Again, from Ingersoll’s “The Gods,” (1872), free online.
The passages below resonate for me because I am only 25 pages from the end of the Bible—and am feeling great relief. After plowing through the four contradictory canonical gospels, and now the epistles of Paul, I am soon to be on Revelation, and then: IT IS FINISHED! And when I read the last verse tomorrow and say, “Thank God,” I won’t mean it in the same way as the faithful.
I must say that although Paul’s attempt to keep the Mediterranean Christians in line was diligent, he also tried to keep women in line—and behind the men. His famous orders that women should keep silent in church (and elsewhere, too) are, of course, regularly ignored by most modern Christian and Jewish congregations. And this shows, more than anything else, that the Bible is man made. One can respond, “Well, Paul was expressing the sexism of his time,” but that’s not an adequate answer, for the Bible is supposed to be either written by or inspired by God. Why couldn’t God look ahead at our modern world, where we’ve finally realized the moral equality of the sexes, and simply say, “Verily I say unto you, women and men shall be as equals in Christ, and respect one another”?
I’d like to hear how some more conservative churches that allow women to preach deal with this passage. I’m sure they just ignore it, but they can’t write it off as a metaphor.
But I digress: on to Ingersoll on both the Old and New Testaments. Ingersoll first discusses the Old Testament’s episodes of genocide and slavery:
One of these gods, and one who demands our love, our admiration and our worship, and one who is worshiped, if mere heartless ceremony is worship, gave to his chosen people for their guidance, the following laws of war: “When thou comest nigh unto a city to fight against it, then proclaim peace unto it. And it shall be if it make thee answer of peace, and open unto thee, then it shall be that all the people that is found therein shall be tributaries unto thee, and they shall serve thee. And if it will make no peace with thee, but will make war against thee, then thou shalt besiege it. And when the Lord thy God hath delivered it into thy hands, thou shalt smite every male thereof with the edge of the sword. But the women and the little ones, and the cattle, and all that is in the city, even all the spoil thereof, shalt thou take unto thyself, and thou shalt eat the spoil of thine enemies which the Lord thy God hath given thee. Thus shalt thou do unto all the cities which are very far off from thee, which are not of the cities of these nations. But of the cities of these people which the Lord thy God doth give thee for an inheritance, thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth.”
Is it possible for man to conceive of anything more perfectly infamous? Can you believe that such directions were given by any being except an infinite fiend? Remember that the army receiving these instructions was one of invasion. Peace was offered upon condition that the people submitting should be the slaves of the invader; but if any should have the courage to defend their homes, to fight for the love of wife and child, then the sword was to spare none — not even the prattling, dimpled babe.
Shortly thereafter, Ingersoll decries the doctrines of heaven and hell, and the very concept of a sacred book. He reminds me of a hybrid between Hitchens and Mencken:
We are asked to justify these frightful passages, these infamous laws of war, because the Bible is the word of God. As a matter of fact, there never was, and there never can be, an argument even tending to prove the inspiration of any book whatever. In the absence of positive evidence, analogy and experience, argument is simply impossible, and at the very best, can amount only to a useless agitation of the air. The instant we admit that a book is too sacred to be doubted, or even reasoned about, we are mental serfs. It is infinitely absurd to suppose that a god would Address a communication to intelligent beings, and yet make it a crime, to be punished in eternal flames, for them to use their intelligence for the purpose of understanding his communication. If we have the right to use our reason, we certainly have the right to act in accordance with it, and no god can have the right to punish us for such action.
The doctrine that future happiness depends upon belief is monstrous. It is the infamy of infamies. The notion that faith in Christ is to be rewarded by an eternity of bliss, while a dependence upon reason, observation and experience merits everlasting pain, is too absurd for refutation, and can be relieved only by that unhappy mixture of insanity and ignorance, called “faith.” What man, who ever thinks, can believe that blood can appease God? And yet, our entire system of religion is based upon that believe. The Jews pacified Jehovah with the blood of animals, and according to the Christian system, the blood of Jesus softened the heart of God a little, and rendered possible the salvation of a fortunate few. It is hard to conceive how the human mind can give assent to such terrible ideas, or how any sane man can read the Bible and still believe in the doctrine of inspiration.
The dude could write. Those who long for the return of “Old Atheism,” saying that it was less strident and more knowledgeable about scripture, haven’t read Ingersoll!