God so loved the world that he made up his mind to damn most of us-Ingersoll’s Lecture on Bible

Whether the bible is false or true, is of no consequence in comparison with the mental freedom of the race. Salvation through slavery is worthless. Salvation from slavery is inestimable. As long as man believes the bible to be infallible, that book is his master. The civilization of this century is not the child of faith, but of unbelief—the result of free thought.

Lectures of Col. R. G. Ingersoll-on the Bible 1880

The true bible appeals to man in the name of demonstration. It has nothing to conceal. It has no fear of being read, of being contradicted, of being investigated and understood. It does not pretend to be holy or sacred, it simply claims to be true. It challenges the scrutiny of all, and implores every reader to verify every line for himself. It is incapable of being blasphemed. This book appeals to all the surroundings of man. Each thing that exists testifies of its perfection. The earth, with its heart of fire and crowns of snow; with its forests and plains, its rocks and seas; with its every wave and cloud; with its every leaf and bud and flower, confirms its every word, and the solemn stars, shining in the infinite abysses, are the external witnesses of its truth.

I will tell you what I mean by inspiration. I go and look at the sea, and the sea says something to me; it makes an impression upon my mind. That impression depends, first, upon my experience; secondly, upon my intellectual capacity. Another looks upon the same sea. He has a different brain, he has had a different experience, he has different memories and different hopes. The sea may speak to him of joy and to me of grief and sorrow. The sea cannot tell the same thing to two beings, because no two human beings have had the same experience. So, when I look upon a flower, or a star, or a painting, or a statue, the more I know about sculpture the more that statue speaks to me. The more I have had of human experience, the more I have read, the greater brain I have, the more the star says to me. In other words, nature says to me all that I am capable of understanding.

Think of a God wicked and malicious enough to inspire this prayer in the 109th Psalm! Think of one infamous enough to answer it! Had this inspired Psalm been found in some temple erected for the worship of snakes, or in the possession of some cannibal king, written with blood upon the dried skins of babes, there would have been a perfect harmony between its surroundings and its sentiments.

Now, I read the bible, and I find that God so loved this world that he made up his mind to damn the most of us. I have read this book and what shall I say of it? I believe it is generally better to be honest. Now, I don’t believe the bible. Had I not better say so? They say that if you do you will regret it when you come to die. If that be true, I know a great many religious people who will have no cause to regret it—they don’t tell their honest convictions about the bible.

The bible was the real persecutor. The bible burned heretics, built dungeons, founded the Inquisition, and trampled upon all the liberties of men. How long, O how long, will mankind worship a book? How long will they grovel in the dust before the ignorant legends of the barbaric past? How long, O how long, will they pursue phantoms in a darkness deeper than death?

The believers in the bible are loud in their denunciation of what they are pleased to call the immoral literature of the world; and yet few books have been published containing more moral filth than this inspired word of God. These stories are not redeemed by a single flash of wit or humor. They never rise above the dull details of stupid vice. For one, I cannot afford to soil my pages with extracts from them; and all such portions of the scriptures I leave to be examined, written upon, and explained by the clergy. Clergymen may know some way by which they can extract honey from these flowers. Until these passages are expunged from the old testament, it is not a fit book to be read by either old or young. It contains pages that no minister in the United States would read to his congregation for any reward whatever. There are chapters that no gentleman would read in the presence of a lady. There are chapters that no father would read to his child. There are narratives utterly unfit to be told; and the time will come when mankind will wonder that such a book was ever called inspired.

But as long as the bible is considered as the work of God, it will be hard to make all men too good and pure to imitate it; and as long as it is imitated there will be vile and filthy books. The literature of our country will not be sweet and clean until the bible ceases to be regarded as the production of a god.

In the days of Thomas Paine the church believed and taught that every word in the bible was absolutely true. Since his day it has been proven false in its cosmogony, false in its astronomy, false in its chronology, false in its history, and so far as the old testament is concerned, false in almost everything. There are but few, if any, scientific men who apprehend that the bible is literally true. Who on earth at this day would pretend to settle any scientific question by a text from the bible? The old belief is confined to the ignorant and zealous. The church itself will before long be driven to occupy the position of Thomas Paine!

I love any man who gave me, or helped to give me, the liberty I enjoy tonight. I love every man who helped put our flag in heaven. I love every man who has lifted his voice in all the ages for liberty, for a chainless body, and a fetterless brain. I love every man who has given to every other human being every right that he claimed for himself. I love every man who thought more of principle than he did of position. I love the men who have trampled crowns beneath their feet that they might do something for mankind.

The best minds of the orthodox world, today, are endeavoring to prove the existence of a personal Deity. All other questions occupy a minor place. You are no longer asked to swallow the bible whole, whale, Jonah and all; you are simply required to believe in God, and pay your pew-rent. There is not now an enlightened minister in the world who will seriously contend that Samson’s strength was in his hair, or that the necromancers of Egypt could turn water into blood, and pieces of wood into serpents. These follies have passed away.

For my part, I would infinitely prefer to know all the results of scientific investigation than to be inspired as Moses was. Supposing the bible to be true; why is it any worse or more wicked for free-thinkers to deny it, than for priests to deny the doctrine of evolution, or the dynamic theory of heat? Why should we be damned for laughing at Samson and his foxes, while others, holding the nebular hypothesis in utter contempt, go straight to heaven?

Now when I come to a book, for instance, I read the writings of Shakespeare—Shakespeare, the greatest human being who ever existed upon this globe. What do I get out of him? All that I have sense enough to understand. I get my little cup full. Let another read him who knows nothing of the drama, who knows nothing of the impersonation of passion; what does he get from him? Very little. In other words, every man gets from a book, a flower, a star, or the sea, what he is able to get from his intellectual development and experience. Do you then believe that the bible is a different book to every human being that receives it? I do. Can God, then, through the bible, make the same revelation to two men? He cannot. Why? Because the man who reads is the man who inspires. Inspiration is in the man and not in the book.

The real oppressor, enslaver and corrupter of the people is the bible. That book is the chain that binds, the dungeon that holds the clergy. That book spreads the pall of superstition over the colleges and schools. That book puts out the eyes of science, and makes honest investigation a crime. That book unmans the politician and degrades the people. That book fills the world with bigotry, hypocrisy and fear.

Volumes might be written upon the infinite absurdity of this most incredible, wicked and foolish of all the fables contained in that repository of the impossible, called the bible. To me it is a matter of amazement, that it ever was for a moment believed by any intelligent human being.

Is it not infinitely more reasonable to say that this book is the work of man, that it is filled with mingled truth and error, with mistakes and facts, and reflects, too faithfully perhaps, the “very form and pressure of its time?” If there are mistakes in the bible, certainly they were made by man. If there is anything contrary to nature, it was written by man. If there is anything immoral, cruel, heartless or infamous, it certainly was never written by a being worthy of the adoration of mankind.

It strikes me that God might write a book that would not necessarily excite the laughter of his children. In fact, I think it would be safe to say that a real god could produce a work that would excite the admiration of mankind.

The man who now regards the old testament as, in any sense, a sacred or inspired book is, in my judgment, an intellectual and moral deformity. There is in it so much that is cruel, ignorant and ferocious that it is to me a matter of amazement that it was ever thought to be the work of a most merciful deity.

Admitting that the bible is the book of God, is that His only good job? Will not a man be damned as quick for denying the equator as denying the bible? Will he not be damned as quick for denying geology as for denying the scheme of salvation? When the bible was first written it was not believed. Had they known as much about science as we know now, that bible would not have been written.

Every sect is a certificate that God has not plainly revealed His will to man. To each reader the bible conveys a different meaning. About the meaning of this book, called a revelation, there have been ages of war and centuries of sword and flame. If written by an infinite God, He must have known that these results must follow; and thus knowing, He must be responsible for all.

Paine thought the barbarities of the old testament inconsistent with what he deemed the real character of God. He believed that murder, massacre and indiscriminate slaughter had never been commanded by the Deity. He regarded much of the bible as childish, unimportant and foolish. The scientific world entertains the same spirit in which he had attacked the pretensions of kings. He used the same weapons. All the pomp in the world could not make him cower. His reason knew no “Holy of Holies,” except the abode of Truth.

Nothing can be clearer than that Moses received from the Egyptians the principal parts of his narrative, making such changes and additions as were necessary to satisfy the peculiar superstitions of his own people.

According to the theologians, God, the Father of us all, wrote a letter to His children. The children have always differed somewhat as to the meaning of this letter. In consequence of these honest difficulties, these brothers began to cut out each other’s hearts. In every land, where this letter from God has been read, the children to whom and for whom it was written have been filled with hatred and malice. They have imprisoned and murdered each other, and the wives and children of each other. In the name of God every possible crime has been committed, every conceivable outrage has been perpetrated. Brave men, tender and loving women, beautiful girls and prattling babes have been exterminated in the name of Jesus Christ.

The church has burned honesty and rewarded hypocrisy. And all this, because it was commanded by a book—a book that men had been taught implicitly to believe, long before they knew one word that was in it. They had been taught that to doubt the truth of this book—to examine it, even—was a crime of such enormity that it could not be forgiven, either in this world or in the next.

All that is necessary, as it seems to me, to convince any reasonable person that the bible is simply and purely of human invention—of barbarian invention—is to read it. Read it as you would any other book; think of it as you would any other; get the bandage of reverence from your eyes; drive from your heart the phantom of fear; push from the throne of you brain the cowled form of superstition—then read the holy bible, and you will be amazed that you ever, for one moment, supposed a being of infinite wisdom, goodness and purity, to be the author of such ignorance and such atrocity.

Whether the bible is false or true, is of no consequence in comparison with the mental freedom of the race. Salvation through slavery is worthless. Salvation from slavery is inestimable. As long as man believes the bible to be infallible, that book is his master. The civilization of this century is not the child of faith, but of unbelief—the result of free thought.

What man who ever thinks, can believe that blood can appease God? And yet our entire system of religion is based on that belief. The Jews pacified Jehovah with the blood of animals, and according to the christian system, the blood of Jesus softened the heart of God a little, and rendered possible the salvation of a fortunate few.

It is hard to conceive how any sane man can read the bible and still believe in the doctrine of inspiration.

The bible was originally written in the Hebrew language, and the Hebrew language at that time had no vowels in writing. It was written entirely with consonants, and without being divided into chapters and verses, and there was no system of punctuation whatever. After you go home to-night write an English sentence or two with only consonants close together, and you will find that it will take twice as much inspiration to read it as it did to write it.

The real bible is not the result of inspired men, nor prophets, nor evangelists, nor christs. The real bible has not been written, but is being written. Every man who finds a fact adds a word to this great book.

The bad passages in the bible are not inspired. No god ever ordered a soldier to sheathe his sword in the breast of a mother. No god ever ordered a warrior to butcher a smiling, prattling babe. No god ever upheld tyranny. No god ever said, be subject to the powers that be. No god endeavored to make man a slave and woman a beast of burden. There are thousands of good passages in the bible. Many of them are true. There are in it wise laws, good customs, some lofty and splendid things. And I do not care whether they are inspired or not, so they are true. But what I do insist upon is that the bad is not inspired.

There is no hope for you. It is just as bad to deny hell as it is to deny heaven. 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 may be it was a pictorial sin. And only a pictorial atonement!

Man must learn to rely on himself. Reading bibles will not protect him from the blasts of winter, but houses, fire and clothing will. To prevent famine one plow is worth a million sermons, and even patent medicines will cure more diseases than all the prayers uttered since the beginning of the world.

Further Reading:

Bible King James Version Full Text

New Testament Errors-knowledge of Bible is not essential to be a good man-Kersey Graves 

Woman’s Position According to the Bible by Annie Besant-1885

The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth (The Jefferson Bible) by Thomas Jefferson [1902]

Judas Thomas-The Great Indian History Fraud: Sita Ram Goel

%d bloggers like this: