13 page printout. Reproducible Electronic Publishing can defeat censorship. * * This file,

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

Skeptic Tank!

13 page printout. Reproducible Electronic Publishing can defeat censorship. **** **** 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 **** **** PREFACE. 1882 Several people, having read the sermons of Mr. Talmage in which he reviews some of my lectures, have advised me not to pay the slightest attention to the Brooklyn divine. They think that no new arguments have been brought forward, and they have even gone so far as to say that some of the best of the old ones have been left out. After thinking the matter over, I became satisfied that my friends were mistaken, that they had been carried away by the general current of modern thought, and were not in a frame of mind to feel the force of the arguments of Mr. Talmage, or to clearly see the candor that characterizes his utterances. At the first reading, the logic of these sermons does not impress you. The style is of a character calculated to throw the searcher after facts and arguments off his guard. The imagination of the preacher is so lurid; he is so free from the ordinary forms of expression; his statements are so much stranger than truth, and his conclusions so utterly independent of his premises, that the reader is too astonished to be convinced. Not until I had read with great care the six discourses delivered for my benefit had I any clear and well-defined idea of the logical force of Mr. Talmage. I had but little conception of his candor, was almost totally ignorant of his power to render the simple complex and the plain obscure by the mutilation of metaphor and the incoherence of inspired declamation. Neither did I know the generous accuracy with which he states the position of an opponent, and the fairness he exhibits in a religious discussion. He has without doubt studied the Bible as closely and critically as he has the works of Buckle and Darwin, and he seems to have paid as much attention to scientific subjects as most theologians. His theory of light and his views upon geology are strikingly original, and his astronomical theories are certainly as profound as practical. If his statements can be relied upon, he has successfully refuted the teachings of Humboldt and Haeckel, and exploded the blunders of Spencer and Tyndall. Besides all this, he has the courage of his convictions -- he does not quail before a fact, and he does not strike his colors even to a demonstration. He cares nothing for human experience. He cannot be put down with statistics, nor driven from his position by the certainties of science. He cares neither for the persistence of force, nor the indestructibility of matter. Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 1 FIRST INTERVIEW ON TALMAGE He believes in the Bible, and he has the bravery to defend his belief. In this, he proudly stands almost alone. He knows that the salvation of the world depends upon a belief in his creed. He knows that what are called "the sciences" are of no importance in the other world. He clearly sees that it is better to live and die ignorant here, if you can wear a crown of glory hereafter. He knows it is useless to be perfectly familiar with all the sciences in this world, and then in the next "lift up your eyes, being in torment." He knows, too, that God will not punish any man for denying a fact in science. A man can deny the rundity of the earth, the attraction of gravitation, the form of the earth's orbit, or the nebular hypothesis, with perfect impunity. He is not bound to be correct upon any philosophical subject. He is at liberty to deny and ridicule the rule of three, conic sections, and even the multiplication table. God permits every human being to be mistaken upon every subject but one. No man can lose his soul by denying physical facts. Jehovah does not take the slightest pride in his geology, or in his astronomy, or in mathematics, or in any school of philosophy -- he is jealous only of his reputation as the author of the Bible. You may deny everything else in the universe except that book. This being so, Mr. Talmage takes the safe side, and insists that the Bible is inspired. He knows that at the day of judgment, not a scientific question will be asked. He knows that the Haeckels and Huxleys will, on that terrible day, regret that they ever learned to read. He knows that there is no "saving grace" in any department of human knowledge; that mathematics and all the exact sciences and all the philosophies will be worse than useless. He knows that inventors, discoverers, thinkers and investigators, have no claim upon the mercy of Jehovah; that the educated will envy the ignorant, and that the writers and thinkers will curse their books. He knows that man cannot be saved through what he knows -- but only by means of what he believes. Theology is not a science. If it were, God would forgive his children for being mistaken about it. If it could be proved like geology, or astronomy, there would be no merit in believing it. From a belief in the Bible, Mr. Talmage is not to be driven by uninspired evidence. He knows that his logic is liable to lead him astray, and that his reason cannot be depended upon. He believes that scientific men are no authority in matters concerning which nothing can be known, and he does not wish to put his soul in peal, by examining by the light of reason, the evidences of the supernatural. He is perfectly consistent with his creed. What happens to us here is of no consequence compared with eternal Joy or pain. The ambitions, honors, glories and triumphs of this world, compared with eternal things, are less than naught. Better a cross here and a crown there, than a feast here and a fire there. Lazarus was far more fortunate than Dives. The purple and fine linen of this short life are as nothing compared with the robes of the redeemed. Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 2 FIRST INTERVIEW ON TALMAGE Mr. Talmage knows that philosophy is unsafe -- that the sciences are sirens luring souls to eternal wreck. He knows that the deluded searchers after facts are planting thorns in their own pillows -- that the geologists are digging pits for themselves, and that the astronomers are robbing their souls of the heaven they explore. He knows that thought, capacity, and intellectual courage are dangerous, and this belief gives him a feeling of personal security. The Bible is adapted to the world as it is. Most people are ignorant, and but few have the capacity to comprehend philosophical and scientific subjects, and if salvation depended upon understanding even one of the sciences, nearly everybody would be lost. Mr. Talmage sees that it was exceedingly merciful in God to base salvation on belief instead of on brain. Millions can believe, while only a few can understand. Even the effort to understand is a kind of treason born of pride and ingratitude. This being so, it is far safer, far better, to be credulous than critical. you are offered an infinite reward for believing the Bible. If you examine it you may find it impossible for you to believe it. Consequently, examination is dangerous. Mr. Talmage knows that it is not necessary to understand the Bible in order to believe it. You must believe it first. Then, if on reading it you find anything that appears false, absurd, or impossible, you may be sure that it is only an appearance, and that the real fault is in yourself. It is certain that persons wholly incapable of reasoning are absolutely safe, and that to be born brainless is to be saved in advance. Mr. Talmage takes the ground, -- and certainly from his point of view nothing can be more reasonable -- that thought should be avoided, after one has "experienced religion" and has been the subject of "regeneration." Every sinner should listen to sermons, read religious books, and keep thinking, until he becomes a Christian. Then he should stop. After that, thinking is not the road to heaven. The real point and the real difficulty is to stop thinking just at the right time. Young Christians, who have no idea of what they are doing, often go on thinking after joining the church, and in this way heresy is born, and heresy is often the father of infidelity. If Christians would follow the advice and example of Mr. Talmage all disagreements about doctrine would be avoided. In this way the church could secure absolute intellectual peace and all the disputes, heartburnings, jealousies and hatreds born of thought, discussion and reasoning, would be impossible. In the estimation of Mr. Talmage, the man who doubts and examines is not fit for the society of angels. There are no disputes, no discussions in heaven. The angels do not think; they believe, they enjoy. The highest form of religion is repression. We should conquer the passions and destroy desire. We should control the mind and stop thinking. In this way we "offer ourselves a "living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God." When desire dies, when thought ceases, we shall be pure. -- This is heaven. ROBERT G. INGERSOLL. Washington, D.C., April, 1882. Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 3 INGERSOLL'S INTERVIEWS. ________ FIRST INTERVIEW POLONIUS: My lord, I will use them according to their desert. HAMLET: God's bodikins, man, much better: use every man after his desert, and who should 'scape whipping? Use them after your own honor and dignity: the less they deserve, the more merit is in your bounty. _______ QUESTION. Have you read the sermon of Mr. Talmage, in which he exposes your misrepresentations? ANSWER. I have read such reports as appeared in some of the New York papers. QUESTION. What do you think of what he has to say? ANSWER. Some time ago I gave it as my opinion of Mr. Talmage that, while he was a man of most excellent Judgment, he was somewhat deficient in imagination. I find that he has the disease that seems to afflict most theologians, and that is, a kind of intellectual toadyism, that uses the names of supposed great men instead of arguments. It is perfectly astonishing to the average preacher that any one should have the temerity to differ, on the subject of theology, with Andrew Jackson, Daniel Webster, and other gentlemen eminent for piety during their lives, but who, as a rule, expressed their theological opinions a few minutes before dissolution. These ministers are