Final Installment of "Some Reasons Why" by Robert Ingersoll

This piece contains a masterful evisceration of the fundamentals of Christianity. Here are samples from Julian Haydon:


ONE great objection to the Old Testament is the cruelty said to have been commanded by God. All these cruelties ceased with death. The vengeance of Jehovah stopped at the tomb. He never threatened to punish the dead; and there is not one word, from the first mistake in Genesis to the last curse of Malachi, containing the slightest intimation that God will take his revenge in another world.

It was reserved for the New Testament to make known the doctrine of eternal pain. The teacher of universal benevolence rent the veil between time and eternity, and fixed the horrified gaze of man upon the lurid gulf of hell. Within the breast of non-resistance coiled the worm that never dies. Compared with this, the doctrine of slavery, the wars of extermination, the curses, the punishments of the Old Testament were all merciful and just.

There is no time to speak of the conflicting statements in the various books composing the New Testament—no time to give the history of the manuscripts, the errors in translation, the interpolations made by the fathers and by their successors, the priests, and only time to speak of a few objections, including some absurdities and some contradictions.

Where several witnesses testify to the same transaction, no matter how honest they may be, they will disagree upon minor matters, and such testimony is generally considered as evidence that the witnesses have not conspired among themselves. The differences in statement are accounted for from the facts that all do not see alike, and that all have not equally good memories; but when we claim that the witnesses are inspired, we must admit that he who inspired them did know exactly what occurred, and consequently there should be no disagreement, even in the minutest detail.

The accounts should not only be substantially, but they should be actually, the same. The differences and contradictions can be accounted for by the weaknesses of human nature, but these weaknesses cannot be predicated of divine wisdom.

And here let me ask: Why should there have been more than one correct account of what really happened? Why were four gospels necessary? It seems to me that one inspired gospel, containing all that happened, was enough. Copies of the one correct one could have been furnished to any extent.

According to Doctor Davidson, Irenæus argues that the gospels were four in number, because there are four universal winds, four corners of the globe. Others have said, because there are four seasons; and these gentlemen might have added, because a donkey has four legs. For my part, I cannot even conceive of a reason for more than one gospel.

According to one of these gospels, and according to the prevalent Christian belief, the Christian religion rests upon the doctrine of the atonement. If this doctrine is without foundation, the fabric falls; and it is without foundation, for it is repugnant to justice and mercy.

The church tells us that the first man committed a crime for which all others are responsible.

This absurdity was the father and mother of another—that a man can be rewarded for the good action of another.

We are told that God made a law, with the penalty of eternal death. All men, they tell us, have broken this law. The law had to be vindicated. This could be done by damning everybody, but through what is known as the atonement the salvation of a few was made possible. They insist that the law demands the extreme penalty, that justice calls for its victim, that mercy ceases to plead, and that God by allowing the innocent to suffer in the place of the guilty settled satisfactory with the law.

To carry out this scheme God was born as a babe, grew in stature, increased in knowledge, and at the age of thirty-three years having lived a life filled with kindness, having practiced every virtue, he was sacrificed as an atonement for man. It is claimed that he took our place, bore our sins, our guilt, and in this way satisfied the justice of God.

Under the Mosaic dispensation there was no remission of sin except through the shedding of blood. When a man sinned he must bring to the priest a lamb, a bullock, a goat, or a pair of turtle-doves.

The priest would lay his hand upon the animal and the sin of the man would be transferred to the beast. Then the animal would be killed in place of the sinner, and the blood thus shed would be sprinkled upon the altar. In this way Jehovah was satisfied. The greater the crime, the greater the sacrifice. There was a ratio between the value of the animal and the enormity of the sin.

The most minute directions were given as to the killing of these animals. Every priest became a butcher, every synagogue a slaughter-house. Nothing could be more utterly shocking to a refined soul, nothing better calculated to harden the heart, than the continual shedding of innocent blood.

This terrible system culminated in the sacrifice of Christ. His blood took the place of all other. It is not necessary to shed any more. The law at last is satisfied, satiated, surfeited.

The idea that God wants blood is at the bottom of the atonement, and rests upon the most fearful savagery; and yet the Mosaic dispensation was better adapted to prevent the commission of sin than the Christian system. Under that dispensation, if you committed a sin, you had to bring a sacrifice—dove, sheep, or bullock, now, when a sin is committed, the Christian says, "Charge it," "Put it on the slate, If I don't pay it the Savior will."

In this way, rascality is sold on a credit, and the credit system of religion breeds extravagance in sin. The Mosaic dispensation was based upon far better business principles. The debt had to be paid, and by the man who owed it.

We are told that the sinner is in debt to God, and that the obligation is discharged by the Savior. The best that can be said of such a transaction is that the debt is transferred, not paid. As a matter of fact, the sinner is in debt to the person he has injured. If you injure a man, it is not enough to get the forgiveness of God—you must get the man's forgiveness, you must get your own. If a man puts his hand in the fire and God forgives him, his hand will smart just as badly.

You must reap what you sow. No God can give you wheat when you sow tares, and no Devil can give you tares when you sow wheat. We must remember that in nature there are neither rewards nor punishments—there are consequences.

The life and death of Christ do not constitute an atonement. They are worth the example, the moral force, the heroism of benevolence, and in so far as the life of Christ produces emulation in the direction of goodness, it has been of value to mankind.

To make innocence suffer is the greatest sin, and it may be the only sin. How, then, is it possible to make the consequences of sin an atonement for sin, when the consequences of sin are to be borne by one who has not sinned, and the one who has sinned is to reap the reward of virtue?

No honorable man should be willing that another should suffer for him. No good law can accept the sufferings of innocence as an atonement for the guilty; and besides, if there was no atonement until the crucifixion of Christ, what became of the countless millions who died before that time?

We must remember that the Jews did not kill animals for the Gentiles. Jehovah hated foreigners. There was no way provided for the forgiveness of a heathen.

What has become of the millions who have died since, without having heard of the atonement? What becomes of those who hear and do not believe? Can there be a law that demands that the guilty be rewarded. And yet, to reward the guilty is far nearer justice than to punish the innocent. If the doctrine of the atonement is true, there would have been no heaven had no atonement been made.

If Judas had understood the Christian system, if he knew that Christ must be betrayed, and that God was depending on him to betray him, and that without the betrayal no human soul could be saved, what should Judas have done?

Jehovah took special charge of the Jewish people. He did this for the purpose of civilizing them. If he had succeeded in civilizing them, he would have made the damnation of the entire human race a certainty; because if the Jews had been a civilized people when Christ appeared—a people who had not been hardened by the laws of Jehovah—they would not have crucified Christ, and as a consequence, the world would have been lost.

If the Jews had believed in religious freedom, in the rights of thought and speech, if the Christian religion is true, not a human soul ever could have been saved. If, when Christ was on his way to Calvary, some brave soul had rescued him from the pious mob, he would not only have been damned for his pains, but would have rendered impossible the salvation of any human being.

The Christian world has been trying for nearly two thousand years to explain the atonement, and every effort has ended in an admission that it cannot be understood, and a declaration that it must be believed.

Has the promise and hope of forgiveness ever prevented the commission of a sin? Can men be made better by being taught that sin gives happiness here; that to live a virtuous life is to bear a cross; that men can repent between the last sin and the last breath; and that repentance washes every stain of the soul away? Is it good to teach that the serpent of regret will not hiss in the ear of memory; that the saved will not even pity the victims of their crimes; and that sins forgiven cease to affect the unhappy wretches sinned against?

Another objection is, that a certain belief is necessary to save the soul. This doctrine, I admit, is taught in the gospel according to John, and in many of the epistles; I deny that it is taught in Matthew, Mark, or Luke.

It is, however, asserted by the church that to believe is the only safe way. To this, I reply: Belief is not a voluntary thing. A man believes or disbelieves in spite of himself. They tell us that to believe is the safe way; but I say, the safe way is to be honest. Nothing can be safer than that. No man in the hour of death ever regretted having been honest. No man when the shadows of the last day were gathering about the pillow of death, ever regretted that he had given to his fellow-man his honest thought. No man, in the presence of eternity, ever wished that he had been a hypocrite. No man ever then regretted that he did not throw away his reason. It certainly cannot be necessary to throw away your reason to save your soul, because after that, your soul is not worth saving. The soul has a right to defend itself. My brain is my castle; and when I waive the right to defend it, I become an intellectual serf and slave.

I do not admit that a man by doing me an injury can place me under obligations to do him a service. To render benefits for injuries is to ignore all distinctions between actions.

He who treats friends and enemies alike has neither love nor justice. The idea of non-resistance never occurred to a man with power to defend himself. The mother of this doctrine was weakness. To allow a crime to be committed, even against yourself, when you can prevent it, is next to committing the crime yourself.

The church has preached the doctrine of non-resistance, and under that banner has shed the blood of millions. In the folds of her sacred vestments have gleamed for centuries the daggers of assassination. With her cunning hands she wove the purple for hypocrisy and placed the crown upon the brow of crime.

For more than a thousand years larceny held the scales of justice, hypocrisy wore the mitre and tiara, while beggars scorned the royal sons of toil, and ignorant fear denounced the liberty of thought.

HE came, they tell us, to make a revelation, and what did he reveal?

"Love thy neighbor as thyself"? That was in the Old Testament. "Love God with all thy heart"? That was in the Old Testament. "Return good for evil"? That was said by Buddha, seven hundred years before Christ was born. "Do unto others as ye would that they should do unto you"? That was the doctrine of Lao-tsze. Did he come to give a rule of action? Zoroaster had done this long before: "Whenever thou art in doubt as to whether an action is good or bad, abstain from it."

Did he come to tell us of another world? The immortality of the soul had been taught by the Hindoos, Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans hundreds of years before he was born. What argument did he make in favor of immortality? What facts did he furnish? What star of hope did he put above the darkness of this world?

Did he come simply to tell us that we should not revenge ourselves upon our enemies? Long before, Socrates had said: "One who is injured ought not to return the injury, for on no account can it be right to do an injustice; and it is not right to return an injury, or to do evil to any man, however much we have suffered from him." And Cicero had said: "Let us not listen to those who think we ought to be angry with our enemies, and who believe this to be great and manly. Nothing is so praiseworthy, nothing so clearly shows a great and noble soul, as clemency and readiness to forgive." Is there anything in the literature of the world more nearly perfect than this thought?

Was it from Christ the world learned the first lesson of forbearance, when centuries and centuries before, Chrishna had said, "If a man strike thee, and in striking drop his staff, pick it up and hand it to him again?"

Is it possible that the son of God threatened to say to a vast majority, of his children, "Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels," while the Buddhist was great and tender enough to say:

"Never will I seek nor receive private individual salvation; never enter into final peace alone; but forever and everywhere will I live and strive for the universal redemption of every creature throughout all worlds. Never will I leave this world of sin and sorrow and struggle until all are delivered. Until then, I will remain and suffer where I am?"

Is there anything in the New Testament as beautiful as this, from a Sufi?—"Better one moment of silent contemplation and inward love than seventy thousand years of outward worship."

Is there anything comparable to this?—"Whoever carelessly treads on a worm that crawls on the earth, that heartless one is darkly alienate from God."

Is there anything in the New Testament more beautiful than the story of the Sufi?

For seven years a Sufi practised every virtue, and then he mounted the three steps that lead to the doors of Paradise. He knocked and a voice said: "Who is there?" The Sufi replied: "Thy servant, O God." But the doors remained closed.

Yet seven other years the Sufi engaged in every good work. He comforted the sorrowing and divided his substance with the poor. Again he mounted the three steps, again knocked at the doors of Paradise, and again the voice asked: "Who is there?" and the Sufi replied: "Thy slave, O God."—But the doors remained closed.

Yet seven other years the Sufi spent in works of charity, in visiting the imprisoned and the sick. Again he mounted the steps, again knocked at the celestial doors. Again he heard the question: "Who is there?" and he replied: "Thyself, O God."—The gates wide open flew.

Is it possible that St. Paul was inspired of God, when he said: "Let the women learn in silence, with all subjection."—"Neither was the man created for the woman, but the woman for the man?"

And is it possible that Epictetus, without the slightest aid from heaven, gave to the world this gem of love: "What is more delightful than to be so dear to your wife, as to be on that account dearer to yourself?"

Did St. Paul express the sentiments of God when he wrote —"But I would have you know that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of every woman is the man, and the head of Christ is God. Wives, submit yourselves unto your husbands as unto the Lord?"

And was the author of this, 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; but upon the house where women are not honored, let a curse be pronounced. Where the wife is honored, there the gods are truly worshiped."

Is there anything in the New Testament as beautiful as this?— "Shall I tell thee where nature is most blest and fair? It is where those we love abide. Though that space be small, it is ample above kingdoms; though it be a desert, through it run the rivers of Paradise."

After reading the curses pronounced in the OldTestament upon Jew and heathen, the descriptions of slaughter, of treachery and of death, the destruction of women and babes; after you shall have read all the chapters of horror in the New Testament, the threatenings of fire and flame, then read this, from the greatest of human beings [Shakespeare]:

"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 mightiest: it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown."


UPON passages in the New Testament rests the doctrine of eternal pain. This doctrine subverts every idea of justice. A finite being can neither commit an infinite sin, nor a sin against the Infinite.

A being of infinite goodness and wisdom has no right to create any being whose life is not a blessing. Infinite wisdom has no right to create a failure, and surely a man destined to everlasting failure is not a conspicuous success.

The doctrine of eternal punishment is the most infamous of all doctrines—born of ignorance, cruelty and fear. Around the angel of immortality, Christianity has coiled this serpent.

Upon Love's breast the church has placed the eternal asp. And yet in the same book in which is taught this most frightful of dogmas, we are assured that "the Lord is good to all, and his tender mercies are over all his works."

A few days ago upon the wide sea, was found a barque called "The Tiger," Captain Kreuger, in command. The vessel had been one hundred and twenty-six days upon the sea. For days the crew had been without water, without food, and were starving. For nine days not a drop had passed their lips. The crew consisted of the captain, a mate, and eleven men. At the end of one hundred and eighteen days from Liverpool they killed the captain's Newfoundland dog. This lasted them four days. During the next five days they had nothing. For weeks they had had no light and were unable to see the compass at night. On the one hundred and twenty-fifth day Captain Kreuger, a German, took a revolver in his hand, stood up before the men, and placing the weapon at his temple said: "Boys, we can't stand this much longer, and to save you all, I am willing to die." The mate grasped the revolver and begged the captain to wait another day. The next day, upon the horizon of their despair, they saw the smoke of the steamship Nebo. They were rescued.

Suppose that Captain Kreuger was not a Christian, and suppose that he had sent the ball crashing through his brain, and had done so simply to keep the crew from starvation, do you tell me that a God of infinite mercy would forever damn that man?

Do not misunderstand me. I insist that every passage in the Bible upholding crime was written by savage man.

I insist that if there is a God, he is not, never was, and never will be in favor of slavery, polygamy, wars of extermination, or religious persecution.

Does any Christian believe that if the real God were to write a book now, he would uphold the crimes commanded in the Old Testament? Has Jehovah improved? Has infinite mercy become more merciful? Has infinite wisdom intellectually advanced?

WILL any one claim that the passages upholding slavery have liberated mankind? Are we indebted to polygamy for our modern homes? Was religious liberty born of that infamous verse in which the husband is commanded to kill his wife for worshiping an unknown God?

