From The Archives
ROBERT INGERSOLL (1833 – 1899)
The Great Agnostic
ONE of the foundation stones of our faith is the Old Testament. If that book is not true, if its authors were unaided men, if it contains blunders and falsehoods, then that stone crumbles to dust.
The geologists demonstrated that the author of Genesis was mistaken as to the age of the world, and that the story of the universe having been created in six days, about six thousand years ago could not be true.
The theologians then took the ground that the “days” spoken of in Genesis were periods of time, epochs, six “long whiles,” and that the work of creation might have been commenced millions of years ago.
The change of days into epochs was considered by the believers of the Bible as a great triumph over the hosts of infidelity. The fact that Jehovah had ordered the Jews to keep the Sabbath, giving as a reason that he had made the world in six days and rested on the seventh, did not interfere with the acceptance of the “epoch” theory.
But there is still another question. How long has man been upon the earth?
According to the Bible, Adam was certainly the first man, and in his case the epoch theory cannot change the account. The Bible gives the age at which Adam died, and gives the generations to the flood—then to Abraham and so on, and shows that from the creation of Adam to the birth of Christ it was about four thousand and four years.
According to the sacred Scriptures man has been on this earth five thousand eight hundred and ninety-nine years and no more.
Is this true?
Geologists have divided a few years of the worlds history into periods, reaching from the azoic rocks to the soil of our time. With most of these periods they associate certain forms of life, so that it is known that the lowest forms of life belonged with the earliest periods, and the higher with the more recent. It is also known that certain forms of life existed in Europe many ages ago, and that many thousands of years ago these forms disappeared.
For instance, it is well established that at one time there lived in Europe, and in the British Islands some of the most gigantic mammals, the mammoth, the woolly-haired rhinoceros, the Irish elk, elephants and other forms that have in those countries become extinct. Geologists say that many thousands of years have passed since these animals ceased to inhabit those countries.
It was during the Drift Period that these forms of life existed in Europe and England, and that must have been hundreds of thousands of years ago.
In caves, once inhabited by men, have been found implements of flint and the bones of these extinct animals. With the flint tools man had split the bones of these beasts that he might secure the marrow for food.
Many such caves and hundreds of such tools, and of such bones have been found. And we now know that in the Drift Period man was the companion of these extinct monsters.
It is therefore certain that many, many thousands of years before Adam lived, men, women and children inhabited the earth.
It is certain that the account in the Bible of the creation of the first man is a mistake. It is certain that the inspired writers knew nothing about the origin of man.
Let me give you another fact:
The Egyptians were astronomers. A few years ago representations of the stars were found on the walls of an old temple, and it was discovered by calculating backward that the stars did occupy the exact positions as represented about seven hundred and fifty years before Christ. Afterward another representation of the stars was found, and by calculating in the same way, it was found that the stars did occupy the exact positions represented about three thousand eight hundred years before Christ.
According to the Bible the first man was created four thousand and four years before Christ If this is true then Egypt was founded, its language formed, its arts cultivated, its astronomical discoveries made and recorded about two hundred years after the creation of the first man.
In other words, Adam was two or three hundred years old when the Egyptian astronomers made these representations.
Nothing can be more absurd.
Again I say that the writers of the Bible were mistaken.
How do I know?
According to that same Bible there was a flood some fifteen or sixteen hundred years after Adam was created that destroyed the entire human race with the exception of eight persons, and according to the Bible the Egyptians descended from one of the sons of Noah. How then did the Egyptians represent the stars in the position they occupied twelve hundred years before the flood?
No one pretends that Egypt existed as a nation before the flood. Yet the astronomical representations found, must have been made more than a thousand years before the world was drowned.
There is another mistake in the Bible.
According to that book the sun was made after the earth was created.
Is this true?
Did the earth exist before the sun?
The men of science are believers in the exact opposite. They believe that the earth is a child of the sun—that the earth, as well as the other planets belonging to our constellation, came from the sun.
The writers of the Bible were mistaken.
There is another point:
According to the Bible, Jehovah made the world in six days, and the work done each day is described. What did Jehovah do on the second day?
This is the record:
“And God said: Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament. And it was so, and God called the firmament heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.”
The writer of this believed in a solid firmament—the floor of Jehovah’s house. He believed that the waters had been divided, and that the rain came from above the firmament. He did not understand the fact of evaporation—did not know that the rain came from the water on the earth.
Now we know that there is no firmament, and we know that the waters are not divided by a firmament. Consequently we know that, according to the Bible, Jehovah did nothing on the second day. He must have rested on Tuesday. This being so, we ought to have two Sundays a week.
Can we rely on the historical parts of the Bible?
Seventy souls went down into Egypt, and in two hundred and fifteen years increased to three millions. They could not have doubled more than four times a century. Say nine times in two hundred and fifteen years.
This makes thirty-five thousand eight hundred and forty, (35,840.) instead of three millions.
Can we believe the accounts of the battles?
Take one instance:
Jereboam had an army of eight hundred thousand men, Abijah of four hundred thousand. They fought. The Lord was on Abijah’s side, and he killed five hundred thousand of Jereboam’s men.
All these soldiers were Jews—all lived in Palestine, a poor miserable little country about one-quarter as large as the State of New York. Yet one million two hundred thousand soldiers were put in the field. This required a population in the country of ten or twelve millions. Of course this is absurd. Palestine in its palmiest days could not have supported two millions of people.
The soil is poor.
If the Bible is inspired, is it true?
We are told by this inspired book of the gold and silver collected by King David for the temple—the temple afterward completed by the virtuous Solomon.
According to the blessed Bible, David collected about two thousand million dollars in silver, and five thousand million dollars in gold, making a total of seven thousand million dollars.
Is this true?
There is in the bank of France at the present time (1895) nearly six hundred million dollars, and so far as we know, it is the greatest amount that was ever gathered together. All the gold now known, coined and in bullion, does not amount to much more than the sum collected by David.
Seven thousand millions. Where did David get this gold? The Jews had no commerce. They owned no ships. They had no great factories, they produced nothing for other countries. There were no gold or silver mines in Palestine. Where then was this gold, this silver found? I will tell you: In the imagination of a writer who had more patriotism than intelligence, and who wrote, not for the sake of truth, but for the glory of the Jews.
Is it possible that David collected nearly eight thousand tons of gold—that he by economy got together about sixty thousand tons of silver, making a total of gold and silver of sixty-eight thousand tons?
The average freight car carries about fifteen tons—David’s gold and silver would load about four thousand five hundred and thirty-three cars, making a train about thirty-two miles in length. And all this for the temple at Jerusalem, a building ninety feet long and forty-five feet high and thirty wide, to which was attached a porch thirty feet wide, ninety feet long and one hundred and eighty feet high.
Probably the architect was inspired.
Is there a sensible man in the world who believes that David collected seven thousand million dollars worth of gold or silver?
There is hardly five thousand million dollars of gold now used as money in the whole world. Think of the millions taken from the mines of California, Australia and Africa during the present century and yet the total scarcely exceeds the amount collected by King David more than a thousand years before the birth of Christ. Evidently the inspired historian made a mistake.
It required a little imagination and a few ciphers to change seven million dollars or seven hundred thousand dollars into seven thousand million dollars. Drop four ciphers and the story becomes fairly reasonable.
The Old Testament must be thrown aside. It is no longer a foundation. It has crumbled.