perfectly delighted to have some great politician, some judge, soldier, or president, certify to the truth of the Bible and to the moral character of Jesus Christ. Mr. Talmage insists that if a witness is false in one particular, his entire testimony must be thrown away. Daniel Webster was in favor of the Fugitive Slave Law, and thought it the duty of the North to capture the poor slave-mother. He was willing to stand between a human being and his freedom. He was willing to assist in compelling persons to work without any pay except such marks of the lash as they might receive. Yet this man is brought forward as a witness for the truth of the gospel. If he was false in his testimony as to liberty, what is his affidavit worth as to the value of Christianity? Andrew Jackson was a brave man, a good general, a patriot second to none, an excellent judge of horses, and a brave duelist. I admit that in his old age he relied considerably upon the atonement. I think Jackson was really a very great man, and probably no President impressed himself more deeply upon the American people than the hero of New Orleans, but as a theologian he was, in my Judgment, a most decided failure, and his opinion as to the authenticity of the Scriptures is of no earthly value. It was a subject upon which he knew probably as little as Mr. Talmage does about modern infidelity. Thousands of people will quote Jackson in favor of religion, about which he knew nothing, and yet have no confidence in his political opinions, although he devoted the best part of his life to politics. Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 4 FIRST INTERVIEW ON TALMAGE No man should quote the words of another, in place of an argument, unless he is willing to accept: all the opinions of that man. Lord Bacon denied the Copernican system of astronomy, and, according to Mr. Talmage, having made that mistake, his opinions upon other subjects are equally worthless. Mr. Wesley believed in ghosts, witches, and personal devils, yet upon many subjects I have no doubt his opinions were correct. The truth is, that nearly everybody is right about some things and wrong about most things; and if a man's testimony is not to be taken until he is right on every subject, witnesses will be extremely scarce. Personally, I care nothing about names. It makes no difference to me what the supposed great men of the past have said, except as what they have said contains an argument; and that argument is worth to me the force it naturally has upon my mind. Christians forget that in the realm of reason there are no serfs and no monarchs. When you submit to an argument, you do not submit to the man who made it. Christianity demands a certain obedience, a certain blind, unreasoning faith, and parades before the eyes of the ignorant, with great pomp and pride, the names of kings, soldiers, and statesmen who have admitted the truth of the Bible. Mr. Talmage introduces as a witness the Rev. Theodore Parker. This same Theodore Parker denounced the Presbyterian creed as the most infamous of all creeds, and said that the worst heathen god, wearing a necklace of live snakes, was a representation of mercy when compared with the God of John Calvin. Now, if this witness is false in any particular, of course he cannot be believed, according to Mr. Talmage, upon any subject, and yet Mr. Talmage introduces him upon the stand as a good witness. Although I care but little for names, still I will suggest that, in all probability, Humboldt knew more upon this subject than all the pastors in the world. I certainly would have as much confidence in the opinion of Goethe as in that of William H. Seward; and as between Seward and Lincoln, I should take Lincoln; and when you come to Presidents, for my part, if I were compelled to pin my faith on the sleeve of anybody, I should take Jefferson's coat in preference to Jackson's. I believe that Haeckel is, to say the least, the equal of any theologian we have in this country, and the late John W. Draper certainly knew as much upon these great questions as the average parson. I believe that Darwin has investigated some of these things, that Tyndall and Huxley have turned their minds somewhat in the same direction, that Helmholtz has a few opinions, and that, in fact, thousands of able, intelligent and honest men differ almost entirely with Webster and Jackson. So far as I am concerned, I think more of reasons than of reputations, more of principles than of persons, more of nature than of names, more of facts, than of faiths. It is the same with books as with persons. Probably there is not a book in the world entirely destitute of truth, and not one entirely exempt from error. The Bible is like other books. There are mistakes in it, side by side with truths, -- passages inculcating murder, and others exalting mercy; laws devilish and tyrannical, and others filled with wisdom and justice. It is Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 5 FIRST INTERVIEW ON TALMAGE foolish to say that if you accept a part, you must accept the whole. You must accept that which commends itself to your heart and brain. There never was a doctrine that a witness, or a book, should be thrown entirely away, because false in one particular. If in any particular the book, or the man, tells the truth, to that extent the truth should be accepted. Truth is made no worse by the one who tells it, and a lie gets no real benefit from the reputation of its author. QUESTION. What do you think of the statement that a general belief in your teachings would fill all the penitentiaries, and that in twenty years there would be a hell in this world worse than the one expected in the other? ANSWER. My creed is this: 1. Happiness is the only good. 2. The way to he happy, is to make others happy. Other things being equal, that man is happiest who is nearest just -- who is truthful, merciful and intelligent -- in other words, the one who lives in accordance with the conditions of life. 3. The time to be happy is now, and the place to be happy, is here. 4. Reason is the lamp of the mind -- the only torch of progress; and instead of blowing that out and depending upon darkness and dogma, it is far better to increase that sacred light. 5. Every man should be the intellectual proprietor of himself, honest with himself, and intellectually hospitable; and upon every brain reason should be enthroned as king. 6. Every man must bear the consequences, at least of his own actions. If he puts his hands in the fire, his hands must smart, and not the hands of another. In other words: each man must eat the fruit of the tree he plants. I can not conceive that the teaching of these doctrines would fill penitentiaries, or crowd the gallows. The doctrine of forgiveness -- the idea that somebody else can suffer in place of the guilty -- the notion that just at the last the whole account can he settled -- these ideas, doctrines, and notions are calculated to fill penitentiaries. Nothing breeds extravagance like the credit system. Most criminals of the present day are orthodox believers, and the gallows seems to be the last round of the ladder reaching from earth to heaven. The Rev. Dr. Sunderland, of this city, in his sermon on the assassination of Garfield, takes the ground that God permitted the murder for the purpose of opening the eyes of the people to the evil effects of infidelity. According to this minister, God, in order to show his hatred of infidelity, "inspired," or allowed, one Christian to assassinate another. Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 6 FIRST INTERVIEW ON TALMAGE Religion and morality do not necessarily go together. Mr. Talmage will insist to-day that morality is not sufficient to save any man from eternal punishment. As a matter of fact, religion has often been the enemy of morality. The moralist has been denounced by the theologians. He sustains the same relation to Christianity that the moderate drinker does to the total-abstinence society. The total-abstinence people say that the example of the moderate drinker is far worse upon the young than that of the drunkard -- that the drunkard is a warning, while the moderate drinker is a perpetual temptation. So Christians say of moralists. According to them, the moralist sets a worse example than the criminal. The moralist not only insists that a man can be a good citizen, a kind husband, an affectionate father, without religion, but demonstrates the truth of his doctrine by his own life; whereas the criminal admits that in and of himself he is nothing, and can do nothing, but that he needs, assistance from the church and its ministers. The worst criminals of the modern world have been Christians -- I mean by that, believers in Christianity -- and the most monstrous crimes of the modern world have been committed by the most zealous believers. There is nothing in orthodox religion, apart from the morality it teaches. to prevent the commission of crime. On the other hand, the perpetual proffer of forgiveness is a direct premium upon what Christians are pleased to call the commission of sin. Christianity has produced no greater character than Epicterus, no greater sovereign than Marcus Aurelius. The wickedness of the past was a good deal like that of the present. As a rule, kings have been wicked in direct proportion to their power -- their power having been lessened, their crimes have decreased. As a matter of fact, paganism, of itself, did not produce any great men; neither has Christianity. Millions of influences determine individual character, and the religion of the country in which a man happens to be born may determine many of his opinions, without influencing, to any great extent, his real character. There have been brave, honest, and intelligent men in and out of every church. QUESTION. Mr. Talmage says that you insist that, according to the Bible, the universe was made out of nothing, and he denounces your statement as a gross misrepresentation. What have you stated upon that subject? ANSWER. What I said was substantially this: "We are told in the first chapter of Genesis, that in the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." If this means anything, it means that God produced -- caused to exist, called into being -- the heaven and the earth. It will not do to say that God formed the heaven and the earth of previously existing matter. Moses conveys, and intended to convey, the idea that the matter of which the universe is composed was created." This has always been my position. I did not suppose that nothing was used as the raw material; but if the Mosaic account means anything, it means that whereas there was nothing, God caused Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 7 FIRST INTERVIEW ON TALMAGE something to exist -- created what we know as matter. I can not conceive of something being made, created, without anything to make anything with. I have no more confidence in fiat worlds than I have in fiat money. Mr. Talmage tells us that God did not make the universe out of nothing, but out of "omnipotence." Exactly how God changed "omnipotence" into matter is not stated. If there was nothing in the universe, omnipotence could do you no good. The weakest man in me world can lift as much nothing as God. Mr. Talmage seems to think that to create something from nothing is simply a question of strength -- that it requires infinite muscle -- that it is only a question of biceps. Of course, omnipotence is an attribute, not an entity, not a raw material; and the idea that something can be made out of omnipotence -- using that as the raw material -- is infinitely absurd. It would have been equally logical to say that God made the universe out of his omniscience, or his omnipresence, or his unchangeableness, or out of his honesty, his holiness, or his incapacity to do evil. I confess my utter inability to understand, or even to suspect, what the reverend gentleman means, when he says that God created the universe out of his "omnipotence." I admit that the Bible does not tell when God created the universe. It is simply said that he did this in the "beginning." We are left, however, to infer that "the beginning" was Monday morning, and that on the first Monday God created the matter in an exceedingly chaotic state; that on Tuesday he made a firmament to divide the waters from the waters; that on Wednesday he gathered the waters together in seas and allowed the dry land to appear. We are also told that on that day "the earth brought forth grass and herb "yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind." This was before the creation of the sun, but Mr. Talmage takes the ground that there are many other sources of light; that "there may have been volcanoes in active operation on other planets." I have my doubts, however, about the light of volcanoes being sufficient to produce or sustain vegetable life, and think it a little doubtful about trees growing only by "volcanic glare." Neither do I think one could depend upon "three thousand miles of liquid granite" for the production of grass and trees, nor upon "light that rocks might emit in the process of crystallization." I doubt whether trees would succeed simply with the assistance of the "Aurora Borealis or the Aurora Australis." There are other sources of light, not mentioned by Mr. Talmage -- lightning-bugs, phosphorescent beetles. and fox-fire. I should think that it would be humiliating, in this age, for an orthodox preacher to insist that vegetation could exist upon this planet without the light of the sun -- that trees could grow, blossom and bear fruit, having no light but the flames of volcanoes, or that emitted by liquid granite, or thrown off by the crystallization of rocks. There is another thing, also, that should not be forgotten, and that is, that there is an even balance forever kept between the totals of animal and vegetable life -- that certain forms of animal life go with certain forms of vegetable life. Mr. Haeckel has shown that "in the first epoch, algae and skull-less vertebrates "were found together; in the second, ferns and fishes; ln the third, Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 8 FIRST INTERVIEW ON TALMAGE pines and reptiles; in the fourth, foliaceous forests and mammals." Vegetable and animal life sustain a necessary relation; they exist together; they act and interact, and each depends upon the other. The real point of difference between Mr. Talmage and myself is this: He says that God made the universe out of his "omnipotence," and I say that, although I know nothing whatever upon the subject, my opinion is, that the universe has existed from eternity -- that it continually changes in form, but that it never was created or called into being by any power. I think that all that is, is all the God there is. QUESTION. Mr. Talmage charges you with having misrepresented the Bible story of the deluge. Has he correctly stated your position? ANSWER. Mr. Talmage takes the ground that the flood was only partial, and was, after all, not much of a flood. The Bible tells us that God said he would "destroy all flesh wherein is the breath of life from under heaven, and that everything that is in the earth shall die;" that God also said: "I will destroy man, whom I have created, from the face of the earth; both man and beast and the creeping thing and the fowls of the air, and every living substance that I have made will I destroy from off the face of the earth." I did not suppose that there was any miracle in the Bible larger than the credulity of Mr. Talmage. The flood story, however, seems to be a little more than he can bear. He is like the witness who stated that he had read Gulliver's Travels, the Stories of Munchausen, and the Flying Wife, including Robinson Crusoe, and believed them all; but that Wirt's Life of Patrick Henry was a little more than he could stand. It is strange that a man who believes that God created the universe out of "omnipotence" should believe that he had not enough omnipotence left to drown a world the size of this. Mr. Talmage seeks to make the story of the flood reasonable. The moment it is reasonable, it ceases to be miraculous. Certainly God cannot afford to reward a man with eternal Joy for believing a reasonable story. Faith is only necessary when the story is unreasonable, and if the flood only gets small enough, I can believe it myself. I ask for evidence, and Mr. Talmage seeks to make the story so little that it can be believed without evidence. He tells us that it was a kind of "local option" flood -- a little wet for that part of the country. Why was it necessary to save the birds? They certainly could have gotten out of the way of a real small flood. Of the birds, Noah took fourteen of each species. He was commanded to take of the fowls of the air by sevens -- seven of each sex -- and, as there are at least 12,500 species, Noah collected an aviary of about 175,000 birds, provided the flood was general. If it was local, there are no means of determining the number. But why, if the flood was local, should he have taken any of the fowls of the air into his ark? All they had to do was to fly away, or "roost high;" and it would have been just as easy for God to have implanted in them, for the moment, the instinct of getting out of the way as the instinct of hunting the ark. It would have been quite a saving of room and provisions, and would have materially lessened the labor and anxiety of Noah and his sons. Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 9 FIRST INTERVIEW ON TALMAGE Besides, if it had been a partial flood, and great enough to cover the highest mountains in that country the highest mountain being about seventeen thousand feet, the flood would have been covered with a sheet of ice several thousand feet in thickness. If a column of water could have been thrown seventeen thousand feet high and kept stationary, several thousand feet of the upper end would have frozen. If, however, the deluge was general, then the atmosphere would have been forced out the same on all sides, and the climate remained substantially normal. Nothing can be more absurd than to attempt to explain the flood by calling it partial. Mr. Talmage also says that the window ran clear round the ark. and that if I had only known as much Hebrew as a man could put on his little finger, I would have known that the window went clear round. To this I reply that, if his position is correct, then the original translators of King James' edition did not know as much Hebrew as they could have put on their little fingers; and yet I am obliged to believe their translation or be eternally damned. If the window went clear round, the inspired writer should have said so, and the learned translators should have given us the truth. No one pretends that there was more than one door, and yet the same language is used about the door, except this -- that the exact size of the window is given, and the only peculiarity mentioned as to the door is that it shut from the outside. For any one to see that Mr. Talmage is wrong on the window question, it is only necessary to read the story of the deluge. Mr. Talmage also endeavors to decrease the depth of the flood. If the flood did not cover the highest hills, many people might have been saved. He also insists that all the water did not come from the rains, but that "the fountains of the great deep were broken up." -- What are "the fountains of the great deep"? How would their being "broken up" increase the depth of the water? He seems to imagine that these "fountains" were in some way imprisoned -- anxious to get to the surface, and that, at that time, an opportunity was given for water to run up hill, or in some mysterious way to rise above its level. According to the account, the ark was at the mercy of the waves for at least seven months. If this flood was only partial, it seems a little curious that the water did not seek its level in less than seven months. With anything like a fair chance, by that time most of it would have found its way to the sea again. There is in the literature of ignorance no more perfectly absurd and cruel story than that of the deluge. I am very sorry that Mr. Talmage should disagree with some of the great commentators. Dr. Scott tells us that, in all probability, the angels assisted in getting the animals into the ark. Dr. Henry insists that the waters in the bowels of the earth, at God's command, sprung up and flooded the earth. Dr. Clark tells us that it would have been much easier for God to have destroyed all the people and made some new ones, but that he did not want to waste anything. Dr. Henry also tells us that the lions, while in the ark, ate straw like oxen. Nothing could be more amusing than to see a few lions eating good dry straw. This commentator assures us Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 