Europe becoming too small for his genius, he visited the tropics in the new world, where, in the most circumscribed limits, he could find the greatest number of plants, of animals, and the greatest diversity of climate, that he might ascertain the laws governing the production and distribution of plants, animals and men, and the effects of climate upon them all. He sailed along the gigantic Amazon—the mysterious Orinoco—traversed the Pampas—climbed the Andes until he stood upon the crags of Chimborazo, more than eighteen thousand feet above the level of the sea, and climbed on until blood flowed from his eyes and lips. For nearly five years he pursued his investigations in the new world, accompanied by the intrepid Bonpland. Nothing escaped his attention. He was the best intellectual organ of these new revelations of science. He was calm, reflective and eloquent; filled with a sense of the beautiful, and the love of truth. His collections were immense, and valuable beyond calculation to every science. He endured innumerable hardships, braved countless dangers in unknown and savage lands, and exhausted his fortune for the advancement of true learning.
Upon his return to Europe he was hailed as the second Columbus; as the scientific discoverer of America; as the revealer of a new world; as the great demonstrator of the sublime truth that universe is governed by law.
I have seen a picture of the old man, sitting upon a mountain side—above him the eternal snow; below, smiling valley of the tropics, filled with vine and palm. His chin upon his breast, his eyes deep, thoughtful and calm, his forehead majestic—grander than the mountain upon which he sat. "Crowned with the snow of his whitened hair," he looked the intellectual autocrat of this world.
Not satisfied with his discoveries in America, he crossed the steppes of Asia, the wastes of Siberia, the great Ural range, adding to the knowledge of mankind at every step. His energy acknowledged no obstacle, his life knew no leisure; every day was filled with labor and with thought. He was one of the apostles of science, and he served his divine master with a self-sacrificing zeal that knew no abatement—with an ardor that constantly increased, and with a devotion unwavering and constant as the polar star.
In order that the people at large might have the benefit of his numerous discoveries, and his vast knowledge, he delivered at Berlin a course of lectures, consisting of sixty-one free addresses, upon the following subjects:
Five upon the nature and limits of physical geography.
Three were devoted to a history of science.
Two to inducements to a study of natural science.
Sixteen on the heavens.
Five on the form, density, latent heat, and magnetic power of the earth, and to the polar light.
Four were on the nature of the crust of the earth, on hot springs, earthquakes and volcanoes.
Two on mountains, and the type of their formation.
Two on the form of the earth's surface, on the connection of continents, and the elevation of soil over ravines.
Three on the sea as a globular fluid surrounding the earth.
Ten on the atmosphere—as an elastic fluid surrounding the earth, and on the distribution of heat.
One on the geographic distribution of organized matter in general,
Three on the geography of plants.
Three on the geography of animals; and
Two on the races of men.
These lectures are what is known as the Cosmos, and present a scientific picture of the world—of infinite diversity in unity; of ceaseless motion in the eternal grasp of law.
These lectures contain the result of his investigation, observation and experience; they furnish the connection between phenomena; they disclose some of the changes through which the earth has passed in the countless ages; the history of vegetation, animals and men; the effects of climate upon individuals and nations; the relation we sustain to other worlds, and demonstrate that all phenomena, whether insignificant or grand, exist in accordance with inexorable law.
There are some truths, however, that we never should forget: Superstition has always been the relentless enemy of science; faith has been a hater of demonstration; hypocrisy has been sincere only in its dread of truth, and all religions are inconsistent with mental freedom.
Since the murder of Hypatia in the fifth century, when the polished blade of Greek philosophy was broken by the club of ignorant Catholicism, until today, superstition has detested every effort of reason.
It is almost impossible to conceive of the completeness of the victory that the church achieved over philosophy. For ages science was utterly ignored; thought was a poor slave; an ignorant priest was master of the world; faith put out the eyes of the soul; the reason was a trembling coward; the imagination was set on fire of hell; every human feeling was sought to be suppressed; love was considered infinitely sinful; pleasure was the road to eternal fire, and God was supposed to be happy only when his children were miserable. The world was governed by an Almighty's whim; prayers could change the order of things, halt the grand procession of nature; could produce rain, avert pestilence, famine, and death in all its forms. There was no idea of the certain; all depended upon divine pleasure—or displeasure, rather; heaven was full of inconsistent malevolence, and earth of ignorance. Everything was done to appease the divine wrath; every public calamity was caused by the sins of the people; by a failure to pay tithes, or for having, even in secret, felt a disrespect for a priest. To the poor multitude the earth was a kind of enchanted forest, full of demons ready to devour, and theological serpents lurking, with infinite power, to fascinate and torture the unhappy and impotent soul. Life to them was a dim and mysterious labyrinth, in which they wandered weary, and lost, guided by priests as bewildered as themselves, without knowing that at every step the Ariadne of reason offered them the long lost clue.
The very heavens were full of death; the lightning was regarded as the glittering vengeance of God, and the earth was thick with snares for the unwary feet of man. The soul was supposed to be crowded with the wild beasts of desire; the heart to be totally corrupt, prompting only to crime; virtues were regarded as deadly sins in disguise; there was a continual warfare being waged between the Deity and the devil for the possession of every soul, the latter generally being considered victorious. The flood, the tornado, the volcano, were all evidences of the displeasure of heaven and the sinfulness of man. The blight that withered, the frost that blackened, the earthquake that devoured, were the messengers of the creator.
The world was governed by fear.
Against all the evils of nature there was known only the defense of prayer, of fasting, of credulity, and devotion. Man, in his helplessness, endeavored to soften the heart of God. The faces of the multitude were blanched with fear, and wet with tears; they were the prey of hypocrites, kings and priests.
My heart bleeds when I contemplate the sufferings endured by the millions now dead; of those who lived when the world appeared to be insane; when the heavens were filled with an infinite HORROR, who snatched babes, with dimpled hands and rosy cheeks, from the white breasts of mothers and dashed them into an abyss of eternal flame.
Slowly, beautifully, like the coming of the dawn, came the grand truth that the universe is governed by law—that disease fastens itself upon the good and upon the bad; that the tornado cannot be stopped by counting beads; that the rushing lava pauses not for bended knees, the lightning for clasped and uplifted hands, nor the cruel waves of the sea for prayer; that paying tithes causes rather than prevents famine; that pleasure is not sin; that happiness is the only good; that demons and gods exist only in the imagination; that faith is a lullaby, sung to put the soul to sleep; that devotion is a bribe that fear offers to supposed power; that offering rewards in another world for obedience in this, is simply buying a soul on credit; that knowledge consists in ascertaining the laws of nature, and that wisdom is the science of happiness. Slowly, grandly, beautifully, these truths are dawning upon mankind.
From Copernicus we learned that this earth is only a grain of sand on the infinite shore of the universe; that everywhere we are surrounded by shining worlds vastly greater than our own, all moving and existing in accordance with law. True, the earth began to grow small, but man began to grow great.
The moment the fact was established that other worlds are governed by law, it was only natural to conclude that our little world was also under its dominion. The old theological method of accounting for physical phenomena by the pleasure and displeasure of the Deity was, by the intellectual, abandoned. They found: that disease, death, life, thought, heat, cold, the seasons, the winds, the dreams of man, the instinct of animals—in short, that all physical and mental phenomena are governed by law, absolute, eternal and inexorable.
Let it be understood by the term Law is meant the same invariable relations of succession and resemblance predicated of all facts springing from like conditions. Law is a fact—not a cause. It is a fact that like conditions produce like results; this fact is LAW. When we say that the universe is governed by law, we mean that this fact, called law, is incapable of change; that it is, has been, and forever will be, the same inexorable, immutable FACT, inseparable from all phenomena. Law, in this sense, was not enacted or made. It could not have been otherwise than as it is. That which necessarily exists has no creator.
Only a few years ago this earth was considered the real center of the universe; all the stars were supposed to revolve around this insignificant atom. The German mind, more than any other, has done away with this piece of egotism. Purbach and Mullerus, in the fifteenth century, contributed most to the advancement of astronomy in their day. To the latter the world is indebted for the introduction of decimal fractions, which completed our arithmetical notation, and formed the second of the three steps by which, in modern times, the science of numbers has been so greatly improved; and yet both of these men believed in the most childish absurdities—at least in enough of them to die without their orthodoxy having ever been questioned.
Next came the great Copernicus, and he stands at the head of the heroic thinkers of his time, who had the courage and the mental strength to break the chains of prejudice, custom and authority, and to establish truth on the basis of experience, observation and reason. He removed the earth, so to speak, from the center of the universe, and ascribed to it a twofold motion, and demonstrated the true position which it occupies in the solar system.
At his bidding the earth began to revolve. At the command of his genius it commenced its grand flight amid the eternal constellations around the sun. For fifty years his discoveries were disregarded. All at once, by the exertions of Galileo, they were kindled into so grand a conflagration as to consume the philosophy of Aristotle, to alarm the hierarchy of Rome, and to threaten the existence of every opinion not founded upon experience, observation and reason.
The earth was no longer considered a universe governed by the caprices of some revengeful Deity, who had made the stars out of what he had left after completing the world, and had stuck them in the sky simply to adorn the night.
I have said this much concerning astronomy because it was the first splendid step forward! The first sublime blow that shattered the lance and shivered the shield of superstition; the first real help that man received from heaven. Because it was the first great lever placed beneath the altar of a false religion; the first revelation of the infinite to man, the first authoritative declaration that the universe is governed by law; the first science that gave the lie direct to the cosmogony of barbarism; and because it is the sublimest victory that reason has achieved.
In speaking of astronomy I have confined myself to the discoveries made since the revival of learning. Long ago, on the banks of the Ganges, ages before Copernicus lived, Aryabhatta taught that the earth is a sphere and revolves on its own axis. This, however, does not detract from the glory of the great German. The discovery of the Hindoo had been lost in the midnight of Europe—in the age of faith—and Copernicus was as much a discoverer as though Aryabhatta had never lived.
In this short address there is no time to speak of other sciences, and to point out the particular evidence furnished by each to establish the dominion of law, nor to more than mention the name of Descartes, the first who undertook to give an explanation of the celestial motions, or who formed the vast and philosophic conception of reducing all the phenomena of the universe to the same law; of Montaigne, one of the heroes of common sense; of Galvani, whose experiments gave the telegraph to the world; of Voltaire, who contributed more than any other of the sons of men to the destruction of religious intolerance; of August Comte, whose genius erected to itself a monument that still touches the stars; of Guttenberg, Watt, Stephenson, Arkwright, all soldiers of science in the grand army of the dead kings.
The glory of science is that it is freeing the soul-breaking the mental manacles—getting the brain out of bondage—giving courage to thought—filling the world with mercy, justice and joy.
Science found agriculture plowing with a stick—reaping with a sickle—commerce at the mercy of the treacherous waves and the inconstant winds—a world without books—without schools—man denying the authority of reason, employing his ingenuity in the manufacture of instruments of torture—in building inquisitions and cathedrals. It found the land filled with malicious monks—with persecuting Protestants, and the burners of men. It found a world full of fear, ignorance upon its knees; credulity the greatest virtue; women treated like beasts, of burden; cruelty the only means of reformation. It found the world at the mercy of disease and famine; men trying to read their fates in the stars, and to tell their fortunes by signs and wonders; generals thinking to conquer their enemies by making the sign of the cross, or by telling a rosary. It found all history full of petty and ridiculous falsehood, and the Almighty was supposed to spend most of his time turning sticks into snakes, drowning boys for swimming on Sunday, and killing little children for the purpose of converting their parents. It found the earth filled with slaves and tyrants, the people in all countries downtrodden, half naked, half starved, without hope, and without reason in the world.
Such was the condition of man when the morning of science dawned upon his brain, and before he had heard the sublime declaration that the universe is governed by law.
For the change that has taken place we are indebted solely to science—the only lever capable of raising mankind. Abject faith is barbarism; reason is civilization. To obey is slavish; to act from a sense of obligation perceived by the reason is noble. Ignorance worships mystery; reason explains it—the one grovels, the other soars.
No wonder that fable is the enemy of knowledge. A man with a false diamond shuns the society of lapidaries, and it is upon this principle that superstition abhors science.
In all ages the people have honored those who dishonored them. The have worshiped their destroyers—they have canonized the most gigantic liars, and buried the great thieves in marble and gold. Under the loftiest monuments sleeps the dust of murder.
Imposture has always worn a crown.
The world is beginning to change because the people are beginning to think. To think is to advance. Everywhere the great minds are investigating the creeds and the superstitions of men—the phenomena of nature, and the laws of things. At the head of this great army of investigators stood Humboldt—the serene leader of an intellectual host—a king by the suffrage of science, and the divine right of genius.
And today we are not honoring some butcher called a soldier—some wily politician called a statesman—some robber called a king—nor some malicious metaphysician called a saint. We are honoring the grand Humboldt, whose victories were all achieved in the arena of thought; who destroyed prejudice, ignorance and error—not men: who shed light—not blood, and who contributed to the knowledge, the wealth and the happiness of all mankind.
His life was pure, his aims lofty, his learning varied and profound, and his achievements vast.
We honor him because he has ennobled our race, because he has contributed as much as any man living or dead to the real prosperity of the world. We honor him because he honored us—because he labored for others—because he was the most learned man of the most learned nation—because he left a legacy of glory to every human being. For these reasons he is honored throughout the world. Millions are doing homage to his genius at this moment, and millions are pronouncing his name with reverence, and recounting what he accomplished.
We associate the name of Humboldt with oceans, continents mountains and volcanoes—with the great plains—the wide deserts—the snow-lipped craters of the Andes—with primeval forests and European capitals—with wildernesses and universities—with savages and savants—with the lonely rivers of unpeopled wastes—with peaks and pampas, and steppes, and cliffs and crags—with the progress of the world—with every science known to man, and with every star glittering in the immensity of space.
Humboldt adopted none of the soul-shrinking creeds of his day; wasted none of his time in the stupidities, inanities and contradictions of theological metaphysics; he did not endeavor to harmonize the astronomy and geology of a barbarous people with the science of the nineteenth century. Never, for one moment, did he abandon the sublime standard of truth; he investigated, he studied, he thought, he separated the gold from the dross in the crucible of his grand brain. He was never found on his knees before the altar of superstition. He stood erect by the grand, tranquil column of reason. He was an admirer, a lover, an adorer of nature, and at the age of ninety, bowed by the weight of nearly a century, covered with the insignia of honor, loved by a nation, respected by a world, with kings for his servants, he laid his weary head upon her bosom—upon the bosom of the universal mother—and with her loving arms around him, sank into that slumber called death.
History added another name to the starry scroll of the immortals.
The world is his monument; upon the eternal granite of her hills he inscribed his name, and there, upon everlasting stone, his genius wrote this, the sublimest of truths:
"THE UNIVERSE IS GOVERNED BY LAW!"
INGERSOLL'S LECTURE ON WHICH WAY?
Ladies and Gentlemen: For thousands of years men have been asking the questions: "How shall we civilize the world? How shall we protect life, liberty, property and reputations? How shall we do away with crime and poverty? How clothe, and feed, and educate, and civilize mankind?" These are the questions that are asked by thoughtful men and thoughtful women. The question with them is not, "What will we do in some other world?" Time enough to ask that when we get there. The business we will attend to now is, how are, we to civilize the world? What priest shall I ask? What sacred volume shall I search? What oracle can I consult? At what shrine must I bow to find out what is to be done? Each church has a different answer; each has a different recipe for the salvation of the people, but not while they are in this world. All that is to be done in this world is to get ready for the next.
In the first place I am met by the theological world. Have I the right to inquire? They say, "Certainly; it is your duty to inquire." Each church has a recipe for the salvation of this world, but not while you are in this world—afterward. They treat time as a kind of pier—a kind of wharf running out into the great ocean of eternity; and they treat us all as though we were waiting there, sitting on our trunks, for the gospel ship.
I want to know what to do here. Have I the right to inquire? Yes. If I have the right to inquire, then I have the right to investigate. If I have the right to investigate, I have the right to accept. If I have the right to accept, I have the right to reject. And what religion have I the right to reject? That which does not conform with my reason, with my standard of truth, with my standard of common sense. Millions of men have been endeavoring to govern this world by means of the supernatural. Thousands and thousands of churches exist, thousands of cathedrals and temples have been built, millions of men have been engaged to preach this gospel; and what has been the result in this world? Will one church have any sympathy with another? Does the religion of one country have any respect for that of another? Or does not each religion claim to be the only one? And does not the priest of every religion, with infinite impudence, consign the disciples of all others to eternal fire?
Why is it the churches have failed to civilize this world? Why is it that the Christian countries are no better than any other countries? Why is it that Christian men are no better than any other men? Why is it that ministers as a class are no better than doctors, or lawyers, or merchants, or mechanics, or locomotive engineers? And a locomotive engineer is a thousand times more useful. Give me a good engineer and a bad preacher to go through this world with rather than a bad engineer and a good preacher; and there is this curious fact about the believers in the supernatural: The priests of one church have no confidence in the miracles and wonders told by the priests of the other churches. Maybe they know each other. A Christian missionary will tell the Hindoo of the miracles of the bible; the Hindoo smiles. The Hindoo tells the Christian missionary of the miracles of his sacred books; and the missionary looks upon him with pity and contempt. No priest takes the word of another.
I heard once a little story that illustrates this point: A gentleman in a little party was telling of a most wonderful occurrence, and when he had finished everybody said: "Is it possible? Why, did you ever hear anything like that?" All united in a kind of wondering chorus except one man. He said nothing. He was perfectly still and unmoved; and one who had been greatly astonished by the story said to him: "Did you hear that story?" "Yes." "Well, you don't appear to be excited." "Well no," he said; "I am a liar myself."
There is another trouble with the supernatural. It has no honesty; it is consumed by egotism; it does not think—it knows; consequently it has no patience with the honest doubter. And how has the church treated the honest doubter? He has been answered by force, by authority, by popes, by cardinals and bishops, and councils, and, above all, by mobs. In that way the honest doubter has been answered. There is this difference between the minister, the church, the clergy, and the men who believe in this world. I might as well state the question—I may go further than you. The real question is this: Are we to be governed by a supernatural being, or are we to govern ourselves? That is the question. Is God the source of power, or does all authority spring, in governing, from the consent of the governed? That is the question. In other words, is the universe a monarchy, a despotism, or a democracy? I take the democratic side, not in a political sense. The question is, whether this world should be governed by God or by man; and when I say "God" I mean the being that these gentlemen have treated and enthroned upon the ignorance of mankind.
Now let us admit, for the sake of argument, that the bible is true. Let us admit, for the sake of argument, that God once governed this world—not that He did, but let us admit it, and I intend to speak of no god but our God, because we all insist that of all the gods ours is the best, and if He is not good we need not trouble ourselves about the others. Let them take care of themselves.
Now, the first question is, whether this world shall be governed by God or man. Admitting that the being spoken of in the bible is God, He governed this world once. There was a theocracy at the start. That was the first government of the world. Now, how do you judge of a man? The best test of a man is, how does he use power? That is the supreme test of manhood. How does he treat those within his control? The greater the man, the grander the man, the more careful he is in the use of power—the tenderer he is, the nearer just, the greater, the more merciful, the grander, the more charitable. Tell me how a man treats his wife or his children, his poor debtors, his servants, and I will tell you what manner of a man he be. That, I say, is the supreme test, and we know tonight how a good and great man treats his inferiors. We know that. And a man endeavoring to raise his fellow-men higher in the scale of civilization—what will that man appeal to? Will he appeal to the lowest or to the highest that is in man? Let us be honest. Will he appeal to prejudice—the fortress, the armor, the sword and shield of ignorance? Will he appeal to credulity—the ring in the nose by which priests lead stupidity? Will he appeal to the cowardly man? Will he play upon his fears—fear, the capital stock of imposture, the lever and fulcrum of hypocrisy? Will he appeal to the selfishness and all the slimy serpents that crawl in the den of savagery? Or will he appeal to reason, the torch of the mind? Will he appeal to justice? Will he appeal to charity, which is justice in blossom? Will he appeal to liberty and love? These are the questions. What will he do? What did our God do? Let us see. The first thing we know of Him is in the Garden of Eden. How did He endeavor to make His children great, and strong, and good, and free? Did He say anything to Adam and Eve about the sacred relation of marriage? Did He say anything to them about loving children? Did He say anything to them about learning anything under heaven? Did He say one word about intellectual liberty? Did he say one word about reason or about justice? Did He make the slightest effort to improve them? All that He did in the world was to give them one poor little miserable, barren command, "Thou shalt not eat of a certain fruit." That's all that amounted to anything; and, when they sinned, did this great God take them in the arms of His love and endeavor to reform them? No; He simply put upon them a curse. When they were expelled He said to the woman: "I will greatly multiply thy sorrow. In sorrow shalt thou bring forth children. Thy husband shall rule over thee." God made every mother a criminal, and placed a perpetual penalty of pain upon human love. Our God made wives slaves—slaves of their husbands. Our God corrupted the marriage relation and paralyzed the firesides of this world. That is what our God did. And what did He say to poor Adam? "Cursed be the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; thorns and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field, and in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread." Did He say one word calculated to make him a better man? Did He put in the horizon of the future one star of hope? Let us be honest, and see what this God did, and we will judge of Him simply by ordinary common sense.
After a while Cain murdered his brother, and he was detected by this God. And what did this God say to him? Did He say one word of the crime of shedding human blood? Not a word. Did He say one word calculated to excite in the breast of Cain the slightest real sorrow for his deed? Not the slightest. Did He tell him anything about where Abel was? Nothing. Did He endeavor to make him a better man? Not a bit. What had He ever taught him before on that subject? Nothing. And so Cain went out to the other sons and daughters of Adam, according to the bible, and they multiplied and increased until they covered the earth. God gave them no code of laws. God never built them a schoolhouse. God never sent a teacher. God never said a word to them about a future state. God never held up before their gaze that dazzling reward of heaven; never spoke about the lurid gulfs of hell; kept divine punishment a perfect secret, and without having given them the slightest opportunity, simply drowned the world. Splendid administration! Cleveland will do better than that. And, after the waters had gone away, then He gave them some commandments. I suppose that He saw by that time that they needed guidance.
And here are the commandments:
1. You may eat all kinds of birds, beasts and fishes.
2. You must not eat blood; if you do, I will kill you.
3. Whosoever sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed.
Nothing more. No good advice; not a word about government; not a word about the rights of man or woman, or children; not a word about any law of nature; not a word about any science—nothing, not even arithmetic.
Nothing. And so He let them go on, and in a little while they came to the same old state; and began building the Tower of Babel; and he went there and confounded, as they said, their languages. Never said a word to them; never told them how foolish it was to try and reach heaven that way. And the next we find Him talking to Abraham, and with Abraham He makes a contract. And how did He do it? "I will bless them that bless thee, and curse them that curse thee." Fine contract for a God. And thereupon He made certain promises to Abraham—promised to give him the whole world, all the nations round about, and that his seed should be as the sands of the sea. Never kept one of His promises—not one. He made the same promises to Isaac, and broke every one. Then He made them all over to Jacob, and broke every one; made them again to Moses, and broke them all. Never said a word about anybody behaving themselves—not a word. Finally, these people whom He had taken under His special care became slaves in the land of Egypt. How ashamed God must have been! Finally He made up His mind to rescue them from that servitude, and He sent Moses and Aaron. He never said a word to Moses or Aaron that Pharaoh was wrong. He never said a word to them about how the women felt when their male children were taken and destroyed. He simply sent Moses before Pharaoh with a cane in his hand that he could turn into a serpent; and, when Pharaoh called in magicians and they did the same, Pharaoh laughed. And then they made frogs; and Pharaoh sent for his magicians, and they did the same, and Pharaoh still laughed. And this God had infinite power, but Pharaoh defeated Him at every point!
It puts me in mind of the story that great Fenian told when the great excitement was about Ireland. An Irishman was telling about the condition of Ireland. He said: "We have got in Ireland now over 300,000 soldiers, all equipped. Every man of them has got a musket and ammunition. They are ready to march at a minute's notice." "But," said the other man, "why don't they march?" "Why," said the other man, "the police won't let them." How admirable! Imagine the infinite God endeavoring to liberate the Hebrews, and prevented by a king, who would not let the children of Israel go until he had done some little miracles with sticks! Think of it! But, said Christians, "you must wait a little while if you wish to find the foundation of law."
Christians now assert that from Sinai came to this world all knowledge of right and wrong, and that from its flaming top we received the first ideas of law and justice. Let us look at those ten commandments. Which of those ten commandments were new, and which of those ten commandments were old? "Thou shalt not kill." That was as old as life. Murder has been a crime; also, because men object to being murdered. If you read the same bible you will find that Moses, seeing an Israelite and an Egyptian contending together, smote the Egyptian and hid his body in the sand. After he had committed that crime Moses fled from the land. Why? Simply because there was a law against murder. That is all. "Honor thy father and thy mother." That is as old as birth. "Thou shalt not commit adultery." That is as old as sex. "Thou shalt not steal." That is as old as work, and as old as property. "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor." That is as old as the earth. Never was there a nation, never was there a tribe on the earth that did not have substantially, those commandments. What, then, were new? First, "Thou shalt worship no other God; thou shalt have no other God." Why? "Because I am a jealous God." Second, "Thou shalt not make any graven image." Third, "Thou shalt not take My name in vain." Fourth, "Thou shalt not work on the Sabbath day." What use were these commandments? None—not the slightest. How much better it would have been if God from Sinai, instead of the commandments, had said: "Thou shalt not enslave thy fellow-man; no human being is entitled to the results of another's labor." Suppose He had said: "Thou shalt not persecute for opinion's sake; thought and speech must be forever free." Suppose He had said, instead of "Thou shalt not work on the Sabbath day," "A man shall have but one wife; a woman shall have but one husband; husbands shall love their wives; wives shall love their husbands and their children with all their hearts and as themselves"—how much better it would have been for this world.
Long before Moses was born the Egyptians taught one God; but afterwards, I believe, in their weakness, they degenerated into a belief in the Trinity. They taught the divine origin of the soul, and taught judgment after death. They taught as a reward for belief in their doctrine eternal joy, and as a punishment for non-belief eternal pain. Egypt, as a matter of fact, was far better governed than Palestine. The laws of Egypt were better than the laws of God. In Egypt woman was equal with man. Long before Moses was born there were queens upon the Egyptian throne. Long before Moses was born they had a written code of laws, and their laws were administered by courts and judges. They had rules of evidence. They understood the philosophy of damages. Long before Moses was born they had asylums for the insane and hospitals for the sick. Long before God appeared on Sinai there were schools in Egypt, and the highest office next to the throne was opened to the successful scholar. The Egyptian married but one wife. His wife was called the lady of the house. Women were not secluded; and, above all and over all, the people of Egypt were not divided into castes, and were infinitely better governed than God ever thought of. I am speaking of the God of this bible. If Moses had remembered more of what he saw in Egypt his government would have been far better than it was. Long before these commandments were given, Zoroaster taught the Hindoos that there was one infinite and supreme God. They had a code of laws, and their laws were administered by judges in their courts. By those laws, at the death of a father, the unmarried daughter received twice as much of his property as his son. Compare those laws with the laws of Moses.
So, too, the Romans had their code of laws. The Romans were the greatest lawyers the world produced. The Romans had a code of civil laws, and that code today is the foundation of all law in the civilized world. The Romans built temples to Truth, to Faith, to Valor, to Concord, to Modesty, to Charity and to Chastity. And so with the Grecians. And yet you will find Christian ministers today contending that all ideas of law, of justice and of right came from Sinai, from the ten commandments, from the Mosaic laws. No lawyer who understands his profession will claim that is so. No lawyer who has studied the history of law will claim it. No man who knows history itself will claim it. No man will claim it but an ignorant zealot.
Let us go another step—let us compare the ideas of this God with the ideas of uninspired men. I am making this long preface because I want to get it out of your minds that the bible is inspired.
Now let us go along a little and see what is God's opinion of liberty. Nothing is of more value in this world today than liberty—liberty of body and liberty of mind. Without liberty, the universe would be as a dungeon into which human beings are flung like poor and miserable convicts. Intellectual liberty is the air of the soul, the sunshine of the mind. Without it we should be in darkness. Now, Jehovah commanded the Jewish people to take captives the strangers and sojourners amongst them, and ordered that they and their children should be bondsmen and bondswomen for ever.
Now let us compare Jehovah to Epictetus—a man to whom no revelation was ever made—a man to whom this God did not appear. Let us listen to him: "Remember your servants are to be treated as your own brothers—children of the same God." On the subject of liberty is not Epictetus a better authority than Jehovah, who told the Jews to make bondsmen and bondswomen of the heathen round about? And He said they were to make them their bondsmen and bondswomen forever. Why? Because they were heathen. Why? Because they were not children of the Jews. He was the God of the Jews and not of the rest of mankind. So He said to His chosen people: "Pillage upon the enemy and destroy the people of other gods. Buy the heathen round about." Yet Cicero, a poor pagan lawyer, said this—and he had not even read the old testament—had not even had the advantage of being enlightened by the prophets: "They who say that we should love our fellow-citizens, and not foreigners, destroy the universal brotherhood of mankind, and with it benevolence and justice would perish forever." Is not Cicero greater than Jehovah? The bible, inspired by Jehovah, says: "If a man smite his servant with a rod and he die under his hand he shall be punished. It he continue a day or two and then die, he shall not be punished." Zeno, the founder of the stoics, who had never heard of Jehovah, and never read a word of Moses, said this: "No man can be the owner of another, and the title is bad. Whether the slave became a slave by conquest or by purchase, the title is bad." Let us come and see whether Jehovah has any humanity in Him. Jehovah ordered the Jewish general to make war, and this was the order: "And when the Lord thy God shall deliver them before thee, thou shalt smite them and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor show mercy unto them." And yet Epictetus, whom I have already quoted, said: "Treat those in thy power as thou wouldst have thy superiors treat thee."
I am on the side of the pagan. Is it possible that a being of infinite goodness said: "I will heap mischief upon them; I will send My arrows upon them. They shall be burned with hunger; they shall be devoured with burning heat and with bitter destruction. I will also send the teeth of locusts upon them, with the poisonous serpent of the desert. The sound without and the terror within, shall destroy both the young men and the virgins, the sucklings also, and the men with gray hairs." While Seneca, a poor uninspired Roman, said: "A wise man will not pardon any crime that ought to be punished, but will accomplish in other way all that is sought. He will spare some; he will pardon and watch over some because of their youth; he will pardon these on account of their ignorance. His clemency will not fail what is sought by justice, but his clemency will fulfill justice." That was said by Seneca. Can we believe that this Jehovah said: "Let his children be fatherless and his wife a widow. Let his children be continually vagabonds, and beg. Let them seek their bread out of desolate places. Let the extortioner catch all that he hath, and let the stranger spoil his labor. Let no one extend mercy unto them, neither let any favor his fatherless children." Did Jehovah say this? Surely He had never heard this line—this plaintive music from the Hindoo: "Sweet is the lute to those who have not heard the voices of their own children." Let us see the generosity of Jehovah out of the cloud of darkness on Mount Sinai. He said to the Jews: "Thou shalt have no other God before Me. Thou shalt not bow down to any other gods, for the Lord thy God is a jealous God, visiting the iniquities of the fathers upon the children to the third an fourth generation of them that hate Me." Just think of God saying to people: "If you do not love Me I will damn you." Contrast this with the words put by the Hindoo poet into the mouth of Brahma: "I am the same to all mankind. The who honestly worship other gods involuntarily worship me. I am he that partaketh of all worship. I am the reward of worship." How perfectly sublime! Let me read it to you again: "I am the same to all mankind. They who honestly worship other gods involuntarily worship me. I am he that partaketh of all worship. I am the reward of worship." Compare these passages. The first is a dungeon, which crude hands have digged with jealous slime. The other is like the dome of the firmament, inlaid with constellations. Is it possible God ever said: "If a prophet deceive when he hath spoken a thing, I, the Lord, hath deceived that prophet?" Compare that passage with the poet, a pagan: "Better remain silent the remainder of life than speak falsely."
Can we believe a being of infinite mercy gave this command: "Put every man his sword by his side; go from the gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, every man his companion, and every man his neighbor. Consecrate it, yourselves this day. Let every man lay his sword even upon his son, upon his brother, that he bestow blessing upon Me this day." Surely that was not the outcome of a great, magnanimous spirit, like that of the Roman emperor, who declared: "I had rather keep a single Roman citizen alive than slay a thousand enemies." Compare the last command given to the children of Israel with the words of Marcus Aurelius: "I have formed an ideal of the State, in which there is the same law for all, and equal rights and equal liberty of speech established for all—an Empire where nothing is honored so much as the freedom of the citizens." I am on the side of the Roman emperor.
What is more beautiful than the old story from Sufi? There was a man who for seven years did every act of good, every kind of charity, and at the end of the seven years he mounted the steps to the gate of heaven and knocked. A voice cried, "Who is there?" He cried, "Thy servant, O Lord;" and the gates were shut. Seven other years he did every good work, and again mounted the steps to heaven and knocked. The voice cried, "Who is there?" He answered, "Thy slave, O God;" and the gates were shut. Seven other years he did every good deed, and again mounted the steps to heaven, and the voice said: "Who is there?" He replied "Thyself, O God;" and the gates wide open flew. Is there anything in our religion so warm or so beautiful as that? Compare that story from a pagan with the Presbyterian religion.
Take this story of Endesthora, who was a king of Egypt, and started for the place where the horizon touched the earth, where he was to meet God. With him followed Argune and Bemis and Traubation. They were taught that, when any man started after God in that way, if he had been guilty of any crime he would fall by the way. Endesthora walked at the head and suddenly he missed Argune. He said, "He was not always merciful in the hour of victory." A little while after he missed Bemis, and said, "He fought not so much for the rights of man as for his own glory." A little farther on he missed Traubation. He said, "My God, I know no reason for his failing to reach the place where the horizon touches the earth;" and the god Ram appeared to him, and opening the curtains of the sky, said to him: "Enter." And Endesthora said: "But where are my brethren? Where are Argune and Beinis and Traubation?" And the god said: "They sinned in their time, and they are condemned to suffer below." Then said Endestbora: "I do not wish to enter into your heaven without my friends. If they are below, then I will join them." But the god said: "They are here before you; I simply said this to try your soul." Endesthora simply turned and said: "But what of my dog?" The god said, "Thou knowest that if the shadow of a dog fall upon the sacrifice, it is unclean. How, then, can a dog enter heaven?" And Endesthora replies: "I know that, and I know another thing; that ingratitude is the blackest of crimes, whether it be to man or beast. That dog has been my faithful friend. He has followed me and I will not desert even him." And the god said: "Let the dog follow." Compare that with the bible stories.
Long before the advent of Christ, Aristotle said: "We should conduct ourselves toward others as we would have them conduct themselves toward us." Seneca said: "Do not to your neighbor what you would not have your neighbor do to you." Socrates said: "Act toward others as you would have others act toward you. Forgive your enemies, render good for evil, and kiss even the hand that is upraised to smite." Krishna said: "Cease to do evil; aim to do well; love your enemies. It is the law of love that virtue is the only thing that has strength." Poor, miserable pagans! Did you ever hear anything like this? Is it possible that one of the authors of the new testament was inspired when he said that man was not created for woman, but woman for man? Epictetus said: "What is more delightful than to be so dear to your wife as to be on her account dearer even to yourself?" Compare that with St. Paul: "But I would have you know that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is the man, and the head of Christ is God. Wives, submit yourselves unto your husbands as unto the Lord." That was inspiration. This was written by a poor, despised heathen: "In whatever house the husband is contented with the wife and the wife with the husband, in that house will fortune dwell. In the house where the woman is not honored, let the curse be pronounced. Where the wife is honored, there God is truly worshiped." I wish Jehovah had said something like that from Sinai. Is there anything as beautiful as this in the new testament: "Shall I tell you where nature is more blest and fair? It is where those we love abide. Though the space be small, it is ample as earth; though it be a desert, through it run the rivers of Paradise."
Compare these things with the curses pronounced in the old testament, where you read of the heathen being given over to butchery and death, and the women and babes to destruction; and, after you have read them, read the chapters of horrors in the new testament, threatening eternal fire and flame; and then read this, the greatest thought uttered by the greatest of human beings:
The quality of mercy is not strained. It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven Upon the place beneath. It is twice blessed: It blesseth him that gives and him that takes; 'Tis mightiest in the mighty; It becomes the throned monarch better this his crown.
Compare that with your doctrine of the new testament! If Jehovah was an infinite God and knew things from the beginning, He knew that His bible would be a breast-work behind which tyranny and hypocrisy would crouch, and knew His bible would be the auction-block on which the mother would stand while her babe was sold from her, because He knew His bible would be quoted by tyrants; that it would be quoted in defense of robbers called kings, and by hypocrites called priests. He knew that He had taught the Jewish people; He knew that He had found them free and left them slaves; He knew that He had broken every single promise made to them; He knew that, while other nations advanced in knowledge, in art, in science, His chosen people were subjects still. He promised them the world; He gave them a desert. He promised them liberty, and made them slaves. He promised them power; He gave them exile, and any one who reads the old testament is compelled to say that nothing could add to their misery.
Let us be honest. How do you account for this religion? This world; where did it come from? You hear every minister say that man is a religious animal—that religion is natural. While man is an ignorant animal man will be a theological animal, and no longer. Where did we get this religion? The savage knew but little of nature, but thought that everything happened in reference to him. He thought his sins caused earthquakes, and that his virtues made the sunshine.
Nothing is so egotistical as ignorance. You know, and so do I, that if no human being existed, the sun would shine, and that tempests would now and then devastate the earth; violets would spread their velvet bosoms to the sun, daisies would grow, roses would fill the air with perfume, and now and then volcanoes would illuminate the horizon with their lurid glare; the grass would grow, the waters would run, and so far as nature is concerned, everything would be as joyous as though the earth were filled with happy homes. We know the barbarian savage thinks that all this was on his account. He thinks that there dwelt two very powerful deities; that there was a good one, because he knows good things happen to him; and that there was a bad one, because he knows bad things happen to him. Behind the evil influence he puts a devil, and behind the good, an intention of God; and then he imagines both these beings are in opposition, and that, between them, they struggle for the possession of his ignorant soul. He also thinks that the place where the good deity lives is heaven, and that the place where the other deity keeps himself is a place of torture and punishment. And about that time other barbarians have chosen too keep the ignorant ones in subjection by means of the doctrine of fear and punishment.
There is no reforming power in fear. You can scare a man, maybe, so bad that he won't do a thing, but you can't scare him so bad he won't want to do it. There is no reforming power in punishment or brute force; but our barbarians rather imagined that every being would punish in accordance with his power, and his dignity, and that God would subject them to torture in the same way as those who made Him angry. They knew the king would inflict torments upon one in his power, and they supposed that God would inflict torture according to His power. They knew the worst torture was a slow, burning fire; added to it the idea of eternity, and hell was produced. That was their idea. All meanness, revenge, selfishness, cruelty, and hatred of which men here are capable burst into blossom and bore fruit in that one word, "Hell."
In this way a God of infinite wisdom experimented with man, keeping him between an outstretched abyss beneath and a heaven above; and in time the man came to believe that he could please God by having read a few sacred books, could count beads, could sprinkle water, eat little square pieces of bread, and that he could shut his eyes and say words to the clouds; but the moment he left this world nothing remained except to damn him. He was to be kept miserable one day in seven, and he could slander and persecute other men all the other days in the week. That was the chance that God gave a man here, but the moment he left this world that settled it. He would go to eternal pain or else to eternal joy. That was the way that the supernatural governed this world—through fear, through terror, through eternity of punishment; and that government, I say tonight, has failed. How has it been kept alive so long? It was born in ignorance. Let me tell you, whoever attacks a creed will be confronted with a list of great men who have believed in it. Probably their belief in that creed was the only weakness they had. But he will be asked, "So you know more than all the great men who have taught and all the respectable men who have believed in that faith?" For the church is always going about to get a certificate from some governor, or even perhaps members of the Legislature, and you are told, because so-and-so believed all these things, and you have no more talents than they, that you should believe the same thing. But I contend, as against this argument, that you should not take the testimony of these men unless you are willing to take at the same time all their beliefs on other subjects. Then, again, they tell you that the rich people are all on their side, and I say so, too. The churches today seek the rich, and poverty unwillingly seeks them. Light thrown from diamonds adorns the repentant here. We are told that the rich, the fortunate, and the holders of place are Christians now; and yet ministers grow eloquent over the poverty of Christ, who was born in a manger, and say that the Holy Ghost passed the titled ladies of the world and selected the wife of a poor mechanic for the mother of God. Such is the difference between theory and practice. The church condemns the men of Jerusalem who held positions and who held the pretensions of the Savior in contempt. They admit that He was so little known that they had to bribe a man to point Him out to the soldiers. They assert that He performed miracles; yet He remained absolutely unknown, hidden in the depth of obscurity. No one knew Him, and one of His disciples had to be bribed to point Him out. Surely He and His disciples could have met the arguments which were urged against their religion at that time.
So long as the church honored philosophers she kept her great men in the majority. How is it now? I say tonight that no man of genius in the world is in the orthodox pulpit, so far as I know. Where are they? Where are the orthodox great men? I challenge the Christian church to produce a man like Alexander Humboldt. I challenge the world to produce a naturalist like Haeckel. I challenge the Christian world to produce a man like Darwin. Where in the ranks of orthodoxy are historians like Draper and Buckle? Where are the naturalists like Tyndall, philosophers like Mills and Spencer, and women like George Eliot and Harriet Martineau? You may get tired of the great-men argument; but the names of the great thinkers, and naturalists and scientists of our time cannot be matched by the supernatural world.
What is the next argument they will bring forward? The father and mother argument. You must not disgrace your parents. How did Christ come to leave the religion of His mother? That argument proves too much. There is one way every man can honor his mother—that is by finding out more than she knew. There is one way a man can honor his father—by correcting the old man's errors.
Most people imagine that the creed we have came from the brain and heart of Christ. They have no idea how it was made. They think it was all made at one time. They don't understand that it was a slow growth. They don't understand that theology is a science made up of mistakes, prejudices and falsehoods. Let me tell you a few facts: The Emperor Constantine, who lifted the Christian religion into power, murdered his wife and his eldest son the very year that he convened the Council of Nice to decide whether Jesus Christ was man or God; and that was not decided until the year of grace 325. Then Theodosius called a council at Constantinople in 381, and this council decided that the Holy Ghost proceeded from the Father. You see, there was a little doubt on that question before this was done. Then another council was called later to determine who the Virgin Mary really was, and it was solemnly decided that she was the mother of Christ. In 431, and then in 451, a council was held in Chalcedon, by the Emperor Marcian, and that decided that Christ had two natures—a human and a divine. In 680 another council was held at Constantinople; and in 1274 at Lyons, it was decided that the Holy Ghost proceeded not only from the Father but from the Son; and when you take into consideration the fact that a belief in the Trinity is absolutely essential to salvation, you see how important it was that these doctrines should have been established in 1274, when millions of people had dropped into hell in the interim solely because they had forgotten that question. At last we know how religions are made. We know how miracles are manufactured. We know the history of relics, and bones, and pieces of the true cross. And at last we understand apostolic succession. At last we have examined other religions, and we find them all the same, and we are beginning to suspect that ours is like the rest. I think we understand it.
I read a little story, a short time ago, from the Japanese, that throws light upon the question. There was an old priest at a monastery. This monastery was built over the bones of what he called a saint, and people came there and were cured of many diseases. This priest had an assistant. After the assistant grew up and got quite to understand his business, the old priest gave him a little donkey, and told him that henceforth he was to take care of himself. The young priest started out with his little donkey, and asked alms of those he met. Few gave to him. Finally he got very poor. He could not raise money enough to feed the donkey. Finally the donkey died; he was about to bury it when a thought occurred to him. He buried the donkey and sat down on the grave, and to the next stranger that passed he said: "Will you not give a little money to erect a shrine over the bones of a sinless one?" Thereupon a man gave money. Others followed his example, a shrine was raised, and in a little while a monastery was built over the bones of the sinless one. Down in the grave the young priest made an orifice, so that persons afflicted with any disease could reach down and touch the bones of the sinless one. Hundreds were thus cured, and persons left their crutches as testimonials to the miraculous power of the bones of the sinless one. Finally the priest became so rich that he thought he would visit his old master. He went to the old monastery with a fine retinue. His old master asked him how he became so rich and prosperous. He replied: "Old age is stupid, but youth has thought." Later on he explained to the old priest how the donkey had died, and how he had raised a monastery over the bones of the sinless one; and again reminded him that old age is stupid, but youth has thought. The old priest exclaimed: "Not quite so fast, young man; not quite so fast. Don't imagine you worked out anything new. This shrine of mine is built over the bones of the mother of your little donkey."
We have now reached a point in the history of the world when we know that theocracy as a form of government is a failure, and we see that theology as a foundation of government is an absolute failure. We can see that theocracy and theology created, not liberty, but despotism. We know enough of the history of the churches in this world to know that they never can civilize mankind; that they are not imbued with the spirit of progress; that they are not imbued with the spirit of justice and mercy. What I ask you tonight is: What has the church done to civilize mankind? What has the church done for us? How has it added to the prosperity of this world? Has it ever produced anything? Nothing. Why, they say, it has been charitable. How can a beggar be charitable? A beggar produces nothing. The church has been an eternal and everlasting pauper. It is not charitable. It is an object of charity, and yet it claims to be charitable. The giver is the charitable one. Somebody who has made something, somebody who has by his labor produced something, he alone can be charitable.
And let me say another thing: The church is always on the wrong side. Let us take, first, the Episcopal church—if you call that a church. Let me tell you one thing about that church. You know what is called the rebellion in England in 1688? Do you know what caused it? I will tell you. King James was a Catholic, and notwithstanding that fact, he issued an edict of toleration for the Dissenters and Catholics. And what next did he do? He ordered all the bishops to have this edict of toleration read in the Episcopal churches. They refused to do it—most of them. You recollect that trial of the seven bishops? That is what it was all about; they would not read the edict of toleration. Then what happened? A strange thing to say, and it is one of the miracles of this world: The Dissenters, in whose favor that edict was issued, joined hands with the Episcopalians, and raised the rebellion against the king, because he wanted to give the Dissenters liberty, and these Dissenters and these Episcopalians, on account of toleration, drove King James into exile. This is the history of the first rebellion the Church of England ever raised against the king, simply because he issued an edict of toleration and the poor, miserable wretches in whose favor the edict was issued joined hands with their oppressors. I want to show you how much the Church of England has done for England. I get it from good authority. Let me read it to you to show how little influence the Christian church, the Church of England, had with the government of that country. Let me tell you that up to the reign of George I. there were in that country sixty-seven offenses punishable with death. There is not a lawyer in this city who can think of those offenses and write them down in one day. Think of it! Sixty-seven offenses punishable with death! Now, between the accession of George I. and the termination of the reign of George III. there were added 156 new crimes punishable with death, making in all 223 crimes in England punishable with death. There is no lawyer in this State who can think of that many crimes in a week. Now, during all those years the government was becoming more and more cruel; more and more barbarous; and we do not find, and we have not found, that the Church of England, with its 15,000 or 20,000 Ministers, with its more than a score of bishops in the House of Lords, has ever raised its voice or perfected any organization in favor of a more merciful code, or in condemnation of the enormous cruelty which the laws were continually inflicting. And was not Voltaire justified in saying that "The English were a people who murdered by law?" Now, that is an extract from a speech made by John Bright in May, 1883. That shows what the Church of England did. Two hundred and twenty-three offenses in England punishable with death, and no minister, no bishop, no church organization raising his or its voice, against the monstrous cruelty. And why? Even then it was better than the law of Jehovah.
And the Protestants were as bad as the Catholics. You remember the time of Henry IV. in France, when the edict of Nantes was issued simply to give the Protestants the right to worship God according to the dictates of their conscience. Just as soon as that edict was issued the Protestants themselves, in the cities where they had the power, prevented the Catholics from worshiping their God according to the dictates of their conscience, and it was on account of the refusal of those Protestants to allow the Catholics to worship God as they desired that there was a civil war lasting for seven years in France. Richelieu came into authority about the second or third year of that war. He made no difference between Protestants and Catholics; and it was owing to Richelieu that the Thirty Years' War terminated. It was owing to Richelieu that the peace of Westphalia was made in 1643, although I believe he had been dead a year before that time; but it was owing to him, and it was the first peace ever made between nations on a secular basis, with everything religious left out, and it was the last great religious war.
You may ask me what I want. Well, in the first place I want to get theology out of government. It has no business there. Man gets his authority from man, and is responsible only to man. I want to get theology out of politics. Our ancestors in 1776 retired God from politics, because of the jealousies among the churches, and the result has been splendid for mankind. I want to get theology out of education. Teach the children what somebody knows, not what somebody guesses. I want to get theology out of morality, and out of charity. Don't give for God's sake, but for man's sake.
I want you to know another thing; that neither Protestants nor Catholics are fit to govern this world. They are not fit to govern themselves. How could you elect a minister of any religion president of the United States. Could you elect a bishop of the Catholic church, or a Methodist bishop, or Episcopal minister, or one of the elders? No. And why? We are afraid of the ecclesiastic spirit. We are afraid to trust the liberties of men in the hands of people who acknowledge that they are bound by a standard different from that of the welfare of mankind.
The history of Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, Cuba, and Brazil all show that slavery existed where Catholicism was a power. I would suggest an education that would rule theology out of the government, and teach people to rely more on themselves and less on providence. There are two ways of living—the broad way of life lived for others, and the narrow theological way. It is wise to so live that death can be serenely faced, and then, if there is another world, the best way to prepare for it is to make the best of this; and if there be no other world, the best way to live here is to so live as to be happy and make everybody else happy.
INGERSOLL'S LECTURE ON THE GREAT INFIDELS
Ladies and Gentlemen: There is nothing grander in this world than to rescue from the leprosy of slander a great and splendid name. There is nothing nobler than to benefit our benefactors. The infidels of one age have been the aureole saints of the next. The destroyers of the old have always been the creators of the new. The old passes away and the new becomes old. There is in the intellectual world, as in the material, decay and growth; and even by the sunken grave of age stand youth and joy. The history of progress is written in the lives of infidels. Political rights have been preserved by traitors; intellectual rights by infidels.
To attack the kings was treason; to dispute the priests blasphemy. The sword and cross have always been allies; they defended each other. The throne and altar are twins—vultures born of the same egg. It was James I. who said: "No king, no bishop; no church, no crown; no tyrant in heaven, no tyrant on earth." Every monarchy that has disgraced the world, every despotism that has covered the cheeks of men with fear has been copied after the supposed despotism of hell. The king owned the bodies and the priest owned the souls; one lived on taxes and the other on alms; one was a robber and the other a beggar.
The history of the world will not show you one charitable beggar. He who lives on charity never has anything to give away. The robbers and beggars controlled not only this world, but the next. The king made laws, the priest made creeds; with bowed backs the people received and bore the burdens of the one, and with the open mouth of wonder the creed of the other. If any aspired to be free they were crushed by the king, and every priest was a hero who slaughtered the children of the brave. The king ruled by force, the priest by fear and by the bible. The king said to the people: "God made you peasants and me a king; He clothed you in rags and housed you in hovels; upon me He put robes and gave me a palace." Such is the justice of God. The priest said to the people: "God made you ignorant and vile, me holy and wise; obey me, or God will punish you here and hereafter." Such is the mercy of God.
Infidels are the intellectual discoverers. Infidels have sailed the unknown sea and have discovered the isles and continents in the vast realms of thought. What would the world have been had infidels never existed? What the infidel is in religion the inventor is in mechanics. What the infidel is in religion the man willing to fight the hosts of tyranny is in the political world. An infidel is a gentleman who has discovered a fact and is not afraid to tell about it. There has been for many thousands of years an idea prevalent that in some way you can prove whether the theories defended or advanced by a man are right or wrong by showing what kind of a man he was, what kind of a life he lived, and what manner of death he died. There is nothing to this. It makes no difference what the character of the man was who made the first multiplication table. It is absolutely true, and whenever you find an absolute fact, it makes no difference who discovered it. The golden rule would have been just as good if it had first been whispered by the devil.
It is good for what it contains, not because a certain man said it. Gold is just as good in the hands of crime as in the hands of virtue. Whatever it may be, it is gold. A statement made by a great man is not necessarily true. A man entertains certain opinions, and then he is proscribed because he refuses to change his mind. He is burned to ashes, and in the midst of the flames he cries out that he is of the same opinion still. Hundreds then say that he has sealed his testimony with his blood, and that his doctrines must be true. All the martyrs in the history of the world are not sufficient to establish the correctness of any one opinion. Martyrdom as a rule establishes the sincerity of the martyr, not the correctness of his thought. Things are true or false independently of the man who entertains them. Truth cannot be affected by opinion; an error cannot be believed sincerely enough to make it the truth. No Christian will admit that any amount of heroism displayed by a Mormon is sufficient to show that Joseph Smith was an inspired prophet. All the courage and culture, all the poetry and art of ancient Greece do not even tend to establish the truth of any myth.
The testimony of the dying concerning some other world, or in regard to the supernatural, cannot be any better than that of the living. In the early days of Christian experience an intrepid faith was regarded as a testimony in favor of the church. No doubt, in the arms of death, many a one went back and died in the lay of the old faith. After awhile Christians got to dying and clinging to their faith; and then it was that Christians began to say: "No man can die serenely without clinging to the cross." According to the theologians, God has always punished the dying who did not happen to believe in Him. As long as men did nothing except to render their fellowmen wretched, God maintained the strictest neutrality, but when some honest man expressed a doubt as to the Jewish scriptures, or prayed to the wrong god, or to the right God by the wrong man, then the real God leaped like a wounded tiger upon this dying man, and from his body tore his wretched soul.
There is no recorded instance where the uplifted hand of murder has been paralyzed, or the innocent have been shielded by God. Thousands of crimes are committed every day, and God has no time to prevent them. He is too busy numbering hairs and matching sparrows; He is listening for blasphemy; He is looking for persons who laugh at priests; He is examining baptismal registers; He is watching professors in colleges who begin to doubt the geology of Moses or the astronomy of Joshua. All kinds of criminals, except infidels, meet death with reasonable serenity. As a rule, there is nothing in the death of a pirate to cast discredit upon his profession. The murderer upon the scaffold smilingly exhorts the multitude to meet him in heaven. The Emperor Constantine, who lifted Christianity into power, murdered his wife and oldest son.
Now and then, in the history of the world, there has been a man of genius, a man of intellectual honesty. These men have denounced the superstition of their day. They were honest enough to tell their thoughts. Some of them died naturally in their beds, but it would not do for the church to admit that they died peaceably; that would show that religion was not necessary in the last moments. The first grave, the first cathedral; the first corpse was the first priest. If there was no death in the world there would be no superstition. The church has taken great pains to show that the last moments of all infidels have been infinitely wretched. Upon this point, Catholics and Protestants have always stood together. They are no longer men; they become hyenas, they dig open graves. They devour the dead. It is an auto da fe presided over by God and his angels. These men believed in the accountability of men in the practice of virtue and justice. They believed in liberty, but they did not believe in the inspiration of the bible. That was their crime. In order to show that infidels died overwhelmed with remorse and fear they have generally selected from all the infidels since the days of Christ until now five men—the Emperor Julian, Bruno, Diderot, David Hume and Thomas Paine.
They forget that Christ himself was not a Christian, that He did what He could to tear down the religion of His day; that He held the temple in contempt. I like Him because He held the old Jewish religion in contempt; because He had sense enough to say that doctrine was not true. In vain have their calumniators been called upon to prove their statements. They simply charge it, they simply relate it, but that is no evidence. The Emperor Julian did what he could to prevent Christians destroying each other. He held pomp and pride in contempt. In battle with the Persians he was mortally wounded. Feeling that he had but a short time to live, he spent his last hours in discussing with his friends the immortality of the soul. He declared that he was satisfied with his conduct, and that he had no remorse to express for any act he had ever done.
The first great infidel was Giordano Bruno. He was born in the year of grace 1550. He was a Dominican friar—Catholic—and afterwards he changed his mind.
The reason he changed was because he had a mind. He was a lover of nature, and said to the poor hermits in their caves, to the poor monks in their monasteries, to the poor nuns in their cells: "Come out in the glad fields; come and breathe the fresh, free air; come and enjoy all the beauty there is in the world. There is no God who can be made happier by you being miserable; there is no God who delights to see upon the human face the tears of pain, of grief, of agony. Come out and enjoy all there is of human life; enjoy progress, enjoy thought, enjoy being somebody and belonging to yourself."
He revolted at the idea of transubstantiation; he revolted at the idea that the eternal God could be in a wafer. He revolted at the idea that you could make the Trinity out of dough—bake God in an oven as you would a biscuit. I should think he would have revolted. The idea of a man devouring the creator of the universe by swallowing a piece of bread. And yet that is just as sensible as any of it. Those who, when smitten on one cheek turn the other, threatened to kill this man. He fled from his native land and was a vagabond in nearly every nation of Europe. He declared that he fought not what men really believed, but what they pretended to believe. And, do you know, that is the business I am in? I am simply saying what other people think; I am furnishing clothes for their children, I am putting on exhibition their offspring, and they like to hear it, they like to see it. We have passed midnight in the history of the world. Bruno was driven from his native country because he taught the rotation of the earth; you can see what a dangerous man he must have been in a well regulated monarchy. You see he had found a fact, and a fact has the same effect upon religion that dynamite has upon a Russian czar. A fellow with a new fact was suspected and arrested, and they always thought they could destroy it by burning him, but they never did. All the fires of martyrdom never destroyed one truth; all the churches of the world have never made one lie true. Germany and France would not tolerate Bruno. According to the Christian system, this world was the center of everything. The stars were made out of what little God happened to have left when He got the world done. God lived up in the sky, and they said this earth must rest upon something, and finally science passed its hand clear under, and there was nothing. It was self-existent in infinite space. Then the church began to say they didn't say it was flat—not so awful flat—it was kind of rounding. According to the ancient Christians God lived from all eternity, and never worked but six days in His whole life, and then had the impudence to tell us to be industrious. I heard of a man going to California over the plains, and, there was a clergyman on board, and he had a great deal to say, and finally he fell in conversation with the '49-er, and the latter said to the clergyman: "Do you believe that God made this world in six days?" "Yes, I do." They were then going along the Humboldt. Says he: "Don't you think He could put in another day to advantage right around here?"
Bruno went to England and delivered lectures at Oxford. He found that there was nothing taught there but superstition, and so called Oxford the "wisdom of learning." Then they told him they didn't want him any more. He went back to Italy, where there was a kind of fascination that threw him back to the very doors of the Inquisition. He was arrested for teaching that there were other worlds, and that stars are suns around which revolve other planets. He was in prison for six years. (During those six years Galileo was teaching mathematics.) Six years in a dungeon; and then he was tried, denounced by the Inquisition, excommunicated, condemned by brute force, pushed upon his knees while he received the benediction of the church, and on the 16th of February, in the year of our Lord 1600, he was burned at the stake.
He believed that the world is animated by an intelligent soul, the cause of force but not of matter; that matter and force have existed from eternity; that this force lives in all things, even in such as appear not to live—in the rock as much as in the man; that matter is the mother of forms and the grace of forms; that the matter and force together constitute God. He was a pantheist—that is to say, he was an atheist. He had the courage to die for what he believed to be right. The murder of Bruno will never, in my judgment, be completely and perfectly revenged until from the city of Rome shall be swept every vestige of priests and pope—until from the shapeless ruins of St. Peter's, the crumbled Vatican and the fallen cross of Rome, rises a monument sacred to the philosopher, the benefactor and the martyr—Bruno.
Voltaire was born in 1694. When he was born, the natural was about the only thing that the church did not believe in. Monks sold amulets, and the priests cured in the name of the church. The worship of the devil was actually established, which today is the religion of China. They say: "God is good; He won't bother you; Joss is the one." They offer him gifts, and try and soften his heart;—so, in the middle ages, the poor people tried to see if they could not get a short cut, and trade directly with the devil, instead of going round-about through the church. In these days witnesses were cross-examined with instruments of torture. Voltaire did more for human liberty than any other man who ever lived or died. He appealed to the common sense of mankind—he held up the great contradictions of the sacred scriptures in a way that no man, once having read him, could forget. For one, I thank Voltaire for the liberty I am enjoying this moment. How small a man a priest looked when he pointed his finger at him; how contemptible a king.
Toward the last of May, 1778, it was whispered in Paris that Voltaire was dying. He expired with the most perfect tranquility. There have been constructed most shameless lies about the death of this great and wonderful man, compared with whom all his calumniators, living or dead, were but dust and vermin. From his throne at the foot of the Alps he pointed the finger of scorn at every hypocrite in Europe. He was the pioneer of his century.
In 1771, in Scotland, David Hume was born. Scotch Presbyterianism is the worst form of religion that has ever been produced. The Scotch Kirk had all the faults of the Church of Rome, without a redeeming feature. The church hated music, despised painting, abhorred statuary, and held architecture in contempt. Anything touched with humanity, with the weakness of love, with the dimple of joy, was detested by the Scotch Kirk. God was to be feared; God was infinitely practical; no nonsense about God. They used to preach four times a day. They preached on Friday before the Sunday upon which they partook of the sacrament, and then on Saturday; four sermons on Sunday, and two or three on Monday to sober up on. They were bigoted and heartless. One case will illustrate. In the beginning of this nineteenth century a boy seventeen years of age was indicted at Edinburgh for blasphemy. He had given it as his opinion that Moses had learned magic in Egypt, and had fooled the Jews. They proved that on two or three occasions, when he was real cold, he jocularly remarked that he wished he was in hell, so that he could warm up. He was tried, convicted, and sentenced to be hanged. He recanted; he even wrote that he believed the whole business; and that he just said it for pure devilment. It made no difference. They hung him, and his bruised and bleeding corpse was denied to his own mother, who came and besought them to let her take her boy home. That was Scotch Presbyterianism. If the devil had been let loose in Scotland he would have improved that country at that time.
David Hume was one of the few Scotchmen who was not owned by the church. He had the courage to examine things for himself, and to give his conclusion to the world. His life was unstained by an unjust act. He did not, like Abraham, turn a woman from his door with his child in her arms. He did not, like King David, murder a man that he might steal his wife. He didn't believe in Scotch Presbyterianism. I don't see how any good man ever did. Just think of going to the day of judgment, if there is one, and standing up before God and admitting, without a blush, that you have lived and died a Scotch Presbyterian. I would expect the next sentence would be, "Depart ye cursed in everlasting fire." Hume took the ground that a miracle could not be used as evidence until you had proved the miracle. Of course that excited the church. Why? Because they could not prove one of them. How are you going to prove a miracle? Who saw it, and who would know a devil if he did see him? Hume insisted that at the bottom of all good is something useful; that after all, human happiness was the great object, end, and aim of life; that virtue was not a termagant, with sunken cheeks and frightful eyes, but was the most beautiful thing in the world, and would strew your path with flowers from the cradle to the grave. When he died they gave an account of how he had suffered. They knew that the horrors of death would fall upon him, and that God would get his revenge. But his attending physician said that his death was the most serene and most perfectly tranquil of any he had ever seen. Adam Smith said he was as near perfect as the frailty incident to humanity would allow human being to be.
The next is Benedict Spinoza, a Jew, born at Amsterdam in 1768. He studied theology, and asked the rabbis too many questions, and talked too much about what he called reason, and finally he was excommunicated from the synagogue, and became an outcast at the age of twenty-four, without friends. Cursed, anathematized, bearing upon his forehead the mark of Cain, he undertook to solve the problem of the universe. To him the universe was one. The infinite embraced the all. That all was God. He was right; the universe is all there is, and if God does not exist in the universe He exists nowhere. The idea of putting some little Jewish jehovah outside the universe, as if to say that from an eternity of idleness he woke up one morning and thought he would make something.
The propositions of Spinoza are as luminous as the stars, and his demonstrations, each one of them, is a Gibraltar, behind which logic sits laughing at all the sophistries of theological thought. In every relation of life he was just, true, gentle, patient, loving, affectionate. He died in 1812. In his life of forty-four years he had climbed to the very highest alpine of human thought. He was a great and splendid man, an intellectual hero, one of the benefactors, one of the Titans of our race.
And now I will say a few words about our infidels. We had three, to say the least of them—Paine, Franklin and Jefferson. In their day the colonies were filled with superstition, and the Puritans with the spirit of persecution. Law, savage, ignorant and malignant, had been passed in every colony for the purpose of destroying intellectual liberty. Manly freedom was unknown. The toleration act of Maryland tolerated only chickens, not thinkers, not investigators. It tolerated faith, not brains. The charity of Roger Williams was not extended to one who denied the bible. Let me show you how we have advanced. Suppose you took every man and woman out of the Penitentiary in New England and shipped them to a new country where man before had never trod, and told them to make a government, and constitution, and a code of laws for themselves. I say tonight that they would make a better constitution and a better code of laws than any that were made in any of the original thirteen colonies of the United States.
Not that they are better men, not that they are more honest, but that they have got more sense. They have been touched with the dawn of the eternal day of liberty that will finally come to this world. They would have more respect for others' rights than they had at that time. But the churches were jealous of each other, and we got a constitution without religion in it from the mutual jealousies of the church, and from the genius of men like Paine, Franklin and Jefferson. We are indebted to them for a constitution without a God in it. They knew that if you put God in there, an infinite God, there wouldn't be any room for the people. Our fathers retired Jehovah from politics. Our fathers, under the directions and leadership of those infidels, said, "All power comes from the consent of the governed." George Washington wanted to establish a church by law in Virginia. Thomas Jefferson prevented it. Under the guaranty of liberty of conscience which was given, our legislation has improved, and it will not be many years before all laws touching liberty of conscience, excepting it may be in the State of Delaware, will be blotted out, and when that time comes we or our children may thank the infidels of 1776. The church never pretended that Franklin died in fear. Franklin wrote no books against the bible. He thought it useless to cast the pearls of thought before the swine of his generation.
Jefferson was a statesman. He was the author of the Declaration of Independence, founder of a university, father of a political body, president of the United States, a statesman, and a philosopher. He was too powerful for the churches of his day. Paine attacked the Trinity and the bible both. He had done these things openly—His arguments were so good that his reputation got bad. I want you to recollect tonight that he was the first man who wrote these words: "The United States of America." I want you to know tonight that he was the first man who suggested the Federal Constitution. I want you to know that he did more for the actual separation from Great Britain than any man that ever lived. I want you to know that he did as much for liberty with his pen as any soldier did with his sword. I want you to know that during the Revolution his "Crisis" was the pillar of fire by night and a cloud by day. I want you to know that his "Common Sense" was the one star in the horizon of despotism. I want you to know that he did as much as any living man to give our free flag to the free air. He was not content to waste all his energies here. When the volcano covered Europe with the shreds of robes and the broken fragments of thrones, Paine went to France. He was elected by four constituencies. He had the courage to vote against the death of Louis, and was imprisoned. He wrote to Washington, the president, and asked him to interfere. Washington threw the letter in the wastebasket of forgetfulness. When Paine was finally released he gave his opinion of George Washington, and, under such circumstances, I say a man can be pardoned for having said even unjust things. The eighteenth century was crowning its gray hairs with the wreaths of progress, and Thomas Paine said: "I will do something to liberate mankind from superstition." He wrote the "Age of Reason." For his good, he wrote it too soon; for ours, not a day too quick. From that moment he was a despised and calumniated man. When he came back to this country he could not safely walk the streets for fear of being mobbed. Under the Constitution he had suggested, his rights were not safe; under the flag that he had helped give to heaven, with which he had enriched the air, his liberty was not safe. Is it not a disgrace to us that all the lies that have been told about him, and will be told about him, are a perpetual disgrace? I tell you that upon the grave of Thomas Paine the churches of America have sacrificed their reputation for veracity. Who can hate a man with a creed:
"I believe in one God and no more, and I hope for immortality; I believe in the equality of man, and that religious duty consists in doing justice, in doing mercy, and in endeavoring to make our fellow-creatures happy. It is necessary to the happiness of man that he be faithful to himself. One good schoolmaster is worth a thousand priests. Man has no property in man, and the key of heaven is in the keeping of no saint."
Grand, splendid, brave man!—with some faults, with many virtues; the world is better because he lived; and if Thomas Paine had not lived I could not have delivered this lecture here tonight.
Did all the priests of Rome increase the mental wealth of man as much as Bruno? Did all the priests of France do as great a work for the civilization of this world as Diderot and Voltaire? Did all the ministers of Scotland add as much to the sum of human knowledge as David Hume? Have all the clergymen, monks, friars, ministers, priests, bishops, cardinals and popes from the day of Pentecost to the last election done as much for human liberty as Thomas Paine? What would the world be now if infidels had never been? Infidels have been the flower of all this world. Recollect, by infidels I mean every man who has made an intellectual advance. By orthodox I mean a gentleman who is petrified in his mind, whopping around intellectually, simply to save the funeral expenses of his soul. Infidels are the creditors of all the years to come. They have made this world fit to live in, and without them the human brain would be as empty as the Chronicles soon will be. Unless they preach something that the people want to hear, it is not a crime to benefit our fellow-man intellectually. The churches point to their decayed saints and their crumbled popes and say, "Do you know more than all the ministers that ever lived?" And, without the slightest egotism or blush, I say, "Yes; and the name of Humboldt outweighs them all." The men who stand in the front rank, the men who know most of the secrets of nature, the men who know most are today the advanced infidels of this world. I have lived long enough to see the brand of intellectual inferiority on every orthodox brain.
INGERSOLL'S LECTURE ON TALMAGIAN THEOLOGY.
Ladies and Gentlemen: Nothing can be more certain than that no human being can by any possibility control his thought. We are in this world—we see, we hear, we feel, we taste; and everything in nature makes an impression upon the brain, and that wonderful something, enthroned there with these materials, weaves what we call thought, and the brain can no more help thinking than the heart can help beating. The blood pursues its old accustomed round without our will. The heart beats without asking leave of us, and the brain thinks in spite of all that we can do. This being true, no human being can justly be held responsible for his thought any more than for the beating of his heart, any more than for the course pursued by the blood, any more than for breathing air. And yet for thousands of years thought has been thought to be a crime, and thousands and millions have threatened us with eternal fire if we give the product of that brain. Each brain, in my judgment, is a field where nature sows the seeds of thought, and thought is the crop that man reaps, and it certainly cannot be a crime to gather; it certainly cannot be a crime to tell it, which simply amounts to the right to sell your crop or to exchange your product for the product of some other man's brain. That is all it is. Most brains—at least some—are rather poor fields, and the orthodox worst of all. That field produces mostly sorrel and mullin, while there are fields which, like the tropic world, are filled with growth, and where you find the vine and palm, royal children of the sun and brain. I then stand simply for absolute freedom of thought—absolute; and I don't believe, if there be a God, that it will be or can be pleasing to Him to see one of His children afraid to express what he thinks. And, if I were God, I never would cease making men until I succeeded in making one grand enough to tell his honest opinion.
Now there has been a struggle, you know, a long time between the believers in the natural and the supernatural—between gentlemen who are going to reward us in another world and those who propose to make life worth living here and now. In all ages the priest, the medicine man, the magician, the astrologer, in other words, gentlemen who have traded upon the fear and ignorance of their fellow-man in all countries—they have sought to, make their living out of others. There was a time when a God presided over every department of human interest, when a man about to take a voyage bribed the priest of Neptune so that he might have a safe journey, and when he came back, he paid more, telling the priest that he was infinitely obliged to him; that he had kept waves from the sea and storms in their caves. And so, when one was sick he went to a priest; when one was about to take a journey he visited the priest of Mercury; if he were going to war he consulted the representative of Mars. We have gone along. When the poor agriculturist plowed his ground and put in the seed he went to the priest of some god and paid him to keep off the frost. And the priest said he would do it; "but," added the priest, "you must have faith." If the frost came early he said, "You didn't have faith." And besides all that he says to him: "Anything that has happened badly, after all, was for your good." Well, we found out, day by day, that a good boat for the purpose of navigating the sea was better than prayers, better than the influence of priests; and you had better have a good captain attending to business than thousands of priests ashore praying.
We also found that we could cure some diseases, and just as soon as we found that we could cure diseases we dismissed the priest. We have left him out now of all of them, except it may be cholera and smallpox. When visited by a plague some people get frightened enough to go back to the old idea—go back to the priest, and the priest says: "It has been sent as a punishment." Well, sensible people began to look about; they saw that the good died as readily as the bad; they saw that this disease would attack the dimpled child in the cradle and allow the murderer to go unpunished; and so they began to think in time that it was not sent as a punishment; that it was a natural result; and so the priest stepped out of medicine.
In agriculture we need him no longer; he has nothing to do with the crops. All the clergymen in this world can never get one drop of rain out of the sky; and all the clergymen in the civilized world could not save one human life if they tried it.
Oh, but they say, "We do not expect a direct answer to prayer; it is the reflex action we are after." It is like a man endeavoring to lift himself up by the straps of his boots; he will never do it, but he will get a great deal of useful exercise.