16 page printout Reproducible Electronic Publishing can defeat censorship. Contents of thi

---
Master Index Current Directory Index Go to SkepticTank Go to Human Rights activist Keith Henson Go to Scientology cult

Skeptic Tank!

16 page printout Reproducible Electronic Publishing can defeat censorship. Contents of this file. page CRUMBLING CREEDS. 1 A TRIBUTE TO THE REV. ALEXANDER CLARK. 6 PROFESSOR BRIGGS. 7 A WORD ABOUT EDUCATION. 14 **** **** This file, its printout, or copies of either are to be copied and given away, but NOT sold. Bank of Wisdom, Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 The Works of ROBERT G. INGERSOLL **** **** CRUMBLING CREEDS. THERE is a desire in each brain to harmonize the knowledge that it has. If a man knows, or thinks he knows, a few facts, he will naturally use those facts for the purpose of determining the accuracy of his opinions on other subjects. This is simply an effort to establish or prove the unknown by the known -- a process that is constantly going on in the minds of all intelligent people. It is natural for a man not governed by fear, to use what he knows in one department of human inquiry, in every other department that he investigates. The average of intelligence has in the last few years greatly increased. Man may have as much credulity as he ever had, on some subjects, but certainly on the old subjects he has less. There is not as great difference to-day between the members of the learned professions and the common people. Man is governed less and less by authority. He cares but little for the conclusions of the universities. He does not feel bound by the actions of synods or ecumenical councils -- neither does he bow to the decisions of the highest tribunals, unless the reasons given for the decision satisfy his intellect. One reason for this is, that the so-called "learned" do not agree among themselves -- that the universities dispute each other -- that the synod attacks the ecumenical council -- that the parson snaps his fingers at the priest, and even the Protestant bishop holds the pope in contempt. If the learned can thus disagree, there is no reason why the common people should hold to one opinion. They are at least called upon to decide as between the universities or synods; and in order to decide, they must examine both sides, and having examined both sides, they generally have an opinion of their own. There was a time when the average man knew nothing of medicine -- he simply opened his mouth and took the dose. If he died, it was simply a dispensation of Providence -- if he got well, it was a triumph of science. Now this average man not only asks the doctor what is the matter with him -- not only asks what medicine will be good for him, -- but insists on knowing the philosophy of the cure -- asks the doctor why he gives it -- what result he expects -- and, as a rule, has a judgment of his own. Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 1 CRUMBLING CREEDS. So in law. The average business man has an exceedingly good idea of the law affecting his business. There is nothing now mysterious about what goes on in courts or in the decisions of judges -- they are published in every direction, and all intelligent people who happen to read these opinions have their ideas as to whether the opinions are right or wrong. They are no longer the victims of doctors, or of lawyers, or of courts. The same is true in the world of art and literature. The average man has an opinion of his own. He is no longer a parrot repeating what somebody else says. He not only has opinions, but he has the courage to express them. In literature the old models fail to satisfy him. He has the courage to say that Milton is tiresome -- that Dante is prolix -- that they deal with subjects having no human interest. He laughs at Young's "Night, Thoughts" and Pollok's "Course of Time" -- knowing that both are filled with hypocrisies and absurdities. He no longer falls upon his knees before the mechanical poetry of Mr. Pope. He chooses -- and stands by his own opinion. I do not mean that he is entirely independent, but that he is going in that direction. The same is true of pictures. He prefers the modern to the old masters. He prefers Corot to Raphael. He gets more real pleasure from Millet and Troyon than from all the pictures of all the saints and donkeys of the Middle Ages. In other words, the days of authority are passing away. The same is true in music. The old no longer satisfies, and there is a breadth, color, wealth, in the new that makes the old poor and barren in comparison. To a far greater extent this advance, this individual independence, is seen in the religious world. The religion of our day -- that is to say, the creeds -- at the time they were made, were in perfect harmony with the knowledge, or rather with the ignorance, of man in all other departments of human inquiry. All orthodox creeds agreed with the sciences of their day -- with the astronomy and geology and biology and political conceptions of the Middle Ages. These creeds were declared to be the absolute and eternal truth. They could not be changed without abandoning the claim that made them authority. The priests, through a kind of unconscious self-defence, clung to every word. They denied the truth of all discovery. They measured every assertion in every other department by their creeds. At last the facts against them became so numerous -- their congregations became so intelligent -- that it was necessary to give new meanings to the old words. The cruel was softened -- the absurd was partially explained, and they kept these old words, although the original meanings had fallen out. They became empty purses, but they retained them still. Slowly but surely came the time when this course could not longer be pursued. The words must be thrown away -- the creeds must be changed -- they were no longer believed -- only occasionally were they preached. The ministers became a little ashamed -- they began to apologize. Apology is the prelude to retreat. Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 2 CRUMBLING CREEDS. Of all the creeds, the Presbyterian, the old Congregational, were the most explicit, and for that reason the most absurd. When these creeds were written, those who wrote them had perfect confidence in their truth. They did not shrink because of their cruelty. They cared nothing for what others called absurdity. They failed not to declare what they believed to be "the whole counsel of God." At that time, cruel punishments were inflicted by all governments. People were torn asunder, mutilated, burned. Every atrocity was perpetrated in the name of justice, and the limit of pain was the limit of endurance. These people imagined that God would do as they would do. If they had had it in their power to keep the victim alive for years in the flames, they would most cheerfully have supplied the fagots. They believed that God could keep the victim alive forever, and that therefore his punishment would be eternal. As man becomes civilized he becomes merciful, and the time came when civilized Presbyterians and Congregationalists read their own creeds with horror. I am not saying that the Presbyterian creed is any worse than the Catholic. It is only a little more specific. Neither am I saying that it is more horrible than the Episcopal. It is not. All orthodox creeds are alike infamous. All of them have good things, and all of them have bad things. You will find in every creed the blossom of mercy and the oak of justice, but under the one and around the other are coiled the serpents of infinite cruelty. The time came when orthodox Christians began dimly to perceive that God ought at least to be as good as they were. They felt that they were incapable of inflicting eternal pain, and they began to doubt the propriety of saying that God would do that which a civilized Christian would be incapable of. We have improved in all directions for the same reasons. We have better laws now because we have a better sense of justice. We are believing more and more in the government of the people. Consequently we are believing more and more in the education of the people, and from that naturally results greater individuality and a greater desire to hear the honest opinions of all. The moment the expression of opinion is allowed in any department, progress begins. We are using our knowledge in every direction. The tendency is to test all opinions by the facts we know. All claims are put in the crucible of investigation -- the object being to separate the true from the false. He who objects to having his opinions thus tested is regarded as a bigot. If the professors of all the sciences had claimed that the knowledge they had was given by inspiration -- that it was absolutely true, and that there was no necessity of examining further, not only, but that it was a kind of blasphemy to doubt -- all the sciences would have remained as stationary as religion has. Just to the extent that the Bible was appealed to in matters of science, science was retarded; and just to the extent that science has been appealed to in matters of religion, religion has advanced -- so that now the object of intelligent religionists is to adopt a creed that will bear the test and criticism of science. Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 3 CRUMBLING CREEDS. Another thing may be alluded to in this connection. All the countries of the world are now, and have been for years, open to us. The ideas of ether people -- their theories, their religions -- are now known; and we have ascertained that the religions of all people have exactly the same foundation as our own -- that they all arose in the same way, were substantiated in the same way, were maintained by the same means, having precisely the same objects in view. For many years, the learned of the religious world were examining the religions of other countries, and in that work they established certain rules of criticism -- pursued certain lines of argument -- by which they overturned the claims of those religions to supernatural origin. After this had been successfully done, others, using the same methods on our religion, pursuing the same line of argument, succeeded in overturning ours. We have found that all miracles rest on the same basis -- that all wonders were born of substantially the same ignorance and the same fear. The intelligence of the world is far better distributed than ever before. The historical outlines of all countries are well known. The arguments for and against all systems of religion are generally understood. The average of intelligence is far higher than ever before. All discoveries become almost immediately the property of the whole civilized world, and all thoughts are distributed by the telegraph and press with such rapidity, that provincialism is almost unknown. The egotism of ignorance and seclusion is passing away. The prejudice of race and religion is growing feebler, and everywhere, to a greater extent than ever before, the light is welcome. These are a few of the reasons why creeds are crumbling, and why such a change has taken place in the religious world. Only a few years ago the pulpit was an intellectual power. The pews listened with wonder, and accepted without question. There was something sacred about the preacher. He was different from Other mortals. He had bread to eat which they knew not of. He was oracular, solemn, dignified, stupid. The pulpit has lost its position. It speaks no longer with authority. The pews determine what shall be preached. They pay only for that which they wish to buy -- for that which they wish to hear. Of course in every church there is an advance guard and a conservative party, and nearly every minister is obliged to preach a little for both. He now