10 FIRST INTERVIEW ON TALMAGE that the waters rose so high that the loftiest mountains were overflowed fifteen cubits, so that salvation was not hoped for from any hills or mountains. He tells us that some of the people got on top of the ark, and hoped to shift for themselves, but that, in all probability, they were washed off by the rain. When we consider that the rain must have fallen at the rate of about eight hundred feet a day, I am inclined to think that they were washed off. Mr. Talmage has clearly misrepresented the Bible. He is not prepared to believe the story as it is told. The seeds of infidelity seem to be germinating in his mind. His position no doubt will be a great relief to most of his hearers. After this, their credulity will not be strained. They can say that there was probably quite a storm, some rain, to an extent that rendered it necessary for Noah and his family -- his dogs, cats, and chickens -- to get in a boat. This would not be unreasonable. The same thing happens almost every year on the shores of great rivers, and consequently the story of the flood is an exceedingly reasonable one. Mr. Talmage also endeavors to account for the miraculous collection of the animals in the ark by the universal instinct to get out of the rain. There are at least two objections to this: 1. The animals went into the ark before the rain commenced; 2. I have never noticed any great desire on the part of ducks, geese, and loons to get out of the water. Mr. Talmage must have been misled by a line from an old nursery book that says: "And the little fishes got under the bridge to keep out of the rain." He tells us that Noah described what he saw. He is the first theologian who claims that Genesis was written by Noah, or that Noah wrote any account of the flood. Most Christians insist that the account of the flood was written by Moses, and that he was inspired to write it. Of course, it will not do for me to say that Mr. Talmage has misrepresented the facts. QUESTION. You are also charged with misrepresentation in your statement as to where the ark at last rested. It is claimed by Mr. Talmage that there is nothing in the Bible to show that the ark rested on the highest mountains. ANSWER. Of course I have no knowledge as to where the ark really came to anchor, but after it struck bottom, we are told that a dove was sent out, and that the dove found no place whereon to rest her foot. If the ark touched ground in the low country, surely the mountains were out of water, and an ordinary mountain furnishes, as a rule, space enough for a dove's foot. We must infer that the ark rested on the only land then above water, or near enough above water to strike the keel of Noah's boat. Mount Ararat is about seventeen thousand feet high; so I take it that the top of that mountain was where Noah ran aground -- otherwise, the account means nothing. Here Mr. Talmage again shows his tendency to belittle the miracles of the Bible. I am astonished that he should doubt the power of God to keep an ark on a mountain seventeen thousand feet high. He could have changed the climate for that occasion. He could have made all the rocks and glaciers produce wheat and corn in Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 11 FIRST INTERVIEW ON TALMAGE abundance. Certainly God, who could overwhelm a world with a flood, had the power to change every law and fact in nature. I am surprised that Mr. Talmage is not willing to believe the story as it is told. What right has he to question the statements of an inspired writer? Why should he set up his judgment against the Websters and Jacksons? Is it not infinitely impudent in him to contrast his penny-dip with the sun of inspiration? What right has he to any opinion upon the subject? He must take the Bible as it reads. He should remember that the greater the miracle the greater should be his faith. QUESTION. You do not seem to have any great opinion of the chemical, geological, and agricultural views expressed by Mr. Talmage? ANSWER. You must remember that Mr. Talmage has a certain thing to defend. He takes the Bible as actually true, and with the Bible as his standard, he compares and measures all sciences. He does not study geology to find whether the Mosaic account is true, but he reads the Mosaic account for the purpose of showing that geology can not be depended upon. His idea that "one day is as a thousand years with "God," and that therefore the "days" mentioned in the Mosaic account are not days of twenty-four hours, but long periods, is contradicted by the Bible itself. The great reason given for keeping the Sabbath day is, that "God rested on the seventh day and was refreshed." Now, it does not say that he rested on the "seventh period," or the "seventh good-while," or the "seventh long-time," but on the "seventh day." In imitation of this example we are also to rest -- not on the seventh good-while, but on the seventh day. Nothing delights the average minister more than to find that a passage of Scripture is capable of several interpretations. Nothing in the inspired book is so dangerous as accuracy. If the holy writer uses general terms, an ingenious theologian can harmonize a seemingly preposterous statement with the most obdurate fact. An "inspired" book should contain neither statistics nor dates -- as few names as possible, and not one word about geology or astronomy. Mr. Talmage is doing the best he can to uphold the fables of the Jews. They are the foundation of his faith. He believes in the water of the past and the fire of the future -- in the God of flood and flame -- the eternal torturer of his helpless children. It is exceedingly unfortunate that Mr. Talmage does not appreciate the importance of good manners, that he does not rightly estimate the convincing power of kindness and good nature. It is unfortunate that a Christian, believing in universal forgiveness, should exhibit so much of the spirit of detraction, that he should run so easily and naturally into epithets, and that he should mistake vituperation for logic. Thousands of people, knowing but little of the mysteries of Christianity -- never having studied theology, -- may become prejudiced against the church, and doubt the divine origin of a religion whose defenders seem to rely, at least to a great degree, upon malignant personalities. Mr. Talmage should remember that in a discussion of this kind, he is supposed to represent a being of infinite wisdom and goodness. Surely, the representative of the infinite can afford to be candid, can afford to be kind. When he contemplates the condition of a fellow-being Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 12 FIRST INTERVIEW ON TALMAGE destitute of religion, a fellow-being now travelling the thorny path to eternal fire, he should be filled with pity instead of hate. Instead of deforming his mouth with scorn, his eyes should be filled with tears. He should take into consideration the vast difference between an infidel and a minister of the gospel, -- knowing, as he does, that a crown of glory has been prepared for the minister, and that flames are waiting for the soul of the unbeliever. He should bear with philosophic fortitude the apparent success of the skeptic, for a few days in this brief life, since he knows that in a little while the question will be eternally settled in his favor, and that the humiliation of a day is as nothing compared with the victory of eternity. In this world, the skeptic appears to have the best of the argument; logic seems to be on the side of blasphemy; common sense apparently goes hand in hand with infidelity, and the few things we are absolutely certain of, seem inconsistent with the Christian creeds. This, however, as Mr. Talmage well knows, is but apparent. God has arranged the world in this way for the purpose of testing the Christian's faith. Beyond all these facts, beyond logic, beyond reason, Mr. Talmage, by the light of faith, clearly sees the eternal truth. This clearness of vision should give him the serenity of candor and the kindness born of absolute knowledge. He, being a child of the light, should not expect the perfect from the children of darkness. He should not judge Humboldt and Wesley by the same standard. He should remember that Wesley was especially set apart and illuminated by divine wisdom, while Humboldt was left to grope in the shadows of nature. He should also remember that ministers are not like other people. They have been "called." They have been "chosen" by infinite wisdom. They have been "set apart," and they have bread to eat that we know not of. While other people are forced to pursue the difficult paths of investigation, they fly with the wings of faith. Mr. Talmage is perfectly aware of the advantages he enjoys, and yet he deems it dangerous to be fair. This, in my Judgment, is his mistake. If he cannot easily point out the absurdities and contradictions in infidel lectures, surely God would never have selected him for that task. We cannot believe that imperfect instruments would be chosen by infinite wisdom. Certain lambs have been entrusted to the care of Mr. Talmage, the shepherd. Certainly God would not select a shepherd unable to cope with an average wolf. Such a shepherd is only the appearance of protection. When the wolf is not there, he is a useless expense, and when the wolf comes, he goes. I cannot believe that God would select a shepherd of that kind. Neither can the shepherd justify his selection by abusing the wolf when out of sight. The fear ought to be on the other side. A divinely appointed shepherd ought to be able to convince his sheep that a wolf is a dangerous animal, and ought to be able to give his reasons. It may be that the shepherd has a certain interest in exaggerating the cruelty and ferocity of the wolf, and even the number of the wolves. Should it turn out that the wolves exist only in the imagination of the shepherd, the sheep might refuse to pay the salary of their protector. It will, however, be hard to calculate the extent to which the sheep will lose confidence in a shepherd who has not even the courage to state the facts about the wolf. But what must be the result when the sheep find that the supposed wolf is, in fact, their friend, and that he is endeavoring to rescue them from the exactions of the pretended shepherd, who creates, by falsehood, the fear on which he lives? 13

---

E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank