Answering Colonel Robert Ingersoll

Colonel Robert Green Ingersoll

Colonel Robert Green Ingersoll served in the Civil War in command of the 11th Illinois Cavalry Regiment, which saw action in the Battle of Shiloh. He was an agnostic:

"I do not say there is no God. I do not know. As I told you before, I have travelled but little—only in this world." (Colonel Robert G. Ingersoll, The Best of Robert Ingersoll, edited by Roger E. Greeley, p. 38).

He was unafraid:

"I do not fear death any more than I fear sleep." (Colonel Robert G. Ingersoll, The Best of Robert Ingersoll, p. 48).

. . .though undoubtedly he has found cause to modify that position since then.

Prior to his death in 1899 he travelled widely across the country speaking against the Christian faith. His ammunition was mainly those familiar 'Bible contradictions' heard from atheists, liberals, and modern-day Catholics. Are these conundrums insoluble?


Bible Contradictions
Bible Difficulties
Flat Earth
Slavery and the Bible
Wealth and Poverty
Zingers
Build Upon the Sand
Three Gods
Famine and Flood
Just a Man


Colonel Ingersoll Addressing Crowd


Bible Contradictions

These are, it is alleged, mutually contradictory statements found in scripture which cannot simultaneously be true. Thus, at least one of these statements must be false; therefore scripture incorporates false statements. These 'Bible contradictions' are advanced by liberals and Catholics to discredit the Bible and discourage reliance upon it, by atheists to discredit the Christian faith. Are they for real, or is less delivered than is advertised?


I Thirst Timothy the Gentile
Faith vs. Works Love Your Enemies
Paul the Maverick Seeing God
Realized Eschatology He Hanged Himself
Uncorroborated False Witness
Atonement Head Covering
Men and Angels From Everlasting
Preach the Faith Bishops and Deacons
Cock Crow Wrong Day
Two Genealogies Editor's Choice
Sermon on the Mount. . .or Plain The Twelve


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Bible Difficulties

These are, not contradictions, but assertions and circumstances found in the Bible deemed laughable by atheists, liberals and Catholics:









  • "Christ never wrote a solitary word of the New Testament — not one word. There is an account that he once stooped and wrote something in the sand, but that has not been preserved. He never told anybody to write a word. He never said, 'Matthew, remember this. Mark, do not forget to put that down. Luke, be sure in your gospel you have this. John, do not forget it.' Not one word. And it has always seemed to me that a being coming from another world, with a message of infinite importance to mankind, should at least have verified that message by his own signature. Is it not wonderful that not one word was written by Christ? Is it not strange that he gave no orders to have his words preserved — words upon which hung the salvation of the world?"
  • (Colonel Robert G. Ingersoll, The Best of Robert Ingersoll, Page 3.)


Flat Earth

This 'Bible Difficulty' is so strenuously insisted upon by atheists, liberals and Catholics as to merit its own category:

"In the dear old religious days the earth was flat—a little dishing, if anything—and just above it was Jehovah's house, and just below was where the Devil lived. God and his angels inhabited the third floor, the Devil and his imps the basement, and the human race the second floor." (Colonel Robert G. Ingersoll, The Best of Robert Ingersoll, p. 66).

The Bible, they allege, teach that the earth is flat. The proof for this consists in the use of idioms such as 'ends of the earth' which are still widely used in the present day by speakers who certainly do not believe the earth is flat:





Some of the time Colonel Ingersoll seems to have a realistic appreciation of Copernicus' achievement. Copernicus introduced heliocentrism versus the geocentric Ptolemaic system. Both systems teach a rotund earth. Some of the time he falls in with the atheists you encounter nowadays, who have not one clue in the world, and praise the great explorers for their defiance of 'the Church,' which supposedly taught that the earth was flat: "I believe it was Magellan who said, 'the church says the earth is flat; but I have seen its shadow on the moon, and I have more confidence even in a shadow than in the church.' On the prow of his ship were disobedience, defiance, scorn and success." (Colonel Robert G. Ingersoll, Lectures of Robert Ingersoll, Lecture on Individuality, An Arraignment of the Church). The Catholic Church championed Ptolemy's system of astronomy, even after it had outlived its usefulness, because she had fallen in love with the pagan philosopher Aristotle, one of the architects of Ptolemy's geocentric astronomy. 'The Church' did not ever tell Magellan "the earth is flat," because their beloved Aristotle taught that it was round. Thomas Aquinas, in the Middle Ages, had synthesized a Grand Theory of Everything, joining such elements of Biblical salvation as could survive translation into Aristotelian psychology with Aristotle's physics and astronomy. The church was so attached to this grand synthesis they could not let go, even when the Protestants objected to its distortions of salvation doctrine, and the astronomers objected to its outmoded geocentric astronomy. As it happens, Ptolemy's system features a round earth:




Colonel Ingersoll accuses the Bible of flat-earthism:



  • "The ancient Hebrews believed that this earth was the center of the universe, and that the sun, moon and stars were specks in the sky.
  • "With this the Bible agrees.
  • "They thought the earth was flat, with four corners; that the sky, the firmament, was solid -- the floor of Jehovah's house.
  • "The Bible teaches the same.
  • "They imagined that the sun journeyed about the earth, and that by stopping the sun the day could be lengthened.
  • "The Bible agrees with this."
  • (Colonel Robert G. Ingersoll, 'About the Holy Bible,' II.).





Slavery

Colonel Ingersoll blames the Bible for slavery, among other things:



  • "The Bible is not inspired in its morality, for the reason that slavery is not moral, that polygamy is not good, that wars of extermination are not merciful, and that nothing can be more immoral than to punish the innocent on account of the sins of the guilty."
  • (Colonel Robert G. Ingersoll, The Best of Robert Ingersoll, p. 7 .)







"Upon the limbs of unborn babes this fiendish God put the chains of slavery. I hate him." (Robert G. Ingersoll, Lectures of Robert Ingersoll, Reply to Rabbi Bien).

How is it that a book, which according to Colonel Ingersoll promotes slavery, played such an important role in the movement to abolish slavery?:










Moses freed thousands upon thousands of slaves, and enslaved none, other than the thief unable to make restitution.

Wealth and Poverty

Colonel Ingersoll was not impressed with Christian morality:

Criminally Insane
"If a man would follow, today, the teachings of the Old Testament he would be a criminal. If he would strictly follow the teachings of the New, he would be insane."
—(Colonel Robert G. Ingersoll, The Best of Robert Ingersoll, page 4).

His dissatisfaction with Biblical morality was radical, going right back to the source:

Bad Character
"Jehovah was not a moral God. He had all the vices and lacked all the virtues. He generally carried out all his threats, but he never faithfully kept a promise."
—(Colonel Robert G. Ingersoll, The Best of Robert Ingersoll, page 35).

The precepts of Christian morality he would discard include such minor matters as the opposition many Christians express to dancing and card games:

"Why should we postpone our joy to another world? Thousands of people take great pleasure in dancing, and I say, let them dance. Dancing is better than weeping and wailing over a theology born of ignorance and superstition. . .I believe in cards and billiards. No one should fail to pick up every jewel of joy that can be found in his path." (Colonel Robert G. Ingersoll, The Best of Robert Ingersoll, page 50).

This is a common theme with atheist and agnostic ethics. They say, 'You can be good without God.' They ought to add a codicil, 'You will of course have to redefine what "good" means.' Paul's principle, "We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves." (Romans 15:1), never makes the transition to atheist ethics. Gambling is a harmless pastime, and those who think there's something wrong with it and the ruined lives it leaves in its wake just don't want you to have fun:

"If the ministers had their way, there would be no form of human enjoyment except prayer, signing subscription papers, putting money in contribution boxes, listening to sermons, reading the cheerful histories of the Old Testament, imagining the joys of heaven and the torments of hell. The church is opposed to the theater, is the enemy of the opera, looks upon dancing as a crime, hates billiards, despises cards, opposes roller-skating, and even entertains a certain prejudice against croquet." (Colonel Robert G. Ingersoll, The Best of Robert Ingersoll, p. 64).

A devoted family man, Colonel Ingersoll was less impatient with monogamy that his modern-day intellectual heirs: "I believe in marriage, and I hold in utter contempt the opinions of those long haired men and short haired women who denounce the institution of marriage." (Colonel Robert G. Ingersoll, The Best of Robert Ingersoll, p. 57). Whether because he was a sentimental softy who loved his wife and daughters, or because monogamy really can be integrated with his materialistic world-view, he is on the same page as the church on this point: "The marriage of one man to the one woman is the citadel and fortress of civilization." (Colonel Robert G. Ingersoll, The Best of Robert Ingersoll, p. 57).

On one very significant point he disliked Biblical morality, and that is the question of wealth and poverty. Colonel Ingersoll was active in Republican Party politics throughout his life. His nemesis was this man, William Jennings Bryan:


William Jennings Bryan Home


  • " I have many objections to the philosophy of Christ. I do not believe in returning good for evil. I believe in returning justice for evil. I do not believe that I can put a man under a moral obligation to do me a favor by doing him a wrong. The doctrine of non-resistance is to me absurd. The right should be defended and the wrong resisted. Goodness should have the right to protect itself. Neither do I believe in decrying this world. We should not say, 'Thou fool,' to the man who works for those he loves. Poverty is not a virtue, nor is wealth a crime. Christ is not my ideal."
  • (Colonel Robert G. Ingersoll, letter, The Best of Robert Ingersoll, p. 14).




Bryan stood for everything Colonel Ingersoll disliked. Bryan was a Christian, and he wanted the government to help the poor, simply because they were poor. Though he supported laws to limit working hours and otherwise improve the circumstances of the laboring class, Colonel Ingersoll was less convinced of the merits of government intervention in the private economy:

"I am a believer in individuality and in each individual taking care of himself. I want the government to do just as little as it can consistently with the safety of the nation." (Colonel Robert Ingersoll, The Best of Robert Ingersoll, p. 39).

In the popular vote, Colonel Ingersoll lost the public over the theological question; most Americans are not now agnostics. However, he ultimately won big on the political question: most Americans who now call themselves evangelical Christians, while they share William Jennings Bryan's faith, most emphatically do not share his politics. Is this result correct and consistent with the Bible?


Rich and Poor
Heatlh and Wealth Root Cause
I Will not Hear The Other Side
Government Theft Politics
Will a Man Rob God?






Zingers

The always quotable Robert Ingersoll was a gifted orator:

Heaven
"No one pretends to know where 'heaven' is. The celestial realm is the blessed somewhere in the unknown nowhere."
—(Colonel Robert G. Ingersoll, The Best of Robert Ingersoll, page 44).

His view of human history was a dark morality tale of the evil oppression by priest-craft, soon to be overthrown:

Work of Men
"Ladies and Gentlemen: An honest god is the noblest work of man. Each nation has created a god, and the god has always resembled his creators. He hated and loved what they hated and loved, and he was invariably found on the side of those in power. Each god was intensely patriotic, and detested all nations but his own. All these Gods demanded praise, flattery, and worship. Most of them were pleased with sacrifice, and the smell of innocent blood has ever been considered a divine perfume. All these gods have insisted upon having a vast number of priests, and the priests have always insisted upon being supported by the people, and the principal business of these priests has been to boast about their God, and to insist that he could easily vanquish all the other gods put together."
—(Colonel Robert G. Ingersoll, Lectures of Robert Ingersoll, Lecture On Gods).

Colonel Ingersoll was deeply offended at the Christian message of salvation:

Saved by the Blood
"The doctrine that future happiness depends upon belief is monstrous. It is the infamy of infamies. The notion that faith in Christ is to be rewarded by an eternity of bliss, while a dependence upon reason, observation, and experience merits everlasting pain, is too absurd for refutation, and can be relieved only by that unhappy mixture of insanity and ignorance, called 'faith.' What man, who ever thinks, can believe that blood can appease God? And yet, our entire system of religion is based upon that belief. The Jews pacified Jehovah with the blood of animals, and according to the Christian system, the blood of Jesus softened the heart of God a little, and rendered possible the salvation of a fortunate few. It is hard to conceive how the human mind can give assent to such terrible ideas, or how any sane man can read the bible and still believe in the doctrine of inspiration."
—(Colonel Robert G. Ingersoll, Lectures of Robert Ingersoll, Lecture On Gods).



He found the torments of Hell particularly obnoxious: "The doctrine of eternal punishment is the most infamous of all doctrines—born of ignorance, cruelty and fear. Around the angel of immortality Christianity has coiled the serpent. Upon Love's breast the church has placed the eternal asp." (Colonel Robert G. Ingersoll, The Best of Robert Ingersoll, pp. 44-45). There is a progression here, like a man doggedly sawing off the bough of a tree upon which he is perched. The universalists, believing deeply that God is love, dispute what is taught about Hell by the same Bible which teaches that God is love. The next generation, among whom Robert Ingersoll is numbered, do not even believe anymore that God is love, though they still cling with a certain nostalgia to those precepts of their Christian upbringing without which they find life unthinkable. Their children don't even have that, and the door is open to all the horrors of the twentieth century.

Resurrection was a particular stumbling-block. Colonel Ingersoll could not understand how God, who made Adam from the dust, could reconstitute a human being who had died and whose remains had suffered damage:

Cannibals
"Does anybody believe the resurrection who has the courage to think for himself? Here is a man, for instance, who weighs 200 pounds and gets sick and dies weighing 120; how much will he weigh in the morning of the resurrection? Here is a cannibal who eats another man; we know that the atoms you eat go into your body and become a part of you. After the cannibal has eaten the missionary, and appropriated his atoms to himself, and then dies, to whom will the atoms belong in the morning of the resurrection?"
—(Colonel Robert G. Ingersoll, The Best of Robert Ingersoll, pp. 21-22).

It would seem that Colonel Ingersoll demanded the resurrected body be comprised of the very same atoms of which it was comprised in temporal life before it can be identified as belonging to the same person:

"I suppose that I believe that the atoms that are in me have been in many other people and in many other forms of life, and I suppose at death the atoms forming my body go back to the earth and are used in countless forms. These facts, or what I suppose to be facts, render a belief in the resurrection of the body impossible to me." (Colonel Robert G. Ingersoll, The Best of Robert Ingersoll, page 48).

What has come to shipwreck here is reductive nineteenth century materialism, which posits atoms and the void as the ultimate reality, banging into the experience of the perseverance of personal identity. Colonel Ingersoll himself was not comprised of the same atoms before his (no doubt) very substantial lunch as afterwards; new material is continually added to the body, unneeded material discarded. If the very same atoms are required, then Colonel Ingersoll is not the same man before lunch as after. He is looking in the wrong direction to discern what makes a human being who he is and not another; it's not the atoms.




Build on Sand

Colonel Ingersoll was a believer in 'scientism.' He saw the physical sciences bringing in a new dawn of enlightenment, forcing out the darkness of the old superstitions.

Natural Law
"The world was governed by fear. . .My heart bleeds when I contemplate the sufferings endured by the millions now dead; of those who lived when the world appeared to be insane; when the heavens were filled with an infinite HORROR, who snatched babes, with dimpled hands and rosy cheeks, from the white breasts of mothers and dashed them into an abyss of eternal flame.

"Slowly, beautifully, like the coming of the dawn, came the grand truth that the universe is governed by law—that disease fastens itself upon the good and upon the bad; that the tornado cannot be stopped by counting beads; that the rushing lava pauses not for bended knees, the lightning for clasped and uplifted hands, nor the cruel waves of the sea for prayer; that paying tithes causes rather than prevents famine; that pleasure is not sin; that happiness is the only good; that demons and gods exist only in the imagination; that faith is a lullaby, sung to put the soul to sleep; that devotion is a bribe that fear offers to supposed power; that offering rewards in another world for obedience in this, is simply buying a soul on credit; that knowledge consists in ascertaining the laws of nature, and that wisdom is the science of happiness. Slowly, grandly, beautifully, these truths are dawning upon mankind."
—(Colonel Robert G. Ingersoll, The Lectures of Robert Ingersoll, Lecture on Humboldt).

What solid, lasting things had this faith brought him? The conviction that matter is indestructible:



  • "The idea of a creative deity is gradually being abandoned, and nearly all truly scientific minds admit that matter must have existed from eternity. It is indestructible, and the indestructible cannot be created. It is the crowning glory of our century to have demonstrated the indestructibility and the eternal persistence of force. Neither matter nor force can be increased nor diminished."
  • (Colonel Robert G. Ingersoll, The Lectures of Robert Ingersoll, Lecture on Gods.)



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Colonel Ingersoll did not survive into the twentieth century to see when they dropped that bit about matter being indestructible. Science, like capitalism, thrives on creative destruction. Where does that leave you when you have founded your life upon a moving rock, groping for floating, unstable certainties about the world? Whose "crowning glory" is it to discover something that isn't so, namely the indestructibility of matter? That's been phased out, replaced with E=MC2. So what sort of principle was that to live by, when it never was so?

When God breaks into history to reveal His word, here at last is something immune from the ravages of time: "For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven." (Psalm 119:89). God's words do not appear plausible today, ridiculous tomorrow, as do the certainties of science. God is not constrained by time nor is even subject to time:




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Three Gods

"So it is declared that the Father is God, and the Son God, and the Holy Ghost God, and that these three Gods make one God." (Robert Ingersoll, The Best of Robert Ingersoll, p. 22). Is that quite right?:


Colonel Robert G. Ingersoll
Lecture on the Mistakes of Moses


Famine and Flood

This agnostic did not wonder why bad things happen to good people, but was brimming with indignation that anything bad should ever happen to anyone at all:



  • "There may be a God who will make us happy in another world. If he does, it will be more than he has accomplished in this. A being who has the power to prevent it and yet allows thousands and millions of his children to starve, who devours them with earthquakes, who allows whole nations to be enslaved, cannot—in my judgment—be implicitly depended upon to do justice in another world."
  • (Colonel Robert G. Ingersoll, The Best of Robert Ingersoll, p. 35.)



Atheist Answer Ingratitude
Nemesis Christian Answer
Entitlement Brevity of Life
Potter and the Clay Flat Earth
River in Egypt Siddhartha Gautama
The Donkey and the Straw Catch-22
Bible Contradictions Ethiopian Famine
Pass Through the Fire Hired Razor
Not to Worry



"If God governs this world, if he builds and destroys, if back of every event is his will, then he is neither good nor wise. He is ignorant and malicious." (Colonel Robert G. Ingersoll, The Best of Robert Ingersoll, page 36.)

Just a Man

Like most atheists and agnostics, Robert Ingersoll insisted that Jesus was a mere man:



  • "Do away with the miracles, and the superhuman character of Christ is destroyed. He becomes what he really was—a man."
  • (Colonel Robert G. Ingersoll, The Best of Robert Ingersoll, p. 60.)



No doubt the Bible does teach that Jesus was a man:

The Incarnation

God or Man?

For good measure it teaches also that He is God:


Jesus is God

Who is Jesus?

The Son is God.


Your Throne, O God The Work of Your Hands Let Angels Worship
True God Express Image Visible and Invisible
For Himself Son of God Kiss the Son
A Son is born Honor the Son Only-begotten God
Pantocrator Believe on the Son Only Savior
The Dead were Judged Everlasting to Everlasting

Jesus is Jehovah God.

Jehovah of the Old Testament.

Jesus is Jehovah.


A Voice Crying Temple Visitor Stone of Stumbling
The Rock of Israel The First and the Last Lord of all
The LORD our Righteousness Holy, holy, holy Captivity Captive
House of David Answered prayers With all His saints
Israel's Savior Giver of Life Every Knee Shall Bow
Pastoral Supply I send you prophets Who forgives sin
I am He He is Lord Call upon the Name
Doxology God with Us Lawgiver
Great Shepherd You Only Lawful worship
Builder I AM THAT I AM Moses' Veil
Wine Press Lord Willing Secret Things
Boasting Excluded King of Israel Fount of Living Waters
Searches the Heart Till Death Do us Part Angel of the LORD
Take Refuge Has Reigned On His Forehead
Me Whom they have Pierced Stretched Out My Hands

Jesus is God.

Jesus our Lord.

Jesus Christ is God.


The Eyes of the Blind Thought it not Robbery Eternally Blessed God
Fullness of the Godhead Great God and Savior Faith in Him
Redeemed King of Kings Spirit of Christ
Destroyed by Serpents Lord of Glory Renewed in the Image
New Jerusalem's Lamp Now is Christ risen Upholding all Things
Light to the Gentiles My Companion Miracles
Prosecutors' Indictment Sun of Righteousness Thirty Pieces
Testator's Death Author of Life The Blood of God
My Lord and My God One Mystery of godliness
God was in Christ The Word was God Shared Glory
Omniscience Omnipotence Omnipresence
Change Not Yesterday, Today and Forever Whose Hand?
Not of Man Receive my Spirit Believe in God
Only Holy Sole Proprietor Priests
Walk on the Water


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