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Meditation 1105
Some Mistakes of Moses

XIII. Let Us Make Man

by: Robert G. Ingersoll

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WE ARE next informed by the author of the Pentateuch that God said “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness,” and that “God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him — male and female created he them.”

If this account means anything, it means that man was created in the physical image and likeness of God. Moses while he speaks of man as having been made in the image of God, never speaks of God except as having the form of a man. He speaks of God as “walking in the garden in the cool of the day;” and that Adam and Eve “heard his voice.” He is constantly telling what God said, and in a thousand passages he refers to him as not only having the human form, but as performing actions, such as man performs. The God of Moses was a God with hands, with feet, with the organs of speech. A God of passion, of hatred, of revenge, of affection, of repentance; a God who made mistakes: — in other words, an immense and powerful man.

It will not do to say that Moses meant to convey the idea that God made man in his mental or moral image. Some have insisted that man was made in the moral image of God because he was made pure. Purity cannot be manufactured. A moral character cannot be made for man by a god. Every man must make his own moral character. Consequently, if God is infinitely pure, Adam and Eve were not made in his image in that respect. Others say that Adam and Eve were made in the mental image of God. If it is meant by that, that they were created with reasoning power like, but not to the extent of those possessed by a god, then this may be admitted. But certainly this idea was not in the mind of Moses. He regarded the human form as being in the image of God, and for that reason always spoke of God as having that form. No one can read the Pentateuch without coming to the conclusion that the author supposed that man was created in the physical likeness of Deity. God said “Go to, let us go down.” “God smelled a sweet savor;” “God repented him that he had made man;” “and God said;” and “walked;” and “talked;” and “rested.” All these expressions are inconsistent with any other idea than that the person using them regarded God as having the form of man.

As a matter of fact, it is impossible for a man to conceive of a personal God, other than as a being having the human form. No one can think of an infinite being having the form of a horse, or of bird, or of any animal beneath man. It is one of the necessities of the mind to associate forms with intellectual capacities. The highest form of which we have any conception is man’s, and consequently, his is the only form that we can find in imagination to give to a personal God, because all other forms are, in our minds, connected with lower intelligences.

It is impossible to think of a personal God as a spirit without form. We can use these words, but they do not convey to the mind any real and tangible meaning. Every one who thinks of a personal God at all, thinks of him as having the human form. Take from God the idea of form; speak of him simply as an all pervading spirit — which means an all pervading something about which we know nothing — and Pantheism is the result.

We are told that God made man; and the question naturally arises, how was this done? Was it by a process of “evolution,” “development;” the “transmission of acquired habits;” the “survival of the fittest” or was the necessary amount of clay kneaded to the proper consistency, and then by the hands of God molded into form? Modern science tells that man has been evolved, through countless epochs, from the lower forms; that he is the result of almost an infinite number of actions, reactions, experiences, states, forms, wants and adaptations. Did Moses intend to convey such a meaning, or did he believe that God took a sufficient amount of dust, made it the proper shape, and breathed into it the breath of life? Can any believer in the Bible give any reasonable account of this process of creation? Is it possible to imagine what was really done? Is there any theologian who will contend that man was created directly from the earth? Will he say that man was made substantially as he now is, with all his muscles properly developed for walking and speaking, and performing every variety of human action? That all his bones were formed as they now are, and all the relations of nerve, ligament, brain and motion as they are to-day?

Looking back over the history of animal life from the lowest to the highest forms, we find that there has been a slow and gradual development; a certain but constant relation between want and production; between use and form. The Moner is said to be the simplest form of animal life that has yet been found. It has been described as “an organism without organs.” It is a kind of structureless structure; a little mass of transparent jelly that can flatten itself out, and can expand and contract around its food. It can feed without a mouth, digest without a stomach, walk without feet, and reproduce itself by simple division. By taking this Moner as the commencement of animal life, or rather as the first animal, it is easy to follow the development of the organic structure through all the forms of life to man himself. In this way finally every muscle, bone and joint, every organ, form and function may be accounted for. In this way, and in this way only, can the existence of rudimentary organs be explained. Blot from the human mind the ideas of evolution, heredity, adaptation, and “the survival of the fittest,” with which it has been enriched by Lamarck, Goethe, Darwin, Hæckel and Spencer, and all the facts in the history of animal life become utterly disconnected and meaningless.

Shall we throw away all that has been discovered with regard to organic life, and in its place take the statements of one who lived in the rude morning of a barbaric day? Will anybody now contend that man was a direct and independent creation, and sustains and bears no relation to the animals below him? Belief upon this subject must be governed at last by evidence. Man cannot believe as he pleases. He can control his speech, and can say that he believes or disbelieves; but after all, his will cannot depress or raise the scales with which his reason finds the worth and weight of facts. If this is not so, investigation, evidence, judgment and reason are but empty words.

I ask again, how were Adam and Eve created? In one account they are created male and female, and apparently at the same time. In the next account, Adam is created first, and Eve a long time afterwards, and from a part of the man. Did God simply by his creative fiat cause a rib slowly to expand, grow and divide into nerve, ligament, cartilage and flesh? How was the woman created from a rib? How was man created simply from dust? For my part, I cannot believe this statement. I may suffer for this in the world to come; and may, millions of years hence, sincerely wish that I had never investigated the subject, but had been content to take the ideas of the dead. I do not believe that any deity works in that way. So far as my experience goes, there is an unbroken procession of cause and effect. Each thing is a necessary link in an infinite chain; and I cannot conceive of this chain being broken even for one instant. Back of the simplest moner there is a cause, and back of that another, and so on, it seems to me, forever. In my philosophy I postulate neither beginning nor ending.

If the Mosaic account is true, we know how long man has been upon this earth. If that account can be relied on, the first man was made about five thousand eight hundred and eighty-three years ago. Sixteen hundred and fifty-six years after the making of the first man, the inhabitants of the world, with the exception of eight people, were destroyed by a flood. This flood occurred only about four thousand two hundred and twenty-seven years ago. If this account is correct, at that time, only one kind of men existed. Noah and his family were certainly of the same blood. It therefore follows that all the differences we see between the various races of men have been caused in about four thousand years. If the account of the deluge is true, then since that event all the ancient kingdoms of the earth were founded, and their inhabitants passed through all the stages of savage, nomadic, barbaric and semi-civilized life; through the epochs of Stone, Bronze and Iron; established commerce, cultivated the arts, built cities, filled them with palaces and temples, invented writing, produced a literature and slowly fell to shapeless ruin. We must believe that all this has happened within a period of four thousand years.

From representations found upon Egyptian granite made more than three thousand years ago, we know that the negro was as black, his lips as full, and his hair as curled then as now. If we know anything, we know that there was at that time substantially the same difference between the Egyptian and the negro as now. If we know anything, we know that magnificent statues were made in Egypt four thousand years before our era — that is to say, about six thousand years ago. There was at the World’s Exposition, in the Egyptian department, a statue of king Cephren, known to have been chiseled more than six thousand years ago. In other words, if the Mosaic account must be believed, this statue was made before the world. We also know, if we know anything, that men lived in Europe with the hairy mammoth, the cave bear, the rhinoceros, and the hyena. Among the bones of these animals have been found the stone hatchets and flint arrows of our ancestors. In the caves where they lived have been discovered the remains of these animals that had been conquered, killed and devoured as food, hundreds of thousands of years ago.
If these facts are true, Moses was mistaken. For my part, I have infinitely more confidence in the discoveries of to-day, than in the records of a barbarous people. It will not now do to say that man has existed upon this earth for only about six thousand years. One can hardly compute in his imagination the time necessary for man to emerge from the barbarous state, naked and helpless, surrounded by animals far more powerful than he, to progress and finally create the civilizations of India, Egypt and Athens. The distance from savagery to Shakespeare must be measured not by hundreds, but by millions of years.


Next: XIV. Sunday

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