Fiftieth. Can any sane man believe that the sun stood still in the midst of heaven and hasted not to go down about a whole day, and that the moon stayed? [Josh. x, 13.] That these miracles were performed in the interest of massacre and bloodshed; that the Jews destroyed men, women, and children by the million, and practiced every cruelty that the ingenuity of their God could suggest? Is it possible that these things really happened? Is it possible that God commanded them to be done? Again I ask you to read the book of Joshua. After reading all its horrors you will feel a grim satisfaction in the dying words of Joshua to the children of Israel: “Know for a certainty that the Lord your God will no more drive out any of these nations from before you; but they shall be snares and traps unto you, and scourges in your sides, and thorns in your eyes, until ye perish from off this good land.” [Josh. xiii, 13.]
Think of a God who boasted that he gave the Jews a land for which they did not labor, cities which they did not build, and allowed them to eat of olive-yards and vineyards which they did not plant. [Josh. xxiv, 13.] Think of a God who murders some of his children for the benefit of the rest, and then kills the rest because they are not thankful enough. Think of a God who had the power to stop the sun and moon, but could not defeat an army that had iron chariots. [Judges 1, 19.]
Fifty-first. Can we blame the Hebrews for getting tired of their God? Never was a people so murdered, starved, stoned, burned, deceived, humiliated, robbed, and outraged. Never was there so little liberty among men. Never did the meanest king so meddle, eavesdrop, spy out, harass, torment, and persecute his people. Never was ruler so jealous, unreasonable, contemptible, exacting, and ignorant as this God of the Jews. Never was such ceremony, such mummery, such staff about bullocks, goats, doves, red heifers, lambs, and unleavened dough — never was such directions about kidneys and blood, ashes and fat, about curtains, tongs, fringes, ribands, and, brass pins — never such details for killing of animals and men and the sprinkling of blood and the cutting of clothes. Never were such unjust laws, such punishments, such damned ignorance and infamy!
Fifty-second. Is it not wonderful that the creator of all worlds, infinite in power and wisdom, could not hold his own against the gods of wood and stone? Is it not strange that after he had appeared to his chosen people, delivered them from slavery, fed them by miracles, opened the sea for a path, led them by cloud and fire, and overthrown their pursuers, they still preferred a calf of their own making? Is it not beyond belief that this God, by statutes and commandments, by punishments and penalties, by rewards and promises, by wonders and plagues, by earthquakes and pestilence, could not in the least civilize the Jews — could not get them beyond a point where they deserved killing? What shall we think of a God who gave his entire time for forty years to the work of converting three millions of people, and succeeded in getting only two men, and not a single woman, decent enough to enter the promised land? Was there ever in the history of man so detestable an administration of public affairs? Is it possible that God sold his children to the king of Mesopotamia; that he sold them to Jabin, king of Canaan, to the Philistines, and to the children of Ammon? Is it possible that an angel of the Lord devoured unleavened cakes and broth with fire that came out of the end of a stick as he sat under an oak-tree? Judges vi, 21.] Can it be true that God made known his will by making dew fall on wool without wetting the ground around it? [Judges vi, 37.] Do you really believe that men who lap water like a dog make the best soldiers? [Judges vii, 5.] Do you think that a man could hold a lamp in his left hand, a trumpet in his right hand, blow his trumpet, shout “the sword of the Lord and of Gideon,” and break pitchers at the same time? [Judges vii, 5.]
Fifty-third. Read the story of Jephthah and his daughter, and then tell me what you think of a father who would sacrifice his daughter to God, and what you think of a God who would receive such a sacrifice. This one story should be enough to make every tender and loving father hold this book in utter abhorrence. Is it necessary, in order to be saved, that one must believe that an angel of God appeared unto Manoah in the absence of her husband; that this angel afterward went up in a flame of fire; that as a result of this visit a child was born whose strength was in his hair? a child that made beehives of lions, incendiaries of foxes, and had a wife that wept seven days to get the answer to his riddle? Will the wrath of God abide forever upon a man for doubting the story that Samson killed a thousand men with a new jawbone? Is there enough in the Bible to save a soul with this story left out? Is hell hungry for those who deny that water gashed from a “hollow place” in a dry bone? Is it evidence of a new heart to believe that one man turned over a house so large that over three thousand people were on the roof? For my part, I cannot believe these things, and if my salvation depends upon my credulity I am as good as damned already. I cannot believe that the Philistines took back the ark with a present of five gold mice, and that thereupon God relented. [1 Sam. vi, 4.] I cannot believe that God killed fifty thousand men for looking into a box. [1 Sam. vi, 19.] It seems incredible, after all the Jews had done, after all their wars and victories, even when Saul was king, that there was not among them one smith who could make a sword or spear, and that they were compelled to go to the Philistines to sharpen every plowshare, coulter, and mattock. [1 Sam.xiii, 19, 20.] Can you believe that God said to Saul, “Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling”? Can you believe that because Saul took the king alive after killing every other man, woman, and child, the ogre called Jehovah was displeased and made up his mind to hurl Saul from the throne and give his place to another? [1 Sam. xv.] I cannot believe that the Philistines all ran away because one of their number was killed with a stone. I cannot justify the conduct of Abigail, the wife of Nabal, who took presents to David. David hardly did right when he said to this woman, “I have hearkened to thy voice, and have accepted thy person.” It could hardly have been chance that made Nabal so deathly sick next morning and killed him in ten days. All this looks wrong, especially as David married his widow before poor Nabal was fairly cold.”
Fifty-fourth. Notwithstanding all I have heard of Katie King, I cannot believe that a witch at Endor materialized the ghost of Samuel and caused it to appear with a cloak on. [1 Sam. xxviii.] I cannot believe that God tempted David to take the census, and then gave him his choice of three punishments: First, Seven years of famine; Second, Flying three months before their enemies; Third, A pestilence of three days; that David chose the pestilence, and that God destroyed seventy thousand men. [2 Sam. xxiv.] Why should God kill the people for what David did? Is it a sin to be counted? Can anything more brutally hellish be conceived? Why should man waste prayers upon such a God?
Fifty-fifth. Must we admit that Elijah was fed by ravens; that they brought him bread and flesh every morning and evening? Must we believe that this same prophet could create meal and oil, and induce a departed soul to come back and take up its residence once more in the body? That he could get rain by praying for it; that he could cause fire to burn up a sacrifice and altar, together with twelve barrels of water? [1 Kings xviii.] Can we believe that an angel of the Lord turned cook and prepared two suppers in one night for Elijah, and that the prophet ate enough to last him forty days and forty nights? [1 kings xix.] Is it true that when a captain with fifty men went after Elijah, this prophet caused fire to come down from heaven and consume them all? Should God allow such wretches to manage his fire? Is it true that Elijah consumed another captain with fifty men in the same way? [2 kings i.] Is it a fact that a river divided because the water was struck with a cloak? Did a man actually go to heaven in a chariot of fire drawn by horses of fire, or was he carried to Paradise by a whirlwind? Must we believe, in order to be good and tender fathers and mothers, that because some “little children” mocked at an old man with a bald head, God — the same God who said, “Suffer little children to come unto me” — sent two she-bears out of the wood and tare forty-two of these babes? Think of the mothers that watched and waited for their children. Think of the wailing when these mangled ones were found, when they were brought back and pressed to the breasts of weeping women. What an amiable gentleman Mr. Elisha must have been. [2 Kings ii.]
Fifty-sixth. It is hard to believe that a prophet by lying on a dead body could make it sneeze seven times; [2 Kings iv.] or that being dipped seven times in the Jordan could cure the leprosy. [2 Kings v.] Would a merciful God curse children; and children’s children yet unborn, with leprosy for a father’s fault? [2 Kings v. 27.] Is it possible to make iron float in water? [2 Kings vi, 6.] Is it reasonable to say that when a corpse touched another corpse it came to life? [2 Kings xiii, 21.] Is it a sign that a man wants to commit a crime because he refuses to believe that a king had a boil and that God caused the sun to go backward in heaven so that the shadow on a sun-dial went back ten degrees as a sign that the aforesaid would get well? [2 Kings xx, 1-2.] Is it true that this globe turned backward, that its motion was reversed as a sign to a Jewish king? If it did not, this story is false, and that part of the Bible is not true even if it is inspired.
Fifty-seventh. How did the Bible get lost? [2 Kings xxii, 8.] Where was the precious Pentateuch from Moses to Josiah? How was it possible for the Jews to get along without the directions as to fat and caul and kidney contained in Leviticus? Without that sacred book in his possession a priest might take up ashes and carry them out without changing his pantaloons. Such mistakes kindled the wrath of God.
As soon as the Pentateuch was found Josiah began killing wizards and such as had familiar spirits.
Fifty-eighth, I cannot believe that God talked to Solomon, that he visited him in the night and asked him what he should give him; I cannot believe that he told ban, “I will give thee riches and wealth and honor, such as none of the kings have had before thee, neither shall there any after thee have the like.” [2 Kings i, 7, 12.] If Jehovah said this he was mistaken. It is not true that Solomon had fourteen hundred chariots of war in a country without roads. It is not true that he made gold and silver at Jerusalem as plenteous as stones. There were several kings in his day, and thousands since, that could have thrown away the value of Palestine without missing the amount. The Holy Land was and is a wretched country. There are no monuments, no ruins attesting former wealth and greatness. The Jews had no commerce, knew nothing of other nations, had no luxuries, never produced a painter, a sculptor, architect, scientist, or statesman until after the destruction of Jerusalem. As long as Jehovah attended to their affairs they had nothing but civil war, plague, pestilence, and famine. After he abandoned, and the Christians ceased to persecute them, they became the most prosperous of people. Since Jehovah, in anger and disgust, cast them away they have produced painters, sculptors, scientists, statesmen, composers, and philosophers.
Fifty-ninth. I cannot admit that Hiram, the King of Tyre, wrote a letter to Solomon in which he admitted that the “God of Israel made heaven and earth.” [2 Chron. ii, 12.] This King was not a Jew. It seems incredible that Solomon had eighty thousand men hewing timber for the temple, with seventy thousand bearers of burdens, and thirty-six hundred over-seers.” [2 Chron. ii, 18.]
Sixtieth. I cannot believe that God shuts up heaven and prevents rain, or that he sends locusts to devour a land, or pestilence to destroy the people. [2 Chron. vii, 13.] I cannot believe that God told Solomon that his eyes and heart should perpetually be in the house that Solomon had built. [2 Chron. vii, 16.]
Sixty-first. I cannot believe that Solomon passed all the kings of the earth in riches; that all the kings of the earth sought his presence and brought presents of silver and gold, raiment, harness, spices, and mules — a rate year by year. [2 Chron. ix, 22-24.] Is it possible that Shishak, a King of Egypt, invaded Palestine with seventy thousand horsemen and twelve hundred chariots of war? [2 Chron. xii, 2, 3.] I cannot believe that in a battle between Jeroboam and Abijah, the army of Abijah actually slew in one day five hundred thousand chosen men. [2 Chron. xiv, 17.] Does anyone believe that Zerah, the Ethiopian, invaded Palestine with a million men? [2 Chron. xiv, 9.] I cannot believe that Jehoshaphat had a standing army of nine hundred and sixty thousand men. [2 Chron. xvii, 14-19.] I cannot believe that God advertised for a liar to act as his messenger. [2 Chron. xviii, 19- 22.] I cannot believe that King Amaziah did right in the sight of the Lord, and that he broke in pieces ten thousand men by casting them from a precipice. [2 Chron. xxv, 12.] I cannot think that God smote a king with leprosy because he tried to burn incense. [2 Chron. xxvi, 19.] I cannot think that Pekah slew one hundred and twenty thousand men in one day. [2 Chron. xxviii, 6.]
Robert Green Ingersoll
NOTE: This article was printed from manuscript notes found among Colonel Ingersoll’s papers, evidently written in the early 1880’s. While much of the argument and criticism will be found embodied in his various lectures, magazine articles and contributions to the press. it was thought to be too valuable In its present form to be left out of a complete edition of his writings.