• Is the Bible actually words from the architect of the universe?
• Who are the authors of the books in the Bible?
• Why are there so many contradictions in the Bible?
• What lessons exactly are meant to be learnt from the Bible?
For several centuries past, the dispute has been about doctrines. Now is the time for facts. Is the Bible the Word of God, or is it not? For until this point is established, no doctrine drawn from the Bible can afford real consolation to man, and he ought to be careful he does not mistake delusions for truth. This is a case that concerns all believers and non-believers alike. The circumstances taking place in Africa and other under-developed countries in the world, particularly with religion not easily distinguished from ignorance, and everything appertaining to compulsive systems of religion, and compulsive articles of faith, has not only precipitated my intention, but rendered a work of this kind exceedingly necessary, lest in the general wreck of superstition, of false systems of government, and false theology, we lose sight of morality, of humanity, and of theology that is true. The Brahmin, the followers of Zoroaster, the Jews, the Mohammedans, the Church of Rome, the Greek Orthodox Church, the Protestant Church, split into several hundred contradictory sectaries, preaching in some instances damnation against each other, all cry out, “Our holy religion.”
The Calvinist, who damns children of a long span to hell to burn forever for the glory of God, and this is called Christianity, and the Universalist who preaches that all shall be saved, and none shall be damned, and this also is called Christianity, boast alike of their holy religion and their Christian faith. Something more therefore is necessary than mere crying-out and wholesale assertion, and that something is TRUTH; and as inquiry is the road to truth, he that is opposed to inquiry is not a friend to truth. The God of Truth is not the God of fables; whereby, any book is introduced into the world as the Word of God, and made ground-work for religion. It ought to be scrutinized more than any other books to see if it bears evidence of being what it is called.
Our reverence to God demands that we do this, lest we ascribe to God what is not His, and our duty to ourselves demands it, lest we take fables for facts, and rest our hope of salvation on a false foundation. It is not our calling a book holy that makes it so, any more than our calling a religion holy that entitles it to the name. Inquiry therefore is necessary to arrive at truth. But inquiry must have some principle to proceed on, some standard to judge by, and must be superior to human authority.
When we survey the works of Creation, the revolutions of the planetary system, and the whole economy of what is called nature, which is no other than the laws the Creator has prescribed to matter, we see unerring order and universal harmony reigning throughout the whole. No one part contradicts another. The sun does not run against the moon, nor the moon against the sun, nor the planets against each other. Everything keeps its appointed time and place. This harmony in the works of God is so obvious, that the farmer of the field, though he cannot calculate eclipses, is as sensible of it as the philosophical astronomer or the physicist. He sees the God of order in every part of the visible universe. Here, then, is the standard to which everything must be brought that pretends to be the work or word of God, and by this standard it must be judged, independently of anything and everything that man can say or do. His opinion is like a feather in the scale compared with the standard that God himself has set up. It is, therefore, by this standard, that the Bible, and all other books pretending to be the Word of God, (and there are many of them in the world,) must be judged, and not by the opinions of men or the decrees of ecclesiastical councils. These have been so contradictory, that they have often rejected in one council what they had voted to be the Word of God in another; and admitted what had been before rejected.
In this state of uncertainty in which we are, and which is rendered still more uncertain by the numerous contradictory sectaries that have sprung up. What is man to do? The answer is easy.
Begin at the root, begin with the Bible itself. Examine it with the utmost strictness. It is our duty so to do. Compare the parts with each other, and the whole with the harmonious, magnificent order that reigns throughout the visible universe, and the result will be, that if the same Almighty wisdom that created the universe dictated also the Bible, the Bible will be as harmonious and as magnificent in all its parts, and in the whole, as the universe is. But if, instead of this, the parts are found to be discordant, contradicting in one place what is said in another, as in II Sam. xxiv, 1, and I Chron. xxi, 1, where the same action is ascribed to God in one book and to Satan in the other, abounding also in idle and obscene stories, and representing the Almighty as a passionate, whimsical Being, continually changing His mind, making and unmaking His own works as if He did not know what He was about, we may take it for certainty that the Creator of the universe is not the author of such a book, that it is not the Word of God, and that to call it so is to dishonour His name.
There has always existed in Europe, and also in America, since its establishment, numerous descriptions of men who did
not, and do not believe the Bible to be the Word of God. These men never formed themselves into an established society, but are to be found in all the sectaries that exist, and are more numerous than any, perhaps equal to all, and are increasing, daily.
Since then there is so much doubt and uncertainty about the Bible, some asserting and others denying it to be the Word of God, it is best that the whole matter comes out. It is necessary for the information of the world that it should. A better time cannot be offered, for such an investigation, than while governments, patronizing no one-sector opinion in preference to another, protect equally the rights of all; and certainly, every man must spurn the idea of an ecclesiastical tyranny, engrossing the rights of the press, and holding it free and answerable only to itself. It must be mentioned at this point that religion as practiced today in Africa all had its origin in Europe and while the terrors of the church, and the tyranny of the State, hung like a pointed sword over Europe, men were commanded to believe what the church told them, or go to the stake. All inquiries into the authenticity of the Bible were shut out by the inquisition. We ought therefore to suspect that a great mass of information regarding the Bible, and the introduction of it into the world, has been suppressed by the united tyranny of church and state, for keeping people in ignorance, and which ought to be known about. The Bible has been received by the Protestants on the authority of the Church of Rome, and on no other authority. It is she who has said it is the Word of God. We do not admit the authority of that Church with respect to its pretended infallibility, its manufactured miracles, its setting itself up to forgive sins, its amphibious doctrine of transubstantiation, and we ought to be watchful with respect to any book introduced by her, or her ecclesiastical councils, and called by her the Word of God: and the more so, because it was by propagating that belief and supporting it by fire and faggot, that she kept up her temporal power.
That the belief in the Bible does no good in the world, may be seen by the irregular lives of those, including priests as well as laymen, who profess to believe it to be the Word of God, and the moral lives of those who do not. It abounds with too many ill examples to be made a rule for moral life, and were a man to emulate the lives of some of its most celebrated characters, he would come to the gallows. The essence of this book therefore is to show that the Bible is not the Word of God; that the books it contains were not written by the persons to whom they are ascribed, that it is an anonymous book, and that we have no authority for calling it the Word of God, or for saying that it was written by inspired penmen, since we do not know who the writers were.
This is not only my opinion but that of thousands and tens of thousands of the most respectable characters in the world. These men have the same right to their opinions as others have to contrary opinions, and the same right to publish them. Ecclesiastical tyranny is not admissible in the world. I am well aware of the difficulties that attend this subject, and from that consideration, had reserved it to this mature period of my life. I intended it to be an offering I should make to the citizens of Africa and the entire world, and that at a time when the purity of the motive that induced me to it, could not admit to a question, even by those who might disapprove of the work. I personally believe in one God, and no more; and I hope for happiness beyond this life. I believe in the equality of man; and I believe that religious duties consist in doing justice, loving mercy, and endeavouring to make our fellow-creatures happy. But, lest it should be supposed that I believe in many other things in addition to these, I shall, in the progress of this work, declare the things I do not believe, and my reasons for not believing them. I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish Church, by the Roman Church, by the Greek Orthodox Church, by the Turkish Church, by the Protestant Church, nor by any church that I know of.
My own mind is my own church. All national institutions of churches, and the many other so-called full gospel churches in Africa whether Jewish, Christian or Islamic, appear to me to be no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit. I do not mean by this declaration to condemn those who believe otherwise; they have the same right to their belief as I have to mine. But it is necessary to the happiness of man, that he be mentally faithful to himself. Infidelity does not consist in believing, or in disbelieving; it consists in professing to believe what he does not believe. It is impossible to calculate the moral mischief, if I may so express it, that mental lying has produced in society. When a man has so far corrupted and prostituted the chastity of his mind, as to subscribe his professional belief to things he does not believe, he has prepared himself for the commission of every other crime. He takes up the trade of a priest for the sake of gain, and to qualify himself for that trade, he begins with perjury. Can we conceive anything more destructive to morality than this? Every national church or religion has established itself by pretending some special mission from God, communicated to certain individuals. The Jews have their Moses; the Christians have their Jesus Christ, their apostles and saints; and the Arabs have their Mahomet, as if the way to God was not open to every man alike. Each of those churches shows certain books, which they call revelation, or the Word of God. The Jews say that their Word of God was given by God to Moses, face to face; the Christians say that their Word of God came by divine inspiration: and the Arabs say that their Word of God (the Koran) was brought by an angel from Heaven. Each of these churches accuses the other of unbelief; and for my own part, I disbelieve them all. As it is necessary to affix right ideas to words, I will, before I proceed further into the subject, offer some other observations on the word revelation. Revelation, when applied to religion, means something communicated immediately from God to man. No one will deny or dispute the power of the Almighty to make such a communication, if he pleases. But admitting, for the sake of a case, that something has been revealed to a certain person, and not revealed to any other person, is a revelation to that person only. When he tells it to a second person, a second to a third, a third to a fourth, and so on, it ceases to be a revelation to all those persons. It is a revelation to the first person only, and hearsay to every other, and consequently they are not obliged to believe it. It is a contradiction in terms and ideas, to call anything a revelation that comes to us second-hand, either verbally or in writing. Revelation is necessarily limited to the first communication- after this, it is only an account of something which that person says was a revelation made to him; and though he may find himself obliged to believe it, it cannot be incumbent on me to believe it in the same manner; for it was not a revelation that made to me, and I have only his word for it that it was made to him.
When Moses told the children of Israel that he received the two tablets of the commandments from the hands of God, they were not obliged to believe him, because they had no other authority for it than his telling them so; and I have no other authority for it than some historian telling me so. The commandments carry no internal evidence of divinity with them; they contain some good moral precepts, such as any man qualif ied to be a lawgiver, or a legislator, could produce himself, without having recourse to supernatural intervention. It is, however, necessary to except the declaration which says that God visits the sins of the fathers upon the children. It is contrary to every principle of moral justice. When I am told that the Koran was written in Heaven and brought to Mahomet by an angel, the account comes too near the same kind of hearsay evidence and second-hand authority as the former. I did not see the angel myself, and, therefore, I have a right not to believe it. When I am also told that a woman called the Virgin Mary, said, or gave out, that she was with child without any cohabitation with a man, and that her betrothed husband, Joseph, said that an angel had told him so, I have a right to believe them or not; such a circumstance required much stronger evidence than their bare word for it; but we have not even seen this, for neither Joseph nor Mary wrote any such matter themselves; it is only reported by others that they said so. It is hearsay upon hearsay, and I do not choose to rest my belief upon such evidence.
It is, however, not difficult to account for the credit that was given to the story of Jesus Christ being the son of God. He was born when the heathen mythology had still some fashion and repute in the world, and that mythology had prepared the people for the belief of such a story. Almost all the extraordinary men that lived under the heathen mythology were reputed to be the sons of some of their gods. It was not a new thing, at that time, to believe a man to have been celestially begotten; the intercourse of gods with women was then a matter of familiar opinion. Their Jupiter, according to their accounts, had cohabited with hundreds: the story, therefore, had nothing in it new, wonderful, or obscene; it was conformable to the opinions that then prevailed among the people called Gentiles, or mythologists, and it was those people only who believed it.
The Jews who had kept strictly to the belief of one God and no more and who had always rejected the heathen mythology, never credited the story. It is curious to observe how the theory of what is called the Christian Church sprung out of the tail of the heathen mythology. A direct incorporation took place in the first instance, by making the reputed founder to be celestially begotten. The trinity of gods that then followed was no other than a reduction of the former plurality, which was about twenty or thirty thousand: the statue of Mary succeeded the statue of Diana of Ephesus; the deification of heroes changed into the canonization of saints. The Mythologists had gods for everything; the Christian Mythologists had saints for everything; the church became as crowded with one, as the Pantheon had been with the other, and Rome was the place of both. The Christian theory is little else than the idolatry of the ancient Mythologists, accommodated to the purposes of power and revenue; and it yet remains to reason and philosophy to abolish the amphibious fraud.
Nothing that is said here can apply, even with the most distant disrespect, to the real character of Jesus Christ. He was a virtuous and an amiable man. The morality that he preached and practised was of the most benevolent kind; and though similar systems of morality had been preached by Confucius, and by some of the Greek philosophers, many years before; by the Quakers since; and by many good men in all ages, it has not been exceeded by any. Jesus Christ wrote no account of himself, of his birth, parentage, or anything else; not a line of what is called the New Testament is of his own writing. The history about him is altogether the work of other people; and as to the account given of his resurrection and ascension, it was the necessary counterpart to the story of his birth. His historians having brought him into the world in a supernatural manner were obliged to take him out again in the same manner, or the first part of the story had to fall to the ground. The wretched contrivance with which this latter part is told exceeds everything that went before it. The first part, that of the miraculous conception, was not a thing that admitted of publicity; and therefore, the tellers of this part of the story had this advantage, that though they might not be credited, they could not be discredited. They could not be expected to prove it, because it was not one of those things that admitted proof, and it was impossible that the person of whom it was told could prove it himself. But the resurrection of a dead person from the grave, and his ascension through the air, is something very different as to the evidence it admits of, to the invisible conception of a child in the womb. The resurrection and ascension, supposing them to have taken place, admitted by public and ocular demonstration, like that of the ascension of a balloon, or the sun at noon-day, to all Jerusalem at least.
A thing which everybody is required to believe, requires that the proof and evidence of it should be equal to all, and universal; and as the public visibility of this last related act was the only evidence that could give sanction to the former part, the whole of it falls to the ground, because that evidence was never given. Instead of this, a small number of persons, not more than eight or nine, are introduced as proxies for the whole world, to say they saw it, and all the rest of the world are called upon to believe it. But it appears that Thomas did not believe in the resurrection, and, as they say, would not believe without having ocular and manual demonstration himself. So, neither will I, and the reason is equally as good for me, and for every other person, as for Thomas. It is in vain to attempt to palliate or disguise this matter. The story, so far as relates to the supernatural part, has every mark of fraud and imposition stamped upon the face of it. Who were the authors of it is as impossible for us now to know, as it is for us to be assured that the books in which the account is related were written by the persons whose names they bear.
The best surviving evidence we now have respecting that affair is the Jews. They are regularly descended from the people who lived in the times this resurrection and ascension is said to have happened, and they say, it is not true. It has long appeared to me a strange inconsistency to cite the Jews as proof of the truth of the story. It is just the same as if a man were to say, I will prove the truth of what I have told you by producing the people who say it is false.
That such a person as Jesus Christ existed, and that he was crucified, which was the mode of execution at that time, are historical relations strictly within the limits of probability. He preached excellent morality and the equality of man; but he preached also against the corruptions and avarice of the Jewish priests, and this brought upon him the hatred and vengeance of the whole order of the priesthood.
The accusation which those priests brought against him was that of sedition and conspiracy against the Roman government, to which the Jews were then subject and tributary; and it is not improbable that the Roman government might have some secret apprehensions of the effects of his doctrine, as well as the Jewish priests; neither is it improbable that Jesus Christ had in contemplation the delivery of the Jewish nation from the bondage of the Romans. Between the two, however, this virtuous reformer and revolutionist lost his life. It is upon this plain narrative of facts, together with another case I am going to mention, that the Christian Mythologists, calling themselves the Christian Church, have erected their fable, which, for absurdity and extravagance, is not exceeded by anything that is to be found in the mythology of the ancients. The ancient Mythologists tell us that the race of Giants made war against Jupiter, and that one of them threw a hundred rocks against him at one throw; that Jupiter defeated him with thunder, and confined him afterward under Mount Etna, and that every time the Giant turns himself Mount Etna belches fire. It is here easy to see that the circumstance of the mountain, that of it being a volcano, suggested the idea of the fable; and that the fable is made to fit and wind itself up with that circumstance.
The Christian Mythologists tell us that their Satan made war against the Almighty, who defeated him, and confined him afterward, not under a mountain, but in a pit. It is easy to see here that the first fable suggested the idea of the second; for the fable of Jupiter and the giants was told many hundred years before that of Satan. Thus far the ancient and the Christian Mythologists differ very little from each other. But the latter have contrived to carry the matter much farther. They have contrived to connect the fabulous part of the story of Jesus Christ with the fable originating from Mount Etna; and to make all the parts of the story tie together, they have taken to their aid the traditions of the Jews; for the Christian mythology is made up partly from the ancient mythology and partly from the Jewish traditions.