JEHOVAH. THE ADOPTED HEAVENLY FATHER OF CHRISTIANITY
In giving the above brief sketch of the known universe my object was to
suggest that the Creator of a universe of such scope and grandeur must be
a Being of vast power and the loftiest dignity.
Now, the Christians claim that their God created this universe— not the
universe He is described, in His own inspired word, as creating, but the
universe revealed by science; the universe of twenty millions of suns.
And the Christians claim that this God is a God of love, a God
omnipotent, omnipresent, and eternal. And the Christians claim that this
great God, the Creator of our wonderful universe, is the God revealed to
us in the Bible.
Let us, then, go to the Bible, and find out for ourselves whether the
God therein revealed is any more like the ideal Christian God than the
universe therein revealed is like the universe since discovered by man
without the aid of divine inspiration.
As for the biblical God, Jahweh, or Jehovah, I shall try to show from
the Bible itself that He was not all-wise, nor all-powerful, nor
omnipresent; that He was not merciful nor just; but that, on the contrary,
He was fickle, jealous, dishonourable, immoral, vindictive, barbarous, and
Neither was He, in any sense of the words, great nor good. But, in
fact, He was a tribal god, an idol, made by man; and, as the idol of a
savage and ignorant tribe, was Himself a savage and ignorant monster.
First then, as to my claim that Jahweh, or Jehovah, was a tribal god. I
shall begin by quoting from Shall We Understand the Bible? by the
Rev. T. Rhondda Williams:
The theology of the Jahwist is very childish and elementary,
though it is not all on the same level. He thinks of God very
much as in human form, holding intercourse with men almost
as one of themselves. His document begins with Genesis ii. 4,
and its first portion continues, without break, to the end of
chapter iv. This portion contains the story of Eden. Here
Jahweh moulds dust into human form, and breathes into
plants a garden, and puts the man in it. Jahweh comes to the
man in his sleep, and takes part of his body to make a woman,
and so skilfully, apparently, that the man never wakes under
the operation. Jahweh walks in the garden like a man in the
cool of the day. He even makes coats for Adam and Eve.
Further on the Jahwist has a flood story, in which Jahweh repents
that he had made man, and decides to drown him, saving only
one family. When all is over, and Noah sacrifices on his new
altar, Jahweh smells a sweet savour, just as a hungry man
smells welcome food. When men build the Tower of Babel,
Jahweh comes down to see it—he cannot see it from where he
is. In Genesis xviii. the Jahwist tells a story of three men
coming to Abraham's tent. Abraham gives them water to wash
their feet, and bread to eat, and Sarah makes cakes for them,
and “they did eat”; altogether, they seemed to have had a nice
time. As the story goes on, he leaves you to infer that one
of these was Jahweh himself. It is J. who describes the story
of Jacob wrestling with some mysterious person, who, by
is Jahweh. He tells a very strange story in Exodus iv. 24, that
when Moses was returning into Egypt, at Jahweh's own request,
Jahweh met him at a lodging-place, and sought to kill him. In
Exodus xiv. 15 it is said Jahweh took the wheels off the chariots
of the Egyptians. If we wanted to believe that such statements
were true at all, we should resort to the device of saying they
were figurative. But J. meant them literally. The Jahwist
would have no difficulty in thinking of God in this way. The
story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah belongs to this
same document, in which, you remember, Jahweh says: “I will go
down now, and see whether they have done altogether according
to the cry of it which is come unto me; and if not, I will know"
(Gen. xviii. 21). That God was omniscient and omnipresent had
never occurred to the Jahwist. Jahweh, like a man, had to go and
see if he wanted to know. There is, however, some compensation
in the fact that he can move about without difficulty—he can
come down and go up. One might say, perhaps, that in J., though
Jahweh cannot be everywhere, he can go to almost any place.
All this is just like a child's thought. The child, at Christmas,
can believe that, though Santa Claus cannot be everywhere, he
can move about with wonderful facility, and, though he is a man,
he is rather mysterious. The Jahwist's thought of God represents
the childhood stage of the national life.
Later, Mr. Williams writes:
All this shows that at one time Jahweh was one of many gods;
other gods were real gods. The Israelites themselves believed,
for example, that Chemosh was as truly the god of the Moabites
as Jahweh was theirs, and they speak of Chemosh giving territory
to his people to inherit, just as Jahweh had given them territory
(Judges xi. 24).
Just as a King of Israel would speak of Jahweh, the King of
Moab speaks of Chemosh. His god sends him to battle. If he
is defeated, the god is angry; if he succeeds, the god is
favourable. And we have seen that there was a time when the
Israelite believed Chemosh to be as real for Moab as Jahweh
for himself. You find the same thing everywhere. The old
Assyrian kings said exactly the same thing of the god Assur.
Assur sent them to battle, gave defeat or victory, as he thought
fit. The history, however, is very obscure up to the time of
Samuel, and uncertain for some time after. Samuel organised
a Jahweh party. David worshipped Jahweh only, though he
regards it as possible to be driven out of Jahweh's inheritance
into that of other gods (1 Sam. xxvi. 19). Solomon was not
exclusively devoted to Jahweh, for he built places of worship
for other deities as well.
In the chapter on “Different Conceptions of Providence in the Bible,”
Mr. Williams says:
I have asked you to read Judges iii. 15-30, iv. 17-24, v. 24-31.
The first is the story of Ehud getting at Eglon, Israel's enemy,
by deceit, and killing him—an act followed by a great slaughter
of Moabites. The second is the story of Jael pretending to play
the friend to Sisera, and then murdering him. The third is the
eulogy of Jael for doing so, as “blessed above women,” in the
so-called Song of Deborah. Here, you see, Providence is only
concerned with the fortunes of Israel; any deceit and any
cruelty is right which brings success to this people. Providence
is not concerned with morality; nor is it concerned with individuals,
except as the individual serves or opposes Israel.
In these two chapters Mr. Williams shows that the early conception of
God was a very low one, and that it underwent considerable change. In
fact, he says, with great candour and courage, that the early Bible
conception of God is one which we cannot now accept.
With this I entirely agree. We cannot accept as the God of Creation
this savage idol of an obscure tribe, and we have renounced Him, and are
ashamed of Him, not because of any later divine revelation, but because
mankind have become too enlightened, too humane, and too honourable to
And yet the Christian religion adopted Jehovah, and called upon its
followers to worship and believe Him, on pain of torture, or death, or
excommunication in this world, and of hell-fire in the world to come. It
But lest the evidence offered by Mr. Williams should not be considered
sufficient, I shall quote from another very useful book, The Evolution
of the Idea of God, by the late Grant Allen. In this book Mr. Allen
clearly traces the origins of the various ideas of God, and we hear of
Jehovah again, as a kind of tribal stone idol, carried about in a box or
ark. I will quote as fully as space permits:
But Jahweh was an object of portable size, for, omitting for
the present the descriptions in the Pentateuch—which seem
likely to be of later date, and not too trustworthy, through
their strenuous Jehovistic editing—he was carried from Shiloh
in his ark to the front during the great battle with the
Philistines at Ebenezer; and the Philistines were afraid, for
they said, “A god is come into the camp.” But when the Philistines
captured the ark, the rival god, Dagon, fell down and broke in
pieces—so Hebrew legend declared—before the face of Jahweh.
After the Philistines restored the sacred object, it rested for
a time at Kirjath-jearim till David, on the capture of Jerusalem
from the Jebusites, went down to that place to bring up from
thence the ark of the god; and as it went, on a new cart, they
“played before Jahweh on all manner of instruments,” and David
himself “danced before Jahweh.” ... The children of Israel in
early times carried about with them a tribal god, Jahweh, whose
presence in their midst was intimately connected with a certain
ark or chest containing a stone object or objects. This chest
was readily portable, and could be carried to the front in case
of warfare. They did not know the origin of the object in the
ark with certainty; but they regarded it emphatically as “Jahweh
their god, which led them out of the land of Egypt.” ...
I do not see, therefore, how we can easily avoid the obvious
inference that Jahweh the god of the Hebrews, who later became
sublimated and etherealised into the God of Christianity, was,
in his origin, nothing more nor less than the ancestral sacred
stone of the people of Israel, however sculptured, and, perhaps,
in the very last resort of all, the unhewn monumental pillar of
some early Semitic sheikh or chieftain.
It was, indeed, as the Rev. C. E. Beeby says, in his book Creed and
Life, a sad mistake of St. Augustine to tack this tribal fetish in his
box on to the Christian religion as the All-Father, and Creator of the
Universe. For Jehovah was a savage war-god, and, as such, was impotent to
save the tribe who worshipped him.
But let us look further into the accounts of this original God of the
Christians, and see how he comported himself, and let us put our examples
under separate heads; thus:
Jahweh's bad temper is constantly displayed in the Bible. Jahweh made a
man, whom he supposed to be perfect. When the man turned bad on his hands,
Jahweh was angry, and cursed him and his seed for thousands of years. This
vindictive act is accepted by the Apostle Paul as a natural thing for a
God of Love to do.
Jahweh who had already cursed all the seed of Adam, was so angry about
man's sin, in the time of Noah, that he decided to drown all the people on
the earth except Noah's family, and not only that, but to drown nearly all
the innocent animals as well.
When the children of Israel, who had eaten nothing but manna for forty
years, asked Jahweh for a change of diet, Jahweh lost his temper again,
and sent amongst them “fiery serpents,” so that “much people of Israel
died.” But still the desire for other food remained, and the Jews wept for
meat. Then the Lord ordered Moses to speak to the people as follows:
... The Lord will give you flesh, and ye shall eat. Ye shall
not eat one day, nor two days, nor five days, neither ten days
nor twenty days: but even a whole month, until it come out of
your nostrils, and it be loathsome unto you; because that ye
have despised the Lord, which is among you, and have wept
before Him, saying, Why came we forth out of Egypt?
Then Jahweh sent immense numbers of quails, and the people ate them,
and the anger of their angry god came upon them in the act, and smote them
with “a very great plague.”
One more instance out of many. In the First Book of Samuel we are told
that on the return of Jahweh in his ark from the custody of the
Philistines some men of Bethshemesh looked into the ark. This made Jahweh
so angry that he smote the people, and slew more than fifty thousand of
The Injustice of Jehovah
I have already instanced Jahweh's injustice in cursing the seed of Adam
for Adam's sin, and in destroying the whole animal creation, except a
selected few, because he was angry with mankind. In the Book of Samuel we
are told that Jahweh sent three years' famine upon the whole nation
because of the sins of Saul, and that his wrath was only appeased by the
hanging in cold blood of seven of Saul's sons for the evil committed by
In the Book of Joshua is the story of how Achan, having stolen some
gold, was ordered to be burnt; and how Joshua and the Israelites took
“Achan, and his sons, and his daughters, and his oxen, and his asses, and
his sheep, and his tent, and all that he had,” and stoned them to death,
and “burnt them with fire.”
In the First Book of Chronicles the devil persuades David to take a
census of Israel. And again Jahweh acted in blind wrath and injustice, for
he sent a pestilence, which slew seventy thousand of the people for
David's fault. But David he allowed to live. In Samuel we learn how
Jahweh, because of an attack upon the Israelites four hundred years before
the time of speaking, ordered Saul to destroy the Amalekites, “man and
woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.” And Saul did as
he was directed; but because he spared King Agag, the Lord deprived him of
the crown and made David king in his stead.
The Immorality Of Jehovah
In the Second Book of Chronicles Jehovah gets Ahab, King of Israel,
killed by putting lies into the mouths of the prophets:
And the Lord said, Who shall entice Ahab, king of Israel, that
he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead? And one spake, saying
after this manner, and another saying after that manner.
Then there came out a spirit, and stood before the Lord, and
said, I will entice him. And the Lord said unto him, Wherewith?
And he said, I will go out, and be a lying spirit in the mouth
of all his prophets. And the Lord said, Thou shalt entice him,
and thou shalt also prevail: go out, and do even so.
In Deuteronomy are the following orders as to conduct in war:
When thou goest forth to war against thine enemies, and the
Lord thy God hath delivered them into thine hands, and thou
hast taken them captive.
And seest among the captives a beautiful woman, and hast a
desire unto her, that thou wouldest have her to thy wife;
Then thou shalt bring her home to thine house; and she shall
shave her head, and pare her nails;
And she shall put the raiment of her captivity from off her,
and shall remain in thine house, and bewail her father and her
mother a full month: and after that thou shalt go in unto her,
and be her husband, and she shall be thy wife.
And it shall be, if thou have no delight in her, then thou shall
let her go whither she will; but thou shalt not sell her at all
for money, thou shalt not make merchandise of her, because thou
hast humbled her.
The children of Israel, having been sent out by Jahweh to punish the
Midianites, “slew all the males.” But Moses was wrath, because they had
spared the women, and he ordered them to kill all the married women, and
to take the single women “for themselves.” The Lord allowed this brutal
act—which included the murder of all the male children—to be consummated.
There were sixteen thousand females spared, of which we are told that “the
Lord's tribute was thirty and two.”
The Cruelty Of Jehovah
I could find in the Bible more instances of Jahweh's cruelty and
barbarity and lack of mercy than I can find room for.
In Deuteronomy, the Lord hardens the heart of Sihon, King of Hesbon, to
resist the Jews, and then “utterly destroyed the men, women, and little
ones of every city.”
In Leviticus, Jahweh threatens that if the Israelites will not reform
he will “walk contrary to them in fury, and they shall eat the flesh of
their own sons and daughters.”
In Deuteronomy is an account of how Bashan was utterly destroyed, men,
women, and children being slain.
In the same book occur the following passages:
When the Lord thy God shall bring thee into the land whither
thou goest to possess it, and hath cast out many nations before
thee, the Hittites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites,
and the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and
the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than thou;
And when the Lord thy God shall deliver them before thee;
thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt
make no covenant with them, or show mercy unto them.
That is from chapter vii. In chapter xx. there are further instructions
of a like horrible kind:
Thus shalt thou do unto all the cities which are very far off
from thee, which are not of the cities of these nations.
But of the cities of these people, which the Lord thy God doth
give thee for an inheritance, thou shalt save alive nothing
But thou shalt utterly destroy them; namely, the Hittites, and
the Amorites, the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, the Hivites,
and the Jebusites, as the Lord thy God hath commanded thee.
And here, in a long quotation, is an example of the mercy of Jahweh,
and his faculty for cursing:
The Lord shall make the pestilence cleave unto thee, until he
have consumed thee from off the land, whither thou goest to
The Lord shall smite thee with a consumption, and with a
fever, and with an inflammation, and with an extreme burning,
and with the sword, and with blasting, and with mildew; and
they shall pursue thee until thou perish.
And thy heaven that is over thy head shall be brass, and the
earth that is under thee shall be iron.
The Lord shall make the rain of thy land powder and dust:
from heaven shall it come down upon thee, until thou be
The Lord shall cause thee to be smitten before thine enemies:
thou shalt go out one way against them, and flee seven ways
before them: and shalt be removed into all the kingdoms of
And thy carcase shall be meat unto all fowls of the air, and
unto the beasts of the earth, and no man shall fray them away.
The Lord will smite thee with the botch of Egypt, and with
the emerods, and with the scab, and with the itch, whereof thou
canst not be healed.
The Lord shall smite thee with madness, and blindness, and
astonishment of heart: ...
And he shall besiege thee in all thy gates, until thy high
and fenced walls come down, wherein thou trustedst, throughout
all thy land: and he shall besiege thee in all thy gates
throughout all thy land, which the Lord thy God hath given thee.
And thou shalt eat the fruit of thine own body, the flesh of
thy sons and of thy daughters, which the Lord thy God hath
given thee, in the siege, and in the straightness wherewith
thine enemies shall distress thee:
So that the man that is tender among you, and very delicate,
his eyes shall be evil toward his brother, and toward the wife
of his bosom, and toward the remnant of his children which he
shall leave. ...
For a fire is kindled in mine anger, and shall burn into the
lowest hell, and shall consume the earth with her increase,
and set on fire the foundations of the mountains.
I will heap mischiefs upon them; I will spend mine arrows
They shall be burnt with hunger, and devoured with burning
heat, and with bitter destruction: I will also send the teeth
of beasts upon them, with the poison of serpents of the dust.
The sword without, and terror within, shall destroy both the
young man and the virgin, the suckling also with the man of
I think I have quoted enough to show that what I say of the Jewish God
Jehovah is based on fact. But I could, if needful, heap proof on proof,
for the books of the Old Testament reek with blood, and are horrible with
Now, consider, is the God of whom we have been reading a God of love?
Is He the Father of Christ? Is He not rather the savage idol of a savage
Man and his gods: what a tragi-comedy it is. Man has never seen one of
his gods, never heard the voice of one of his gods, does not know the
shape, expression, or bearing of one of his gods. Yet man has cursed man,
hated man, hunted man, tortured man, and murdered man, for the sake of
shadows and fantasies of his own terror, or vanity, or desire. We tiny,
vain feeblenesses, we fussy ephemera; we sting each other, hate each
other, hiss at each other, for the sake of the monster gods of our own
delirium. As we are whirled upon our spinning, glowing planet through the
unfathomable spaces, where myriads of suns, like golden bees, gleam
through the awful mystery of “the vast void night,” what are the phantom
gods to us? They are no more than the waterspouts on the ocean, or the
fleeting shadows on the hills. But the man, and the woman, and the child,
and the dog with its wistful eyes; these know us, touch us, appeal to us,
love us, serve us, grieve us.
Shall we kill these, or revile them, or desert them, for the sake of
the lurid ghost in the cloud, or the fetish in his box?
Do you think the bloodthirsty vindictive Jahweh, who prized nothing but
his own aggrandisement, and slew or cursed all who offended him, is the
Creator, the same who made the jewels of the Pleiades, and the resplendent
mystery of the Milky Way?
Is this unspeakable monster, Jahweh, the Father of Christ? Is he the
God who inspired Buddha, and Shakespeare, and Herschel, and Beethoven, and
Darwin, and Plato, and Bach? No; not he. But in warfare and massacre, in
rapine and in rape, in black revenge and deadly malice, in slavery, and
polygamy, and the debasement of women; and in the pomps, vanities, and
greeds of royalty, of clericalism, and of usury and barter—we may easily
discern the influence of his ferocious and abominable personality. It is
time to have done with this nightmare fetish of a murderous tribe of
savages. We have no use for him. We have no criminal so ruthless nor so
blood-guilty as he. He is not fit to touch our cities, imperfect as we
are. The thought of him defiles and nauseates. We should think him too
horrible and pitiless for a devil, this red-handed, black-hearted Jehovah
of the Jews.
And yet: in the inspired Book, in the Holy Bible, this awful creature
is still enshrined as “God the Father Almighty.” It is marvellous. It is
beyond the comprehension of any man not blinded by superstition, not
warped by prejudice and old-time convention. This the God of
Heaven? This the Father of Christ? This the Creator of the Milky
Way? No. He will not do. He is not big enough. He is not good enough. He
is not clean enough. He is a spiritual nightmare: a bad dream born in
savage minds of terror and ignorance and a tigerish lust for blood.
But if He is not the Most High, if He is not the Heavenly Father, if He
is not the King of kings, the Bible is not an inspired book, and its
claims to divine revelation will not stand.
Carlyle said we might judge a people by their heroes. The heroes of the
Bible, like the God of the Bible, are immoral savages. That is because the
Bible is a compilation from the literature of savage and immoral tribes.
Had the Bible been the word of God we should have found in it a lofty
and a pure ideal of God. We should not have found in it open approval—
divine approval—of such unspeakable savages as Moses, David, Solomon,
Jacob, and Lot.
Let us consider the lives of a few of the Bible heroes. We will begin
We used to be taught in school that Moses was the meekest man the world
has known: and we used to marvel.
It is written in the second chapter of Exodus thus:
And it came to pass in those days, when Moses was grown, that
he went out unto his brethren, and looked on their burdens:
and he spied an Egyptian smiting an Hebrew, one of his brethren.
And he looked this way and that way, and when he saw that
there was no man, he slew the Egyptian, and hid him in the sand.
And when he went out the second day, behold two men of the
Hebrews strove together: and he said to him that did the
wrong, Wherefore smitest thou thy fellow? And he said, Who
made thee a prince and a judge over us? intendest thou to kill
me as thou killedst the Egyptian? And Moses feared, and said,
Surely this thing is known.
The meekest of men slays an Egyptian deliberately and in cold blood. It
may be pleaded that the Egyptian was doing wrong; but the remarks of the
Hebrew suggest that even the countrymen of Moses looked upon his act of
violence with disfavour.
But the meekness of Moses is further illustrated in the laws attributed
to him, in which the death penalty is almost as common as it was in
England in the Middle Ages.
Also, in the thirty-first chapter of Numbers we have the following
story. The Lord commands Moses to “avenge the children of Israel of the
Midianites,” after which Moses is to die. Moses sends out an army:
And they warred against the Midianites, as the Lord commanded
Moses; and they slew all the males.
And they slew the kings of Midian, besides the rest of them
that were slain; namely Evi, and Rekem, and Zur, and Hur,
and Reba, five kings of Midian: Balaam also the son of Beor
they slew with the sword.
And the children of Israel took all the women of Midian
captives, and their little ones, and took the spoil of all
their cattle, and all their flocks, and all their goods.
And they burnt all their cities wherein they dwelt, and all
their goodly castles, with fire.
And they took all the spoil, and all the prey, both of men
and of beasts. ...
And Moses was wroth with the officers of the host, with the
captains over thousands, and captains over hundreds, which
came from the battle.
And Moses said unto them, Have ye saved all the women alive?
Behold, these called the children of Israel, through the counsel
of Balaam, to commit trespass against the Lord in the matter of
Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the Lord.
Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill
every woman that hath known man by lying with him.
But all the women children that have not known a man by lying
with him, keep alive for yourselves.
Moses is a patriarch of the Jews, and the meekest man. But suppose any
pagan or Mohammedan general were to behave to a Christian city as Moses
behaved to the people of Midian, what should we say of him? But God was
pleased with him.
Further, in the sixteenth chapter of Numbers you will find how Moses
the Meek treated Korah, Dathan, and Abiram for rebelling against himself
and Aaron; how the earth opened and swallowed these men and their families
and friends, at a hint from Moses; and how the Lord slew with fire from
heaven two hundred and fifty men who were offering incense, and how
afterwards there came a pestilence by which some fourteen thousand persons
Moses was a politician; his brother was a priest. I shall express no
opinion of the pair; but I quote from the Book of Exodus, as follows:
And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down out
of the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto
Aaron, and said unto him, Up, make us gods, which shall go
before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up
out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him.
And Aaron said unto them, Break off the golden earrings,
which are in the ears of your wives, of your sons, and of
your daughters, and bring them unto me.
And all the people brake off the golden earrings which were
in their ears, and brought them unto Aaron.
And he received them at their hand, and fashioned it with a
graving tool after he had made it a molten calf: and they said,
These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the
land of Egypt.
And when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it; and Aaron
made proclamation, and said, To-morrow is a feast to the Lord.
And they rose up early on the morrow, and offered burnt offerings,
and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and
to drink, and rose up to play.
And the Lord said unto Moses, Go, get thee down; for thy people
which thou broughtest out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted
Aaron, when asked by Moses why he has done this thing, tells a lie:
And Moses said unto Aaron, What did this people unto thee, that
thou hast brought so great a sin upon them?
And Aaron said, Let not the anger of my lord wax hot; thou
knowest the people, that they are set on mischief.
For they said unto me, Make us gods, which shall go before us:
for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the
land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him.
And I said unto them, Whosoever hath any gold, let them break
it off. So they gave it to me: then I cast it into the fire,
and there came out this calf.
And when Moses saw that the people were naked; (for Aaron had
made them naked unto their shame among their enemies:)
Then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, Who is on
the Lord's side? let him come unto me. And all the sons of
Levi gathered themselves together unto him.
And he said unto them, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Put
every man his sword by his side, and go in and out from gate
to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother,
and every man his companion, and every man his neighbour.
And the children of Levi did according to the word of Moses;
and there fell of the people that day about three thousand men.
So much for this meek father of the Jews.
And now let us consider David and his son Solomon, the greatest of the
Bible kings, and the ancestors of Jesus Christ.
Judging King David by the Bible record, I should conclude that he was a
cruel, treacherous, and licentious savage. He lived for some time as a
bandit, robbing the subjects of the King of Gath, who had given him
shelter. When asked about this by the king, David lied. As to the nature
of his conduct at this time, no room is left for doubt by the story of
Nabal. David demanded blackmail of Nabal, and, on its being refused, set
out with four hundred armed men to rob Nabal, and kill every male on his
estate. This he was prevented from doing by Nabal's wife, who came out to
meet David with fine presents and fine words. Ten days later Nabal
died, and David married his widow. See twenty-fifth chapter First Book
David had seven wives, and many children. One of his favourite wives
was Bathsheba, the widow of Uriah.
While Uriah was at “the front,” fighting for David, that king seduced
his wife, Bathsheba. To avoid discovery, David recalled Uriah from the
war, and bade him go home to his wife. Uriah said it would dishonour him
to seek ease and pleasure at home while other soldiers were enduring
hardship at the front. The king then made the soldier drunk, but even so
could not prevail.
Therefore David sent word to the general to place Uriah in the front of
the battle, where the fight was hardest. And Uriah was killed, and David
married Bathsheba, who became the mother of Solomon.
So much for David's honour. Now for a sample of his humanity. I quote
from the twelfth chapter of the Second Book of Samuel:
And Joab sent messengers to David, and said, I have fought
against Rabbah, and have taken the city of waters.
Now therefore gather the rest of the people together, and
encamp against the city, and take it: lest I take the city,
and it be called after my name.
And David gathered all the people together, and went to Rabbah,
and fought against it, and took it.
And he took their king's crown from off his head, the weight
whereof was a talent of gold with the precious stones: and it
was set on David's head. And he brought forth the spoil of the
city in great abundance.
And he brought forth the people that were therein, and put them
under saws, and under harrows of iron, and under axes of iron,
and made them pass through the brick kiln: and thus did he unto
all the cities of the children of Ammon. So David and all the
people returned unto Jerusalem.
But nothing in David's life became him so little as his leaving of it.
I quote from the second chapter of the First Book of Kings. David, on his
deathbed, is speaking to Solomon, his son:
Moreover thou knowest also what Joab the son of Zeruiah did to me,
and what he did to the two captains of the host of Israel, unto
Abner the son of Ner, and unto Amasa the son of Jether, whom he
slew, and shed the blood of war in peace, and put the blood of war
upon his girdle that was about his loins, and in his shoes that
were on his feet.
Do therefore according to thy wisdom, and let not his hoar head
go down to the grave in peace.
But show kindness unto the sons of Barzillai, the Gileadite, and
let them be of those that eat at thy table; for so they came to
me when I fled because of Absalom thy brother.
And, behold, thou hast with thee Shimei the son of Gera, a
Benjamite of Bahurim, which cursed me with a grievous curse in
the day when I went to Mahanaim: but he came down to meet me
at Jordan, and I sware to him by the Lord, saying, I will not
put thee to death with the sword. Now therefore hold him not
guiltless: for thou art a wise man, and knowest what thou oughtest
to do unto him; but his hoar head bring thou down to the grave
These seem to have been the last words spoken by King David. Joab was
his best general, and had many times saved David's throne.
Solomon began by stealing the throne from his brother, the true heir.
Then he murders the brother he has robbed, and disgraces and exiles a
priest, who had been long a faithful friend to David, his father. Later he
murders Joab at the altar, and brings down the hoar head of Shimei to the
grave with blood.
After which he gets him much wisdom, builds a temple, and marries many
Much glamour has been cast upon the names of Solomon and David by their
alleged writings. But it is now acknowledged that David wrote few, if any,
of the Psalms, and that Solomon wrote neither Ecclesiastes nor the Song of
Songs, though some of the Proverbs may be his.
It seems strange to me that such men as Moses, David, and Solomon
should be glorified by Christian men and women who execrate Henry VIII.
and Richard III. as monsters.
My pet aversion amongst the Bible heroes is Jacob; but Abraham and Lot
were pitiful creatures.
Jacob cheated his brother out of the parental blessing, and lied about
God, and lied to his father to accomplish his end. He robbed his brother
of his birthright by trading on his necessity. He fled from his brother's
wrath, and went to his uncle Laban. Here he cheated his uncle out of his
cattle and his wealth, and at last came away with his two cousins as his
wives, one of whom had stolen her own father's gods.
Abraham was the father of Ishmael by the servant-maid Hagar. At his
wife's demand he allowed Hagar and Ishmael to be driven into the desert to
die. And here is another pretty story of Abraham. He and his family are
driven forth by a famine:
And it came to pass, when he was come near to enter into Egypt,
that he said unto Sarai, his wife, Behold now, I know that thou
art a fair woman to look upon:
Therefore it shall come to pass, when the Egyptians shall see
thee, that they shall say, This is his wife: and they will kill
me, but they will save thee alive.
Say, I pray thee, thou are my sister; that it may be well with
me for thy sake; and my soul shall live because of thee.
And it came to pass, that, when Abram was come into Egypt the
Egyptians beheld the woman that she was very fair.
The princes also of Pharaoh saw her, and commended her before
Pharaoh: and the woman was taken into Pharaoh's house.
And he entreated Abram well for her sake: and he had sheep,
and oxen, and he-asses, and menservants, and maidservants, and
she-asses, and camels.
And the Lord plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues
because of Sarai, Abram's wife.
And Pharaoh called Abram, and said, What is this that thou hast
done unto me? why didst thou not tell me that she was thy wife?
Why saidst thou, She is my sister? so I might have taken her
to me to wife: now therefore behold thy wife, take her, and go
And Pharaoh commanded his men concerning him: and they sent him
away, and his wife, and all that he had.
But Abraham was so little ashamed of himself that he did the same thing
again, many years afterwards, and Abimelech King of Gerar, behaved to him
as nobly as did King Pharaoh on the former occasion.
The story of Lot is too disgusting to repeat. But what are we to think
of his offering his daughters to the mob, and of his subsequent conduct?
And what of Noah, who got drunk, and then cursed the whole of his sons'
descendants for ever, because Ham had seen him in his shame?
Joseph seems to me to have been anything but an admirable character,
and I do not see how his baseness in depriving the Egyptians of their
liberties and their land by a corner in wheat can be condoned. Jacob
robbed his brother of his birthright by trading on his hunger; Joseph
robbed a whole people in the same way.
Samson was a dissolute ruffian and murderer, who in these days would be
hanged as a brigand.
Reuben committed incest. Simeon and Levi were guilty of treachery and
massacre. Judah was guilty of immorality and hypocrisy.
Joshua was a Jewish general of the usual type. When he captured a city
he murdered every man, woman, and child within its walls. Here is one
example from the tenth chapter of the Book of Joshua:
And Joshua returned, and all Israel with him, to Debir; and
fought against it:
And he took it, and the king thereof; and all the cities
thereof; and they smote them with the edge of the sword,
and utterly destroyed all the souls that were therein; he
left none remaining: as he had done to Hebron, so he did
to Debir, and to the king thereof; as he had done also to
Libnah, and to her king.
So Joshua smote all the country of the hills, and of the south,
and of the vale, and of the springs, and all their kings: he
left none remaining, but utterly destroyed all that breathed,
as the Lord God of Israel commanded.
And Joshua smote them from Kadesh-barnea even unto Gaza, and
all the country of Goshen, even unto Gibeon.
Elijah the prophet was of the same uncompromising kind. After he had
mocked the god Baal, and had triumphed over him by miracle, he said to the
“Take the prophets of Baal. Let not one of them escape.“
And they took them, and Elijah brought them down to the brook
Kishon, and slew them there.
Now, there were 450 of the priests of Baal, all of whom Elijah the
prophet had killed in cold blood.
And here is a story about Elisha, another great prophet of the Jews. I
quote from the second chapter of the Second Book of Kings.
And he went up from thence unto Bethel: and as he was going up
by the way, there came forth little children out of the city,
and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up,
thou bald head.
And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the
name of the Lord. And there came forth two she bears out of
the wood, and tare forty and two children of them.
After this, Elisha assists King Jehoram and two other kings to waste
and slaughter the Moabites, who had refused to pay tribute. You may read
the horrible story for yourselves in the third chapter of the Second Book
of Kings. There was the usual massacre, but this time the trees were cut
down and the wells choked up.
Later, Elisha cures a man of leprosy, and refuses a reward. But his
servant runs after the man, and gets two talents of silver and some
garments under false pretences. When Elisha hears of this crime, he
strikes the servant with leprosy, and all his seed for ever.
Now, it is not necessary for me to harp upon the conduct of these men
of God: what I want to point out is that these cruel and ignorant savages
have been saddled upon the Christian religion as heroes and as models.
Even to-day the man who called David, or Moses, or Elisha by his proper
name in an average Christian household would be regarded as a wicked
And yet, what would a Christian congregation say of an “Infidel” who
committed half the crimes and outrages of any one of those Bible heroes?
Do you know what the Christians call Tom Paine? To this day the
respectable Christian Church or chapel goer shudders at the name of the
“infidel,” Tom Paine. But in point of honour, of virtue, of humanity, and
general good character, not one of the Bible heroes I have mentioned was
worthy to clean Tom Paine's shoes.
Now, it states in the Bible that God loved Jacob, and hated Esau. Esau
was a man, and against him the Bible does not chronicle one bad
act. But God hated Esau.
And it states in the Bible that Elijah went up in a chariot of fire to
And in the New Testament Christ or His apostles speak of Abraham,
Isaac, and Jacob as being in heaven. Paul speaks of David as a “man after
God's own heart”; Elijah and Moses come down from heaven, and appear
talking with Christ; and, in Hebrews, Paul praises Samuel, Jephtha,
Samson, and David.
My point is not that these heroes were bad men, but that, in a book
alleged to be the word of God, they are treated as heroes.
I have been accused of showing irreverence towards these barbarous
kings and priests. Irreverence! It is like charging a historian with
disrespect to the memory of Nero.
I have been accused of having an animus against Moses, and David, and
all the rest. I have no animus against any man, nor do I presume to
censure my fellow creatures. I only wish to show that these favourites of
God were not admirable characters, and that therefore the Bible cannot be
a divine revelation. As for animus: I do not believe any of these men ever
existed. I regard them as myths. Should one be angry with a myth? I should
as soon think of being angry with Bluebeard, or the Giant that Jack slew.
But I should be astonished to hear that Bluebeard had been promoted to
the position of a holy patriarch, and a model of all the virtues for the
emulation of innocent children in a modern Sunday school. And I think it
is time the Church considered itself, and told the truth about Jehovah,
and Moses, and Joshua, and Samson.
If you fail to agree with me I can only accept your decision with
Floods of sincere, but unmerited, adulation have been lavished on the
Hebrew Bible. The world has many books of higher moral and literary value.
It would be easy to compile, from the words of Heretics and Infidels, a
purer and more elevated moral guide than this “Book of Books.”
The ethical code of the Old Testament is no longer suitable as the rule
of life. The moral and intellectual advance of the human race has left it
The historical books of the Old Testament are largely pernicious, and
often obscene. These books describe, without disapproval, polygamy,
slavery, concubinage, lying and deceit, treachery, incest, murder, wars of
plunder, wars of conquest, massacre of prisoners of war, massacre of women
and of children, cruelty to animals; and such immoral, dishonest,
shameful, or dastardly deeds as those of Solomon, David, Abraham, Jacob,
The ethical code of the Old Testament does not teach the sacredness of
truth, does not teach religious tolerance, nor humanity, nor human
brotherhood, nor peace.
Its morality is crude. Much that is noblest in modern thought has no
place in the “Book of Books.” For example, take these words of Herbert
Absolute morality is the regulation of conduct in such way
that pain shall not be inflicted.
There is nothing so comprehensive, nothing so deep as that in the
Bible. That covers all the moralities of the Ten Commandments, and all the
Ethics of the Law and the Prophets, in one short sentence, and leaves a
handsome surplus over.
Note next this, from Kant:
What are the aims which are at the same time duties? They
are the perfecting of ourselves, and the happiness of others.
I do not know a Bible sentence so purely moral as that. And in what
part of the Bible shall we find a parallel to the following sentence, from
an Agnostic newspaper:
Freedom of thought, freedom of speech, freedom of action are
helps to the children of men in their search for wisdom.
Tom Paine left Moses and Isaiah centuries behind when he wrote:
The world is my country: to do good my religion.
Robert Ingersoll, another “Infidel,” surpassed Solomon when he said:
The object of life is to be happy, the place to be happy is
here, the time to be happy is now, the way to be happy is by
making others happy.
Which simple sentence contains more wisdom than all the pessimism of
the King of kings. And again, Ingersoll went beyond the sociological
conception of the Prophets when he wrote:
And let us do away for ever with the idea that the care of the
sick, of the helpless, is a charity. It is not a charity: it
is a duty. It is something to be done for our own sakes. It
is no more a charity than it is to pave or light the streets,
no more a charity than it is to have a system of sewers. It
is all for the purpose of protecting society, and civilising
I will now put together a few sayings of Pagans and Unbelievers as an
example of non-biblical morality:
Truth is the pole-star of morality, by it alone can we steer.
Can there be a more horrible object in existence than an eloquent
man not speaking the truth? Abhor dissimulation. To know the
truth and fear to speak it: that is cowardice. One thing here
is worth a good deal, to pass thy life in truth and justice,
with a benevolent disposition, even to liars and unjust men.
He who acts unjustly acts unjustly to himself, for he makes
himself bad. The practice of religion involves as a first
principle a loving compassionate heart for all creatures.
Religion means self-sacrifice. A loving heart is the great
requirement: not to oppress, not to destroy, not to exalt
oneself by treading down others; but to comfort and befriend
those in suffering. Like as a mother at the risk of her life
watches over her only child, so also let every one cultivate
towards all beings a bounteous friendly mind.
Man's great business is to improve his mind. What is it to
you whether another is guilty or guiltless? Come, friend,
atone for your own guilt.
Virtue consists in contempt for death. Why should we cling
to this perishable body? In the eye of the wise the only
thing it is good for is to benefit one's fellow creatures.
Treat others as you wish them to treat you. Do not return
evil for evil. Our deeds, whether good or evil, follow us
Never will man attain full moral stature until woman is free.
Cherish and reverence little children. Let the slave cease,
and the master of slaves cease.
To conquer your enemy by force increases his resentment.
Conquer him by love and you will have no after-grief.
Victory breeds hatred.
I look for no recompense—not even to be born in heaven—
but seek the benefit of men, to bring back those who have
gone astray, to enlighten those living in dismal error, to
put away all sources of sorrow and pain in the world.
I cannot have pleasure while another grieves and I have
power to help him.
Those who regard the Bible as the “Book of Books,” and believe it to be
invaluable and indispensable to the world, must have allowed their early
associations or religious sentiment to mislead them.
Carlyle is more moral than Jeremiah, Ruskin is superior to Isaiah;
Ingersoll, the Atheist, is a nobler moralist and a better man than Moses;
Plato and Marcus Aurelius are wiser than Solomon; Sir Thomas More, Herbert
Spencer, Thoreau, Matthew Arnold, and Emerson are worth more to us than
all the Prophets.
I hold a high opinion of the literary quality of some parts of the Old
Testament; but I seriously think that the loss of the first fourteen books
would be a distinct gain to the world. For the rest, there is considerable
literary and some ethical value in Job (which is not Jewish), in
Ecclesiastes (which is Pagan), in the Song of Solomon (which is an erotic
love song), and in parts of Isaiah, Proverbs, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Amos.
But I don't think any of these books equal to Henry George's Progress
and Poverty, or William Morris' News from Nowhere. Of course, I
am not blaming Moses and the Prophets: they could only tell us what they
The Ten Commandments have been effusively praised. There is nothing in
those Commandments to restrain the sweater, the rack-renter, the
jerry-builder, the slum landlord, the usurer, the liar, the libertine, the
gambler, the drunkard, the wife-beater, the slave-owner, the religious
persecutor, the maker of wheat and cotton rings, the fox-hunter, the
bird-slayer, the ill-user of horses and dogs and cattle. There is nothing
about “cultivating towards all beings a bounteous friendly mind,” nothing
about liberty of speech and conscience, nothing about the wrong of causing
pain, nor the virtue of causing happiness; nothing against anger or
revenge, nor in favour of mercy and forgiveness. Of the Ten Commandments,
seven are designed as defences of the possessions and prerogatives of God
and the property-owner. As a moral code the Commandments amount to very
Moreover, the Bible teaches erroneous theories of history, theology,
It relates childish stories of impossible miracles as facts.
It presents a low idea of God.
It gives an erroneous account of the relations between God and man.
It fosters international hatred.
It fosters religious pride and fanaticism.
Its penal code is horrible.
Its texts have been used for nearly two thousand years in defence of
war, slavery, religious persecution, and the slaughter of “witches” and of
In a hundred wars the Christian soldiery have perpetrated massacre and
outrage with the blood-bolstered phrases of the Bible on their lips.
In a thousand trials the cruel witness of Moses has sent innocent women
to a painful death.
And always when an apology or a defence of the barbarities of human
slavery was needed it was sought for and found in the Holy Bible.
In all ancient Christian literature there is not one word that
tells the slave to revolt, or that tells the master to liberate
the slave, or even that touches the problem of public right
which arises out of slavery.
Mr. Remsburg, in his book, The Bible, shows that in America
slavery was defended by the churches on the authority of the sacred
Scriptures. He says:
The Fugitive Slave law, which made us a nation of kidnappers,
derived its authority from the New Testament. Paul had
established a precedent by returning a fugitive slave to
Mr. Remsburg quotes freely from the sermons and speeches of Christian
ministers to show the influence of the Bible in upholding slavery. Here
are some of his many examples:
The Rev. Alexander Campbell wrote: “There is not one verse in
the Bible inhibiting slavery, but many regulating it. It is
not, then, we conclude, immoral.”
Said the Rev. Mr. Crawder, Methodist, of Virginia: “Slavery is
not only countenanced, permitted, and regulated by the Bible,
but it was positively instituted by God Himself.”
I shall quote no more on the subject of slavery. That inhuman
institution was defended by the churches, and the appeal of the churches
was to the Bible.
As to witchcraft, the Rev. T. Rhondda Williams says that in one century
a hundred thousand women were killed for witchcraft in Germany. Mr.
Remsburg offers still more terrible evidence. He says:
One thousand were burned at Como in one year; eight hundred
were burned at Wurzburg in one year; five hundred perished
at Geneva in three months; eighty were burned in a single
village of Savoy; nine women were burned in a single fire
at Leith; sixty were hanged in Suffolk; three thousand were
legally executed during one session of Parliament, while
thousands more were put to death by mobs; Remy, a Christian
judge, executed eight hundred; six hundred were burned by
one bishop at Bamburg; Bogult burned six hundred at St. Cloud;
thousands were put to death by the Lutherans of Norway and
Sweden; Catholic Spain butchered thousands; Presbyterians
were responsible for the death of four thousand in Scotland;
fifty thousand were sentenced to death during the reign of
Francis I.; seven thousand died at Treves; the number killed
in Paris in a few months is declared to have been “almost
infinite.” Dr. Sprenger places the total number of executions
for witchcraft in Europe at nine millions. For centuries
witch fires burned in nearly every town of Europe, and this
Bible text, “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live,” was the
torch that kindled them.
Count up the terrible losses in the many religious wars of the world,
add in the massacres, the martyrdoms, the tortures for religion's sake;
put to the sum the long tale of witchcraft murders; remember what slavery
has been; and then ask yourselves whether the Book of Books deserves all
the eulogy that has been laid upon it.
I believe that to-day all manner of evil passions are fostered, and all
the finer motions of the human spirit are retarded, by the habit of
reading those savage old books of the Jews as the word of God.
I do not think the Bible, in its present form, is a fit book to place
in the hands of children, and it certainly is not a fit book to send out
for the “salvation” of savage and ignorant people.
The Rev. T. Rhondda Williams, in Shall We Understand the Bible?
shows very clearly the gradual evolution of the idea of God amongst the
Jews from a lower to a higher conception.
Having dealt with the lower conception, let us now consider the higher.
The highest conception of God is supposed to be the Christian
conception of God as a Heavenly Father. This conception credits the
Supreme Being with supernal tenderness and mercy—“God is Love.” That is a
very lofty, poetical, and gratifying conception, but it is open to one
fatal objection—it is not true.
For this Heavenly Father, whose nature is Love, is also the All-knowing
and All-powerful Creator of the world.
Being All-powerful and All-knowing, He has power, and had always power,
to create any kind of world He chose. Being a God of Love, He would not
choose to create a world in which hate and pain should have a place.
But there is evil in the world. There has been always evil in the
world. Why did a good and loving God allow evil to enter the world? Being
All-Powerful and All-knowing, He could have excluded evil. Being good, He
would hate evil. Being a God of Love He would wish to exclude evil. Why,
then, did He permit evil to enter?
The world is full of sorrow, of pain, of hatred and crime, and strife
and war. All life is a perpetual deadly struggle for existence. The law of
nature is the law of prey.
If God is a tender, loving, All-knowing, and All-powerful Heavenly
Father, why did He build a world on cruel lines? Why does He permit evil
and pain to continue? Why does He not give the world peace, and health,
and happiness, and virtue?
In the New Testament Christ compares God, as Heavenly Father to Man, to
an earthly father, representing God as more benevolent and tender: “How
much more your Father which is in heaven?”
We may, then, on the authority of the Founder of Christianity, compare
the Christian Heavenly Father with the human father. And in doing so we
shall find that Christ was not justified in claiming that God is a better
father to Man than Man is to his own children. We shall find that the
poetical and pleasing theory of a Heavenly Father, and God of Love is a
“Who among you, if his child asks bread, will give him a stone?” None
amongst us. But in the great famines, as in India and Russia, God allows
millions to die of starvation. These His children pray to Him for bread.
He leaves them to die. Is it not so?
God made the sunshine, sweet children, gracious women; green hills,
blue seas; music, laughter, love, humour; the palm tree, the hawthorn
buds, the “sweet-briar wind”; the nightingale and the rose.
But God made the earthquake, the volcano, the cyclone; the shark, the
viper, the tiger, the octopus, the poison berry; and the deadly loathsome
germs of cholera, consumption, typhoid, smallpox, and the black death. God
has permitted famine, pestilence, and war. He has permitted martyrdom,
witch-burning, slavery, massacre, torture, and human sacrifice. He has for
millions of years looked down upon the ignorance, the misery, the crimes
of men. He has been at once the author and the audience of the pitiful,
unspeakable, long-drawn and far-stretched tragedy of earthly life. Is it
For thousands of years—perhaps for millions of years—the generations of
men prayed to God for help, for comfort, for guidance. God was deaf, and
dumb, and blind.
Men of science strove to read the riddle of life; to guide and to
succour their fellow creatures. The priests and followers of God
persecuted and slew these men of science. God made no sign. Is it not so?
To-day men of science are trying to conquer the horrors of cancer and
smallpox, and rabies and consumption. But not from Burning Bush nor Holy
Hill, nor by the mouth of priest or prophet does our Heavenly Father utter
a word of counsel or encouragement.
Millions of innocent dumb animals have been subjected to the horrible
tortures of vivisection in the frantic endeavours of men to find a way of
escape from the fell destroyers of the human race; and God has allowed the
piteous brutes to suffer anguish, when He could have saved them by
revealing to Man the secret for which he so cruelly sought. Is it not so?
“Nature is red in beak and claw.” On land and in sea the animal
creation chase and maim, and slay and devour each other. The beautiful
swallow on the wing devours the equally beautiful gnat. The graceful
flying-fish, like a fair white bird, goes glancing above the blue
magnificence of the tropical seas. His flight is one of terror; he is
pursued by the ravenous dolphin. The ichneumon-fly lays its eggs under the
skin of the caterpillar. The eggs are hatched by the warmth of the
caterpillar's blood. They produce a brood of larvae which devour the
caterpillar alive. A pretty child dances on the village green. Her feet
crush creeping things: there is a busy ant or blazoned beetle, with its
back broken, writhing in the dust, unseen. A germ flies from a stagnant
pool, and the laughing child, its mother's darling, dies dreadfully of
diphtheria. A tidal wave rolls landward, and twenty thousand human beings
are drowned, or crushed to death. A volcano bursts suddenly into eruption,
and a beautiful city is a heap of ruins, and its inhabitants are charred
or mangled corpses. And the Heavenly Father, who is Love, has power to
save, and makes no sign. Is it not so?
Blindness, epilepsy, leprosy, madness, fall like a dreadful blight upon
a myriad of God's children, and the Heavenly Father gives neither guidance
nor consolation. Only man helps man. Only man pities; only man tries
Millions of harmless women have been burned as witches. God, our
Heavenly Father, has power to save them. He allows them to suffer and die.
God knew that those women were being tortured and burnt on a false
charge. He knew that the infamous murders were in His name. He knew that
the whole fabric of crime was due to the human reading of His “revelation”
to man. He could have saved the women; He could have enlightened their
persecutors; He could have blown away the terror, the cruelty, and the
ignorance of His priests and worshippers with a breath.
And He was silent. He allowed the armies of poor women to be tortured
and murdered in His name. Is it not so?
Will you, then, compare the Heavenly Father with a father among men? Is
there any earthly father who would allow his children to suffer as God
allows Man to suffer? If a man had knowledge and power to prevent or to
abolish war and ignorance and hunger and disease; if a man had the
knowledge and the power to abolish human error and human suffering and
human wrong and did not do it, we should call him an inhuman monster, a
cruel fiend. Is it not so?
But God has knowledge and power, and we are asked to regard Him as a
Heavenly Father, and a God of infinite wisdom, and infinite mercy, and
The Christians used to tell us, and some still tell us, that this
Heavenly Father of infinite love and mercy would doom the creatures He had
made to Hell—for their sins. That, having created us imperfect, He
would punish our imperfections with everlasting torture in a lake of
everlasting fire. They used to tell us that this good God allowed a Devil
to come on earth and tempt man to his ruin. They used to say this Devil
would win more souls than Christ could win: that there should be “more
goats than sheep.”
To escape from these horrible theories, the Christians (some of them)
have thrown over the doctrines of Hell and the Devil.
But without a Devil how can we maintain a belief in a God of love and
kindness? With a good God, and a bad God (or Devil), one might get along;
for then the good might be ascribed to God, and the evil to the Devil. And
that is what the old Persians did in their doctrine of Ormuzd and Ahrimann.
But with no Devil the belief in a merciful and loving Heavenly Father
If God blesses, who curses? If God saves, who damns? If God helps, who
This belief in a “Heavenly Father,” like the belief in the perfection
of the Bible, drives its votaries into weird and wonderful positions. For
example, a Christian wrote to me about an animal called the aye-aye. He
There is a little animal called an aye-aye. This animal has
two hands. Each hand has five fingers. The peculiar thing
about these hands is that the middle finger is elongated a great
deal—it is about twice as long as the others. This is to enable
it to scoop a special sort of insect out of special cracks in
the special trees it frequents. Now, how did the finger begin
to elongate? A little lengthening would be absolutely no good,
as the cracks in the trees are 2 inches or 3 inches deep. It
must have varied from the ordinary length to one twice as long
at once. There is no other way. Where does natural selection
come in? In this, as in scores of other instances, it shows
the infinite goodness of God.
Now, how does the creation of this long finger show the “infinite
goodness of God”? The infinite goodness of God to whom? To the animal
whose special finger enables him to catch the insect? Then what about the
insect? Where does he come in? Does not the long finger of the animal show
the infinite badness of God to the insect?
What of the infinite goodness of God in teaching the cholera microbe to
feed on man? What of the infinite goodness of God in teaching the grub of
the ichneumon-fly to eat up the cabbage caterpillar alive?
I see no infinite goodness here, but only the infinite foolishness of
If a man fell into the sea, and saw a shark coming, I cannot fancy him
praising the infinite goodness of God in giving the shark so large a
mouth. The greyhound's speed is a great boon to the greyhound; but it is
no boon to the hare.
But this theory of a merciful, and loving Heavenly Father is vital to
the Christian religion.
Destroy the idea of the Heavenly Father, who is Love, and Christianity
is a heap of ruins. For there is no longer a benevolent God to build our
hopes upon; and Jesus Christ, whose glory is a newer revelation of God,
has not revealed Him truly, as He is, but only as Man fain would believe
Him to be.
And I claim that this Heavenly Father is a myth: that in face of a
knowledge of life and the world we cannot reasonably believe in Him.
There is no Heavenly Father watching tenderly over us, His children. He
is the baseless shadow of a wistful human dream.