The usual answer to these objections is, that no country has ever been civilized without a Bible. The Jews were the only people to whom Jehovah made his will directly known.

Were they better than other nations? They read the Old Testament and one of the effects of such reading was, that they crucified a kind, loving, and perfectly innocent man. Certainly they could not have done worse, without a Bible.

In crucifying Christ the Jews followed the teachings of his Father.

If Jehovah was in fact God, and if that God took upon himself flesh and came among the Jews, and preached what the Jews understood to be blasphemy; and if the Jews in accordance with the laws given by this same Jehovah to Moses, crucified him, then I say, and I say it with infinite reverence, he reaped what he had sown. He became the victim of his own injustice.

But I insist that these things are not true. I insist that the real God, if there is one, never commanded man to enslave his fellow-man, never told a mother to sell her babe, never established polygamy, never urged one nation to exterminate another, and never told a husband to kill his wife because she suggested the worship of another God.

From the aspersions of the pulpit, from the slanders of the church, I seek to rescue the reputation of the Deity. I insist that the Old Testament would be a better book with all these passages left out; and whatever may be said of the rest of the Bible, the passages to which I have called attention can, with vastly more propriety, be attributed to a devil than to a god.

Take from the New Testament the idea that belief is necessary to salvation; that Christ was offered as an atonement for the sins of mankind; that heaven is the reward of faith, and hell the penalty of honest investigation, and that the punishment of the human soul will go on forever; take from it all miracles and foolish stories, and I most cheerfully admit that the good passages are true.

If they are true, it makes no difference whether they are inspired or not. Inspiration is only necessary to give authority to that which is repugnant to human reason. Only that which never happened needs to be substantiated by a miracle.

The universe is natural.

The church must cease to insist that passages upholding the institutions of savage men were inspired of God. The dogma of atonement must be abandoned. Good deeds must take the place of faith. The savagery of eternal punishment must be renounced. It must be admitted that credulity is not a virtue, and that investigation is not a crime. It must be admitted that miracles are the children of mendacity, and that nothing can be more wonderful than the majestic, unbroken, sublime, and eternal procession of causes and effects. Reason must be the arbiter. Inspired books attested by miracles cannot stand against a demonstrated fact. A religion that does not command the respect of the greatest minds will, in a little while, excite the mockery of all.

A man who does not believe in intellectual liberty is a barbarian. Is it possible that God is intolerant? Could there be any progress, even in heaven, without intellectual liberty? Is the freedom of the future to exist only in perdition? Is it not, after all, barely possible that a man acting like Christ can be saved? Is a man to be eternally rewarded for believing according to evidence, without evidence, or against evidence?

Are we to be saved because we are good, or because another was virtuous? Is credulity to be winged and crowned, whilst honest doubt is chained and damned.

If Jehovah, was in fact God, he knew the end from the beginning. He knew that his Bible would be a breast-work behind which all tyranny and hypocrisy would crouch. He knew that his Bible would be the auction-block on which women would stand while their babes were sold from their arms. He knew that this Bible would be quoted by tyrants; that it would be the defence of robbers called kings, and of hypocrites called priests. He knew that he had taught the Jewish people nothing of importance. He knew that he had found them free and left them slaves. He knew that he had never fulfilled a single promise made to them. He knew that while other nations had advanced in art and science his chosen people were savage still. He promised them the world, and gave them a desert. He promised them liberty and he made them slaves. He promised them victory and he gave them defeat. He said they should be kings and he made them serfs. He promised them universal empire and gave them exile. When one finishes the Old Testament he is compelled to say: "Nothing can add to the misery of a nation whose king is Jehovah!"

The Old Testament filled this world with tyranny and injustice, and the New gives us a future filled with pain for nearly all of the sons of men.

The Old Testament describes the hell of the past, and the New the hell of the future.

The Old Testament tells us the frightful things that God has done, the New the frightful things that he will do.

These two books give us the sufferings of the past and the future—the injustice, the agony and the tears of both worlds.