From Robert Ingersoll (1894)
If Christ was in fact God, he knew all the future.
Before Him like a panorama moved the history yet to be. He knew how his words would be interpreted.
He knew what crimes, what horrors, what infamies, would be committed in his name. He knew that the hungry flames of persecution would climb around the limbs of countless martyrs. He knew that thousands and thousands of brave men and women would languish in dungeons in darkness, filled with pain.
He knew that his church would invent and use instruments of torture; that his followers would appeal to whip and fagot, to chain and rack. He saw the horizon of the future lurid with the flames of the auto da fe.
He knew what creeds would spring like poisonous fungi from every text. He saw the ignorant sects waging war against each other.
He saw thousands of men, under the orders of priests, building prisons for their fellow-men. He saw thousands of scaffolds dripping with the best and bravest blood. He saw his followers using the instruments of pain. He heard the groans—saw the faces white with agony.
He heard the shrieks and sobs and cries of all the moaning, martyred multitudes. He knew that commentaries would be written on his words with swords, to be read by the light of fagots. He knew that the Inquisition would be born of the teachings attributed to him.
He saw the interpolations and falsehoods that hypocrisy would write and tell. He saw all wars that would be waged, and he knew that above these fields of death, these dungeons, these rackings, these burnings, these executions, for a thousand years would float the dripping banner of the cross.
He knew that hypocrisy would be robed and crowned—that cruelty and credulity would rule the world; knew that liberty would perish from the earth; knew that popes and kings in his name would enslave the souls and bodies of men; knew that they would persecute and destroy the discoverers, thinkers and inventors; knew that his church would extinguish reason’s holy light and leave the world without a star.
He saw his disciples extinguishing the eyes of men, flaying them alive, cutting out their tongues, searching for all the nerves of pain.
He knew that in his name his followers would trade in human flesh; that cradles would be robbed and women’s breasts unbabed for gold.
And yet he died with voiceless lips.
Why did he fail to speak? Why did he not tell his disciples, and through them the world: “You shall not burn, imprison and torture in my name. You shall not persecute your fellow-men.”
Why did he not plainly say: “I am the Son of God,” or, “I am God”? Why did he not explain the Trinity? Why did he not tell the mode of baptism that was pleasing to him? Why did he not write a creed? Why did he not break the chains of slaves? Why did he not say that the Old Testament was or was not the inspired word of God? Why did he not write the New Testament himself?
Why did he leave his words to ignorance, hypocrisy and chance? Why did he not say something positive, definite and satisfactory about another world? Why did he not turn the tear-stained hope of heaven into the glad knowledge of another life? Why did he not tell us something of the rights of man, of the liberty of hand and brain?
Why did he go dumbly to his death, leaving the world to misery and to doubt?
I will tell you why. He was a man, and did not know.
[Editor’s Note: Here is what the Chicago Times, Oct 14, 1894, said about this: When Ingersoll reached the words “He did not know”a great sigh of relief went up from the mighty audience [of 4000].There was an instant of silence, and then a storm of applause that rose and surged and echoed from stage to top gallery. The hand-clapping died away and then rose again this time a great burst of cheering accompanied it. Ingersoll stood there silent, flushed, trembling with emotion. He perhaps, like his hearers, knew that he had achieved one of the great triumphs of a life that has been crowded with triumphs. Men who have heard him time and again in the years past shook there heads gravely and said he had never done anything so wonderful, so superb and full of deathless eloquence.”]