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Meditation 1105
Some Mistakes of Moses

XXIX: Conclusion

by: Robert G. Ingersoll

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IF the Pentateuch is not inspired in its astronomy, geology, geography, history or philosophy, if it is not inspired concerning slavery, polygamy, war, law, religious or political liberty, or the rights of men, women and children, what is it inspired in, or about? The unity of God? — that was believed long before Moses was born. Special providence? — that has been the doctrine of ignorance in all ages. The rights of property? — theft was always a crime. The sacrifice of animals? — that was a custom thousands of years before a Jew existed. The sacredness of life? — there have always been laws against murder. The wickedness of perjury? – truthfulness has always been a virtue. The beauty of chastity? – the Pentateuch does not teach it. Thou shalt worship no other God? – that has been the burden of all religions.

Is it possible that the Pentateuch could not have been written by uninspired men? that the assistance of God was necessary to produce these books? Is it possible that Galileo ascertained the mechanical principles of “Virtual Velocity,” the laws of falling bodies and of all motion; that Copernicus ascertained the true position of the earth and accounted for all celestial phenomena; that Kepler discovered his three laws — discoveries of such importance that the 8th of May, 1618, may be called the birthday of modern science; that Newton gave to the world the Method of Fluxions, the Theory of Universal Gravitation, and the Decomposition of Light; that Euclid, Cavalieri, Descartes, and Leibnitz, almost completed the science of mathematics; that all the discoveries in optics, hydrostatics, pneumatics and chemistry, the experiments, discoveries, and inventions of Galvani, Volta, Franklin and Morse, of Trevethick, Watt and Fulton and of all the pioneers of progress — that all this was accomplished by uninspired men, while the writer of the Pentateuch was directed and inspired by an infinite God? Is it possible that the codes of China, India, Egypt, Greece and Rome were made by man, and that the laws recorded in the Pentateuch were alone given by God? Is it possible that Æschylus and Shakespeare, Burns, and Beranger, Goethe and Schiller, and all the poets of the world, and all their wondrous tragedies and songs, are but the work of men, while no intelligence except the infinite God could be the author of the Pentateuch? Is it possible that of all the books that crowd the libraries of the world, the books of science, fiction, history and song, that all save only one, have been produced by man? Is it possible that of all these, the bible only is the work of God?

If the Pentateuch is inspired, the civilization of our day is a mistake and crime. There should be no political liberty. Heresy should be trodden out beneath the bigot’s brutal feet. Husbands should divorce their wives at will, and make the mothers of their children houseless and weeping wanderers. Polygamy ought to be practiced; women should become slaves; we should buy the sons and daughters of the heathen and make them bondmen and bondwomen forever. We should sell our own flesh and blood, and have the right to kill our slaves. Men and women should be stoned to death for laboring on the seventh day. “Mediums,” such as have familiar spirits, should be burned with fire. Every vestige of mental liberty should be destroyed, and reason’s holy torch extinguished in the martyr’s blood.

Is it not far better and wiser to say that the Pentateuch while containing some good laws, some truths, some wise and useful things is, after all, deformed and blackened by the savagery of its time? Is it not far better and wiser to take the good and throw the bad away?

Let us admit what we know to be true; that Moses was mistaken about a thousand things; that the story of creation is not true; that the Garden of Eden is a myth; that the serpent and the tree of knowledge, and the fall of man are but fragments of old mythologies lost and dead; that woman was not made out of a rib; that serpents never had the power of speech; that the sons of God did not marry the daughters of men; that the story of the flood and ark is not exactly true; that the tower of Babel is a mistake; that the confusion of tongues is a childish thing; that the origin of the rainbow is a foolish fancy; that Methuselah did not live nine hundred and sixty-nine years; that Enoch did not leave this world, taking with him his flesh and bones; that the story of Sodom and Gomorrah is somewhat improbable; that burning brimstone never fell like rain; that Lot’s wife was not changed into chloride of sodium; that Jacob did not, in fact, put his hip out of joint wrestling with God; that the history of Tamar might just as well have been left out; that a belief in Pharaoh’s dreams is not essential to salvation; that it makes but little difference whether the rod of Aaron was changed to a serpent or not; that of all the wonders said to have been performed in Egypt, the greatest is, that anybody ever believed the absurd account; that God did not torment the innocent cattle on account of the sins of their owners; that he did not kill the first born of the poor maid behind the mill because of Pharaoh’s crimes; that flies and frogs were not ministers of God’s wrath; that lice and locusts were not the executors of his will; that seventy people did not, in two hundred and fifteen years, increase to three million; that three priests could not eat six hundred pigeons in a day; that gazing at a brass serpent could not extract poison from the blood; that God did not go in partnership with hornets; that he did not murder people simply because they asked for something to eat; that he did not declare the making of hair oil and ointment an offence to be punished with death; that he did not miraculously preserve cloth and leather; that he was not afraid of wild beasts; that he did not punish heresy with sword and fire; that he was not jealous, revengeful, and unjust; that he knew all about the sun, moon, and stars; that he did not threaten to kill people for eating the fat of an ox; that he never told Aaron to draw cuts to see which of two goats should be killed; that he never objected to clothes made of woolen mixed with linen; that if he objected to dwarfs, people with flat noses and too many fingers, he ought not to have created such folks; that he did not demand human sacrifices as set forth in the last chapter of Leviticus; that he did not object to the raising of horses; that he never commanded widows to spit in the faces of their brothers-in-law; that several contradictory accounts of the same transaction cannot all be true; that God did not talk to Abraham as one man talks to another; that angels were not in the habit of walking about the earth eating veal dressed with milk and butter, and making bargains about the destruction of cities; that God never turned himself into a flame of fire, and lived in a bush; that he never met Moses in a hotel and tried to kill him; that it was absurd to perform miracles to induce a king to act in a certain way and then harden his heart so that he would refuse; that God was not kept from killing the Jews by the fear that the Egyptians would laugh at him; that he did not secretly bury a man and then allow the corpse to write an account of the funeral; that he never believed the firmament to be solid; that he knew slavery was and always would be a frightful crime; that polygamy is but stench and filth; that the brave soldier will always spare an unarmed foe; that only cruel cowards slay the conquered and the helpless; that no language can describe the murderer of a smiling babe; that God did not want the blood of doves and lambs; that he did not love the smell of burning flesh; that he did not want his altars daubed with blood; that he did not pretend that the sins of a people could be transferred to a goat; that he did not believe in witches, wizards, spooks, and devils; that he did not test the virtue of woman with dirty water; that he did not suppose that rabbits chewed the cud; that he never thought there were any four footed birds; that he did not boast for several hundred years that he had vanquished an Egyptian king; that a dry stick did not bud, blossom, and bear almonds in one night; that manna did not shrink and swell, so that each man could gather only just one omer; that it was never wrong to “countenance the poor man in his cause;” that God never told a people not to live in peace with their neighbors; that he did not spend forty days with Moses on Mount Sinai giving him patterns for making clothes, tongs, basins, and snuffers; that maternity is not a sin; that physical deformity is not a crime; that an atonement cannot be made for the soul by shedding innocent blood; that killing a dove over running water will not make its blood a medicine; that a god who demands love knows nothing of the human heart; that one who frightens savages with loud noises is unworthy the love of civilized men; that one who destroys children on account of the sins of their fathers is a monster; that an infinite god never threatened to give people the itch; that he never sent wild beasts to devour babes; that he never ordered the violation of maidens; that he never regarded patriotism as a crime; that he never ordered the destruction of unborn children; that he never opened the earth and swallowed wives and babes because husbands and fathers had displeased him; that he never demanded that men should kill their sons and brothers, for the purpose of sanctifying themselves; that we cannot please God by believing the improbable; that credulity is not a virtue; that investigation is not a crime; that every mind should be free; that all religious persecution is infamous in God, as well as man; that without liberty, virtue is impossible; that without freedom, even love cannot exist; that every man should be allowed to think and to express his thoughts; that woman is the equal of man; that children should be governed by love and reason; that the family relation is sacred; that war is a hideous crime; that all intolerance is born of ignorance and hate; that the freedom of to-day is the hope of to-morrow; that the enlightened present ought not to fall upon its knees and blindly worship the barbaric past; and that every free, brave and enlightened man should publicly declare that all the ignorant, infamous, heartless, hideous things recorded in the “inspired” Pentateuch are not the words of God, but simply “Some Mistakes of Moses.”

Next: A Tribute To Ebon C. Ingersoll

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