I tell you I had rather make somebody happy, I would rather have the love of somebody; I would rather go to the forest, far away, and build me a little cabin—build it myself and daub it with mud, and live there with my wife and children; I had rather go there and live by myself—our little family—and have a little path that led down to the spring, where the water bubbled out day and night like a little poem from the heart of the earth; a little hut with some hollyhocks at the corner, with their bannered bosoms open to the sun, and with the thrush in the air, like a song of joy in the morning; I would rather live there and have some lattice work across the window, so that the sunlight would fall checkered on the baby in the cradle; I would rather live there and have my soul erect and free, than to live in a palace of gold and wear the crown of imperial power and know that my soul was slimy with hypocrisy. It is not necessary to be rich and great and powerful in order to be happy. If you will treat your wife like a splendid flower, she will fill your life with a perfume and with joy.
I believe in the democracy of the fireside, I believe in the republicism of home, in the equality of man and woman, in the equality of husband and wife, and for this I am denounced by the sentinels upon the walls of Zion.
They say there must be a head to the family. I say no—equal rights for man and wife, and where there is really love there is liberty, and where the idea of authority comes in you will find that love has spread its pinions and flown forever. It is a splendid thing for me to think that when a woman really loves a man he never grows old in her eyes; she always sees the gallant gentleman that won her hand and heart; and when a man really and truly loves a woman she does not grow old to him; through the wrinkles of years he sees the face he loved and won. That is all there is in this world—all the rest amounts to nothing—it is a tale told by an idiot signifying nothing. You take from the family love, and nothing is left. There must be equality; there must be no master; there must be no servant. There must be equality and kindness. The man should be infinitely tender towards the woman—and why?—because she cannot go at hard work, she cannot make her own living. She has squandered her wealth of beauty and youth upon him.
Now, if women have been slaves, what do you say about children? Children have been the slaves of the slaves. I know children that turn pale with fright when they hear their mother's voice; children of property; children of crime, children of sub-cellars; children of the narrow streets, the flotsam and jetsam upon the wild, rude sea of life—my heart goes out to them one and all; I say they have all the rights we have and one more—the right to be protected. I believe in governing children by kindness, by love, by tenderness. If a child commits a fault take it in your arms, let your heart beat against its heart; don't go and talk to it about hell and the bankruptcy of the universe. If your child tells a lie—what of it? Be honest with the child, tell him you have told hundreds of them yourself. Then your child will not be afraid to tell you when it commits a fault; it will not regard you as old perfection, until it gets a few years older, and finds you are an old hypocrite—and you cannot put a thick enough veil upon you but what the eyes of childhood will peep through it; they will see; they will find out; and when your child tells a lie, examine yourself, and in all probability you will find you have been a tyrant. A tyrant father will have liars for his children. A liar is born of tyranny on the one hand and fear on the other. Truth comes from the lips of courage. It is born in confidence and honor. If you want a child to tell you the truth you want to be a faithful man yourself. You go at your little child, five or six years old, with a stick in your hand—what is he to do? Tell the truth? Then he will get whipped. What is he to do? I thank Mother Nature for putting ingenuity in the mind of a little child so that when it is attacked by a brutal parent it throws up a little breastwork in the shape of a lie. That being done by nations it is called strategy, and many a general wears his honors for having practiced it; and will you deny it to little children to protect themselves from brutal parents. Supposing a man as much larger than we are, larger than child would come at us with a liberty-pole in his hand and would shout in tones of thunder, "Who broke that plate?" Every one of us—including myself—would just stand right up and swear either that we never saw that plate, or that it was cracked when we got it. Give a child a chance; there is no other way to have children tell the truth—tell the truth to them—keep your contracts with your children the same as you would to your banker.
I was up at Grand Rapids, Michigan, the other day. There was a gentleman there, and his wife, who had promised to take their little boy for a ride every night for ten days, or every day for ten days, but they did not do it. They slipped out to the barn and they went without him. The day before I was there they played the same game on him again. He is a nice little boy, an American boy, a boy with brains, one of those boys that don't take the hatchet-story as a fact; he had his own ideas. They fooled him again, and they came around the corner as big as life, man and wife. The little fellow was standing on the door step with his nurse, and he looked at them, and he made this remark: "There go the two damndest liars in Grand Rapids." I merely tell you this story to show you that children have level heads; they understand this business.
Teach your children to tell you the truth—tell them the truth. If there is one here that ever intends to whip his child I have a favor to ask. Have your photograph taken when you are in the act, with your red and vulgar face, your brow corrugated, pretending you would rather be whipped yourself. Have the child's photograph taken too, with his eyes streaming with tears, and his chin dimpled with fear, as a little sheet of water struck by a sudden cold wind; and if your child should die I cannot think of a sweeter way to spend an afternoon than to go to the graveyard in the autumn, when the maples are clad in pink and gold, when the little scarlet runners come like poems out of the breast of the earth—go there and sit down and look at that photograph and think of the flesh, now dust, and how you caned it to writhe in pain and agony.
I will tell you what I am doing; I am doing what little I can to save the flesh of children. You have no right to whip them. It is not the way; and yet some Christians drive their children from their doors if they do wrong, especially if it is a sweet, tender girl—I believe there is no instance on record of any veal being given for the return of a girl—some Christians drive them from their doors and then go down upon their knees and ask God to take care of their children! I will never ask God to take care of my children unless I am doing my level best in that same direction. Some Christians act as though they thought when the Lord said, "Suffer little children to come unto me" that he had a raw-hide under His mantle—they act as if they thought so. That is all wrong. I tell yon my children this: Go where you may, commit what crime you may, fall to what depths of degradation you may, I can never shut my arms, my heart or my door to you. As long as I live you shall have one sincere friend; do not be afraid to tell anything wrong you have done; ten to one if I have not done the same thing. I am not perfection, and if it is necessary to sin in order to have sympathy, I am glad I have committed sin enough to have sympathy. The sternness of perfection I do not want. I am going to live so that my children can come to my grave and truthfully say, "He who sleeps here never gave us one moment of pain." Whether you call that religion or infidelity, suit yourselves; that is the way I intend to do it.
When I was a little fellow most everybody thought that some days were too sacred for the young ones to enjoy themselves in. That was the general idea. Sunday used to commence Saturday night at sundown, under the old text, "The evening and the morning were the first day." They commenced then, I think, to get a good ready. When the sun went down Saturday night, darkness ten thousand times deeper than ordinary night fell upon the house. The boy that looked the sickest was regarded as the most pious. You could not crack hickory nuts that night, and if you were caught chewing gum it was another evidence of the total depravity of the human heart. It was a very solemn evening. We would sometimes sing "Another Day has Passed." Everybody looked as though they had the dyspepsia—you know lots of people think they are pious, just because they are bilious, as Mr. Hood says. It was a solemn night, and the next morning the solemnity had increased. Then we went to church, and the minister was in a pulpit about twenty feet high. If it was in the winter there was no fire; it was not thought proper to be comfortable while you were thanking the Lord. The minister commenced at firstly and ran up to about twenty-fourthly, and then he divided it up again; and then he made some concluding remarks, and then he said lastly, and when he said lastly he was about half through. Then we had what we called the catechism—the chief end of man. I think that has a tendency to make a boy kind of bubble up cheerfully.
We sat along on a bench with our feet about eight inches from the floor. The minister said, "Boys, do you know what becomes of the wicked?" We all answered as cheerfully as grasshoppers sing in Minnesota, "Yes, sir." "Do you know, boys, that you all ought to go to hell?" "Yes, sir." As a final test: "Boys, would you be willing to go to hell if it was God's will?" And every little liar said, "Yes, sir." The dear old minister used to try to impress upon our minds about how long we would stay there after we got there, and he used to say in an awful tone of voice—do you know I think that is what gives them the bronchitis—that tone—you never heard of an auctioneer having it—"Suppose that once in a billion of years a bird were to come from some far, distant clime and carry off in its bill a grain of sand, when the time came when the last animal matter of which this mundane sphere is composed would be carried away," said he, "boys, by that time in hell it would not be sun up." We had this sermon in the morning and the same one in the afternoon, only he commenced at the other end. Then we started home full of doctrine—we went sadly and sole solemnly back. If it was in the summer and the weather was good and we had been good boys, they used to take us down to the graveyard, and to cheer us up we had a little conversation about coffins, and shrouds, and worms, and bones, and dust, and I must admit that it did cheer me up when I looked at those sunken graves those stones, those names half effaced with the decay of years. I felt cheered, for I said, "This thing can't last always." Then we had to read a good deal. We were not allowed to read joke books or anything of that kind. We read Baxter's "Call to the Unconverted;" Fox's "Book of Martyrs;" Milton's "History of the Waldenses," and "Jenkins on the Atonement." I generally read Jenkins; and I have often thought that the atonement ought to be pretty broad in its provisions to cover the case of a man that would write a book like that for a boy.
Then we used to go and see how the sun was getting on—when the sun was down the thing was over. I would sit three or four hours reading Jenkins, and then go out and the sun would not have gone down perceptibly. I used to think it stuck there out of simple, pure cussedness. But it went down at last, it had to; that was a part of the plan, and as the last rim of light would sink below the horizon, off would go our hats and we would give three cheers for liberty once again. I do not believe in making Sunday hateful for children. I believe in allowing them to be happy, and no day can be so sacred but that the laugh of a child will make it holier still. There is no God in the heavens that is pleased at the sadness of childhood. You cannot make me believe that. You fill their poor, little, sweet hearts with the fearful doctrine of hell. A little child goes out into the garden; there is a tree covered with a glory of blossoms and the child leans against it, and there is a little bird on the bough singing and swinging, and the waves of melody run out of its tiny throat, thinking about four little speckled eggs in the nest, warmed by the breast of its mate, and the air is filled with perfume, and that little child leans against that tree and thinks about hell and the worm that never dies; think of filling the mind of a child with that infamous dogma!
Where was that doctrine of hell born? Where did it come from? It came from that gentleman in the dug-out; it was a souvenir from the lower animal. I honestly believe that the doctrine of hell was born in the glittering eyes of snakes that run in frightful coils watching for their prey. I believe it was born in the yelping and howling and growling and snarling of wild beasts, I believe it was born in the grin of hyenas and in the malicious chatter of depraved apes, I despise it, I defy it and hate it; and when the great ship freighted with the world goes down in the night of death, chaos and disaster, I will not be guilty of the ineffable meanness of pushing from my breast my wife and children and padding off in some orthodox canoe. I will go down with those I love and with those who love me. I will go down with the ship and with my race. I will go where there is sympathy. I will go with those I love. Nothing can make me believe that there is any being that is going to burn and torment and damn his children forever. No, sir! You will never make me believe you can divide the world up into saints and sinners, and that the saints are all going to heaven and the others to hell. I don't believe that you can draw the line.
You are sometimes in the presence of a great disaster; there is a fire; at the fourth story window you see the white face of a woman with a child in her arms, and humanity calls out for somebody to go to the rescue through that smoke and flame, maybe death. They don't call for a Baptist, nor a Presbyterian, nor a Methodist, but humanity calls for a man. And all at once, out steps somebody that nobody ever did think was much, not a very good man, and yet he springs up the ladder and is lost in the smoke, and a moment afterward he emerges, and the cruel serpents of fire climb and hiss around his brave form, but he goes on and you see that woman and child in his arms, and you see them come down and they are handed to the bystanders, and he has fainted, maybe, and the crowd stand hushed, as they always do, in the presence of a grand action, and a moment after the air is rent with a cheer. Tell me that that man is going to hell, who is willing to lose his life merely to keep a woman and child from the torment of a moment's flame—tell me that he is going to hell; I tell you that it is a falsehood, and if anybody says so he is mistaken.
I have seen upon the battlefield a boy sixteen years of age struck by the fragment of a shell and life oozing slowly from the ragged lips of his death-wound, and I have heard him and seen him die with a curse upon his lips, and he had the face of his mother in his heart. Do you tell me that that boy left that field where he died that the flag of his country might wave forever in the air—do you tell me that he went from that field, where he lost his life in defense of the liberties of men, to an eternal hell? I tell you it is infamous!—and such a doctrine as that would tarnish the reputation of a hyena and smirch the fair fame of an anaconda.
Let us see whether we are to believe it or not. We had a war a little while ago and there was a draft made, and there was many a good Christian hired another fellow to take his place, hired one that was wicked, hired a sinner to go to hell in his place for five hundred dollars! While if he was killed he would go to heaven. Think of that. Think of a man willing to do that for five hundred dollars! I tell you when you come right down to it they have got too much heart to believe it; they say they do, but they do not appreciate it. They do not believe it. They would go crazy if they did. They would go insane. If a woman believed it, looking upon her little dimpled darling in the cradle, and said, "Nineteen chances in twenty I am raising fuel for hell," she would go crazy. They don't believe it, and can't believe it. The old doctrine was that the angels in heaven would become happier as they looked upon those in hell. That is not the doctrine now; we have civilized it. That is not the doctrine. What is the doctrine now? The doctrine is that those in heaven can look upon the agonies of those in hell, whether it is a fire or whatever it is, without having the happiness of those in heaven decreased—that is the doctrine.
That is preached today in every orthodox pulpit in Harrisburg. Let me put one case and I will be through with this branch of the subject. A husband and wife love each other. The husband is a good fellow and the wife a splendid woman. They live and love each other and all at once he is taken sick, and they watch day after day and night after night around his bedside until their property is wasted and finally she has to go to work, and she works through eyes blinded with tears, and the sentinel of love watches at the bedside of her prince, and at the least breath or the least motion she is awake; and she attends him night after night and day after day for years, and finally he dies, and she has him in her arms and covers his wasted face with the tears of agony and love. He is a believer and she is not. He dies, and she buries him and puts flowers above his grave, and she goes there in the twilight of evening and she takes her children, and tells her little boys and girls through her tears how brave and how true and how tender their father was, and finally she dies and she goes to hell, because she was not a believer; and he goes to the battlements of heaven and looks over and sees the woman who loved him with all the wealth of her love, and whose tears made his dead face holy and sacred, and he looks upon her in the agonies of hell without having his happiness diminished in the least.
With all due respect to everybody, I say, damn any such doctrine as that. It is infamous! It never ought to be preached; it never ought to be believed. We ought to be true to our hearts, and the best revelation of the infinite is the human heart.
Now, I come back to where I started from. They used to think that a certain day was too good for a child to be happy in, so they filled the imagination of this child with these horrors of hell. I said, and I say again, no day can be so sacred but that the laugh of a child will make the holiest day more sacred still. Strike with hand of fire, oh, weird musician, thy harp, strung with Apollo's golden hair; fill the vast cathedral aisles with symphonies sweet and dim, deft toucher of the organ keys; blow bugler, blow, until thy silver notes do touch the skies, with moonlit waves, and charm the lovers wandering on the vine-clad hills; but know, your sweetest strains are discords all, compared with childhood's happy laugh, the laugh that fills the eyes with light and every heart with joy; oh, rippling river of life, thou art the blessed boundary-line between the beasts and man, and every wayward wave of thine doth drown some fiend of care; oh, laughter, divine daughter of joy, make dimples enough in the cheeks of the world to catch and hold and glorify all the tears of grief.
I am opposed to any religion that makes them melancholy, that makes children sad, and that fills the human heart with shadow.
Give a child a chance. When I was a boy we always went to bed when we were not sleepy, and we always got up when we were sleepy. Let a child commence at which end of the day they please, that is their business; they know more about it than all the doctors in the world. The voice of nature when a man is free, is the voice of right, but when his passions have been damned up by custom, the moment that is withdrawn, he rushes to some excess. Let him be free from the first. Let your children grow in the free air and they will fill your house with perfume. Do not create a child to be a post set in an orthodox row; raise investigators and thinkers, not disciples and followers; cultivate reason, not faith; cultivate investigation, not superstition; and if you have any doubt yourself about a thing being so, tell them about it; don't tell them the world was made in six days—if you think six days means six good whiles, tell them six good whiles. If you have any doubts about anybody being in a furnace and not being burnt, or even getting uncomfortably warm, tell them so—be honest about it. If you look upon the jaw-bone of a donkey as not a good weapon, say so. Give a child a chance. If you think a man never went to sea in a fish, tell them so, it won't make them any worse. Be honest—that is all; don't cram their heads with things that will take them years and years to unlearn; tell them facts—it is just as easy. It is as easy to find out botany, and astronomy, and geology, and history—it is as easy to find out all these things as to cram their minds with things you know nothing about,* and where a child knows what the name of a flower is when it sees it, the name of a bird and all those things, the world becomes interesting everywhere, and they do not pass by the flowers—they are not deaf to all the songs of birds, simply because they are walking along thinking about hell.
[* "We know of no difference between matter and spirit, because we know nothing with certainty about either. Why trouble ourselves about matters of which, however important they may be we do know nothing and can know nothing?"—Huxley]
I tell you, this is a pretty good world if we only love somebody in it, if we only make somebody happy, if we are only honor-bright in it, if we have no fear. That is my doctrine. I like to hear children at the table telling what big things they have seen during the day; I like to hear their merry voices mingling with the clatter of knives and forks. I had rather hear that than any opera that was ever put on the stage. I hate this idea of authority. I hate dignity. I never saw a dignified man that was not after all an old idiot. Dignity is a mask; a dignified man is afraid that you will know he does not know everything. A man of sense and argument is always willing to admit what he don't know—why?—because there is so much that he does know; and that is the first step towards learning anything—willingness to admit what you don't know and when you don't understand a thing, ask—no matter how small and silly it may look to other people—ask, and after that you know. A man never is in a state of mind that he can learn until he gets that dignified nonsense out of him, and so, I say let us treat our children with perfect kindness and tenderness.
Now, then, I believe in absolute intellectual liberty; that a man has a right to think, and think wrong, provided he does the best he can to think right—that is all. I have no right to say that Mr. Smith shall not think; Mr. Smith has no right to say I shall not think; I have no right to go and pull a clergyman out of his pulpit and say: "You shall not preach that doctrine," but I have just as much right as he has to say my say. I have no right to lie about a clergyman, and with great modesty I claim—and with some timidity—that he has no right to slander me—that is all.
I claim that every man and wife are equal, except that she has a right to be protected; that there is nothing like the democracy of the home and the republicism of the fire-side, and that a man should study to make his wife's life one perpetual poem of joy; that there should be nothing but kindness and goodness; and then I say that children should be governed by love, by kindness, by tenderness, and by the sympathy of love, kindness and tenderness. That is the religion I have got, and it is good enough for me whether it suits anybody else in the world or not. I think it is altogether more important to believe in my wife than it is to believe in the master; I think it is altogether more important to love my children than the twelve apostles—that is my doctrine. I may be wrong, but that is it. I think more of the living than I do of the dead. This world is for the living. The grave is not a throne, and a corpse is not a king. The living have a right to control this world. I think a good deal more of today than I do of yesterday, and I think more of tomorrow than I do of this day; because it is nearly gone—that is the way I feel, and this my creed. The time to be happy is now; the way to be happy is to make somebody else happy; and the place to be happy is here. I never will consent to drink skim milk here with the promise of cream somewhere else.
Now, my friends, I have some excuses to offer for the race to which I belong. In the first place, this world is not very well adapted to raising good people; there is but one-quarter of it land to start with; it is three times as well adapted to fish-culture as it is to man, and of that one-quarter there is but a small belt where they raise men of genius. There is one strip from which all the men and women of genius come. When you go too far north yon find no brain; when you go too far south you find no genius, and there never has been a high degree of civilization except where there is winter. I say that winter is the father and mother of the fireside, the family of nations; and around that fireside blossom the fruits of our race. In a country where they don't need any bed-clothes except the clouds, revolution is the normal condition not much civilization there. When in the winter I go by a house where the curtain is a little bit drawn, and I look in there and see children poking the fire and wishing they had as many dollars or knives or something else as there are sparks; when I see the old man smoking and the smoke curling above his head like incense from the altar of domestic peace, the other children reading or doing something, and the old lady with her needle and shears—I never pass such a scene that I do not feel a little ache of joy in my heart.
Awhile ago they were talking about annexing San Domingo. They said it was the finest soil in the world, and so on. Says I, "It don't raise the right kind of folks; you take five thousand of the best people in the world and let them settle there and you will see the second generation barefooted, with the hair sticking out of the top of their sombreros; you will see them riding barebacked, with a rooster under each arm, going to a cockfight on Sunday." That is one excuse I have.
Another is, I think we came from the lower animals, I am not dead sure of it. On that question I stand about eight to seven. If there is nothing of the snake, or hyena, or jackal in man, why would he cut his brother's throat for a difference of belief? Why would he build dungeons and burn the flesh of his brother man with red hot irons? I think we came from the lower animals. When I first heard that doctrine I did not like it. I felt sorry for our English friends, who would have to trace their pedigree back to the Duke of Orangutan, or the Earl of Chimpanzee. But I have read so much about rudimentary bones and rudimentary muscles that I began to doubt about it. Says I: "What do you mean by rudimentary muscles?" They say: "A muscle that has gone into bankruptcy—" "Was it a large muscle?" "Yes." "What did our forefathers use it for?" They say: "To flap their ears with." After I found that out I was astonished to find that they had become rudimentary; I know so many people for whom it would be handy today, so many people where that would have been on an exact level with their intellectual development. So after while I began to like it, and says I to myself: "You have got to come to it." I thought after all I had rather belong to a race of people that came from skull-less vertebrae in the dim Laurentian period, that wiggled without knowing they were wiggling, that began to develop and came up by a gradual development until they struck this gentleman in the dug-out; coming up slowly—up-up-up—until, for instance, they produced such a man as Shakespeare—he who harvested all the fields of dramatic thought, and after whom all others have been only gleaners of straw, he who found the human intellect dwelling in a hut, touched it with the wand of his genius and it became a palace—producing him and hundreds of others I might mention—with the angels of progress leaning over the far horizon beckoning this race of work and thought—I had rather belong to a race commencing at the skull-less vertebrae producing the gentleman in the dug-out and so on up, than to have descended from a perfect pair upon which the Lord has lost money from that day to this. I had rather belong to a race that is going up than to one that is going down. I would rather belong to one that commenced at the skull-less vertebrae and started for perfection, than to belong to one, that started from perfection and started for the skull-less vertebrae.
These are the excuses I have for my race, and taking everything into consideration, I think we have done extremely well.
Let us have more liberty and free thought. Free thought will give us truth. It is too early in the history of the world to write a creed. Our fathers were intellectual slaves; our fathers were intellectual serfs. There never has been a free generation on the globe. Every creed you have got bears the mark of whip, and chain, and fagot. There has been no creed written by a free brain. Wait until we have had two or three generations of liberty and it will then be time enough to seize the swift horse of progress by the bridle and say—thus far and no farther; and in the meantime let us be kind to each other; let us be decent towards each other. We are all travelers on the great plain we call life and there is nobody quite sure, what road to take—not just dead sure, you known. There are lots of guide-boards on the plain and you find thousands of people swearing today that their guide-board is the only board that shows the right direction. I go and talk to them and they say: "You go that way, or you will be damned." I go to another and they say: "You go this way, or you will be damned." I find them all fighting and quarreling and beating each other, and then I say: "Let us cut down all these guide-boards." "What," they say, "leave us without any guide-boards?" I say: "Yes. Let every man take the road he thinks is right; and let everybody else wish him a happy journey; let us part friends."
I say to you tonight, my friends, that I have no malice upon this subject—not a particle; I simply wish to express my thoughts. The world has grown better just in proportion as it is happier; the world has grown better just in proportion as it has lost superstition; the world has grown better just in the proportion that the sacerdotal class has lost influence—just exactly; the world has grown better just in proportion that secular ideas have taken possession of the world. The world has grown better just in proportion that it has ceased talking about the visions of the clouds, and talked about the realities of the earth. The world has grown better just in the proportion that it has grown free, and I want to do what little I can in my feeble way to add another flame to the torch of progress. I do not know, of course, what will come, but if I have said anything tonight that will make a husband love his wife better, I am satisfied; if I have said anything, that will make a wife love her husband better, I am satisfied; if I have said anything that will add one more ray of joy to life, I am satisfied; if I have said anything that will save the tender flesh of a child from a blow, I am satisfied; if I have said anything that will make us more willing to extend to others the right we claim for ourselves, I am satisfied.
I do not know what inventions are in the brain of the future; I do not know what garments of glory may be woven for the world in the loom of the years to be; we are just on the edge of the great ocean of discovery. I do not know what is to be discovered; I do not know what science will do for us. I do know that science did just take a handful of sand and make the telescope, and with it read all the starry leaves of heaven; I know that science took the thunderbolts from the hands of Jupiter, and now the electric spark, freighted with thought and love, flashes under waves of the sea. I know that science stole a tear from the cheek of unpaid labor, converted it into steam, and created a giant that turns with tireless arms the countless wheels of toil; I know that science broke the chains from human limbs and gave us instead the forces of nature for our slaves; I know that we have made the attraction of gravitation work for us; we have made the lightnings our messengers; we have taken advantage of fire and flames and wind and sea; these slaves have no backs to be whipped; they have no hearts to be lacerated; they have no children to be stolen, no cradles to be violated. I know that science has given us better houses; I know it has given us better pictures and better books; I know it has given us better wives and better husbands, and more beautiful children. I know it has enriched a thousand-fold our lives; and for that reason I am in favor of intellectual liberty.
I know not, I say, what discoveries may lead the world to glory; but I do know that from the infinite sea of the future never a greater or grander blessing will strike this bank and shoal of time than liberty for man, woman and child.
Ladies and gentlemen, I have delivered this lecture a great many times; clergymen have attended, and editors of religious newspapers, and they have gone away and written in their papers and declared in their pulpits that in this lecture I advocated universal adultery; they have gone away and said it was obscene and disgusting. Between me and my clerical maligners, between me and my religious slanderers, I leave you, ladies and gentlemen, to judge.
Ingersoll's Lecture on Human Rights
Ladies and Gentlemen: I suppose that man, from the most grotesque savage up to Heckle, has had a philosophy by which he endeavored to account for all the phenomena of nature he may have observed. From that mankind may have got their ideas of right and wrong. Now, where there are no rights there can be no duties. Let us always remember that only as a man becomes free can he by any possibility become good or great. As I said, every savage has had his philosophy, and by it accounted for everything he observed. He had an idea of rain and rainbow, and he had an idea of a controlling power. One said there is a being who presides over our world, and who will destroy us unless we do right. Others had many of these beings, but they were invariably like themselves. The most fruitful imagination cannot make more than a man, though it may make infinite powers and attributes out of the powers and attributes of man. You can't build a God unless you start with a human being. The savage said, when there was a storm, "Somebody is angry." When lightning leaped from the lurid cloud, he thought, "What have I been doing?" and when he couldn't think of any wrong he had been doing, he tried to think of some wrong his neighbor had been doing.
I may as well state here that I believe man has come up from the lowest orders of creation, and may have not come up very far; still, I believe we are doing very well, considering.
But, speaking of man's early philosophy, his morality was founded first on self-defense. When gathered together in tribes, he held that this infinite being would hold the tribe responsible for the actions of any individual who had angered him. They imagined this being got angry. Just imagine the serenity of an infinite being being disturbed, and a God breaking into a passion because some poor wretch had neglected to bring two turtle doves to a priest!
Then they sought out this poor offending individual, to punish him and appease the wroth of this being. And here commenced religious persecution.
Now, I do not say there is no God, but what I do say is that I do not know. The only difference between me and the theologian is that I am honest. There may or there may not be an infinite being, but I do not know it, and until I do I cannot conceive of any obedience I owe to any unknown being.
As soon as men began to imagine they would be held responsible for the act of any other person, came the necessity for some one to teach them how to keep from offending the being. Some called him medicine man, some called him priest; now, we call him theologian. These men set out to teach men how to keep from offending this being, and they laid down certain laws to regulate the conduct of men. First of all it was necessary to believe in this power. To disbelieve in him was the worst offense of all. To have some human being, dressed in the skin of a wild beast, deny the existence of this infinite being, was more than the infinite being could stand. The first thing, therefore, was to believe in this power, the next to support this gentleman standing between you and the supreme wrath. These gentlemen were the lobbyists with the power, and sometimes succeeded in getting the veto used in favor of their clients.
For ages, as mankind slowly came through the savage state, the world was filled with infinite fear. They accounted for everything bad that happened as the wrath of this supreme being. But they went from savagery to barbarism—a step in improvement—and then began to build temples to, and make images of, this being. Then man began to believe he could influence this being by prayer, by getting on his knees to the image he had made.
Nothing, I suppose astonishes a missionary more than to see a savage in Central Africa on his knees before a stone praying for luck in hunting or in fighting. And yet it strikes me—we have our army chaplains before a battle praying for the success of our side. They don't pray for assistance if our cause is just, but they pray, "Lord help us!" I can't see the difference between the two.
But there is this said in favor of prayer that, whether successful or not, it is a sort of intellectual exercise. Like a man trying to lift himself, he may not succeed, but he gets a good deal of exercise.
But as man proceeds, he begins to help himself and to take advantage of mechanical powers to assist him, and he begins to see he can help himself a little, and exactly in the proportion he helps himself he comes to rely less on the power of priest or prayer to help him. Just to the extent we are helpless, to that extent do we rely upon the unknown.
As religion developed itself, keeping pace with the belief in theology, came the belief in demonology. They gave one being all the credit of doing all the good things, and must give some one credit for the bad things, and so they created a devil. At one time it was as disreputable to deny the existence of a devil as to deny the existence of a God; to deny the existence of a hell, with its fire and brimstone, as to deny the existence of a heaven with its harp and love.
With the development of religion came the idea that no man should be allowed to bring the wrath of God on a nation by his transgressions, and this idea permeates the Christian world today. Now what does this prove? Simply that our religion is founded on fear, and when you are afraid you cannot think. Fear drops on its knees and believes. It is only courage that can think. It was the idea that man's actions could do something, outside of any effect his mechanical works might have, to change the order of nature; that he might commit some offense to bring on an earthquake, but he can't do it. You can't be bad enough to cause an earthquake; neither can you be good enough to stop one. Out of that wretched doctrine and infamous mistake that man's belief could have any effect upon nature grew all these inquisitions, racks and collars of torture, and all the blood that was ever shed by religious persecution.
In Europe the country was divided between kings and priests. The king held that he got the power from the unknown; so did the priests. They could not say that they got it from the people; the people would deny it; the unknown could not deny it. And thus the altar and throne stand side by side. And republicanism was a thing unknown.
It has been said that the pilgrim fathers came to this country to establish religious liberty. They did no such thing. They were not in favor of it. They came with the Testament in their hands, and with it they could have no idea of religious liberty. When they had established thirteen colonies here, and had struggled for and obtained their independence, they established federal government, but did they seek after religious liberty? No! When they formed a federal government each church and each colony was jealous of the other. They said to the general government, "You can't have any religion in the constitution," but each state could make its own religion, and they made them.
Here the speaker read copious extracts from the statutes of the different states in reference to the qualifications for the exercise of citizenship—the religious belief necessary; and, on concluding, asked, "Had they (the members who drew up these state constitutions) any idea of religious liberty."
Continuing, he said: "Now, my friends, there's a party started in this country with the object of giving every man, woman and child the rights they are entitled to. Now every one of us has the same rights. I have the right to labor and to have the products of my labor. I have the right to think, and furthermore, to express my thoughts, because expression is the reward of my intellectual labor. And yet in the United States there are states where men of my ideas would not be allowed to testify in a court of justice. Is that right? There are states in this country where, if the law had been enforced, I would have been sent to the penitentiary for lecturing. All such laws are enacted by barbarians, and our country will not be free until they are wiped from the statute books of every state.
Does an infinite being need to be protected by a State Legislature? If the bible is inspired, does the author of it need the support of the law to command respect? We don't need any law to make mankind respect Shakespeare. We come to the altar of that great man and cover it with our gratitude without a statute. Think of a law to govern tastes! Think of a law to govern mind, or any question whatever! Think of the way in which they have supported the bible! They've terrorized the old with laws, and captured the dear, little innocent children and poisoned their minds with their false stories until, when they have reached the age of manhood, they have been afraid to think for themselves. Let us see what the laws are now, by which they guard their bible and their God.
[Here the speaker read extracts from the statutes of several states in reference to blasphemy and profanation of the Sabbath, commenting on each as he ran them through:] Pursuing the thread of his discourse, he said: Every American should see to it that all these laws are done away with once and forever.
There has been a reaction of late years. This country has begun to be prosperous. We don't think much of religion; 'tis only when hard times come we turn our attention toward it. There are people in this country who say we are getting too irreligious, too scientific. Now, is it not a fact that we are happier today than at any period in our history? You live in a great country, though perhaps you do not know it. But live in any other country for a while, and you'll find it out. See, then, what we've got by looking a little to the affairs of the world! The bible can't stand today without the support of the civil power. No religion ever flourished except by the support of the sword, and no religion like this could have been established except by brute force.
At one time we thought a great deal of clergymen, but now we have got to thinking they ain't of as much importance as a man that has invented something. The church seeing this has made up its mind that it is necessary to do something, and so got up a plan to be acknowledged by law. Here's what they wish to do: [Here the speaker read some extracts from the constitution of the National Reform Association.] Continuing he said: Our fathers, in 1776, building better than they knew, retired the gods from politics. I do not believe Jesus Christ is the ruler of nations. If he is the ruler of one he is the ruler of all. Why does he not then rule one as well as another? If you give him credit for the good things of one you must denounce him for the tyranny and despotism of others. The revealed word of God is not the standing of civil justice in this country! The bible is not the standard of right and wrong or of decency in this country.
You can't put God in the constitution, because if you do there would be no room for the folks. Whatever you put in the constitution you must enforce by the sword, and you can't go to war with any man for not believing in your God. God has no business there, and any man that is in favor of putting him there is an enemy to the interests of American institutions.
Now for the purpose of preventing the name of God being put in the constitution, there's another little party has been started and these are its doctrines: We want an absolute divorce between church and state. We demand that church property should not be exempt from taxation. If you are going to exempt anything, exempt the homesteads of the poor. Don't exempt a rich corporation, and make men pay taxes to support a religion in which they do not believe. But they say churches do good. I don't know whether they do or not. Do you see such a wonderful difference between a member of a church and the man who does not believe in it? Do church members pay their debts any better than any others? Do they treat their families any better? Did you ever hear of any man coming into a town broke and inquire where the deacon of a Presbyterian church lived? Has not the church opposed every science from the first ray of light until now? Didn't they damn into eternal flames the man who discovered the world was round? Didn't they damn into eternal flames the man who discovered the movement of the earth in its orbit? Didn't they persecute the astronomers? Didn't they even try to put down life insurance by saying it was sinful to bet on the time God has given you to live? Science built the Academy, superstition the Inquisition. Science constructed the telescope, religion the rack; science made us happy here, and says if there's another life we'll all stand an equal chance there; religion made us miserable here, and says a large majority will be eternally miserable there. Should we, therefore, exempt it from taxation for any good it has done?
The next thing we ask is a perfect divorce between church and school. We say that every school should be secular, because its just to everybody. If I was an Israelite I wouldn't want to be taxed to have my children taught that his ancestors had murdered a supreme being. Let us teach, not the doctrines of the past, but the discoveries of the present; not the five points of Calvinism, but geology and geography. Education is the lever to raise mankind, and superstition is the enemy of intelligence.
We demand, next, that woman shall be put upon an equality with man. Why not? Why shouldn't men be decent enough in the management of the politics of the country for women to mingle with them? It is an outrage that anyone should live in this country for sixty or seventy years and be forced to obey the laws without having any voice in making them. Let us give woman the opportunity to care for herself, since men are not decent enough to seek to care for her. The time will come when we'll treat a woman that works and takes care of two or three children as well as a woman dressed in diamonds who does nothing. The time will come when we'll not tell our domestic we expect to meet her in heaven, and yet not be willing to have her speak to us in the drawing room.
Ignorance is a poor pedestal to set virtue upon and mock-modesty should not have the right to prevent people from knowing themselves. Every child has a right to be well-born, and ignorance has no right to people the world with scrofula and consumption. When we come to the conclusion that God is not taking care of us and that we have to take care of ourselves, then we'll begin to have something in the world worth living for.
I would wish there was seated upon the throne of the universe one who would see to it that justice did always prevail. I do not propose to give up the little world I live in for the unknown.
I would wish that the friends who bid us "good night" in this world might meet us with "good morning" there. Just as long as we love one another we'll hope for another world; just as long as love kisses the lips of death will we believe and hope for a future reunion. I would not take one hope away from the human heart or one joy from the human soul, but I hold in contempt the gentlemen who keep heaven on sale; I look with contempt on him who keeps it on draught; I look with pitying contempt on him who endeavors to prohibit honest thought by promising a reward in another world. If there is another world we'll find when we come there that no one has done enough good to be eternally rewarded, no one has done enough harm to meet with an unending, eternal pain and agony. We'll find that there is no being that ever hindered a man from exercising his reason. Now, while we are here, no matter what happens to us hereafter, let us cultivate strength of heart and brain to stand the inevitable. No creed can help you there. When the heart is touched with agony nothing but time can heal it.
I want, if I can, to do a little to increase the rights of men, to put every human being on an equality, to sweep away the clouds of superstition, to make people think more of what happens today than what somebody said happened 3,000 years ago. This is all I want: To do what little I can to clutch one-seventh of our time from superstition, to give our Sundays to rest and recreation. I want a day of enjoyment, a day to read old books, to meet old friends, and get acquainted with one's wife and children. I want a day to gather strength to meet the toils of the next. I want to get that day away from the church, away from superstition and the contemplation of hell, to be the best and sweetest and brightest of all the days in the week. The best way to make a day sacred is to fill it up with useful labor. That day is best on which most good is done for the human race. I hope to see the time when we'll have a day for the opera, the play—good plays—for they do good. You never saw the villain foiled in a play where the audience did not applaud. You never saw them applaud when the rascal was successful in his villainy. If you could go to a theater and see put upon the stage the scenes of the old testament, with its butcheries and rapes and deeds of violence, you would detest it all the days of your life. I'd like to have every horror of the old testament set on this stage, to have somebody represent the being as he is represented there, giving his brutal orders, and let the orthodox see their God as he really is.
I want to have us all do what little we can to secularize this government—take it from the control of savagery and give it to science, take it from the government of the past and give it to the enlightened present, and in this government let us uphold every man and woman in their rights, that everyone, after he or she comes to the age of discretion, may have a choice in the affairs of the nation.
Do this, and we'll grow in grandeur and splendor every day, and the time will come when every man and every woman shall have the same rights as every other man and every other woman has. I believe, we are growing better. I don't believe the wail of want shall be heard forever; that the prison and gallows will always curse the ground. The time will come when liberty and law and love, like the rings of Saturn, will surround the world; when the world will cease making these mistakes; when every man will be judged according to his worth and intelligence. I want to do all I can to hasten that day.
Ingersoll's Lecture on Talmagian Theology (Second Lecture)
Col. Ingersoll began, "Only a few years ago the pulpit was almost supreme. The palace was almost in the shadow of the cathedral, and the power behind every throne was a priest. Man was held in physical slavery by kings, and in a mental prison by the church. He was allowed to hold no opinions as to where he came from, nor as to where he was going. It was sufficient for him to do the labor and believe the kings would do the governing and the priests the thinking—and, my God, what thinking! If the world had obeyed the priests we would all be idiots tonight. The eagle of intellect would have given way to the blind bat of faith. They were the rack, the faggot, the thumbscrew in this world, and hell in the next. Only a few years ago no man could express an honest thought unless he agreed with the church. The church has been a perpetual beggar. It has never plowed, it never sowed, it never spun, yet Solomon in all his glory was not so arrayed. Thanks to modern thought, the brain of the nineteenth century, to Voltaire, Paine, Hume, to all the free men, that beggar—the church—is no longer upon horseback; and it fills me with joy to state that even its walking is not now good. Only a little while ago a priest was thought more than human. Nobody dared contradict the minister. Now there are other learned professions. There are doctors, lawyers, writers, books, newspapers, and the priest has hundreds of rivals.
The priest grew jealous, hateful; he was always thankful for an epidemic or pestilence, so that people would turn to him in despair. In our country all the men of intellect were in the pulpit once. Now there are so many avenues to distinction the men of brain, heart and red blood have left the pulpit and gone to useful things. I do not say all. There are still some men of mind in the pulpit, but they are nearer infidels than any others. Where do we get our ministers? A young man, without constitution enough to be wicked, without health enough to enjoy the things of this world, naturally, fixes his gaze on high. He is educated, sent to a university where he is taught that it is criminal to think. Stuffed with a creed, he comes out a shepherd. Most of them are intellectual shreds and patches, mental ravelings, selvage. Every pulpit is a pillory in which stands a convict; every member of the church stands over him with a club, called a creed. He is an intellectual slave, and dare not preach his honest thought. There are thousands of good men in the pulpit, honest men. I am simply describing the average shepherd; they tell me "they've been called," that Almighty God selected them. He looked all over the world and said: "Now, there's a man I want!" And what selections! Shakespeare was not called. Yet he has done more for this world than all the ministers who have ever lived in it. Beethoven! He was not called. Raphael was not called. He was all an accident. All the inventors, discoverers, poets—God never called one of them; he turned his attention to popes, cardinals, priests, exhorters; and what selections he has made! It's astonishing.
In the United States a great many ministers have been good enough to take me for a text. Among others the Rev. Mr. Talmage, of Brooklyn. I have nothing to say about his reputation. It has nothing to do with the question. Some ministers think he has more gesticulation than grace. Some call him a pious pantaloon, a Christian clown; but such remarks, I think, are born of envy. He is the only Presbyterian minister in the United States who can draw an audience. He stands at the head of the denomination, and I answer him. He's a strange man. I believe he's orthodox, or intellectual pride would prevent his saying these things. He believes in a literal resurrection of the dead; that we shall see countless bones flying through the air. He has some charges against me, and he has denied some of my statements. He has produced what he calls arguments, and I am going to answer some of the charges. Next Sunday afternoon, at 2 o'clock; in this place, I shall have a matinee, and answer his arguments. He says I am the champion blasphemer. What is blasphemy? To contradict a priest? to have a mind of your own? Whoever takes a step in advance is a blasphemer. Blasphemy is what a last year's leaf says to a this year's bud. To deny that Mohammed is the prophet of God is not blasphemy in New York. It is in Constantinople. It is a question, then, largely of Geography. It depends on where you are. The missionary who laughs at a modern God is a blasphemer. In a Catholic country whoever says Mary is not the mother of God is a blasphemer. In a Protestant country to say she is the mother of God is blasphemy. Everything has been blasphemy. My doctrine is this: He is a blasphemer who refuses to tell his honest thought; who is not true to himself; who enslaves his fellow man; who charges that God was once in favor of slavery. If there is any God, that man is a blasphemer. They're afraid we'll injure God. How? Is infinite goodness and mercy to become livid with wrath because a finite being expresses an opinion? I cannot help the infinite. That man only is the good man who helps his fellow man. I know then who would do anything for God, who doesn't need it, but nothing for men, who do need it. Why should God be so particular about my believing his book? It's no more his work than the stars of gravitation. Yet I may declare that the earth is flat, and he'll not damn me for that. But if I make a mistake about that book I'm gone. I can blaspheme the multiplication table and deify the power of the wedge—in fact, the less I know the better my chance will be. I say that book is not inspired, and there is no infinitely good God who will damn one human soul. At the judgment, if I am mistaken I own up—I am here, I do not know where I came from, nor where I am going—I'll be honest about it. I am on a ship and not on speaking terms with the captain, but I propose to have a happy voyage, and the best way is to do what you can to make your fellow passengers happy. If we run into a good port, I'll be as happy an angel as you'll meet that day. Blasphemy is the cry of a defeated priest—the black flag of theology—it shows where argument stops and slander and persecution begin. I am told by Mr. Talmage that whoever contradicts this word is a fool, a howling wolf, one of the assassins of God. I presume the gentleman is honest. Take Mr. Talmage, now, he is a good man. Mr. Humboldt, he was another good man. What Humboldt knew and what Talmage didn't know would make a library.
The next charge is that I have said the universe was made of nothing, according to the bible. False in one thing, false in all, he says. Think of that rule. Let us apply that to man. If the world was created, what was it make of? and who made that? If the Lord created it, what did He make it of? Nothing. That's all He had. No sides, no top, nothing. Yet God had lived there forever. What did He think about? What did He do? Nothing. Nothing had ever happened. All at once He made something. What did He make it of? Mr. Talmage explains.
He says if I knew anything I would know that God made this world out of His omnipotence. He might just as well made it out of His memory. What is omnipotence? Is it a raw material? The weakest man in the world can lift as much nothing as God. Yet He made this world out of His omnipotence. It is so stated by a doctor of divinity, and I should think such divinity would need a doctor! I don't believe this. I believe this universe has existed throughout all eternity—everything. All that is, is God. I do not give to that universe a personality that wants man to get his knees into dust and his fingers in holy water; that wants some body to ring a bell or eat a wafer. I am a part of this universe, and I believe all there is, is all the God there is. I may be mistaken; I don't know. I just give my best opinion. If there's any heaven, I'll give it there. But there'll be no discussion in heaven. Hell is the only place where mental improvement will be possible.
I have said, it is charged, that the bible says the world was made in six days. He says I don't understand Hebrew. The bible says the world was made in six days. God didn't work nights—evening and morning were the first day. God rested on the seventh day, and sanctified it. That, they say, didn't mean days; it meant good whiles. He made the world in six good whiles. Adam was made, I think along about Saturday. If the account is correct, it's only 6,000 years since man made his appearance. We know that to be false. A few years ago a gentleman who was going to California in the cars met a minister. They came to the place called the Sink of the Humboldt, the most desolate place in the world. Just imagine perdition with the fire out. The traveler asked the minister whether God made the earth in six days, and the minister said he did. Then don't you think, said he, He could have put in another day's work to great advantage right here? I am charged, too, with saying that the sun was not made till the fourth day, whereas, according to the bible, vegetation began on the third day, before there was any light. But Mr. Talmage says there was light without the sun. They got light, he says, from the crystallization of rocks. A nice thing to raise a crop of corn by. There may have been volcanoes, he says. How'd you like to farm it, and depend on volcanic glare to raise a crop? That's what they call religious science. God won't damn a man for things like that. What else? The aurora borealis! A great cucumber country! It's strange He never thought of glow worms! Imagine it! a Presbyterian divine gravely saying vegetation could grow by the light of the crystallization of rocks—by the light of volcanoes in other worlds, probably now extinct.
He says of me, too in his pulpit, that I was in favor of the circulation of immoral literature. Let me tell you the truth. Several gentlemen, so-called, were trying to exclude from the mails, books called infidel. I said the law should be modified. It is impossible for anybody to reach the depth of one who will print or circulate obscene books. One of my objections to the bible is that it contains obscene stories. Any book, couched in decent language, should have the liberty of the United States mails. Where books are immoral and obscene, I say, burn them, and have always said it. Mr. Talmage said what he knew to be untrue. He said it out of hatred, and because he cannot answer the arguments I have urged. I believe in pure books and pure literature. But when a God writes there is no excuse for Him. In Shakespeare we say obscene things are impure—we do not say they are inspired. That I have falsified the records of the bible showing the period of Jewish slavery, is another of the charges against me. That slavery extended over a period of 215 years; and he proceeded to substantiate this statement by being through a long and somewhat complicated genealogical table. If I made any misstatement I was misled by the new testament. Mr. Talmage may settle with St. Paul. If you can depend on what my friend Paul says, the Jews, in 215 years, increased from seventy persons till they had 600,000 men of war. I know it isn't so, and so does any man who knows anything. For such an increase as this each woman must have borne somewhat over fifty-seven children, and every child lived.
The next charge is that I have laughed at holy things. Holy things! The priest always says: "Now don't laugh; look solemn; this is no laughing matter." There's nothing a priest hates like mirthfulness. He despises a smile. I read in the bible that God gave a recipe to Aaron for making hair-oil and said if anybody made any like it, kill him. Well, I don't believe it. The penalty for infringing on that patent was death. Do you believe an infinite God gave a recipe for hair-oil? Is it possible for absurdity to go beyond that? That's what they call a holy thing. And water for baptism! Do you believe God will look for this water-mark on the soul?
The next charge is that I misquote the scriptures. That's because I don't know Hebrew. Why didn't He write to me in English? If He wishes to hold a gentleman responsible, why doesn't He address him in his native tongue? Why write His word in such a way that hundreds of thousands make their living explaining it? If I'd only understood Hebrew I would have known God didn't make Eve out of a rib. He made her out of Adam's side. How did He get it out? Well, I suppose He cut it out with a kind of a splinter of His omnipotence! Then our mother was made from a rib. When you consider the material used it was the most successful job ever done. There's even a serpent in the bible that knows a language. It won't do. Sin, how did it come into the world? Where did the serpent come from? He was wicked. Adam's sin did not make him bad. Then there was sin in the world before Adam. There's no sense in it—not a particle. Then Talmage touches me upon the flood. His flood didn't come to America, because America was not discovered then. He says it was a partial flood. Then why did they have to take any birds in the ark? How did Noah get the animals in the ark? Talmage says it was through the instinct to get out of the rain. According to the bible they went in before the rain began. Dr. Scott says the angels helped carry them in. Imagine an angel with an animal under each wing. It must have rained 800 feet a day for forty days. Why does Talmage try to explain a miracle? The beauty of a miracle is it cannot be explained. The moment the church begins to explain the church is gone. All it's got to do is swear it is so. The ark landed on Ararat, which is 17,000 feet high. There was only one window, twenty-two inches square. Talmage says the window ran clear around the ark. The bible doesn't say so. That's Brooklyn; that's no bible.
If the bible account is true the ark must have struck bottom on the top of a mountain. Would any but a God of mercy and kindness people a world, and then drown them all? A God cruel enough to drown His own children ought not to have the impudence to tell me how to bring up mine. Why did He save eight of the same kind of people to take a fresh start? Why didn't He make a fresh lot, kill His snake, and give His children a fair show? It won't do.
Talmage says the bible does not favor polygamy and slavery. There was room enough on the table of stone for saying man should only have one wife and no slaves. If not, God might have written it on the other side. David and Solomon were pursued of God, but they had a pretty good time of it. Most anybody would be willing to be pursued that way. There is not a word in the old testament against slavery or polygamy. Frederick Douglas, a slave in Maryland, is the greatest man that state ever produced. He was enslaved by Christians. Why did God pay so much attention to blasphemers, and so little to slaveholders and robbers? I am opposed to any God that was ever in favor of slavery. The bible upholds polygamy, and that's the reason I don't uphold the bible. The most glorious temple ever erected is the home—that's my church. I've misquoted the story of Jonah, Talmage says. When somebody had been guilty of blasphemy the winds rose; they tried to get Jonah ashore, but couldn't do it. The sea waxed. He was swallowed by a whale. The people of Minerva wrapped all their cattle up in sack-cloth, and if anything would have pleased God I should think that would. Jonah sat under a gourd, and God made a worm out of some omnipotence he had left over, and set it work on the ground. Talmage doesn't think Jonah was in the whale's belly—he said in his mouth. Well, judging from the doctor's photograph, that explanation would be quite natural to him. He says he might have been in the whale's stomach, and avoided the action of the gastric juice by walking up and down. Imagine Jonah, sitting on a back tooth, leaning against the upper jaw, longingly looking through the open mouth for signs of land! But that's scripture and you've got to believe it or be damned. Let me say his brother preachers will not thank Talmage for his explanations. I don't believe it, and if I am to be damned for it, I'll accept it cheerfully.
They say I was defeated for Governor of Illinois because I was an infidel, and that I am an infidel because I was defeated. That's logic. Now I'll tell you. They asked me whether I was an infidel, and I said I was! I was defeated. I preserved my manhood and lost an office. If everybody were as frank as I was, some men now in office would be private citizens. I would rather be what I am than hold any office in the world and be a slimy hypocrite.
Next they say I slandered my parents because I do not believe what they believed. My father at one time believed the bible to be the inspired word of God. He was an honorable man, and told me to read the bible for myself and be honest. He lived long enough to believe that the old testament was not the word of God. He had not in his life as much happiness as I have in one year. I hope my children will dishonor me by being nearer right than I am. If I have made a mistake, I want my children to correct it. My mother died when I was 2 years old. Were she living tonight, or if she does live, she would say, be absolutely true to yourself and preserve your manhood. If Talmage had been born in Constantinople he would have been a dervish. He is what he is because he can't help it. His head is just that shape. I am taking away the hope and consolation of the world, he says. His consolation is that ninety-nine out of every hundred are going to hell. His church was founded by John Calvin, a murderer. Better have no heaven than a hell. I would rather God would commit suicide this minute than that a single soul should go to hell. I want no Presbyterian consolation, I want no fore-ordination, no consolation, no damnation.
[Col. Ingersoll concluded with a few remarks about the bible women, saying that women today are as true to the gallows as Mary Magdalene was to the cross.]
Wherever there are women there are heroines. Shakespeare's women are vastly superior to the bible women. I am accused of putting out the light-houses on the shores of the other world. The Christians are trimming invisible wicks and pouring in allegorical oil. The Christian is willing wife, children and parents shall burn if only he can sing and have a harp. Mr. Talmage can see countless millions burn in hell without decreasing the length of his orthodox smile.
Ingersoll's Lecture on Talmagian Theology (Third lecture)
We must judge people somewhat by their creeds. Mr. Talmage is a Calvinist, and he therefore regards every human being who has been born only once as totally depraved. He thinks that God never made a single creature that didn't deserve to be damned the minute He finished him. So every one who opposes Mr. Talmage is infamous. The generosity of an agnostic is meanness, his honesty is larceny and his love is hate. Talmage is a consistent follower of Calvin and Knox, and a consistent worshiper of the Jehovah of the ancient Jews. I oppose not him, but his creed, because it tends to crush out the natural tendencies in men to joyousness and goodness. There is something good in every human being, and there is something bad. There are no perfect saints and no totally bad persons. There is the seed of goodness in every human heart and the capacity for improvement in every human soul. Isn't it possible for a man who acts like Christ to be saved, whatever be his belief? Cannot a soul be infinitely generous? And can any God damn such a soul? If Mr. Talmage's creed be true, nearly all the great and glorious men of the past are burning today. If it be true, the greatest man England has produced in 100 years is in hell. The world is poorer since I spoke here last, for Darwin has passed away. He was a true child of nature—one who knew more about his mother than any other child she had. Yet he was not a Calvinist. He did not get his inspiration from any book, but from every star in the heavens, from the insect in the sunbeam, from the flowers in the meadows, and from the everlasting rocks.
If the doctrine of the Calvinists is true, what right had any one to ask an unbeliever to fight for his country in the civil war? What right has a believer to buy an unbelieving substitute, when some day he will look over the edge of heaven, and pointing downward, would say to a friend, "that is my substitute blistering there"?
Mr. Talmage says that my mind is poisoned, and that the reason why all infidels' minds are poisoned is that they don't believe the Jew bible. Let us see whether it is worth believing. I deny that an infinitely merciful God would protect slavery or would uphold polygamy, which pollutes the sweetest words in language. I will not believe that God told men to exterminate their fellow-men, to plunge the sword into women's breasts and into the hearts of tender babes. I am opposed to the Jew bible because it is bad. I don't deny that there are many good passages in it, nor that among all the thorns there are some roses. I admit that many Christians are doing all they can to idealize the frightful things in the old testament. It is the protest of human nature. Now, they tell me that this book is inspired. Let us see what inspired means. If it means anything, it is that the thoughts of God, through the instrumentality of men, constitute this Jew bible, and that these thoughts were written. Now just suppose that some voice whispered in your ear, how would you know it was God's? How did these gentlemen of old know it was God who was talking to them? If anyone now told you that God whispered in his ear, you wouldn't believe him. Why? Because you know him. Why are we asked to believe those ancient gentlemen? Because we don't know them. Another reason, according to Mr. Talmage, why the Jew bible is inspired, is that prophecies in it have been fulfilled. How do we know that the prophecies were not fulfilled before they were written? They are so vague that you can't tell what was prophesied. If you will read the Jew bible carefully, you will see that there was not a line, not a word, prophesying the coming of Christ. Catholics were right in saying that if the Jew bible was to be kept in awe it must be kept from the people. Protestants are wrong in letting the people read it.
Another argument of Mr. Talmage for the inspiration of the bible is that the Jews have been kept as a wandering, persecuted race to fulfill the prophecies of the old testament. I don't believe an infinitely merciful God would persecute a race for thousands of years to use them as witnesses. Christian hate has not allowed the Jews to earn a [living?] or at least to practice a profession, and now, by a kind of poetic justice, the Jews control the money of the world. Emperors go to their bankers with hats in hand and beg them to discount their notes. This is because God has cursed the Jews. Only a little while ago Christians have robbed Hebrews, stripped them naked, turned them into the streets, and pointed to them as a fulfillment of divine prophecy. If you want to know the difference between some Jews and some Christians compare the address of Felix Adler with the sermon of the Rev. Dr. Talmage. Mr. Talmage thinks that the light of every burning Jewish home in Russia throws light upon the gospel. Every wound in a Jewish breast is to him a mouth to proclaim the divine inspiration of the bible. Every Jewish maiden violated is another fulfillment of God's holy word. What do these horrid persecutions prove, except the barbarity of Christians? Next it is said that martyrs prove the truth of the bible. Mr. Talmage affirms that no man ever died cheerfully for a lie. Why, men have gone cheerfully to their death for believing that a wafer was God's flesh. Thousands have died for their belief in Mohammed. Men have died because they believed in immersion. Either Mr. Talmage is a Catholic, a Mohammedan, a Baptist, or else he believes that these thousands died for lies. Every religion has had its martyrs, and every religion cannot be true. Then it is said that miracles prove the inspiration of the bible. But it is impossible by the human senses to establish a violation of nature's laws. When the Hebrews threw down sticks before Pharaoh, and they became snakes, did he believe? No; because he was there. After the Jews had been lead through the desert and had been fed with bread rained from heaven, had been clothed in indestructible pantaloons, and had quenched their thirst with water that followed them over mountains and through sands; when they saw Jehovah wrapped in the smoke of Sinai they still had more faith in a calf that they could make than anything Jehovah could give them. It was so with the miracles of Christ. Not twenty people were converted by one of them. In fact, human testimony cannot substantiate a miracle. Take the miracle about the bears which ate the children who laughed at the bald-headed old prophet. What do you suppose Mr. Talmage would say that meant? Why, first, that children ought to respect preachers, and second, that God is kind to animals. Nearly every miracle in the old testament is wrought in the interest of slavery, polygamy, creed or lust. I wish by denying them to rescue the reputation of Jehovah from the assaults of the bible.
Who are the witnesses to the truth of the narratives of the Jews' bible? Eusebius was one. He lived in the reign of Constantine, and said that the tracks of Pharaoh's chariots could be seen—perfectly preserved in the sands of the Red sea. He was the man who forged the passage in Josephus which speaks about the coming of Christ. Good witness, isn't he. Another one was Polycarp. We don't know much about him. He suffered martyrdom in the reign of Marcus Aurelius, and when the fire wouldn't burn and he looked like gold through it, a heathen was so mad about it that he ran his sword through Polycarp. The blood gushed out and quenched the fire, while the martyr's soul flew up to heaven in the form of a dove. And that's all we know about Polycarp. To know how much reliance should be placed upon the judgment of such trustworthy witnesses, we should look at what some of their beliefs were. They thought that the world was flat; that the phoenix story was true; that the stars had souls and sinned; and one said there were four gospels because there were four winds and four corners of the earth. He might have added that it was also because a donkey has four legs.
So far as the argument drawn from the sufferings of the martyrs is concerned, the speaker said that thousands upon thousands of men had died as cheerfully in defense of the koran as Christians had died in defense of the bible. Their heroic suffering simply proved that they were sinners in their beliefs, not that those beliefs were true. This argument, as advanced by Mr. Talmage, proves too much. Every religion on the face of the globe has had its martyrs, but all religions cannot be true. Men do die cheerfully for falsehoods when they believe them to be true.
[The question of miracles was discussed at some length, and Col. Ingersoll declared it was impossible to establish by any human evidence that a miracle had ever been performed.]
Pharaoh was not convinced by the alleged miracle performed by Aaron, of turning a stick into a serpent. Why? Because he was there, and no such miracle was ever done. No twenty people were convinced by the reported miracles of Christ, and yet people of the nineteenth century were coolly asked to be convinced on hearsay by miracles which those who are supposed to have seen them refuse to credit. It won't do. The laws of nature never have been interrupted, and they never will be. All the books in the universe will never convince a thinking man that miracles have been performed.
[The lecture was sprinkled throughout with the satirical wit for which Col. Ingersoll is famous, and concluded by the enumeration of a long list of "unscientific" facts and events recorded in the bible.]
Ingersoll's Lecture on Religious Intolerance
"How anybody ever came to the conclusion that there was any God who demanded that you should feel sorrowful and miserable and bleak one-seventh of the time is beyond my comprehension. Neither can I conceive how they can say that one-seventh of time is holy. That day is the most sacred day on which the most good has been done for mankind. Now, there was a time among the Jews, when, if a man violated the Sabbath, they would kill him. They said God told them to do it. I think they were mistaken. If not, if any God did tell them to kill him, then I think he was mistaken. I hope the time will come when every man can spend the Sabbath just as he pleases, provided he does not interfere with the happiness of others. I would fight just as earnestly that the Christian may go to church as that the infidel may have the right to spend the Sabbath as he wishes. Are the people who go to church the only good people? Are there not a great many bad people who go to church? Not a bank in Pittsburgh will lend a dollar to the man who belongs to the church, without security, quicker than to the man who don't go to church. Now, I believe that all laws upon the statute-book should be enforced. I do not blame anybody in this town. I am perfectly willing that every preacher in this town should preach. They are employed to preach, and to preach a certain doctrine, and if they don't preach that doctrine they will be turned out. I have no objection to that. But I want the same privilege to express my views, and what is the difference whether the man pays the day he goes in, or pays for it the week before by subscription.
What would the church people think if the theatrical people should attempt to suppress the churches? What harm would it do to have an opera here tonight? It would elevate us more than to hear ten thousand sermons on the world that never dies. There is more practical wisdom in one of the plays of Shakespeare than in all the sacred books ever written. What wrong would there be to see one of those grand plays on Sunday? There was a time when the church would not allow you to cook on Sunday. You had to eat your victuals cold. There was a time they thought the more miserable you feel the better God feels. There are sixty odd thousand preachers in the United States. Some people regard them as a necessary evil; some as an unnecessary evil. There are sixty odd thousand churches in the United States; and it does seem to me that with all the wealth on their side; with all the good people on their side; with Providence on their side; with all these advantages they ought to let us at least have the right to speak our thoughts.
The history of the world shows me that the right has not always prevailed. When you see innocent men chained to the stake and the flames licking their flesh, it is natural to ask, why does God permit this? If you see a man in prison with the chains eating into his flesh simply for loving God, you've got to ask why does not a just God interfere? You've got to meet this; it won't do to say that it will all come out for the best. That may do very well for God, but it's awful hard on the man. Where was the God that permitted slavery for two hundred years in these United States? The history of the world shows that when a mean thing was done, man did it; when a good thing was done, man did it.
But there was a time when there was a drought, and this tribe of savages with their false notions of religion says somebody has been wicked. Somebody has been lecturing on Sunday. Then the tribe hunted out the wicked man. They said you've got to stop. We cannot allow you to continue your wickedness, which brings punishment upon the whole of us. What is the reason they allow me to speak tonight. Because the Christians are not as firm in their belief now as they were a thousand years ago. The luke warmness and hypocrisy of Christians now permit me to speak tonight. If they felt as they did a thousand years ago they would kill me. So religious persecution was born of the instinct of self-defense. Is there any duty we owe to God? Can we help him, can we add to his glory or happiness? They tell me this God is infinitely wise, I cannot add to his wisdom; infinitely happy—I cannot add to his happiness. What can I do? Maybe he wants me to make prayers that won't be answered. I cannot see any relation that can exist between the finite and the infinite. I acknowledge that I am under obligations to my fellow man. We owe duties to our fellow man. And what? Simply to make them happy.
The only good, is happiness; and the only evil, is misery, or unhappiness. Only those things are right that tend to increase the happiness of man; only those things are wrong which tend to increase the misery of man. That is the basis of right and wrong. There never would have been the idea of wrong except that man can inflict sufferings upon others. Utility, then, is the basis of the idea of right and wrong.
The church tells us that this world is a school to prepare us for another, that it is a place to build up character. Well, if that is the only way character can be developed it is bad for children who die before they get any character. What would you think of a school-master who would kill half his pupils the first day?
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. There are two great arguments of the church—the great man argument and the death-bed. They say the religion of your fathers is good enough. Why should your father object to your inventing a better plow than he had. They say to one, do you know more than all the theologians dead? Being a perfectly modest man I say I think I do. Now we have come to the conclusion that every man has a right to think. Would God give a bird wings and make it a crime to fly? Would he give me brains and make it a crime to think? Any God that would damn one of his children for the expression of his honest thought wouldn't make a decent thief. When I read a book and don't believe it, I ought to say so. I will do so and take the consequence like a man. And so I object to paying for the support of another man's belief. I am in favor of the taxation of all church property. If that property belongs to God, He is able to pay the tax. If we exempt anything, let us exempt the home of the widow and orphan.
[A voice here interrupted the speaker.
Col. Ingersoll—What did the gentleman say? A voice—O, he's drunk.
Col. Ingersoll—I didn't think any Christian ought to get drunk and come here to disturb us.
The speaker resumed:]
The church has today $600,000,000 or $700,000,000 of property in this country. It must cost $2,000,000 a week, that is to say $500 a minute, to run these churches. You give me this money and if I don't do more good with it than four times as many churches I'll resign. Let them make the churches attractive and they'll get more hearers. They will have less empty pews if they have less empty heads in the pulpit. The time will come when the preacher will become a teacher.
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.
Col. Ingersoll next gave his views of the Puritans, declared they left Holland to escape persecution and came came here to persecute others. He referred to the persecutions heaped upon those of other religious belief by the Puritans, paid the Catholics the compliment to say that Maryland, which they ruled, was the first colony to enact a law tolerating religious views not held by themselves, and went on to explain that God was never mentioned in the constitution of the United States because each colony had a different religious belief, and each sect preferred to have God not mentioned at all than to having another religious belief than their own recognized.
"In 1876," said the speaker, "our forefathers retired God from politics. They said all power comes from the people. They kept God out of the constitution and allowed each state to settle the question for itself."
The present laws of different states were neatly reviewed, so far as they relate to the prevention of infidels giving testimony and to religious intolerance in any way, and these features were all branded and discussed as a gigantic evil.
The lecture was attentively listened to by the immense audience from beginning to the end, and the speaker's most blasphemous fights were the most loudly applauded.
Ingersoll's Lecture on Hereafter
My Friends: I tell you tonight, as I have probably told many of you dozens of times, that the orthodox doctrine of eternal punishment in the hereafter is an infamous one! I have no respect for the man who preaches it, or pretends to you he believes it. Neither have I any respect for the man who will pollute the imagination of innocent childhood with that infamous lie! And I have no respect for the man who will deliberately add to the sorrows of this world with this terrible dogma; no respect for the man who endeavors to put that infinite cloud and shadow over the heart of humanity. I will be frank with you and say, I hate the doctrine; I despise it, I defy it; I loathe it—and what man of sense does not. The idea of a hell was born of revenge and brutality on the one side, and arrant cowardice on the other. In my judgment the American people are too brave, too generous, too magnanimous, too humane to believe in that outrageous doctrine of eternal damnation.
For a great many years the learned intellects of Christendom have been examining into the religions of other countries and other ages, in the world—the religions of the myriads who have passed away. They examined into the religions of Egypt, the religion of Greece, that of Rome and the Scandinavian countries. In the presence of the ruins of those religions, the learned men of Christendom insisted that those religions were baseless, false and fraudulent. But they have all passed away.
Now, while this examination was being made, the Christianity of our day applauded, and when the learned men got through with the religion of other countries, they turned their attention to our religion, and by the same methods, by the same mode of reasoning and the same arrangements that they used with the old religions they were overturning the religion of our day. How is that? Because every religion in this world is the work of man. Every book that was ever written was written by man. Man existed before books. If otherwise, we might reasonably admit that there was such a thing as a sacred bible.
I wish to call your attention to another thing. Man never had an original idea, and he never will have one, except it be supplied to him by his surroundings. Nature gave man every idea that he ever had in the world; and nature will continue to give man his ideas so long as he exists. No man can conceive of anything, the hint of which he has not received from the surroundings. And there is nothing on this earth, coming from any other sphere whatever.
As I have before said, man has produced every religion in the world. Why is this? Because each generation sends forth the knowledge and belief of the people at the time it was made, and in no book is there any knowledge formed, except just at the time it was written. Barbarians have produced barbarian religions, and always will produce them. They have produced, and always will produce, ideas and belief in harmony with their surroundings, and all the religions of the past were produced by barbarians. We are making religions every day; that is to say, we are constantly changing them, adapting them to our purposes, and the religion of today is not the religion of a few months or a year ago. Well, what changes these religions? Science does it, education does it; the growing heart of man does it. Some men have nothing else to do but produce religions; science is constantly changing them. If we are cursed with such barbarian religions today—for our religions are really barbarous—what will they be an hundred or a thousand years hence?
But, friends, we are making inroads upon orthodoxy that orthodox Christians are painfully aware of, and what think you will be left of their fearful doctrines fifty or a hundred years from tonight? What will become of their endless hell—their doctrine of the future anguish of the soul; their doctrine of the eternal burning and never-ending gnashing of teeth. Man will discard the idea of such a future—because there is now a growing belief in the justice of a Supreme Being.
Do you not know that every religion in the world has declared every other religion a fraud? Yes, we all know it. That is the time all religions tell the truth—each of the other.
Now, do you want to know why this is: Suppose Mr. Johnson should tell Mr. Jones that he saw a corpse rise from the grave, and that when he first saw it, it was covered with loathsome worms, and that while he was looking at it, it suddenly was re-clothed in healthy, beautiful flesh. And then, suppose Jones should say to Johnson, "Well, now, I saw that same thing myself. I was in a graveyard once, and I saw a dead man rise and walk away as if nothing had ever happened to him!" Johnson opens wide his eyes and says to Jones, "Jones, you are a confounded liar!" And Jones says to Johnson, "You are an unmitigated liar!" "No, I'm not; you lie yourself." "No! I say you lie!" Each knew the other lied, because each man knew he lied himself. Thus when a man says: "I was upon Mount Sinai for the benefit of my health, and there I met God, who said to me, "Stand aside, you, and let me drown these people;" and the other man says to him, "I was upon a mountain, and there I met the Supreme Brahma." And Moses steps in and says, "That is not true!" and contends that the other man never did see Brahma, and the other man swears that Moses never saw God; and each man utters a deliberate falsehood, and immediately after speaks truth.
Therefore, each religion has charged every other religion with having been an unmitigated fraud. Still, if any man had ever seen a miracle himself, he would be prepared to believe that another man had seen the same or a similar thing. Whenever a man claims to have been cognizant of, or to have seen a miracle, he either utters a falsehood, or he is an idiot. Truth relies upon the unerring course of the laws of nature, and upon reason. Observe, we have a religion—that is, many people have. I make no pretensions to having a religion myself—possibly you do not. I believe in living for this beautiful world—in living for the present, today; living for this very hour, and while I do live to make everybody happy that I can. I cannot afford to squander my short life—and what little talent I am blessed with in studying up and projecting schemes to avoid that seething lake of fire and brimstone. Let the future take care of itself, and when I am required to pass over "on the other side," I am ready and willing to stand my chances with you howling Christians.