and then says a radical thing for one part of his congregation, and takes it mostly back on the next Sabbath, for the sake of the others. Most of them ride two horses, and their time is taken up in urging one forward and in holding the other back. The great reason why the orthodox creeds have become unpopular is, that all teach the dogma of eternal pain. In old times, when men were nearly wild beasts, it was natural enough for them to suppose that God would do as they would do in his place, and so they attributed to this God infinite cruelty, Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 4 CRUMBLING CREEDS. infinite revenge. This revenge, this cruelty, wore the mask of justice. They took the ground that God, having made man, had the right to do with him as he pleased. At that time they were not civilized to the extent of seeing that a God would not have the right to make a failure, and that a being of infinite wisdom and power would be under obligation to do the right, and that he would have no right to create any being whose life would not be a blessing. The very fact that be made man, would put him under obligation to see to it that life should not be a curse. The doctrine of eternal punishment is in perfect harmony with the savagery of the men who made the orthodox creeds. It is in harmony with torture, with flaying alive and with burnings. The men who burned their fellow-men for a moment, believed that God would burn his enemies forever. No civilized men ever believed in this dogma. The belief in eternal punishment has driven millions from the church. It was easy enough for people to imagine that the children of others had gone to hell; that foreigners had been doomed to eternal pain; but when it was brought home when fathers and mothers bent above their dead who had died in their sins -- when wives shed their tears on the faces of husbands who had been born but once -- love suggested doubts and love fought the dogma of eternal revenge. This doctrine is as cruel as the hunger of hyenas, and is infamous beyond the power of any language to express -- yet a creed with this doctrine has been called "the glad tidings of great joy" -- a consolation to the weeping world. It is a source of great pleasure to me to know that all intelligent people are ashamed to admit that they believe it -- that no intelligent clergyman now preaches it, except with a preface to the effect that it is probably untrue. I have been blamed for taking this consolation from the world -- for putting out, or trying to put out, the fires of hell; and many orthodox people have wondered how I could be so wicked as to deprive the world of this hope. The church clung to the doctrine because it seemed a necessary excuse for the existence of the church. The ministers said: "No hell, no atonement; no atonement, no fall of man; no fall of man, no inspired book; no inspired book, no preachers; no preachers, no salary; no hell, no missionaries; no sulphur, no salvation." At last, the people are becoming enlightened enough to ask for a better philosophy. The doctrine of hell is now only for the poor, the ragged, the ignorant. Well-dressed people won't have it. Nobody goes to hell in a carriage -- they foot it. Hell is for strangers and tramps. No soul leaves a brown-stone front for hell -- they start from the tenements, from jails and reformatories. In other words, hell is for the poor. It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a poor man to get into heaven, or for a rich man to get into hell. The ministers stand by their Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 5 CRUMBLING CREEDS. supporters. Their salaries are paid by the well-to-do, and they can hardly afford to send the subscribers to hell. Every creed in which is the dogma of eternal pain is doomed. Every church teaching the infinite lie must fall, and the sooner the better. -- The Twentieth Century, N. Y., April 24, 1890. **** **** A TRIBUTE TO THE REV. ALEXANDER CLARK. Washington, D.C. July 13, 1879. UPON the grave of the Reverend Alexander Clark I wish to place one flower. Utterly destitute of cold, dogmatic pride, that often passes for the love of God; without the arrogance of the "elect;" simple, free, and kind -- this earnest man made me his friend by being mine. I forgot that he was a Christian, and he seemed to forget that I was not while each remembered that the other was at least a man. Frank, candid, and sincere, he practiced what he preached, and looked with the holy eyes of charity upon the failings and mistakes of men. He believed in the power of kindness, and spanned with divine sympathy the hideous gulf that separates the fallen from the pure. Giving freely to others the rights that he claimed for himself, it never occurred to him that his God hated a brave and honest unbeliever. He remembered that even an Infidel had rights that love respects; that hatred has no saving power, and that in order to be a Christian it is not necessary to become less than a human being. He knew that no one can be maligned into kindness; that epithets cannot convince; that curses are not arguments, and that the finger of scorn never points toward heaven. With the generosity of an honest man, he accorded to all the fullest liberty of thought knowing, as he did, that in the realm of mind a chain is but a curse. For this man I felt the greatest possible regard. In spite of the taunts and jeers of his brethren, he publicly proclaimed that he would treat Infidels with fairness and respect; that he would endeavor to convince them by argument and win them with love. He insisted that the God he worshiped loved the well-being even of an Atheist. In this grand position he stood almost alone. Tender, just, and loving where others were harsh, vindictive, and cruel, he challenged the admiration of every honest man. A few more such clergymen might drive calumny from the lips of faith and render the pulpit worthy of esteem. The heartiness and kindness with which this generous man treated me can never be excelled. He admitted that I had not lost, and could not lose, a single right by the expression of my honest thought. Neither did he believe that a servant could win the respect of a generous master by persecuting and maligning those whom the master would willingly forgive. Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 6 A TRIBUTE TO THE REV. ALEXANDER CLARK. While this good man was living, his brethren blamed him for having treated me with fairness. But, I trust, now that he has left the shore touched by the mysterious sea that never yet has borne, on any wave, the image of a homeward sail, this crime will be forgiven him by those who still remain to preach the love of God. His sympathies were not confined within the prison of a creed, but ran out and over the walls like vines, hiding the cruel rocks and rusted bars with leaf and flower. He could not echo with his heart the fiendish sentence of eternal fire. In spite of book and creed, he read "between the lines" the words of tenderness and love, with promises for all the world. Above, beyond, the dogmas of his church -- humane even to the verge of heresy -- causing some to doubt his love of God because he failed to hate his unbelieving fellow-men, he labored for the welfare of mankind, and to his work gave up his life with all his heart. END **** **** PROFESSOR BRIGGS. PROFESSOR BRIGGS is undoubtedly a sincere man. To the study of the Bible he has given the best years of his life. When he commenced this study he was probably a devout believer in the plenary inspiration of the Scripture -- thought that the Bible was without an error; that all the so-called contradictions could be easily explained. He had been educated by Presbyterians and had confidence in his teachers. In spite of his early training, in spite of his prejudices, he was led, in some mysterious way, to rely a little on his own reason. This was a dangerous thing to do. The moment a man talks about reason he is on dangerous ground. He is liable to contradict the "Word of God." Then he loses spirituality and begins to think more of truth than creed. This is a step toward heresy -- toward Infidelity. Professor Briggs began to have doubts about some of the miracles. These doubts, like rats, began to gnaw the foundations of his faith. He examined these wonderful stories in the light of what is known to have happened, and in the light of like miracles found in the other sacred books of the world. And he concluded that they were not quite true. He was not ready to say that they were actually false; that would be too brutally candid. I once read of an English lord who had a very polite gamekeeper. The lord wishing to show his skill with the rifle fired at a target. He and the gamekeeper went to see where the bullet had struck. The gamekeeper was first at the target, and the lord cried out: "Did I miss it?" "I would not," said the gamekeeper, "go so far as to say that your lordship missed it, but -- but -- you didn't hit it." Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 7 PROFESSOR BRIGGS. Professor Briggs saw clearly that the Bible was the product, the growth of many centuries; that legends and facts, mistakes, contradictions, miracles, myths and history, interpolations, prophecies and dreams, wisdom, foolishness, justice, cruelty, poetry and bathos were mixed, mingled and interwoven. In other words, that the gold of truth was surrounded by meaner metals and worthless stones. He saw that it was necessary to construct what might be called a sacred smelter to divide the true from the false. Undoubtedly he reached this conclusion in the interest of what he believed to be the truth. He had the mistaken but honest idea that a Christian should really think. Of course, we know that all heresy has been the result of thought. It has always been dangerous to grow. Shrinking is safe. Studying the Bible was the first mistake that Professor Briggs made, reasoning was the second, and publishing his conclusions was the third. If he had read without studying, if he had believed without reasoning, he would have remained a good, orthodox Presbyterian. He probably read the works of Humboldt, Darwin and Haeckel, and found that the author of Genesis was not a geologist, not a scientist. He seems to have his doubts about the truth of the story of the deluge. Should he be blamed for this? Is there a sensible man in the wide world who really believes In the flood? This flood business puts Jehovah in such an idiotic light. Of course, he must have known, after the fall of Adam and Eve, that he would have to drown their descendants. Certainly it would have been more merciful to have killed Adam and Eve, made a new pair and kept the serpent out of the Garden of Eden. If Jehovah had been an intelligent God he never would have created the serpent. Then there would have been no fall, no flood, no atonement, no hell. Think of a God who drowned a world! What a merciless monster! The cruelty of the flood is exceeded only by its stupidity. Thousands of little theologians have tried to explain this miracle. This is the very top of absurdity. To explain a miracle is to destroy it. Some have said that the flood was local. How could water that rose over the mountains remain local? Why should we expect mercy from a God who drowned millions of men, women and babes? I would no more think of softening the heart of such a God by prayer than of protecting myself from a hungry tiger by repeating poetry. Professor Briggs has sense enough to see that the story of the flood is but an ignorant legend. He is trying to rescue Jehovah from the frightful slander. After all, why should we believe the unreasonable? Must we be foolish to be virtuous? The rain fell for forty days; this caused the flood. The water was at least thirty thousand feet in depth. Seven hundred and fifty feet a day -- more than thirty feet an hour, six inches a minute; the rain fell for forty days. Does any man with sense enough to eat and breathe believe this idiotic lie? Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 8 PROFESSOR BRIGGS. Professor Briggs knows that the Jews got the story of the flood from the Babylonians, and that it is no more inspired than the history of "Peter Wilkins and His Flying Wife." The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah is another legend. If those cities were destroyed sensible people believe the phenomenon was as natural as the destruction of Herculaneum and Pompeii. They do not believe that in either case it was the result of the wickedness of the people. Neither does any thinking man believe that the wife of Lot was changed or turned into a pillar of salt as a punishment for having looked back at her burning home, How could flesh, bones and blood be changed to salt? This presupposes two miracles. First, the annihilation of the woman, and second, the creation of salt. A God cannot annihilate or create matter. Annihilation and creation are both impossible -- unthinkable. A grain of sand can defy all the gods. What was Mrs. Lot turned to salt for? What good was achieved? What useful lesson taught? What man with a head fertile enough to raise one hair can believe a story like this? Does a man who denies the truth of this childish absurdity weaken the foundation of virtue? Does he discourage truth-telling by denouncing lies? Should a man be true to himself? If reason is not the standard, what is? Can a man think one way and believe another? Of course he can talk one way and think another. If a man should be honest with himself he should be honest with others. A man who conceals his doubts lives a dishonest life. He defiles his own soul. When a truth-loving man reads about the plagues of Egypt, should he reason as he reads? Should he take into consideration the fact that like stories have been told and believed by savages for thousands of years? Should he ask himself whether Jehovah in his efforts to induce the Egyptian King to free the Hebrews acted like a sensible God? Should he ask, himself whether a good God would kill the babes of the people on account of the sins of the king? Whether he would torture, mangle and kill innocent cattle to get even with a monarch? Is it better to believe without thinking than to think without believing? If there be a God can we please him by believing that he acted like a fiend? Probably Professor Briggs has a higher conception of God than the author of Exodus. The writer of that book was a barbarian -- an honest barbarian, and he wrote what he supposed was the truth. I do not blame him for having written falsehoods. Neither do I blame Professor Briggs for having detected these falsehoods. In our day no man capable of reasoning believes the miracles wrought for the Hebrews in their flight through the wilderness. The opening of the sea, the cloud and pillar, the quails, the manna, the serpents and hornets are no more believed than the miracles of the Mormons when they crossed the plains. The probability is that the Hebrews never were in Egypt. In the Hebrew language there are no Egyptian words, and in the Egyptian no Hebrew. This proves that the Hebrews could not have Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 9 PROFESSOR BRIGGS. mingled with the Egyptians for four hundred and thirty years. As a matter of fact, Moses is a myth. The enslavement of the Hebrews, the flight, the journey through the wilderness existed only in the imagination of ignorance. So Professor Briggs has his doubts about the sun and moon having been stopped for a day in order that Gen. Joshua might kill more heathen. Theologians have gathered around this miracle like moths around a flame. They have done their best to make it reasonable. They have talked about refraction and reflection, about the nature of the air having been changed so that the sun was visible all night. They have even gone so far as to say that Joshua and his soldiers killed so many that afterward, when thinking about it, they concluded that it must have taken them at least two days. This miracle can be accounted for only in one way. Jehovah must have stopped the earth. The earth, turning over at about one thousand miles an hour -- weighing trillions of tons -- had to be stopped. Now we know that all arrested motion changes instantly to heat. It has been calculated that to stop the earth would cause as much heat as could be produced by burning three lumps of coal, each lump as large as this world. Now, is it possible that a God in his right mind would waste all that force? The Bible also tells us that at the same time God cast hailstones from heaven on the poor heathen. If the writer had known something of astronomy he would have had more hailstones and said nothing about the sun and moon. Is it wise for ministers to ask their congregations to believe this story? Is it wise for congregations to ask their ministers to believe this story? If Jehovah performed this miracle he must have been insane. There should be some relation, some proportion, between means and ends. No sane general would call into the field a million soldiers and a hundred batteries to kill one insect. And yet the disproportion of means to the end sought would be reasonable when compared with what Jehovah is claimed to have done. If Jehovah existed let us admit that he had some sense. If it should be demonstrated that the book of Joshua is all false, what harm could follow? There would remain the same reasons for living a useful and virtuous life; the same reasons against theft and murder. Virtue would lose no prop and vice would gain no crutch. Take all the miracles from the Old Testament and the book would be improved. Throw away all its cruelties and absurdities and its influence would be far better. Professor Briggs seems to have doubts about the inspiration of Ruth. Is there any harm in that? What difference does it make whether the story of Ruth is fact or fiction; history or poetry? Its value is just the same. Who cares whether Hamlet or Lear lived? Who cares whether Imogen and Perdita were real women or the creation of Shakespeare's imagination? The book of Esther is absurd and cruel. It has no ethical value. There is not a line, a word in it calculated to make a human Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 10 PROFESSOR BRIGGS. being better. The king issued a decree to kill the Jews. Esther succeeded in getting this decree set aside, and induced the king to issue another decree that the Jews should kill the other folks, and so the Jews killed some seventy-five thousand of the king's subjects. Is it really important to believe that the book of Esther is inspired? Is it possible that Jehovah is proud of having written this book? Does he guard his copyright with the fires of hell? Why should the facts be kept from the people? Every intelligent minster knows that Moses did not write the Pentateuch; that David did not write the Psalms, and that Solomon was not the author of the song or the book of Ecclesiastes. Why not say so? No intelligent minister believes the story of Daniel in the Lion's den, or of the three men who were cast into the furnace, or the story of Jonah. These miracles seem to have done no good -- seem to have convinced nobody and to have had no consequences. Daniel was miraculously saved from the lions, and then the king sent for the men who had accused Daniel, for their wives and their children, and threw them all into the den of lions and they were devoured by beasts almost as cruel as Jehovah. What a beautiful story! How can any man be wicked enough to doubt its truth? God told Jonah to go to Nineveh. Jonah ran away, took a boat for another place, God raised a storm, the sailors became frightened, threw Jonah overboard, and the poor wretch was swallowed and carried ashore by a fish that God had prepared. Then he made his proclamation in Nineveh. Then the people repented and Jonah was disappointed. Then he became malicious and found fault with God. Then comes the story of the gourd, the worm and the east wind, and the effect of the sun on a bald-headed prophet. Would not this story be just as beautiful with the storm and fish left out? Could we not dispense with the gourd, the worm and the east wind? Professor Briggs, does not believe this story. He does not reject it because he is wicked or because he wishes to destroy religion, but because, in his judgment, it is not true. This may not be religious, but it is honest. It may not become a minister, but it certainly becomes a man. Professor Briggs wishes to free the Old Testament from interpolations, from excrescences, from fungus growths, from mistakes and falsehoods. I am satisfied that he is sincere, actuated by the noblest motives. Suppose that all the interpolations in the Bible should be found and the original be perfectly restored, what evidence would we have that it was written by inspired men? How can the fact of inspiration be established? When was it established? Did Jehovah furnish anybody with a list of books he had inspired? Does anybody know that he ever said that he had inspired anybody? Did the writer of Genesis claim that he was inspired? Did any writer of any part of the Pentateuch make the claim? Did the authors of Joshua, Judges, Kings or Chronicles pretend that they had obtained their facts from Jehovah? Does the author of Job or of the Psalms pretend to have received assistance from God? Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 11 PROFESSOR BRIGGS. There is not the slightest reference to God in Esther or in Solomon's Song. Why should theologians say that those books were inspired? The dogma of inspiration rests on no established fact. It rests only on assertion -- the assertion of those who have no knowledge on the subject. Professor Briggs calls the Bible a "holy" book. He seems to think that much of it was inspired; that it is in some sense a message from God. The reasons he has for thinking so I cannot even guess. He seems also to have his doubts about certain parts of the New Testament. He is not certain that the angel who appeared to Joseph in a dream was entirely truthful, or he is not certain that Joseph had the dream. It seems clear that when the gospel according to Matthew was first written the writer believed that Christ was a lineal descendant of David, through his father, Joseph. The genealogy is given for the purpose of showing that the blood of David flowed in the veins of Christ. The man who wrote that genealogy had never heard that the Holy Ghost was the father of Christ. That was an afterthought. How is it possible to prove that the Holy Ghost was the father of Christ? The Holy Ghost said nothing on the subject. Mary wrote nothing and we have no evidence that Joseph had a dream. The divinity of Christ rests upon a dream that somebody said Joseph had. According to the New Testament, Mary herself called Joseph the father of Christ. She told Christ that Joseph, his father, had been looking for him. Her statement is better evidence than Joseph's dream -- if he really had it. If there are legends in Holy Scripture, as Professor Briggs declares, certainly the divine parentage of Christ is one of them. The story lacks even originality. Among the Greeks many persons had gods for fathers. Among Hindoos and Egyptians these god-men were common. So in many other countries the blood of gods was in the veins of men. Such wonders, told in Sanskrit, are just as reasonable as when told In Hebrew -- just as reasonable in India as in Palestine. Of course, there is no evidence that any human being had a god for a father, or a goddess for a mother. Intelligent people have outgrown these myths. Centaurs, satyrs, nymphs and god-men have faded away. Science murdered them all. There are many contradictions in the gospels. They differ not only on questions of fact, but as to Christianity itself. According to Matthew, Mark and Luke, if you will forgive others God will forgive you. This is the one condition of salvation. But in John we find an entirely different religion. According to John you must be born again and believe in Jesus Christ. There you find for the first time about the atonement -- that Christ died to save sinners. The gospel of John discloses a regular theological system -- a new one. To forgive others is not enough. You must have faith. You must be born again. The four gospels cannot be harmonized. If John is true the others are false. If the others are true John is false. From this there is no escape. I do not for a moment suppose that Professor Briggs agrees with me on these questions. He probably regards me as Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 12 PROFESSOR BRIGGS. a very bad and wicked man, and my opinions as blasphemies. I find no fault with him for that. I believe him to be an honest man; right in some things and wrong in many. He seems to be true to his thought and I honor him for that. He would like to get all the stumbling-blocks out of the Bible, so that a really thoughtful man can "believe." If theologians cling to the miracles recorded in the New Testament the entire book will be disparaged and denied. The "Gospel ship" is overloaded. Some-things must be thrown overboard or the boat will go down. If the churches try to save all they will lose all. They must throw the miracles away. They must admit that Christ did not cast devils out of the bodies of men and women -- that he did not cure diseases with a word, or blindness with spittle and clay; that he had no power over winds and waves; that he did not raise the dead; that he was not raised from the dead himself, and that he did not ascend bodily to heaven. These absurdities must be given up, or in a little while the orthodox ministers will be preaching the "tidings of great joy" to benches, bonnets and bibs. Professor Briggs, as I understand him, is willing to give up the absurdist absurdities, but wishes to keep all the miracles that can possibly be believed. He is anxious to preserve the important miracles -- the great central falsehoods -- but the little lies that were told just to embellish the story -- to furnish vines for the columns -- he is willing to cast aside. But Professor Briggs was honest enough to say that we do not know the authors of most of the books in the Bible; that we do not know who wrote the Psalms or Job or Proverbs or the Song of Songs or Ecclesiastes or the Epistle to the Hebrews. He also said that no translation can ever take the place of the original Scriptures, because a translation is at best the work of men. In other words, that God has not revealed to us the names of the inspired books. That this must be determined by us. Professor Briggs puts reason above revelation. By reason we are to decide what books are inspired. By reason we are to decide whether anything has been improperly added to those books. By reason we are to decide the real meaning of those books. It therefore follows that if the books are unreasonable they are uninspired. It seems to me that this position is absolutely correct. There is no other that can be defended. The Presbyterians who pretend to answer Professor Briggs seem to be actuated by hatred. Dr. Da Costa answers with vituperation and epithet. He answers no argument; brings forward no fact; points out no mistake. He simply attacks the man. He exhibits the ordinary malice of those who love their enemies. President Patton, of Princeton, is a despiser of reason; a hater of thought. Progress is the only thing that he fears. He knows that the Bible is absolutely true. He knows that every word is inspired. According to him, all questions have been settled, and criticism said its last word when the King James Bible was printed. Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 13 PROFESSOR BRIGGS. The Presbyterian Church is infallible, and whoever doubts or denies will be damned. Morality is worthless without the creed. This is the religion, the philosophy, of Dr. Patton. He fights with the ancient weapons, with stone and club. He is a private in Captain Calvin's company, and he marches to defeat with the courage of invincible ignorance. I do not blame the Presbyterian Church for closing the mouth of Professor Briggs. That church believes the Bible -- all of it -- and the members did not feel like paying a man for showing that it was not all inspired. Long ago the Presbyterians stopped growing. They have been petrified for many years. Professor Briggs had been growing. He had to leave the church or shrink. He left. Then he joined the Episcopal Church. He probably supposed that that church preferred the living to the dead. He knew about Colenso, Stanley, Temple, Heber Newton, Dr. Rainsford and Farrar, and thought that the finger and thumb of authority would not insist on plucking from the mind the buds of thought. Whether he was mistaken or not remains to be seen. The Episcopal Church may refuse to ordain him, and by such refusal put the bigot brand upon its brow. The refusal cannot injure Professor Briggs. It will leave him where it found him -- with too much science for a churchman and too much superstition for a scientist; with his feet in the gutter and his head in the clouds. I admire every man who is true to himself, to his highest ideal, and who preserves unstained the veracity of his soul. I believe in growth. I prefer the living to the dead. Men are superior to mummies. Cradles are more beautiful than coffins. Development is grander than decay. I do not agree with Professor Briggs. I do not believe in inspired books, or in the Holy Ghost, or that any God has ever appeared to man. I deny the existence of the supernatural. I know of no religion that is founded on facts. But I cheerfully admit that Professor Briggs appears to be candid, good tempered and conscientious -- the opposite of those who attack him. He is not a Freethinker, but he honestly thinks that he is free. END **** **** A WORD ABOUT EDUCATION. 1891 The end of life -- the object of life -- is happiness. Nothing can be better than that -- nothing higher. In order to be really happy, man must be in harmony with his surroundings, with the conditions of well-being. In order to know these surroundings, he must be educated, and education is of value only as it contributes Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 14 A WORD ABOUT EDUCATION. to the well-being of man, and only that is education which increases the power of man to gratify his real wants -- wants of body and of mind. The educated man knows the necessity of finding out the facts in nature, the relations between himself and his fellow-men, between himself and the world, to the end that he may take advantage of these facts and relations for the benefit of himself and others. He knows that a man may understand Latin and Greek, Hebrew and Sanscrit, and be as ignorant of the great facts and forces in nature as a native of Central Africa. The educated man knows something that he can use, not only for the benefit of himself, but for the benefit of others. Every skilled mechanic, every good farmer, every man who knows some of the real facts in nature that touch him, is to that extent an educated man. The skilled mechanic and the intelligent farmer may not be what we call "scholars," and what we call scholars may not be educated men. Man is in constant need. He must protect himself from cold and heat, from sun and storm. He needs food and raiment for the body, and he needs what we call art for the development and gratification of his brain. Beginning with what are called the necessaries of life, he rises to what are known as the luxuries, and the luxuries become necessaries, and above luxuries he rises to the highest wants of the soul. The man who is fitted to take care of himself, in the conditions he may be placed, is, in a very important sense, an educated man. The savage who understands the habits of animals, who is a good hunter and fisher, is a man of education, taking into consideration his circumstances. The graduate of a university who cannot take care of himself -- no matter how much he may have studied -- is not an educated man. In our time, an educated man, whether a mechanic, a farmer, or one who follows a profession, should know something about what the world has discovered. He should have an idea of the outlines of the sciences. He should have read a little, at least, of the best that has been written. He should know something of mechanics, a little about politics, commerce, and metaphysics; and in addition to all this, he should know how to make something. His hands should be educated, so that he can, if necessary, supply his own wants by supplying the wants of others. There are mental misers -- men who gather learning all their lives and keep it to themselves. They are worse than hoarders of gold, because when they die their learning dies with them, while the metal miser is compelled to leave his gold for others. The first duty of man is to support himself -- to see to it that he does not become a burden. His next duty is to help others if he has a surplus, and if he really believes they deserve to be helped. Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 15 A WORD ABOUT EDUCATION. It is not necessary to have what is called a university education in order to be useful or to be happy, any more than it is necessary to be rich, to be happy. Great wealth is a great burden, and to have more than you can use, is to care for more than you want. The happiest are those who are prosperous, and who by reasonable endeavor can supply their reasonable wants and have a little surplus year by year for the winter of their lives. So, it is no use to learn thousands and thousands of useless facts, or to fill the brain with unspoken tongues. This is burdening yourself with more than you can use. The best way is to learn the useful. We all know that men in moderate circumstances can have just as comfortable houses as the richest, just as comfortable clothing, just as good food. They can see just as fine paintings, just as marvelous statues, and they can hear just as good music: They can attend the same theaters and the same operas. They can enjoy the same sunshine, and above all, can love and be loved just as well as kings and millionaires. So the conclusion of the whole matter is, that he is educated who knows how to take care of himself; and that the happy man is the successful man, and that it is only a burden to have more than you want, or to learn those things that you cannot use. The High School Register. Omaha, Nebraska, January, 1891. **** **** Reproducible Electronic Publishing can defeat censorship. The Bank of Wisdom is a collection of the most thoughtful, scholarly and factual books. These computer books are reprints of suppressed books and will cover American and world history; the Biographies and writings of famous persons, and especially of our nations Founding Fathers. They will include philosophy and religion. all these subjects, and more, will be made available to the public in electronic form, easily copied and distributed, so that America can again become what its Founders intended -- The Free Market-Place of Ideas. The Bank of Wisdom is always looking for more of these old, hidden, suppressed and forgotten books that contain needed facts and information for today. If you have such books please contact us, we need to give them back to America. Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 16

---

E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank