From The Archives
ROBERT INGERSOLL (1833 – 1899)
The Great Agnostic
We have also the scheme of redemption.
According to this “scheme,” by the sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, human nature became evil, corrupt and depraved. It became impossible for human beings to keep, in all things, the law of God. In spite of this, God allowed the people to live and multiply for some fifteen hundred years, and then on account of their wickedness drowned them all with the exception of eight persons.
The nature of these eight persons was evil, corrupt and depraved, and in the nature of things their children would be cursed with the same nature. Yet God gave them another trial, knowing exactly what the result would be. A few of these wretches he selected and made them objects of his love and care, the rest of the world he gave to indifference and neglect. To civilize the people he had chosen, he assisted them in conquering and killing their neighbors, and gave them the assistance of priests and inspired prophets. For their preservation and punishment he wrought countless miracles, gave them many laws and a great deal of advice. He taught them to sacrifice oxen, sheep, and doves, to the end that their sins might be forgiven. The idea was inculcated that there was a certain relation between the sin and the sacrifice,—the greater the sin, the greater the sacrifice. He also taught the savagery that without the shedding of blood there was no remission of sin.
In spite of all his efforts, the people grew gradually worse. They would not, they could not keep his laws.
A sacrifice had to be made for the sins of the people. The sins were too great to be washed out by the blood of animals or men. It became necessary for. God himself to be sacrificed. All mankind were under the curse of the law. Either all the world must be lost or God must die.
In only one way could the guilty be justified, and that was by the death, the sacrifice of the innocent. And the innocent being sacrificed must be great enough to atone for the world; There was but one such being—God.
Thereupon God took upon himself flesh, was born into the world—was known as Christ—was murdered, sacrificed by the Jews, and became an atonement for the sins of the human race.
This is the scheme of Redemption,—the atonement.
It is impossible to conceive of anything more utterly absurd.
A man steals, and then sacrifices a dove, or gives a lamb to a priest. His crime remains the same. He need not kill something. Let him give back the thing stolen, and in future live an honest life.
A man slanders his neighbor and then kills an ox. What has that to do with the slander. Let him take back his slander, make all the reparation that he can, and let the ox alone.
There is no sense in sacrifice, never was and never will be.
Make restitution, reparation, undo the wrong and you need shed no blood.
A good law, one springing from the nature of things, cannot demand, and cannot accept, and cannot be satisfied with the punishment, or the agony of the innocent. A god could not accept his own sufferings in justification of the guilty.—This is a complete subversion of all ideas of justice and morality. A god could not make a law for man, then suffer in the place of the man who had violated it, and say that the law had been carried out, and the penalty duly enforced. A man has committed murder, has been tried, convicted and condemned to death. Another man goes to the governor and says that he is willing to die in place of the murderer. The governor says: “All right, I accept your offer, a murder has been committed, somebody must be hung and your death will satisfy the law.”
But that is not the law. The law says, not that somebody shall be hanged, but that the murderer shall suffer death.
Even if the governor should die in the place of the criminal, it would be no better. There would be two murders instead of one, two innocent men killed, one by the first murderer and one by the State, and the real murderer free.
This, Christians call, “satisfying the law.”