I put the word in capitals, because it is my new name, and I want to
get used to it.
The name has been bestowed on me by several Christian gentlemen as a
reproach, but to my ears it has a quaint and not unpleasing sound.
Infidel! “The notorious infidel editor of the Clarion” is the
form used by one True Believer. The words recurred to my mind suddenly,
while I was taking my favourite black pipe for a walk along “the pleasant
Strand,” and I felt a smile glimmer within as I repeated them.
Which is worse, to be a Demagogue or an Infidel? I am both. For while
many professed Christians contrive to serve both God and Mammon, the
depravity of my nature seems to forbid my serving either.
It was a mild day in mid-August, not cold for the time of year. I had
been laid up for a few days, and my back was unpropitious, and I was
tired. But I felt very happy, for so bad a man, since the sunshine was
clear and genial, and my pipe went as easily as a dream.
Besides, one's fellow-creatures are so amusing: especially in the
Strand. I had seen a proud and gorgeously upholstered lady lolling
languidly in a motor car, and looking extremely pleased with herself— not
without reason; and I had met two successful men of great presence, who
reminded me somehow of “Porkin and Snob”; and I had noticed a droll little
bundle of a baby, in a fawn-coloured woollen suit, with a belt slipped
almost to her knees, and sweet round eyes as purple as pansies, who was
hunting a rolling apple amongst “the wild mob's million feet”; and I had
seen a worried-looking matron, frantically waving her umbrella to the
driver of an omnibus, endanger the silk hat of Porkin and disturb the
complacency of Snob; and I felt glad.
It was at that moment that there popped into my head the full style and
title I had earned. “Notorious Infidel Editor of the Clarion !”
These be brave words, indeed. For a moment they almost flattered me into
the belief that I had become a member of the higher criminal classes: a
bold bad man, like Guy Fawkes, or Kruger, or R. B. Cuninghame Graham.
“You ought,” I said to myself, “to dress the part. You ought to have an
S.D.P. sombrero, a slow wise Fabian smile, and the mysterious trousers of
a Soho conspirator.”
But at the instant I caught a sight of my counterfeit presentment in a
shop window, and veiled my haughty crest. That a notorious Infidel!
Behold a dumpy, comfortable British paterfamilias in a light
flannel suit and a faded sun hat. No; it will not do. Not a bit like
Mephisto: much more like the Miller of the Dee.
Indeed, I am not an irreligious man, really; I am rather a religious
man; and this is not an irreligious, but rather a religious, book.
Such thoughts should make men humble. After all, may not even John
Burns be human; may not Mr. Chamberlain himself have a heart that can feel
Gentle reader, that was a wise as well as a charitable man who taught
us there is honour among thieves; although, having never been a member of
Parliament himself, he must have spoken from hearsay.
“For all that, Robert, you're a notorious Infidel.” I paused—just
opposite the Tivoli—and gazed moodily up and down the Strand.
As I have remarked elsewhere, I like the Strand. It is a very human
place. But I own that the Strand lacks dignity and beauty, and that
amongst its varied odours the odour of sanctity is scarce perceptible.
There are no trees in the Strand. The thoroughfare should be wider. The
architecture is, for the most part, banal. For a chief street in a
Christian capital, the Strand is not eloquent of high national ideals.
There are derelict churches in the Strand, and dingy blatant taverns,
and strident signs and hoardings; and there are slums hard by.
There are thieves in the Strand, and prowling vagrants, and gaunt
hawkers, and touts, and gamblers, and loitering failures, with tragic eyes
and wilted garments; and prostitutes plying for hire.
And east and west, and north and south of the Strand, there is London.
Is there a man amongst all London's millions brave enough to tell the
naked truth about the vice and crime, the misery and meanness, the
hypocrisies and shames of the great, rich, heathen city? Were such a man
to arise amongst us and voice the awful truth, what would his reception
be? How would he fare at the hands of the Press, and the Public—and the
As London is, so is England. This is a Christian country. What would
Christ think of Park Lane, and the slums, and the hooligans? What would He
think of the Stock Exchange, and the music hall, and the racecourse? What
would he think of our national ideals? What would He think of the House of
Peers, and the Bench of Bishops, and the Yellow Press?
Pausing again, over against Exeter Hall, I mentally apostrophise the
Christian British people. “Ladies and Gentlemen,” I say, “you are
Christian in name, but I discern little of Christ in your ideals, your
institutions, or your daily lives. You are a mercenary, self-indulgent,
frivolous, boastful, blood-guilty mob of heathen. I like you very much,
but that is what you are. And it is you—you who call men
'Infidels'. You ridiculous creatures, what do you mean by it?
If to praise Christ in words, and deny Him in deeds, be Christianity,
then London is a Christian city, and England is a Christian nation. For it
is very evident that our common English ideals are anti-Christian, and
that our commercial, foreign and social affairs are run on anti-Christian
Renan says, in his Life of Jesus, that “were Jesus to return
amongst us He would recognise as His disciples, not those who imagine they
can compress Him into a few catechismal phrases, but those who labour to
carry on His work.”
My Christian friends, I am a Socialist, and as such believe in, and
work for, universal freedom, and universal brotherhood, and universal
And you are Christians, and I am an “Infidel.”
Well, be it even so. I am an “Infidel,” and I now ask leave to tell you
It is impossible for me to present the whole of my case in the space at
my command; I can only give an outline. Neither can I do it as well as it
ought to be done, but only as well as I am able.
To make up for my shortcomings, and to fortify my case with fuller
evidence, I must refer the reader to books written by men better equipped
for the work than I.
To do justice to so vast a theme would need a large book where I can
only spare a short chapter, and each large book should be written by a
For the reader's own satisfaction, then, and for the sake of justice to
my cause, I shall venture to suggest a list of books whose contents will
atone for all my failures and omissions. And I am justified, I think, in
saying that no reader who has not read the books I recommend, or others of
like scope and value, can fairly claim to sit on the jury to try this
And of these books I shall, first of all, heartily recommend the series
of cheap sixpenny reprints now published by the Rationalist Press
Association, Johnson's Court, London, E.C.
Huxley's Lectures and Essays.
Tyndall's Lectures and Essays.
Laing's Human Origins.
Laing's Modern Science and Modern Thought.
Clodd's Pioneers of Evolution.
Matthew Arnold's Literature and Dogma.
Haeckel's Riddle of the Universe.
Grant Allen's Evolution of the Idea of God.
Cotter Morrison's Service of Man.
Herbert Spencer's Education.
Some Apologists have, I am sorry to say, attempted to disparage those
excellent books by alluding to them as “Sixpenny Science” and “Cheap
Science.” The same method of attack will not be available against most of
the books in my next list:
The Golden Bough, Frazer. Macmillan, 36s.
The Legend of Perseus, Hartland. D. Nutt, 25s.
Christianity and Mythology, Robertson. Watts, 8s.
Pagan Christs, Robertson. Watts, 8s.
Supernatural Religion, Cassels. Watts, 6s.
The Martyrdom of Man, Winwood Reade. Kegan Paul, 6s.
Mutual Aid, Kropotkin. Heinemann, 7s. 6d.
The Story of Creation, Clodd. Longmans, 3s. 6d.
Buddha and Buddhism, Lillie. Clark, 3s. 6d.
Shall We Understand the Bible? Williams. Black, 1s.
What is Religion? Tolstoy. Free Age Press, 6d.
What I Believe, Tolstoy. Free Age Press, 6d.
The Life of Christ, Renan. Scott, 1s. 6d.
I also recommend Herbert Spencer's Principles of Sociology and
Lecky's History of European Morals. Of pamphlets there are
hundreds. Readers will get full information from Watts &Co., 17 Johnson's
Court, London, E.C.
I can warmly recommend The Miracles of Christian Belief and
The Claims of Christianity, by Charles Watts, and Christianity and
Progress, a penny pamphlet, by G. W. Foote (The Freethought Publishing
I should also like to mention An Easy Outline of Evolution, by
Dennis Hird (Watts &Co., 2s. 6d.). This book will be of great help to
those who want to scrape acquaintance with the theory of evolution.
Finally, let me ask the general reader to put aside all prejudice, and
give both sides a fair hearing. Most of the books I have mentioned above
are of more actual value to the public of to-day than many standard works
which hold world-wide reputations.
No man should regard the subject of religion as decided for him until
he has read The Golden Bough. The Golden Bough is one of
those books that unmake history.
Huxley quotes with satirical gusto Dr. Wace's declaration as to the
word “Infidel.” Said Dr. Wace: “The word infidel, perhaps, carries an
unpleasant significance. Perhaps it is right that it should. It is, and it
ought to be, an unpleasant thing for a man to have to say plainly that he
does not believe in Jesus Christ.”
Be it pleasant or unpleasant to be an unbeliever, one thing is quite
clear: religious people intend the word Infidel to carry “an unpleasant
significance” when they apply to it one. It is in their minds a term of
reproach. Because they think it is wicked to deny what they
To call a man an Infidel, then, is tacitly to accuse him of a kind of
But a little while ago, to be an Infidel was to be socially taboo. But
a little while earlier, to be an Infidel was to be persecuted. But a
little earlier still, to be an Infidel was to be an outlaw, subject to the
penalty of death.
Now, it is evident that to visit the penalty of social ostracism or
public contumely upon all who reject the popular religion is to erect an
arbitrary barrier against intellectual and spiritual advance, and to put a
protective tariff upon orthodoxy to the disadvantage of science and free
The root of the idea that it is wicked to reject the popular religion—
a wickedness of which Christ and Socrates and Buddha are all represented
to have been guilty—thrives in the belief that the Scriptures are the
actual words of God, and that to deny the truth of the Scriptures is to
deny and to affront God.
