented for common use in families, schools, synagogues and churches, in a refined shape, cleansed from all dross and chaff, and stumbling-blocks on which the scoffer delights to dwell."


Question. Is the Bible true? Answer. "Ingersoll is very fond of saying 'The question is not, is the Bible inspired, but is it true?' That sounds very plausible, but you know as applied to any ancient book it is simply nonsense."

Q. Do you think the stories in the Bible exaggerated? A. "I dare say the numbers are immensely exaggerated."

Q. Do you think that God upheld polygamy? A. "The truth of which simply is, that four thousand years ago polygamy existed among the Jews, as everywhere else on earth then, and even their prophets did not come to the idea of its being wrong. But what is there to be indignant about in that? And so you really wonder why any man should be indignant at the idea that God upheld and sanctioned that beastliness called polygamy? What is there to be indignant about in that?"


Question. What is your idea of the Bible? Answer. "I think it a poem."


Question. And what is your idea of the sacred Scriptures? Answer. "Like other nations, the Hebrews had their patriotic, descriptive, didactic and lyrical poems in the same varieties as other nations; but with them, unlike other nations, whatever may be the form of their poetry, it always possesses the characteristic of religion."

Q. I suppose you fully appreciate the religious characteristics of the Song of Solomon? No answer.

Q. Does the Bible uphold polygamy? A. "The law of Moses did not forbid it, but contained many provisions against its worst abuses, and such as were intended to restrict it within narrow limits."

Q. So you think God corrected some of the worst abuses of polygamy, but preserved the institution itself?

I might question many others, but have concluded not to consider those as members of my Bible class who deal in calumnies and epithets. From the so-called "replies" of such ministers it appears that, while Christianity changes the heart, it does not improve the manners, and one can get into Heaven in the next world without having been a gentleman in this.

It is difficult for me to express the deep and thrilling satisfaction I have experienced in reading the admissions of the clergy of Chicago. Surely the battle of intellectual liberty is almost won when ministers admit that the Bible is filled with ignorant and cruel mistakes; that each man has the right to think for himself, and that it is not necessary to believe the Scriptures in order to be saved.

From the bottom of my heart, I congratulate my pupils on the advance they have made, and hope soon to meet them on the serene heights of perfect freedom.

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