Sunday, March 17, 2013

An American Bible - Ingersoll

Where has Robert Ingersoll been all of my life?  I'd never heard of him before I discovered An American Bible.  I've been reading The Gospel According to Robert Ingersoll, a man who lived during the Civil War and was known as "the great orator," and as the "preeminent agnostic of his day."

Because I share much of his cynicism concerning traditionally accepted Christian creed, doctrine and dogma I find much of his writings to be breathtakingly refreshing.

Consider the following:

"By this time the whole world should know that the real bible has not yet been written, but is being written, and that it will never be finished until the race begins its downward march, or ceases to exist...(the real bible) has no fear of being read, of being contradicted, of being investigated and understood.  It does not pretend to be holy, or sacred; it simply claims to be true."

"We do not need the forgiveness of gods, but of ourselves, and the ones we injure.  Restitution without repentance is far better than repentance without restitution."

"We know nothing of any god who rewards, punishes or forgives."

"Religion is supposed to consist in a discharge of the duties we owe to God.  In other words, we are taught that God is exceedingly anxious that we should believe a certain thing.  For my part, I do not believe that there is any infinite being to whom we owe anything.  The reason I say this is, we can not owe any duty to any being who requires nothing--to any being that we can not possibly help, to any being whose happiness we can not increase.  If God is infinite, we can neither give, nor can He receive anything.  Anything that we do or fail to do, can not, in the slightest degree, affect an infinite God; consequently no relations can exist between the finite and the Infinite, if by relations is meant mutual duties and obligations."

"Let us forget that we are Baptists, Methodists, Catholics, Presbyterians or Freethinkers, and remember only that we are men and women.  After all, man and woman are the highest possible titles.  All other names belittle us, and show that we have consented to wear the collar of authority--that we are followers."

"An infinite God ought to be able to protect Himself, without going in partnership with State Legislatures.  Certainly He ought not so to act that laws become necessary to keep Him from being laughed at.  No one thinks of protecting Shakespeare from ridicule, by the threat of fine and imprisonment...Surely politicians could be better employed than in passing laws to protect the literary reputation of the Jewish God."

"The pulpit should not be a pillory.  Congregations should allow the minister a little liberty.  They should, at least, permit him to tell the truth."

"As long as woman regards the Bible as the charter of her rights, she will be the slave of man.  The Bible was not written by a woman...In the Bible will be found no description of a civilized home.  The free mother surrounded by free and loving children, adored by a free man, her husband, was unknown to the inspired writers of the Bible."

"Religion has not civilized man--man has civilized religion.  God improves as man advances."

"In the republic of mind, one is a majority.  There, all are monarchs, and all are equals.  The tyranny of a majority even is unknown.  Each one is crowned, sceptered and throned.  Upon every brow is the tiara, and around every form is the imperial purple.  Only those are good citizens who express their honest thoughts, and those who persecute for opinion's sake are the only traitors.  There, nothing is considered infamous except an appeal to brute force, and nothing sacred but love, liberty and joy."

I am far more of an agnostic than I supposed!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

An American Bible

Recently while going through my mother’s things I found a treasure.  At first glance I mistook it for an old leather bound copy of the New Testament and planned to sell it.  While trying to decide how to price it I looked at it more closely and saw that the actual name of the book was An American Bible, published in 1911 by Alice Hubbard.

The book is a compendium of writings from 8 men of American antiquity: Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, Abraham Lincoln, Walt Whitman, Robert Ingersoll, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Elbert Hubbard.  I am currently reading in the Thomas Paine section, having completed Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson.

Each section of the book is titled, “The Gospel According to…” These men were incredibly astute, and compared with the statesmen of our day, they appear absolutely brilliant.  My how far we have strayed from the ideas and ideals put forth by these founding fathers!

Consider the following:

Ben Franklin says of the various religions, “I respected them all, though with different degrees of respect, as I found them more or less mixed with other articles, which, without any tendency to inspire, divide us, and make us unfriendly to one another.”

“The whole art of government consists in the art of being honest.”  Thomas Jefferson

Is America meant to be a Christian nation?  Thomas Jefferson again, “Where the preamble declares that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed by inserting the words ‘Jesus Christ,’ …the insertion was rejected by a great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan (sic), the Hindoo (sic) and Infidel of every denomination.”

I leave you with Thomas Paine, “When it shall be said in any country in the world, My poor are happy; neither ignorance nor distress is to be found among them; my jails are empty of prisoners, my streets of beggars; the aged are not in want, the taxes are not oppressive; the rational world is my friend, because I am a friend of its happiness;--when these things can be said, then may that country boast of its constitution and its government.”

I’m looking forward to The Gospel According to Walt Whitman.