But the difficulty of the unbeliever lies in the fact that he cannot
believe the Scriptures to be the actual words of God.
The Infidel, therefore, is not denying God's words, nor disobeying
God's commands: he is denying the words and disobeying the commands of
No man who knew that there was a good and wise God would be so
foolish as to deny that God. No man would reject the words of God if he
knew that God spoke those words.
But the doctrine of the divine origin of the Scriptures rests upon the
authority of the Church; and the difference between the Infidel and the
Christian is that the Infidel rejects and the Christian accepts the
authority of the Church.
Belief and unbelief are not matters of moral excellence or depravity:
they are questions of evidence.
The Christian believes the Scriptures because they are the words of
God. But he believes they are the words of God because some other man has
told him so.
Let him probe the matter to the bottom, and he will inevitably find
that his authority is human, and not, as he supposes, divine.
For you, my Christian friend, have never seen God. You have
never heard God's voice. You have received from God no message in spoken
or written words. You have no direct divine warrant for the divine
authorship of the Scriptures. The authority on which your belief in the
divine revelation rests consists entirely of the Scriptures themselves and
the statements of the Church. But the Church is composed solely of human
beings, and the Scriptures were written and translated and printed solely
by human beings.
You believe that the Ten Commandments were dictated to Moses by God.
But God has not told you so. You only believe the statement of the
unknown author of the Pentateuch that God told him so. You do not
know who Moses was. You do not know who wrote the Pentateuch.
You do not know who edited and translated the Scriptures.
Clearly, then, you accept the Scriptures upon the authority of unknown
men, and upon no other demonstrable authority whatever.
Clearly, then, to doubt the doctrine of the divine revelation of the
Scriptures is not to doubt the word of God, but to doubt the words of men.
But the Christian seems to suspect the Infidel of rejecting the
Christian religion out of sheer wantonness, or from some base or sinister
The fact being that the Infidel can only believe those things which his
own reason tells him are true. He opposes the popular religion because his
reason tells him it is not true, and because his reason tells him
insistently that a religion that is not true is not good, but bad. In thus
obeying the dictates of his own reason, and in thus advocating what to him
seems good and true, the Infidel is acting honourably, and is as well
within his right as any Pope or Prelate.
That base or mercenary motives should be laid to the charge of the
Infidel seems to me as absurd as that base or mercenary motives should be
laid to the charge of the Socialist. The answer to such libels stares us
in the face. Socialism and Infidelity are not popular, nor profitable, nor
If you wish to lose caste, to miss preferment, to endanger your chances
of gaining money and repute, turn Infidel and turn Socialist.
Briefly, Infidelity does not pay. It is “not a pleasant thing to be an
The Christian thinks it his duty to “make it an unpleasant thing” to
deny the “true faith.” He thinks it his duty to protect God, and to
revenge His outraged name upon the Infidel and the Heretic. The Jews
thought the same. The Mohammedan thinks the same. How many cruel and
sanguinary wars has that presumptuous belief inspired? How many
persecutions, outrages, martyrdoms, and massacres have been perpetrated by
fanatics who have been “jealous for the Lord?”
As I write these lines Christians are murdering Jews in Russia, and
Mohammedans are murdering Christians in Macedonia to the glory of God. Is
God so weak that He needs foolish men's defence? Is He so feeble that He
cannot judge nor avenge?
My Christian friend, so jealous for the Lord, did you ever regard your
hatred of “Heretics” and “Infidels” in the light of history?
The history of civilisation is the history of successions of brave
“Heretics” and “Infidels,” who have denied false dogmas or brought new
truths to light.
The righteous men, the “True Believers” of the day, have cursed these
heroes and reviled them, have tortured, scourged, or murdered them. And
the children of the “True Believers” have adopted the heresies as true,
and have glorified the dead Heretics, and then turned round to curse or
murder the new Heretic who fain would lead them a little further toward
Copernicus, who first solved the mystery of the Solar System, was
excommunicated for heresy. But Christians acknowledge now that the earth
goes round the sun, and the name of Copernicus is honoured.
Bruno, who first declared the stars to be suns, and “led forth Arcturus
and his host,” was burnt at the stake for heresy.
Galileo, the father of telescopic astronomy, was threatened with death
for denying the errors of the Church, was put in prison and tortured as a
heretic. Christians acknowledge now that Galileo spoke the truth, and his
name is honoured.
As it has been demonstrated in those cases, it has been demonstrated in
thousands of other cases, that the Heretics have been right, and the True
Believers have been wrong.
Step by step the Church has retreated. Time after time the Church has
come to accept the truths, for telling which she persecuted, or murdered,
her teachers. But still the True Believers hate the Heretic and regard it
as a righteous act to make it “unpleasant” to be an “Infidel.”
After taking a hundred steps away from old dogmas and towards the
truth, the True Believer shudders at the request to take one more. After
two thousand years of foolish and wicked persecution of good men, the True
Believer remains faithful to the tradition that it “ought to be an
unpleasant thing” to expose the errors of the Church.
The Christians used to declare that all the millions of men and women
outside the Christian Church would “burn for ever in burning Hell.” They
do not like to be reminded of that folly now.
They used to declare that every unbaptised baby would go to Hell and
burn for ever in fire and brimstone. They do not like to be reminded of
that folly now.
They used to believe in witchcraft, and they burned millions—yes,
millions—of innocent women as witches. They do not like to hear about
They used to believe the legends of Adam and Eve, and the Flood. They
call them allegories now.
They used to believe that the world was made in six days. Now they talk
mildly about “geological periods.”
They used to denounce Darwinism as impious and absurd. They have since
“cheerfully accepted” the theory of evolution.
They used to believe that the sun revolved round the earth, and that he
who thought otherwise was an Infidel, and would be damned in the
“bottomless pit.” But now—! Now they declare that Christ was God, and His
mother a virgin; that three persons are one person; that those who trust
in Jesus shall go to Heaven, and those who do not trust in Jesus will be
“lost.” And if anyone denies these statements, they call him Infidel.
Are you not aware, friend Christian, that what was Infidelity is now
orthodoxy? It is even so. Heresies for which men used to be burned alive
are now openly accepted by the Church. There is not a divine living who
would not have been burned at the stake three centuries ago for expressing
the beliefs he now holds. Yet you call a man Infidel for being a century
in advance of you. History has taught you nothing. It has not occurred to
you that as the “infidelity” of yesterday has become the enlightened
religion of to-day, it is possible that the “infidelity” of to-day may
become the enlightened religion of to-morrow.
Civilisation is built up of the “heresies” of men who thought freely
and spoke bravely. Those men were called “Infidels” when they were alive.
But now they are called the benefactors of the world.
Infidel! The name has been borne, good Christian, by some of the
noblest of our race. I take it from you with a smile. I am an easiful old
pagan, and I am not angry with you at all—you funny, little champion of
the Most High.
I have been asked why I have opposed Christianity. I have several
reasons, which shall appear in due course. At present I offer one.
I oppose Christianity because it is not true.
No honest man will ask for any other reason.
But it may be asked why I say that Christianity is not true; and that
is a very proper question, which I shall do my best to answer.
I hope it will not be supposed that I have any personal animus against
Christians or Christian ministers, although I am hostile to the Church.
Many ministers and many Christian laymen I have known are admirable men.
Some I know personally are as able and as good as any men I have met; but
I speak of the Churches, not of individuals.
I have known Catholic priests and sisters who were worthy and charming,
and there are many such; but I do not like the Catholic Church. I have
known Tories and Liberals who were real good fellows, and clever fellows,
and there are many such; but I do not like the Liberal and Tory parties. I
have known clergymen of the Church of England who were real live men, and
real English gentlemen, and there are many such; but I do not like the
I was not always an Agnostic, or a Rationalist, or an “Infidel,” or
whatever Christians may choose to call me.
I was not perverted by an Infidel book. I had not read one when I
wavered first in my allegiance to the orthodoxies. I was set doubting by a
religious book written to prove the “Verity of Christ's Resurrection from
the Dead.” But as a child I was thoughtful, and asked myself questions, as
many children do, which the Churches would find it hard to answer to-day.
I have not ceased to believe what I was taught as a child because I
have grown wicked. I have ceased to believe it because, after twenty
years' hard thinking, I cannot believe it.
I cannot believe, then, that the Christian religion is true.
I cannot believe that the Bible is the word of God. For the word of God
would be above criticism and beyond disproof, and the Bible is not above
criticism nor beyond disproof.
I cannot believe that any religion has been revealed to Man by God.
Because a revealed religion would be perfect, but no known religion is
perfect; and because history and science show us that the known religions
have not been revealed, but have been evolved from other religions. There
is no important feature of the Christian religion which can be called
original. All the rites, mysteries, and doctrines of Christianity have
been borrowed from older faiths.
I cannot believe that Jehovah, the God of the Bible, is the Creator of
the known universe. The Bible God, Jehovah, is a man-made God, evolved
from the idol of an obscure and savage tribe. The Bible shows us this
I cannot believe that the Bible and the Testament are historically
true. I regard most of the events they record as fables, and most of their
characters as myths.
I cannot believe in the existence of Jesus Christ, nor Buddha, nor
Moses. I believe that these are ideal characters constructed from still
more ancient legends and traditions.
I cannot believe that the Bible version of the relations of man and God
is correct. For that version, and all other religious versions known to
me, represents man as sinning against or forsaking God, and God as
punishing or pardoning man.
But if God made man, then God is responsible for all man's acts and
thoughts, and therefore man cannot sin against God.
And if man could not sin against God, but could only act as God
ordained that he should act, then it is against reason to suppose that God
could be angry with man, or could punish man, or see any offence for which
to pardon man.
I cannot believe that man has ever forsaken God. Because history shows
that man has from the earliest times been eagerly and pitifully seeking
God, and has served and raised and sacrificed to God with a zeal akin to
madness. But God has made no sign.
I cannot believe that man was at the first created “perfect,” and that
he “fell.” (How could the perfect fall?) I believe the theory of
evolution, which shows not a fall but a gradual rise.
I cannot believe that God is a loving “Heavenly Father,” taking a
tender interest in mankind. Because He has never interfered to prevent the
horrible cruelties and injustices of man to man, and because He has
permitted evil to rule the world. I cannot reconcile the idea of a tender
Heavenly Father with the known horrors of war, slavery, pestilence, and
insanity. I cannot discern the hand of a loving Father in the slums, in
the earthquake, in the cyclone. I cannot understand the indifference of a
loving Father to the law of prey, nor to the terrors and tortures of
leprosy, cancer, cholera, and consumption.
I cannot believe that God is a personal God, who intervenes in human
affairs. I cannot see in science, nor in experience, nor in history any
signs of such a God, nor of such intervention.
I cannot believe that God hears and answers prayer, because the
universe is governed by laws, and there is no reason to suppose that those
laws are ever interfered with. Besides, an all-wise God knows what to do
better than man can tell Him, and a just God would act justly without
requiring to be reminded of His duty by one of His creatures.
I cannot believe that miracles ever could or ever did happen. Because
the universe is governed by laws, and there is no credible instance on
record of those laws being suspended.
I cannot believe that God “created” man, as man now is, by word of
mouth and in a moment. I accept the theory of evolution, which teaches
that man was slowly evolved by natural process from lower forms of life,
and that this evolution took millions of years.
I cannot believe that Jesus Christ was God, nor that He was the Son of
God. There is no solid evidence for the miracle of the Incarnation, and I
see no reason for the Incarnation.
I cannot believe that Christ died to save man from Hell, nor that He
died to save man from sin. Because I do not believe God would condemn the
human race to eternal torment for being no better than He had made them,
and because I do not see that the death of Christ has saved man from sin.
I cannot believe that God would think it necessary to come on earth as
a man, and die on the Cross. Because if that was to atone for man's sin,
it was needless, as God could have forgiven man without Himself suffering.
I cannot believe that God would send His son to die on the Cross.
Because He could have forgiven man without subjecting His son to pain.
I cannot accept any doctrine of atonement. Because to forgive the
guilty because the innocent had suffered would be unjust and unreasonable,
and to forgive the guilty because a third person begged for his pardon
would be unjust.
I cannot believe that a good God would allow sin to enter the world.
Because He would hate sin and would have power to destroy or to forbid it.
I cannot believe that a good God would create or tolerate a Devil, nor
that he would allow the Devil to tempt man.
I cannot believe the story of the virgin birth of Christ. Because for a
man to be born of a virgin would be a miracle, and I cannot believe in
I cannot believe the story of Christ's resurrection from the dead.
Because that would be a miracle, and because there is no solid evidence
that it occurred.
I cannot believe that faith in the Godhood of Christ is necessary to
virtue or to happiness. Because I know that some holding such faith are
neither happy nor virtuous, and that some are happy and virtuous who do
not hold that faith.
The differences between the religious and the scientific theories, or,
as I should put it, between superstition and rationalism, are clearly
marked and irreconcilable.
The supernaturalist stands by “creation”; the rationalist stands by
“evolution.” It is impossible to reduce these opposite ideas to a common
The creation theory alleges that the earth, and the sun, and the moon,
and man, and the animals were “created” by God, instantaneously, by word
of mouth, out of nothing.
The evolution theory alleges that they were evolved, slowly, by natural
processes out of previously existing matter.
The supernaturalist alleges that religion was revealed to man by God,
and that the form of this revelation is a sacred book.
The rationalist alleges that religion was evolved by slow degrees and
by human minds, and that all existing forms of religion and all existing
“sacred books,” instead of being “revelations,” are evolutions from
religious ideas and forms and legends of prehistoric times. It is
impossible to reduce these opposite theories to a common denominator.
The Christians, the Hindoos, the Parsees, the Buddhists, and the
Mohammedans have each their “Holy Bible” or “sacred book.” Each religion
claims that its own Bible is the direct revelation of God, and is the only
true Bible teaching the only true faith. Each religion regards all the
other religions as spurious.
The supernaturalists believe in miracles, and each sect claims that the
miracles related in its own inspired sacred book prove the truth of that
book and of the faith taught therein.
No religion accepts the truth of any other religion's miracles. The
Hindoo, the Buddhist, the Mohammedan, the Parsee, the Christian each
believes that his miracles are the only real miracles.
The Protestant denies the miracles of the Roman Catholic.
The rationalist denies all miracles alike. “Miracles never happen.”
The Christian Bible is full of miracles. The Christian Religion is
founded on miracles.
No rationalist believes in miracles. Therefore no rationalist can
accept the Christian Religion.
If you discard “Creation” and accept evolution; if you discard
“revelation” and accept evolution; if you discard miracles and accept
natural law, there is nothing left of the Christian Religion but the life
and teachings of Jesus Christ.
And when one sees that all religions and all ethics, even the oldest
known, have, like all language and all science and all philosophy and all
existing species of animals and plants, been slowly evolved from lower and
ruder forms; and when one learns that there have been many Christs, and
that the evidence of the life of Jesus is very slight, and that all the
acts and words of Jesus had been anticipated by other teachers long before
the Christian era, then it is borne in upon one's mind that the historic
basis of Christianity is very frail. And when one realises that the
Christian theology, besides being borrowed from older religions, is
manifestly opposed to reason and to facts, then one reaches a state of
mind which entitles the orthodox Christian to call one an “Infidel,” and
to make it “unpleasant” for one to the glory of God.
That is the position in which I stand at present, and it is partly to
vindicate that position, and to protest against those who feel as I feel
being subjected to various kinds of “unpleasantness,” that I undertake
The question of the divine inspiration of the Scriptures is one of
If the Bible is a divine revelation, if it contains the actual word of
God, and nothing but the word of God, then it is folly to doubt any
statement it contains.
If the Bible is merely the work of men, if it contains only the words
of men, then, like all other human work, the Bible is fallible, and must
submit to criticism and examination, as all fallible human work must.
The Christian Religion stands or falls by the truth of the Bible.
If the Bible is the word of God the Bible must be true, and the
Christian Religion must be true.
But, as I said before, the claim for the divine origin of the Bible has
not been made by God, but by men.
We have therefore no means of testing the Bible's title to divine
revelation other than by criticism and examination of the Bible itself.
If the Bible is the word of God—the all-wise and perfect God—the Bible
will be perfect. If the Bible is not perfect it cannot be the word of a
God who is perfect.
The Bible is not perfect. Historically, scientifically, and ethically
the Bible is imperfect.
If the Bible is the word of God it will present to us the perfect God
as He is, and every act of His it records will be perfection. But the
Bible does not show us a perfect God, but a very imperfect God, and such
of His acts as the Bible records are imperfect.
I say, then, with strong conviction, that I do not believe the Bible to
be the word of God; that I do not believe it to be inspired of God; that I
do not believe it to contain any divine revelation of God to man. Why?
Let us consider the claim that the Bible is the word of God. Let us,
first of all, consider it from the common-sense point of view, as ordinary
men of the world, trying to get at the truth and the reason of a thing.
What would one naturally expect in a revelation by God to man?
1. We should expect God to reveal truths of which mankind were
2. We should expect God to make no errors of fact in His revelation.
3. We should expect God to make His revelation so clear and so definite
that it could be neither misunderstood nor misrepresented.
4. We should expect God to ensure that His revelation should reach
men; and should reach all men directly and quickly.
5. We should expect God's revelation of the relations existing between
Himself and man to be true.
6. We should expect the ethical code in God's revelation to be
and final, and perfect. The divine ethics should at least be above
human criticism and beyond human amendment.
To what extent does the Bible revelation fulfil the above natural
1. Does the Bible reveal any new moral truths?
I cannot speak very positively, but I think there is very little moral
truth in the Bible which has not been, or will not be traced back to more
ancient times and religions.
2. Does the Bible revelation contain no errors of fact?
I claim that it contains many errors of fact, and the Higher Criticism
supports the claim; as we shall see.
3. Is the Bible revelation so clear and explicit that no difference of
opinion as to its meaning is possible?
No. It is not. No one living can claim anything of the kind.
4. Has God's revelation, as given in the Bible, reached all men?
No. After thousands of years it is not yet known to one-half the human
5. Is God's revelation of the relations between man and God true?
I claim that it is not true. For the word of God makes it appear that
man was created by God in His own image, and that man sinned against God.
Whereas man, being only what God made him, and having only the powers God
gave him, could not sin against God any more than a steam-engine
can sin against the engineer who designed and built it.
6. Is the ethical code of the Bible complete, and final, and perfect?
No. The ethical code of the Bible gradually develops and improves. Had
it been divine it would have been perfect from the first. It is because it
is human that it develops. As the prophets and the poets of the Jews grew
wiser, and gentler, and more enlightened, so the revelation of God grew
wiser and gentler with them. Now, God would know from the beginning; but
men would have to learn. Therefore the Bible writings would appear to be
human, and not divine.
Let us look over these points again, and make the matter still clearer
and more simple.
If the children of an earthly father had wandered away and forgotten
him, and were, for lack of guidance, living evil lives; and if the earthly
father wished his children to know that they were his children, wished
them to know what he had done for them, what they owed to him, what
penalty they might fear, or reward they might ask from him; if he wished
them to live cleanly and justly, and to love him, and at last come home to
him—what would that earthly father do?
He would send his message to all his children, instead of
sending it to one, and trusting him to repeat it correctly to the others.
He would try to so word his message as that all his children might
He would send his children the very best rules of life he knew. He
would take great pains to avoid error in matters of fact.
If, after the message was sent, his children quarrelled and fought
about its meaning, their earthly father would not sit silent and allow
them to hate and slay each other because of a misconception, but would
send at once and make his meaning plain to all.
And if an earthly father would act thus wisely and thus kindly, “how
much more your Father which is in Heaven?”
But the Bible revelation was not given to all the people of the earth.
It was given to a handful of Jews. It was not so explicit as to make
disagreement impossible. It is thousands of years since the revelation of
God began, and yet to-day it is not known to hundreds of millions of human
beings, and amongst those whom it has reached there is endless bitter
disagreement as to its meaning.
Now, what is the use of a revelation which does not reveal more than is
known, which does not reveal truth only, which does not reach half those
who need it, which cannot be understood by those it does reach?
But you will regard me as a prejudiced witness. I shall therefore, in
my effort to prove the Bible fallible, quote almost wholly from Christian
And I take the opportunity to here recommend very strongly Shall We
Understand the Bible? by the Rev. T. Rhondda Williams. Adam and
Charles Black; 1s net.
There are two chief theories as to the inspiration of the Bible. One is
the old theory that the Bible is the actual word of God, and nothing but
the word of God, directly revealed by God to Moses and the prophets. The
other is the new theory: that the Bible is the work of many men whom God
had inspired to speak or write the truth.
The old theory is well described by Dr. Washington Gladden in the
They imagine that the Bible must have originated in a manner
purely miraculous; and, though they know very little about its
origin, they conceive of it as a book that was written in heaven
in the English tongue, divided there into chapters and verses,
with headlines and reference marks, printed in small pica,
bound in calf, and sent down by angels in its present form.
The newer idea of the inspiration of the Bible is also well expressed
by Dr. Gladden; thus:
Revelation, we shall be able to understand, is not the dictation
by God of words to men that they may be written down in books:
it is rather the disclosure of the truth and love of God to men
in the processes of history, in the development of the moral
order of the world. It is the light that lighteth every man,
shining in the paths that lead to righteousness and life. There
is a moral leadership of God in history; revelation is the record
of that leadership. It is by no means confined to words; its
most impressive disclosures are in the field of action. “Thus
did the Lord,” as Dr. Bruce has said, is a more perfect
of revelation than “Thus saith the Lord.” It is in that great
historical movement of which the Bible is the record that we find
the revelation of God to men.
The old theory of Bible inspiration was, as I have said, the theory
that the Bible was the actual and pure word of God, and was true in every
circumstance and detail.
Now, if an almighty and all-wise God had spoken or written every word
of the Bible, then that book would, of course, be wholly and unshakably
true in its every statement.
But if the Bible was written by men, some of them more or less
inspired, then it would not, in all probability be wholly perfect.
The more inspiration its writers had from God, the more perfect it
would be. The less inspiration its writers had from God, the less perfect
it would be.
Wholly perfect, it might be attributed to a perfect being. Partly
perfect, it might be the work of less perfect beings. Less perfect, it
would have to be put down to less perfect beings.
Containing any fault or error, it could not be the actual word of God,
and the more errors and faults it contained, the less inspiration of God
would be granted to its authors.
I will quote again from Dr. Gladden:
What I desire to show is, that the work of putting the Bible
into its present form was not done in heaven, but on earth; that
it was not done by angels, but by men; that it was not done all at
once, but a little at a time, the work of preparing and perfecting
it extending over several centuries, and employing the labours of
many men in different lands and long-divided generations.
I now turn to Dr. Aked. On page 25 of his book, Changing Creeds,
Ignorance has claimed the Bible for its own. Bigotry has made
the Bible its battleground. Its phrases have become the
shibboleth of pietistic sectarians. Its authority has been
evoked in support of the foulest crimes committed by the vilest
men; and its very existence has been made a pretext for theories
which shut out God from His own world. In our day Bible worship
has become, with many very good but very unthoughtful people, a
So much for the attitude of the various schools of religious thought
towards the Bible.
Now, in the opinion of these Christian teachers, is the Bible perfect
or imperfect? Dr. Aked gives his opinion with characteristic candour and
For observe the position: men are told that the Bible is the
infallible revelation of God to man, and that its statements
concerning God and man are to be unhesitatingly accepted as
statements made upon the authority of God. They turn to its
pages, and they find historical errors, arithmetical mistakes,
scientific blunders (or, rather, blunders most unscientific),
inconsistencies, and manifold contradictions; and, what is far
worse, they find that the most horrible crimes are committed by
men who calmly plead in justification of their terrible misdeeds
the imperturbable “God said.” The heart and conscience of man
indignantly rebel against the representations of the Most High
given in some parts of the Bible. What happens? Why, such
men declare—are now declaring, and will in constantly
increasing numbers, and with constantly increasing force and
boldness declare—that they can have nothing to do with a book
whose errors a child can discover, and whose revelation of God
partakes at times of blasphemy against man.
I need hardly say that I agree with every word of the above. If anyone
asked me what evidence exists in support of the claims that the Bible is
the word of God, or that it was in any real sense of the words “divinely
inspired,” I should answer, without the least hesitation, that there does
not exist a scrap of evidence of any kind in support of such a claim.
Let us give a little consideration to the origin of the Bible. The
first five books of the Bible, called the Pentateuch, were said to be
written by Moses. Moses was not, and could not have been, the author of
those books. There is, indeed, no reliable evidence to prove that Moses
ever existed. Whether he was a fictitious hero, or a solar myth, or what
he was, no man knows.
Neither does there appear to be any certainty that the biblical books
attributed to David, to Solomon, to Isaiah, Jeremiah, and the rest were
really written by those kings or prophets, or even in their age.
And after these books, or many of them, had been written, they were
entirely lost, and are said to have been reproduced by Ezra.
Add to these facts that the original Hebrew had no vowels, that many of
the sacred books were written without vowels, and that the vowels were
added long after; and remember that, as Dr. Aked says, the oldest Hebrew
Bible in existence belongs to the tenth century after Christ, and it will
begin to appear that the claim for biblical infallibility is utterly
But I must not offer these statements on my own authority. Let us
return to Dr. Gladden. On page 11 of Who Wrote the Bible? I find
The first of these holy books of the Jews was, then, The Law,
contained in the first five books of our Bible, known among us
as the Pentateuch, and called by the Jews sometimes simply
“The Law,” and sometimes “The Law of Moses.” This was supposed
to be the oldest portion of their Scriptures, and was by them
regarded as much more sacred and authoritative than any other
portion. To Moses, they said, God spake face to face; to the
other holy men much less distinctly. Consequently, their appeal
is most often to the Law of Moses.
The sacredness of the five books of “The Law,” then, rests upon the
belief that they were written by Moses, who had spoken face to face with
So that if Moses did not write those books, their sacredness is a myth.
Now, on page 42, Dr. Gladden says:
1. The Pentateuch could never have been written by any one
man, inspired or otherwise.
2. It is a composite work, in which many hands have been
engaged. The production of it extends over many centuries.
3. It contains writings which are as old as the time of Moses,
and some that are much older. It is impossible to tell how
much of it came from the hand of Moses; but there are
considerable portions of it which, although they may have
been somewhat modified by later editors, are substantially
as he left them.
On page 45 Dr. Gladden, again speaking of the Pentateuch, says:
But the story of Genesis goes back to a remote antiquity. The
last event related in that book occurred four hundred years
before Moses was born; it was as distant from him as the
discovery of America by Columbus is from us; and other portions
of the narrative, such as the stories of the Flood and the
Creation, stretch back into the shadows of the age which
precedes history. Neither Moses nor any one living in his
day could have given us these reports from his own knowledge.
Whoever wrote this must have obtained his materials in one of
1. They might have been given to him by divine revelation
2. He might have gathered them up from oral tradition, from
stories, folklore, transmitted from mouth to mouth, and
so preserved from generation to generation.
3. He might have found them in written documents existing at
the time of his writing.
As many of the laws and incidents in the books of Moses were known to
the Chaldeans, the “direct revelation of God” theory is not plausible. On
this point Dr. Gladden's opinion supports mine. He says, on page 61:
That such is the fact with respect to the structure of these
ancient writings is now beyond question. And our theory of
inspiration must be adjusted to this fact. Evidently neither
the theory of verbal inspiration, nor the theory of plenary
inspiration, can be made to fit the facts, which a careful study
of the writings themselves brings before us. These writings are
not inspired in the sense which we have commonly given that word.
The verbal theory of inspiration was only tenable while they
were supposed to be the work of a single author. To such a
composite literature no such theory will apply. “To make this
claim,” says Professor Ladd, “and yet accept the best ascertained
results of criticism, would compel us to take such positions
as the following: the original authors of each one of the
writings which enter into the composite structure were infallibly
inspired; every one who made any changes in any one of these
fundamental writings was infallibly inspired; every compiler
who put together two or more of these writings was infallibly
inspired, both as to his selections and omissions, and as to any
connecting or explanatory words which he might himself write;
every redactor was infallibly inspired to correct and supplement,
and omit that which was the product of previous infallible
inspirations. Or, perhaps, it might seem more convenient to attach
the claim of a plenary inspiration to the last redactor of all;
but then we should probably have selected of all others the one
least able to bear the weight of such a claim. Think of making
the claim for a plenary inspiration of the Pentateuch in its
present form on the ground of the infallibility of that one of
the scribes who gave it its last touches some time subsequent to
the death of Ezra.”
Remember that Dr. Gladden declares, on page 5, that he shall state no
conclusions as to the history of the sacred writings which will not be
accepted by conservative critics.
On page 54 Dr. Gladden quotes the following from Dr. Perowne:
The first composition of the Pentateuch as a whole could
have taken place till after the Israelites entered Canaan.
The whole work did not finally assume its present shape till
its revision was undertaken by Ezra after the return from the
On page 25 Dr. Gladden himself speaks as follows:
The common argument by which Christ is made a witness to the
authenticity and infallible authority of the Old Testament
runs as follows:
Christ quotes Moses as the author of this legislation; therefore
Moses must have written the whole Pentateuch. Moses was an
inspired prophet; therefore all the teaching of the Pentateuch
must be infallible.
The facts are that Jesus nowhere testifies that Moses wrote the
whole of the Pentateuch; and that he nowhere guarantees the
infallibility either of Moses or of the book. On the contrary,
he set aside as inadequate or morally defective, certain laws
which in this book are ascribed to Moses.
So much for the authorship and the inspiration of the first five books
of the Bible.
As to the authorship of other books of the Bible, Dr. Gladden says of
Judges and Samuel that we do not know the authors nor the dates.
Of Kings he says: “The name of the author is concealed from us.” The
origin and correctness of the Prophecies and Psalms, he tells us, are
Of the Books of Esther and Daniel, Dr. Gladden says: “That they are
founded on fact I do not doubt; but it is, perhaps, safer to regard them
both rather as historical fictions than as veritable histories.”
Of Daniel, Dean Farrar wrote:
The immense majority of scholars of name and acknowledged
competence in England and Europe have now been led to form
an irresistible conclusion that the Book of Daniel was not
written, and could not have been written, in its present form,
by the prophet Daniel, B.C. 534, but that it can only have been
written, as we now have it, in the days of Antiochus Epiphanes,
about B.C. 164, and that the object of the pious and patriotic
author as to inspirit his desponding countrymen by splendid
specimens of that lofty moral fiction which was always common
amongst the Jews after the Exile, and was known as “The Haggadah.”
So clearly is this proven to most critics, that they willingly
suffer the attempted refutations of their views to sink to
the ground under the weight of their own inadequacy.
(The Bible and the Child.)
I return now to Dr. Aked, from whose book I quote the following:
Dr. Clifford has declared that there is not a man who has
given a day's attention to the question who holds the complete
freedom of the Bible from inaccuracy. He has added that “it
is become more and more impossible to affirm the inerrancy
of the Bible.” Dr. Lyman Abbott says that “an infallible book
is an impossible conception, and to-day no one really believes
that our present Bible is such a book.”
Compare those opinions with the following extract from the first
article in The Bible and the Child:
The change of view respecting the Bible, which has marked the
advancing knowledge and more earnest studies of this generation
is only the culmination of the discovery that there were
different documents in the Book of Genesis—a discovery first
published by the physician, Jean Astruc, in 1753. There are
three widely divergent ways of dealing with these results of
profound study, each of which is almost equally dangerous to
the faith of the rising generation.
1. Parents and teachers may go on inculcating dogmas about the
Bible and methods of dealing with it which have long become
impossible to those who have really tried to follow the manifold
discoveries of modern inquiry with perfectly open and unbiased
minds. There are a certain number of persons who, when their
minds have become stereotyped in foregone conclusions, are simply
incapable of grasping new truths. They become obstructives,
and not infrequently bigoted obstructives. As convinced as the
Pope of their own personal infallibility, their attitude towards
those who see that the old views are no longer tenable is an
attitude of anger and alarm. This is the usual temper of the
odium theologicum. It would, if it could, grasp the thumbscrew
and the rack of mediaeval Inquisitors, and would, in the last
resource, hand over all opponents to the scaffold or the stake.
Those whose intellects have thus been petrified by custom and
advancing years are, of all others, the most hopeless to deal
with. They have made themselves incapable of fair and rational
examination of the truths which they impugn. They think that
they can, by mere assertion, overthrow results arrived at by the
lifelong inquiries of the ablest students, while they have not
given a day's serious or impartial study to them. They fancy
that even the ignorant, if only they be what is called “orthodox,”
are justified in strong denunciation of men quite as truthful,
and often incomparably more able, than themselves. Off-hand
dogmatists of this stamp, who usually abound among professional
religionists, think that they can refute any number of scholars,
however profound and however pious, if only they shout “Infidel"
with sufficient loudness.
Those are not the words of an “Infidel.” They are the words of the late
To quote again from Dr. Gladden:
Evidently neither the theory of verbal inspiration, nor the
theory of plenary inspiration, can be made to fit the facts
which a careful study of the writings themselves brings before
us. These writings are not inspired in the sense which we
have commonly given to that word. The verbal theory of
inspiration was only tenable while they were supposed to be
the work of a single author. To such a composite literature
no such theory will apply.
The Bible is not inspired. The fact is that no “sacred” book is
inspired. All “sacred” books are the work of human minds. All ideas
of God are human ideas. All religions are made by man.
When the old-fashioned Christian said the Bible was an inspired book,
he meant that God put the words and the facts directly into the mind of
the prophet. That meant that God told Moses about the creation, Adam and
Eve, Cain and Abel, Noah and the Ark, and the Ten Commandments.
Many modern Christians, amongst whom I place the Rev. Ambrose Pope, of
Bakewell, believe that God gave Moses (and all the other prophets) a
special genius and a special desire to convey religious information to
And Mr. Pope suggests that man was so ignorant, so childlike, or so
weak in those days that it was necessary to disguise plain facts in
But the man, Moses or another, who wrote the Book of Genesis was a man
of literary genius. He was no child, no weakling. If God had said to him:
“I made the world out of the fiery nebula, and I made the sea to bring
forth the staple of life, and I caused all living things to develop from
that seed or staple of life, and I drew man out from the brutes; and the
time was six hundred millions of years”— if God had said that to Moses, do
you think Moses would not have understood?
Now, let me show you what the Christian asks us to believe. He asks us
to believe that the God who was the first cause of creation, and knew
everything, inspired man, in the childhood of the world, with a fabulous
and inaccurate theory of the origin of man and the earth, and that since
that day the same God has gradually changed or added to the inspiration,
until He inspired Laplace, and Galileo, and Copernicus, and Darwin to
contradict the teachings of the previous fifty thousand years. He asks us
to believe that God muddled men's minds with a mysterious series of
revelations cloaked in fable and allegory; that He allowed them to stumble
and to blunder, and to quarrel over these “revelations”; that He allowed
them to persecute, and slay, and torture each other on account of
divergent readings of his “revelations” for ages and ages; and that He is
still looking on while a number of bewildered and antagonistic religions
fight each other to achieve the survival of the fittest. Is that a
reasonable theory? Is it the kind of theory a reasonable man can accept?
Is it consonant with common sense?
Contrast that with our theory. We say that early man, having no
knowledge of science, and more imagination than reason, would be alarmed
and puzzled by the phenomena of Nature. He would be afraid of the dark, he
would be afraid of the thunder, he would wonder at the moon, at the stars,
at fire, at the ocean. He would fear what he did not understand, and he
would bow down and pay homage to what he feared.
Then, by degrees, he would personify the stars, and the sun, and the
thunder, and the fire. He would make gods of these things. He would make
gods of the dead. He would make gods of heroes. He would do what all
savage races do, what all children do: he would make legends, or fables,
or fairy tales out of his hopes, his fears, and his guesses.
Does not that sound reasonable? Does not history teach us that it is
true? Do we not know that religion was so born and nursed?
There is no such thing known to men as an original religion. All
religions are made up of the fables and the imaginations of tribes long
since extinct. Religion is an evolution, not a revelation. It has been
invented, altered, and built up, and pulled down, and reconstructed time
after time. It is a conglomeration and an adaptation, as language is. And
the Christian religion is no more an original religion than English is an
original tongue. We have Sanscrit, Latin, Greek, French, Saxon, Norman
words in our language; and we have Aryan, Semitic, Egyptian, Roman, Greek,
and all manner of ancient foreign fables, myths, and rites in our
We say that Genesis was a poetic presentation of a fabulous story
pieced together from many traditions of many tribes, and recording with
great literary power the ideas of a people whose scientific knowledge was
Now, I ask you which of these theories is the most reasonable; which is
the most scientific; which agrees most closely with the facts of philology
and history of which we are in possession?
Why twist the self-evident fact that the Bible story of creation was
the work of unscientific men of strong imagination into a far-fetched and
unsatisfactory puzzle of symbol and allegory? It would be just as easy and
just as reasonable to take the Morte d'Arthur and try to prove that
it contained a veiled revelation of God's relations to man.
And let me ask one or two questions as to this matter of the revelation
of the Holy Bible. Is God all-powerful or is he not? If he is
all-powerful, why did He make man so imperfect? Could He not have created
him at once a wise and good creature? Even when man was ignorant and
savage, could not an all-powerful God have devised some means of revealing
Himself so as to be understood? If God really wished to reveal Himself to
man, why did He reveal Himself only to one or two obscure tribes, and
leave the rest of mankind in darkness?
Those poor savages were full of credulity, full of terror, full of
wonder, full of the desire to worship. They worshipped the sun and the
moon; they worshipped ghosts and demons; they worshipped tyrants, and
pretenders, and heroes, dead and alive. Do you believe that if God had
come down on earth, with a cohort of shining angels, and had said,
“Behold, I am the only God,” these savages would not have left all baser
gods and worshipped Him? Why, these men, and all the thousands of
generations of their children, have been looking for God since first they
learned to look at sea and sky. They are looking for Him now. They have
fought countless bloody wars and have committed countless horrible
atrocities in their zeal for Him. And you ask us to believe that His grand
revelation of Himself is bound up in a volume of fables and errors
collected thousands of years ago by superstitious priests and prophets of
Palestine, and Egypt, and Assyria.
We cannot believe such a statement. No man can believe it who tests it
by his reason in the same way in which he would test any modern problem.
If the leaders of religion brought the same vigour and subtlety of mind to
bear upon religion which they bring to bear upon any criticism of
religion, if they weighed the Bible as they have weighed astronomy and
evolution, the Christian religion would not last a year.
If my reader has not studied this matter, let him read the books I have
recommended, and then sit down and consider the Bible revelation and story
with the same fearless honesty and clear common sense with which he would
consider the Bibles of the Mohammedan, or Buddhist, or Hindoo, and then
ask himself the question: “Is the Bible a holy and inspired book, and the
word of God to man, or is it an incongruous and contradictory collection
of tribal traditions and ancient fables, written by men of genius and
We now reach the second stage in our examination, which is the claim
that no religion known to man can be truly said to be original. All
religions, the Christian religion included, are adaptations or variants of
older religions. Religions are not revealed: they are evolved.
If a religion were revealed by God, that religion would be perfect in
whole and in part, and would be as perfect at the first moment of its
revelation as after ten thousand years of practice. There has never been a
religion which fulfils those conditions.
According to Bible chronology, Adam was created some six thousand years
ago. Science teaches that man existed during the glacial epoch, which was
at least fifty thousand years before the Christian era.
Here I recommend the study of Laing's Human Origins, Parson's
Our Sun God, Sayce's Ancient Empires of the East, and Frazer's
In his visitation charge at Blackburn, in July, 1889, the Bishop of
Manchester spoke as follows:
Now, if these dates are accepted, to what age of the world shall
we assign that Accadian civilisation and literature which so long
preceded Sargo I. and the statutes of Sirgullah? I can best
answer you in the words of the great Assyriologist, F. Hommel:
“If,” he says, “the Semites were already settled in Northern
Babylonia (Accad) in the beginning of the fourth thousand B.C.
in possession of the fully developed Shumiro-Accadian culture
adopted by them—a culture, moreover, which appears to have
sprouted like a cutting from Shumir, then the latter must be far,
far older still, and have existed in its completed form in the
fifth thousand B.C., an age to which I unhesitatingly ascribe the
South Babylonian incantations.” ... Who does not see that such
facts as these compel us to remodel our whole idea of the past?
A culture which was complete one thousand years before Adam must
have needed many thousands of years to develop. It would be a modest guess
that Accadian culture implied a growth of at least ten thousand years.
Of course, it may be said that the above biblical error is only an
error of time, and has no bearing on the alleged evolution of the Bible.
Well, an error of a million, or of ten thousand, years is a serious thing
in a divine revelation; but, as we shall see, it has a bearing on
evolution. Because it appears that in that ancient Accadian civilisation
lie the seeds of many Bible laws and legends.
Here I quote from Our Sun God, by Mr. J. D. Parsons:
To commence with, it is well known to those acquainted with
the remains of the Assyrian and Babylonian civilisations that
the stories of the creation, the temptation, the fall, the deluge,
and the confusion of tongues were the common property of the
Babylonians centuries before the date of the alleged Exodus
under Moses... Even the word Sabbath is Babylonian. And the
observance of the seventh day as a Sabbath, or day of rest, by
the Accadians thousands of years before Moses, or Israel, or
even Abraham, or Adam himself could have been born or created,
is admitted by, among others, the Bishop of Manchester. For in
an address to his clergy, already mentioned, he let fall these
“Who does not see that such facts as these compel us to remodel
our whole idea of the past, and that in particular to affirm that
the Sabbatical institution originated in the time of Moses, three
thousand five hundred years after it is probable that it existed
in Chaldea, is an impossibility, no matter how many Fathers of the
Church have asserted it. Facts cannot be dismissed like theories.”
The Sabbath, then, is one link in the evolution of the Bible. Like the
legends of the Creation, the Fall, and the Flood, it was adopted by the
Jews from the Babylonians during or after the Captivity.
Of the Flood, Professor Sayce, in his Ancient Empires of the
East, speaks as follows:
With the Deluge the mythical history of Babylonia takes a new
departure. From this event to the Persian conquest was a period
of 36,000 years, or an astronomical cycle called saros.
Xisuthros, with his family and friends, alone survived the
waters which drowned the rest of mankind on account of their
sins. He had been ordered by the gods to build a ship, to pitch
it within and without, and to stock it with animals of every
species. Xisuthros sent out first a dove, then a swallow, and
lastly a raven, to discover whether the earth was dry; the dove
and the swallow returned to the ship, and it was only when the
raven flew away that the rescued hero ventured to leave his ark.
He found that he had been stranded on the peak of the mountain
of Nizir, “the mountain of the world,” whereon the Accadians
believed the heavens to rest—where, too, they placed the
habitations of their gods, and the cradle of their own race.
Since Nizir lay amongst the mountains of Pir Mam, a little south
of Rowandiz, its mountain must be identified with Rowandiz itself.
On its peak Xisuthros offered sacrifices, piling up cups of wine
by sevens; and the rainbow, “the glory of Anu,” appeared in
the heaven, in covenant that the world should never again be
destroyed by flood. Immediately afterwards Xisuthros and his
wife, like the Biblical Enoch, were translated to the regions of
the blest beyond Datilla, the river of Death, and his people made
their way westward to Sippara. Here they disinterred the books
buried by their late ruler before the Deluge took place, and
re-established themselves in their old country under the government
first of Erekhoos, and then of his son Khoniasbolos. Meanwhile,
other colonists had arrived in the plain of Sumer, and here,
under the leadership of the giant Etana, called Titan by the
Greek writers, they built a city of brick, and essayed to erect a
tower by means of which they might scale the sky, and so win
for themselves the immortality granted to Xisuthros... But
the tower was overthrown in the night by the winds, and Bel
frustrated their purpose by confounding their language and
scattering them on the mound.
These legends of the Flood and the Tower of Babel were obviously
borrowed by the Jews during their Babylonian captivity.
Professor Sayce, in his Ancient Empires of the East, speaking of
the Accadian king, Sargon I., says:
Legends naturally gathered round the name of the Babylonian
Solomon. Not only was he entitled “the deviser of law,
the deviser of prosperity,” but it was told of him how his
father had died while he was still unborn, how his mother had
fled to the mountains, and there left him, like a second Moses,
to the care of the river in an ark of reeds and bitumen; and how
he was saved by Accir, “the water-drawer,” who brought him
up as his own son, until the time came when, under the protection
of Istar, his rank was discovered, and he took his seat on
the throne of his forefathers.
From Babylon the Jews borrowed the legends of Eden, of the Fall, the
Flood, the Tower of Babel; from Babylon they borrowed the Sabbath, and
very likely the Commandments; and is it not possible that the legendary
Moses and the legendary Sargon may be variants of a still more ancient
Compare Sayce with the following “Notes on the Moses Myth,” from
Christianity and Mythology, by J. M. Robertson:
NOTES ON THE MOSES MYTH.
I have been challenged for saying that the story of Moses and
the floating basket is a variant of the myth of Horos and the
floating island (Herod ii. 156). But this seems sufficiently
proved by the fact that in the reign of Rameses II., according
to the monuments, there was a place in Middle Egypt which
bore the name I-en-Moshe, “the island of Moses.” That is the
primary meaning. Brugsch, who proclaims the fact (Egypt
Under the Pharaohs, ii. 117), suggests that it can also mean “the
river bank of Moses.” It is very obvious, however, that the
Egyptians would not have named a place by a real incident in
the life of a successful enemy, as Moses is represented in Exodus.
Name and story are alike mythological and pre-Hebraic, though
possibly Semitic. The Assyrian myth of Sargon, which is,
indeed, very close to the Hebrew, may be the oldest form of all;
but the very fact that the Hebrews located their story in Egypt
shows that they knew it to have a home there in some fashion.
The name Moses, whether it mean “the water-child” (so Deutsch)
or “the hero” (Sayce, Hib. Lect. p. 46), was in all likelihood
an epithet of Horos. The basket, in the latter form, was
doubtless an adaptation from the ritual of the basket-born
God-Child, as was the birth story of Jesus. In Diodorus Siculus
(i. 25) the myth runs that Isis found Horos dead “on the
and brought him to life again; but even in that form the clue
to the Moses birth-myth is obvious. And there are yet other
Egyptian connections for the Moses saga, since the Egyptians
had a myth of Thoth (their Logos) having slain Argus (as did
Hermes), and having had to fly for it to Egypt, where he gave
laws and learning to the Egyptians. Yet, curiously enough, this
myth probably means that the Sun God, who has in the other
story escaped the “massacre of the innocents” (the morning
stars), now plays the slayer on his own account, since the slaying
of many-eyed Argus probably means the extinction of the stars
by the morning sun (cp. Emeric-David, Introduction, end).
Another “Hermes” was the son of Nilus, and his name was sacred
(Cicero, De Nat. Deor. iii. 22, Cp. 16). The story of the
floating child, finally, becomes part of the lore of Greece.
In the myth of Apollo, the Babe-God and his sister Artemis are
secured in float-islands.
It is impossible to form a just estimate of the Bible without some
knowledge of ancient history and comparative mythology. It would be
impossible for me to go deeply into these matters in this small book, but
I will quote a few significant passages just to show the value of such
historical evidence. Here to begin with, are some passages from Mr. Grant
Allen's Evolution of the Idea of God.
THE ORIGIN OF GODS.
Mr. Herbert Spencer has traced so admirably, in his Principles
of Sociology, the progress of development from the Ghost to
the God that I do not propose in this chapter to attempt much
more than a brief recapitulation of his main propositions, which,
however, I shall supplement with fresh examples, and adapt at
the same time to the conception of three successive stages in
human ideas about the Life of the Dead, as set forth in the
In the earlier stage of all—the stage where the actual bodies
of the dead are preserved—gods, as such, are for the most part
unknown: it is the corpses of friends and ancestors that are
worshipped and reverenced. For example, Ellis says of the
corpse of a Tahitian chief, that it was placed in a sitting
posture under a protecting shed; “a small altar was erected
before it, and offerings of fruit, food, and flowers were
daily presented by the relatives or the priest appointed to
attend the body.” (This point about the priest is of essential
importance.) The Central Americans, again, as Mr. Spencer notes,
performed similar rites before bodies dried by artificial
heat. The New Guinea people, as D'Albertis found, worship
the dried mummies of their fathers and husbands. A little
higher in the scale we get the developed mummy-worship of
Egypt and Peru, which survives even after the evolution of
greater gods, from powerful kings or chieftains. Wherever
the actual bodies of the dead are preserved, there also worship
and offerings are paid to them.
Often, however, as already noted, it is not the whole body,
but the head alone, that is specially kept and worshipped.
Thus Mr. H. O. Forbes says of the people of Buru: “The dead
are buried in the forest on some secluded spot, marked by a
merang, or grave pole, over which at certain intervals the
relatives place tobacco, cigarettes, and various offerings.
When the body is decomposed the son or nearest relative
disinters the head, wraps a new cloth about it, and places
it in the Matakau at the back of his house, or in a little
hut erected for it near the grave. It is the representative
of his forefathers, whose behests he holds in the greatest respect.”
Two points are worthy of notice in this interesting account,
as giving us an anticipatory hint of two further accessories
whose evolution we must trace hereafter: first, the grave-stake,
which is probably the origin of the wooden idol; and second,
the little hut erected over the head by the side of the grave,
which is undoubtedly one of the origins of the temple, or
praying-house. Observe, also, the ceremonial wrapping of the
skull in cloth and its oracular functions.
Throughout the earlier and ruder phases of human evolution
this primitive conception of ancestors or dead relatives as the
chief known object of worship survives undiluted; and ancestor-
worship remains to this day the principal religion of the Chinese
and of several other peoples. Gods, as such, are practically
unknown in China. Ancestor-worship, also, survives in many
other races as one of the main cults, even after other elements
of later religion have been superimposed upon it. In Greece
and Rome it remained to the last an important part of domestic
ritual. But in most cases a gradual differentiation is set up
in time between various classes of ghosts or dead persons, some
ghosts being considered of more importance and power than others;
and out of these last it is that gods as a rule are finally
developed. A god, in fact, is in the beginning, at least, an
exceptionally powerful and friendly ghost—a ghost able to help,
and from whose help great things may reasonably be expected.
Again, the rise of chieftainship and kingship has much to do
with the growth of a higher conception of godhead; a dead king
of any great power or authority is sure to be thought of in time
as a god of considerable importance. We shall trace out this
idea more fully hereafter in the religion of Egypt; for the
present it must suffice to say that the supposed power of the
gods in each pantheon has regularly increased in proportion to
the increased power of kings or emperors.
When we pass from the first plane of corpse preservation and
mummification to the second plane, where burial is habitual,
it might seem, at a hasty glance, as though continued worship
of the dead, and their elevation into gods, would no longer be
possible. For we saw that burial is prompted by a deadly fear
lest the corpse or ghost should return to plague the living.
Nevertheless, natural affection for parents or friends, and the
desire to insure their goodwill and aid, make these seemingly
contrary ideas reconcilable. As a matter of fact, we find that
even when men bury or burn their dead, they continue to worship
them; while, as we shall show in the sequel, even the great
stones which they roll on top of the grave to prevent the dead
from rising again become, in time, altars on which sacrifices
are offered to the spirit.
Much of the Bible is evidently legendary. Here we have a jumble of
ancient myths, allegories, and mysteries drawn from many sources and
remote ages, and adapted, altered, and edited so many times that in many
instances their original or inner meaning has become obscure. And it is
folly to accept the tangled legends and blurred or distorted symbols as
the literal history of a literal tribe, and the literal account of the
origin of man, and the genesis of religion.
The real roots of religion lie far deeper: deeper, perhaps, than
sun-worship, ghost-worship, and fear of demons. In The Real Origin of
Religion occurs the following:
Quite recently theories have been advocated attempting to
prove that the minds of early men were chiefly concerned with
the increase of vegetation, and that their fancy played so much
round the mysteries of plant growth that they made them their
holiest arcana. Hence it appears that the savages were far more
modest and refined than our civilised contemporaries, for almost
all our works of imagination, both in literature and art, make
human love their theme in all its aspects, whether healthy or
pathological; whereas the savage, it seems, thought only of his
crops. Nothing can be more astonishing than this discovery,
if it be true, but there are many facts which might lead us to
believe that the romance of love inspired early art and religion
as well as modern thought.
Religion is a gorgeous efflorescence of human love. The tender
passion has left its footsteps on the sands of time in magnificent
monuments and libraries of theology.
This may seem startling to many orthodox readers, but it is no new
theory, and is doubtless quite true, for all gods have been made by man,
and all theologies have been evolved by man, and the odour and the colour
of his human passions cling to them always, even after they are discarded.
Under all man's dreams of eternal gods and eternal heavens lies man's
passion for the eternal feminine. But on these subjects “Moses” spoke in
parables, and I shall not speak at all.
Mr. Robertson, in Christianity and Mythology, says of the Bible:
It is a medley of early metaphysics and early fable—early,
that is, relatively to known Hebrew history. It ties together
two creation stories and two flood stories; it duplicates
several sets of mythic personages—as Cain and Abel, Tubal-Cain
and Jabal; it grafts the curse of Cham on the curse of Cain,
making that finally the curse of Canaan; it tells the same
offensive story twice of one patriarch and again of another;
it gives an early “metaphysical” theory of the origin of death,
life, and evil; it adapts the Egyptian story of the “Two Brothers,”
or the myth of Adonis, as the history of Joseph; it makes use
of various God-names, pretending that they always stood for
the same deity; it repeats traditions concerning mythic
founders of races—if all this be not “a medley of early fable,”
what is it?
I quote next from The Bible and the Child, in which Dean Farrar
Some of the books of Scripture are separated from others by the
interspace of a thousand years. They represent the fragmentary
survival of Hebrew literature. They stand on very different
levels of value, and even of morality. Read for centuries in
an otiose, perfunctory, slavish, and superstitious manner, they
have often been so egregiously misunderstood that many entire
systems of interpretation—which were believed in for generations,
and which fill many folios, now consigned to a happy oblivion—
are clearly proved to have been utterly baseless. Colossal
usurpations of deadly import to the human race have been built,
like inverted pyramids, on the narrow apex of a single
Compare those utterances of the freethinker and the divine, and then
read the following words of Dean Farrar:
The manner in which the Higher Criticism has slowly and surely
made its victorious progress, in spite of the most determined
and exacerbated opposition, is a strong argument in its favour.
It is exactly analogous to the way in which the truths of
astronomy and of geology have triumphed over universal
opposition. They were once anathematised as “infidel”; they
are now accepted as axiomatic. I cannot name a single student
or professor of any eminence in Great Britain who does not
accept, with more or less modification, the main conclusions
of the German school of critics.
This being the case, I ask, as a mere layman, what right has the Bible
to usurp the title of “the word of God”? What evidence can be sharked up
to show that it is any more a holy or an inspired book than any book of
Thomas Carlyle's, or John Ruskin's, or William Morris'? What evidence is
forthcoming that the Bible is true?
The theory of the early Christian Church was that the Earth was flat,
like a plate, and the sky was a solid dome above it, like an inverted blue
The Sun revolved round the Earth to give light by day, the Moon
revolved round the Earth to give light by night. The stars were auxiliary
lights, and had all been specially, and at the same time, created for the
good of man.
God created the Sun, Moon, Stars, and Earth in six days. He created
them by word, and He created them out of nothing.
The centre of the Universe was the Earth. The Sun was made to give
light to the Earth by day, and the Moon to give light to Earth by night.
Any man who denied that theory in those days was in danger of being
murdered as an Infidel.
To-day our ideas are very different. Hardly any educated man or woman
in the world believes that the world is flat, or that the Sun revolves
round the Earth, or that what we call the sky is a solid substance, like a
Advanced thinkers, even amongst the Christians, believe that the world
is round, that it is one of a series of planets revolving round the Sun,
that the Sun is only one of many millions of other suns, that these suns
were not created simultaneously, but at different periods, probably
separated by millions or billions of years.
We have all, Christians and Infidels alike, been obliged to acknowledge
that the Earth is not the centre of the whole Universe, but only a minor
planet revolving around, and dependent upon, one of myriads of suns.
God, called by Christians “Our Heavenly Father,” created all things. He
created not only the world, but the whole universe. He is all-wise, He is
all-powerful, He is all-loving, and He is revealed to us in the
Let us see. Let us try to imagine what kind of a God the creator of
this Universe would be, and let us compare him with the God, or Gods,
revealed to us in the Bible, and in the teachings of the Church.
We have seen the account of the Universe and its creation, as given in
the revealed Scriptures. Let us now take a hasty view of the Universe and
its creation as revealed to us by science.
What is the Universe like, as far as our limited knowledge goes?
Our Sun is only one sun amongst many millions. Our planet is only one
of eight which revolve around him.
Our Sun, with his planets and comets, comprises what is known as the
There is no reason to suppose that his is the only Solar System: there
may be many millions of solar systems. For aught we know, there may be
millions of systems, each containing millions of solar systems.
Let us deal first with the solar system of which we are a part.
The Sun is a globe of 866,200 miles diameter. His diameter is more than
108 times that of the Earth. His volume is 1,305,000 times the volume of
the Earth. All the eight planets added together only make
one-seven-hundredth part of his weight. His circumference is more than two
and a-half millions of miles. He revolves upon his axis in 25 1/4 days, or
at a speed of nearly 4,000 miles an hour.
This immense and magnificent globe diffuses heat and light to all the
Without the light and heat of the Sun no life would now be, or in the
past have been, possible on this Earth, or any other planet of the solar
The eight planets of the solar system are divided into four inferior
and four superior.
The inferior planets are Mercury, Venus, the Earth, and Mars. The
superior are Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune.
The diameters of the smaller planets are as follow: Mercury, 3,008
miles; Mars, 5,000 miles; Venus, 7,480 miles; the Earth, 7,926 miles.
The diameters of the large planets are: Jupiter, 88,439 miles; Saturn,
75,036 miles; Neptune, 37,205 miles; Uranus, 30,875 miles.
The volume of Jupiter is 1,389 times, of Saturn 848 times, of Neptune
103 times, and of Uranus 59 times the volume of the Earth.
The mean distances from the Sun are: Mercury, 36 million miles; Venus,
67 million miles; the Earth, 93 million miles; Mars, 141 million miles;
Jupiter, 483 million miles; Saturn, 886 million miles; Uranus, 1,782
million miles; Neptune, 2,792 million miles.
To give an idea of the meaning of these distances, I may say that a
train travelling night and day at 60 miles an hour would take quite 176
years to come from the Sun to the Earth.
The same train, at the same speed, would be 5,280 years in travelling
from the Sun to Neptune.
Reckoning that Neptune is the outermost planet of the solar system,
that system would have a diameter of 5,584 millions of miles.
If we made a chart of the solar system on a scale of 1 inch to a
million miles, we should need a sheet of paper 465 feet 4 inches wide. On
this sheet the Sun would have a diameter of less than 1 inch, and the
Earth would be about the size of a pin-prick.
If an express train, going at 60 miles an hour, had to travel round the
Earth's orbit, it would be more than 1,000 years on the journey. If the
Earth moved no faster, our winter would last more than 250 years. But in
the solar system the speeds are as wonderful as the sizes. The Earth turns
upon its axis at the rate of 1,000 miles an hour, and travels in its orbit
round the Sun at the rate of more than 1,000 miles a minute, or 66,000
miles an hour.
So much for the size of the solar system. It consists of a Sun and
eight planets, and the outer planet's orbit is one of 5,584 millions of
miles in diameter, which it would take an express train, at 60 miles an
hour, 10,560 years to cross.
But this distance is as nothing when we come to deal with the distances
of the other stars from our Sun.
The distance from our Sun to the nearest fixed (?) star is more than 20
millions of millions of miles. Our express train, which crosses the
diameter of the solar system in 10,560 years, would take, if it went 60
miles an hour day and night, about 40 million years to reach the nearest
fixed star from the Sun.
And if we had to mark the nearest fixed star on our chart made on a
scale of 1 inch to the million miles, we should find that whereas a sheet
of 465 feet would take in the outermost planet of the solar system, a
sheet to take in the nearest fixed star would have to be about 620 miles
wide. On this sheet, as wide as from London to Inverness, the Sun would be
represented by a dot three-quarters of an inch in diameter, and the Earth
by a pin-prick.
But these immense distances only relate to the nearest stars.
Now, the nearest stars are about four “light years” distant from us. That
is to say, that light, travelling at a rate of about 182,000 miles in
one second, takes four years to come from the nearest fixed star to
But I have seen the distance from the Earth to the Great Nebula in
Orion given as a thousand light years, or 250 times the distance of
the fixed star above alluded to.
To reach that nebula at 60 miles an hour, an express train would have
to travel for 35 millions of years multiplied by 250—that is to say, for
8,750 million years.
And yet there are millions of stars whose distances are even greater
than the distance of the Great Nebula in Orion.
How many stars are there? No one can even guess. But L. Struve
estimates the number of those visible to the great telescopes at 20
Twenty millions of suns. And as for the size of these suns, Sir Robert
Ball says Sirius is ten times as large as our Sun; and a well-known
astronomer, writing in the English Mechanic about a week ago,
remarks that Alpha Orionis (Betelgeuze) has probably 700 times the light
of our Sun.
Looking through my telescope, which is only 3-inch aperture, I have
seen star clusters of wonderful beauty in the Pleiades and in Cancer.
There is, in the latter constellation, a dim star which, when viewed
through my glass, becomes a constellation larger, more brilliant, and more
beautiful than Orion or the Great Bear. I have looked at these jewelled
sun-clusters many a time, and wondered over them. But I have never once
thought of believing that they were specially created to be lesser lights
to the Earth.
And now let me quote from that grand book of Richard A. Proctor's,
The Expanse of Heaven, a fine passage descriptive of some of the
wonders of the “Milky Way”:
There are stars in all orders of brightness, from those which
(seen with the telescope) resemble in lustre the leading glories
of the firmament, down to tiny points of light only caught by
momentary twinklings. Every variety of arrangement is seen.
Here the stars are scattered as over the skies at night; there
they cluster in groups, as though drawn together by some irresistible
power; in one region they seem to form sprays of stars like
diamonds sprinkled over fern leaves; elsewhere they lie in
streams and rows, in coronets and loops and festoons, resembling
the star festoon which, in the constellation Perseus, garlands
the black robe of night. Nor are varieties of colour wanting
to render the display more wonderful and more beautiful. Many
of the stars which crowd upon the view are red, orange, and yellow
Among them are groups of two and three and four (multiple stars
as they are called), amongst which blue and green and lilac and
purple stars appear, forming the most charming contrast to the
ruddy and yellow orbs near which they are commonly seen.
Millions and millions—countless millions of suns. Innumerable galaxies
and systems of suns, separated by black gulfs of space so wide that no man
can realise the meaning of the figures which denote their stretch. Suns of
fire and light, whirling through vast oceans of space like swarms of
golden bees. And round them planets whirling at thousands of miles a
And on Earth there are forms of life so minute that millions of them
exist in a drop of water. There are microscopic creatures more beautiful
and more highly finished than any gem, and more complex and effective than
the costliest machine of human contrivance. In The Story of Creation
Mr. Ed. Clodd tells us that one cubic inch of rotten stone contains 41
thousand million vegetable skeletons of diatoms.
I cut the following from a London morning paper:
It was discovered some few years ago that a peculiar bacillus
was present in all persons suffering from typhoid, and in all
foods and drinks which spread the disease. Experiments were
carried out, and it was assumed, not without good reason, that
the bacillus was the primary cause of the malady, and it was
accordingly labelled the typhoid bacillus.
But the bacteriologists further discovered that the typhoid
bacillus was present in water which was not infectious, and in
persons who were not ill, or had never been ill, with typhoid.
So now a theory is propounded that a healthy typhoid bacillus
does not cause typhoid, but that it is only when the bacillus
is itself sick of a fever, or, in other words, is itself the
prey of some infinitely minuter organisms, which feed on it
alone, that it works harm to mortal men.
The bacillus is so small that one requires a powerful microscope to see
him, and his blood may be infested with bacilli as small to him as he is
And there are millions, and more likely billions, of suns!
Talk about Aladdin's palace, Sinbad's valley of diamonds, Macbeth's
witches, or the Irish fairies! How petty are their exploits, how tawdry
are their splendours, how paltry are their riches, when we compare them to
the romance of science.
When did a poet conceive an idea so vast and so astounding as the
theory of evolution? What are a few paltry, lumps of crystallised carbon
compared to a galaxy of a million million suns? Did any Eastern inventor
of marvels ever suggest such a human feat as that accomplished by the men
who have, during the last handful of centuries, spelt out the mystery of
the universe? These scientists have worked miracles before which those of
the ancient priests and magicians are mere tricks of hanky-panky.
Look at the romance of geology; at the romance of astronomy; at the
romance of chemistry; at the romance of the telescope, and the microscope,
and the prism. More wonderful than all, consider the story of how flying
atoms in space became suns, how suns made planets, how planets changed
from spheres of flame and raging fiery storm to worlds of land and water.
How in the water specks of jelly became fishes, fishes reptiles, reptiles
mammals, mammals monkeys; monkeys men; until, from the fanged and taloned
cannibal, roosting in a forest, have developed art and music, religion and
science; and the children of the jellyfish can weigh the suns, measure the
stellar spaces, ride on the ocean or in the air, and speak to each other
from continent to continent.
Talk about fairy tales! what is this? You may look through a telescope,
and see the nebula that is to make a sun floating, like a luminous mist,
three hundred million miles away. You may look again, and see another sun
in process of formation. You may look again, and see others almost
completed. You may look again and again, and see millions of suns and
systems spread out across the heavens like rivers of living gems.
You will say that all this speaks of a Creator. I shall not contradict
you. But what kind of Creator must He be who has created such a universe
Do you think He is the kind of Creator to make blunders and commit
crimes? Can you, after once thinking of the Milky Way, with its rivers of
suns, and the drop of water teeming with spangled dragons, and the awful
abysses of dark space, through which comets shoot at a speed a thousand
times as fast as an express train—can you, after seeing Saturn's rings,
and Jupiter's moons, and the clustered gems of Hercules, consent for a
moment to the allegation that the creator of all this power and glory got
angry with men, and threatened them with scabs and sores, and plagues of
lice and frogs? Can you suppose that such a creator would, after thousands
of years of effort, have failed even now to make His repeated revelations
comprehensible? Do you believe that He would be driven across the
unimaginable gulfs of space, but of the transcendent glory of His myriad
resplendent suns, to die on a cross, in order to win back to Him the love
of the puny creatures on one puny planet in the marvellous universe His
power had made?
Do you believe that the God who imagined and created such a universe
could be petty, base, cruel, revengeful, and capable of error? I do not
And now let us examine the character and conduct of this God as
depicted for us in the Bible—the book which is alleged to have been
directly revealed by God Himself.