Some Mistakes of Moses Concluded

Note from Julian Haydon who is providing these excerpts:
This was written 133 years ago; for a public beginning to receive "explanations" for absurdities; but still when many, as now, believed every word in the bible true. Robert Ingersoll relentlessly drives home the full implications of what they believe -- but some of the learned doctors he quotes are in no way embarrassed.


The scientific Christians now admit that the Bible is not inspired in its astronomy, geology, botany, zoology, nor in any science. In other words, they admit that on these subjects, the Bible cannot be depended upon. If all the statements in the Scriptures were true, there would be no necessity for admitting that some of them are not inspired. A Christian will not admit that a passage in the Bible is uninspired, until he is satisfied that it is untrue. Orthodoxy itself has at last been compelled to say, that while a passage may be true and uninspired, it cannot be inspired if false.

If the people of Europe had known as much of astronomy and geology when the Bible was introduced among them, as they do now, there never could have been one believer in the doctrine of inspiration. If the writers of the various parts of the Bible had known as much about the sciences as is now known by every intelligent man, the book never could have been written.

It was produced by ignorance, and has been believed and defended by its author. It has lost power in the proportion that man has gained knowledge. A few years ago, this book was appealed to in the settlement of all scientific questions; but now, even the clergy confess that in such matters, it has ceased to speak with the voice of authority. For the establishment of facts, the word of man is now considered far better than the word of God.

In the world of science, Jehovah was superseded by Copernicus, Galileo, and Kepler. All that God told Moses, admitting the entire account to be true, is dust and ashes compared to the discoveries of Descartes, Laplace, and Humboldt. In matters of fact, the Bible has ceased to be regarded as a standard. Science has succeeded in breaking the chains of theology. A few years ago, Science endeavored to show that it was not inconsistent with the Bible. The tables have been turned, and now, Religion is endeavoring to prove that the Bible is not inconsistent with Science. The standard has been changed.

For many ages, the Christians contended that the Bible, viewed simply as a literary performance, was beyond all other books, and that man without the assistance of God could not produce its equal. This claim was made when but few books existed, and the Bible, being the only book generally known, had no rival. But this claim, like the other, has been abandoned by many, and soon will be, by all. Com pared with Shakespeare's "book and volume of the brain," the "sacred" Bible shrinks and seems as feebly impotent and vain, as would a pipe of Fan, when some great organ, voiced with every tone, from the hoarse thunder of the sea to the winged warble of a mated bird, floods and fills cathedral aisles with all the wealth of sound.

It is now maintained—and this appears to be the last fortification behind which the doctrine of inspiration skulks and crouches—that the Bible, although false and mistaken in its astronomy, geology, geography, history and philosophy, is inspired in its morality. It is now claimed that had it not been for this book, the world would have been inhabited only by savages, and that had it not been for the Holy Scriptures, man never would have even dreamed of the unity of God. A belief in one God is claimed to be a dogma of almost infinite importance, that with out this belief civilization is impossible, and that this fact is the sun around which all the virtues revolve. For my part, I think it infinitely more important to believe in man. Theology is a superstition—Humanity a religion.


Perhaps the Bible was inspired upon the subject of human slavery. Is there, in the civilized world, to-day, a clergyman who believes in the divinity of slavery? Does the Bible teach man to enslave his brother? If it does, is it not blasphemous to say that it is inspired of God? If you find the institution of slavery upheld in a book said to have been written by God, what would you expect to find in a book inspired by the devil? Would you expect to find that book in favor of liberty?

Modern Christians, ashamed of the God of the Old Testament, endeavor now to show that slavery was neither commanded nor opposed by Jehovah. Nothing can be plainer than the following passages from the twenty-fifth chapter of Leviticus. "Moreover of the children of the strangers that do sojourn among you, of them shall ye buy, and of their families that are with you, which they begat in your land: and they shall be your possession. And ye shall take them as an inheritance for your children after you, to inherit them for a possession, they shall be your bondmen forever. Both thy bondmen, and thy bondmaids, which thou shalt have, shall be of the heathen that are round about you; of them shall ye buy bondmen, and bondmaids."

Can we believe in this, the Nineteenth Century, that these infamous passages were inspired by God? that God approved not only of human slavery, but instructed his chosen people to buy the women, children and babes of the heathen round about them? If it was right for the Hebrews to buy, it was also right for the heathen to sell. This God, by commanding the Hebrews to buy, approved of the selling of sons and daughters. The Canaanite who, tempted by gold, lured by avarice, sold from the arms of his wife the dimpled babe, simply made it possible for the Hebrews to obey the orders of their God. If God is the author of the Bible, the reading of these passages ought to cover his cheeks with shame.

I ask the Christian world to-day, was it right for the heathen to sell their children? Was it right for God not only to uphold, but to command the infamous traffic in human flesh? Could the most revengeful fiend, the most malicious vagrant in the gloom of hell, sink to a lower moral depth than this?

According to this God, his chosen people were not only commanded to buy of the heathen round about them, but were also permitted to buy each other for a term of years. The law governing the purchase of Jews is laid down in the twenty-first chapter of Exodus. "If thou buy a Hebrew servant, six years shall he serve: and in the seventh he shall go out free for nothing. If he came in by himself, he shall go out by himself: if he were married, then his wife shall go out with him. If his master have given him a wife, and she have borne him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall be her master's, and he shall go out by himself. And if the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free: Then his master shall bring him unto the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door-post: and his master shall bore his ear through with an awl: and he shall serve him forever."

Do you believe that God was the author of this infamous law? Do you believe that the loving father of us all, turned the dimpled arms of babes into manacles of iron? Do you believe that he baited the dungeon of servitude with wife and child? Is it possible to love a God who would make such laws? Is it possible not to hate and despise him?

The heathen are not spoken of as human beings. Their rights are never mentioned. They were the rightful food of the sword, and their bodies were made for stripes and chains.

In the same chapter of the same inspired book, we are told that, "if a man smite his servant, or his maid, with a rod, and he dies under his hand, he shall be surely punished. Notwithstanding, if he continue a day or two, he shall not be punished, for he is his money."

Must we believe that God called some of his children the money of others? Can we believe that God made lashes upon the naked back, a legal tender for labor performed? Must we regard the auction block as an altar? Were blood hounds apostles? Was the slave-pen a temple? Were the stealers and whippers of babes and women the justified children of God?

It is now contended that while the Old Testament is touched with the barbarism of its time, that the New Testament is morally perfect, and that on its pages can be found no blot or stain. As a matter of fact, the New Testament is more decidedly in favor of human slavery than the old.

For my part, I never will, I never can, worship a God who upholds the institution of slavery. Such a God I hate and defy. I neither want his heaven, nor fear his hell.


Is there an orthodox clergyman in the world, who will now declare that he believes the institution of polygamy to be right? Is there one who will publicly declare that, in his judgment, that institution ever was right? Was there ever a time in the history of the world when it was right to treat woman simply as property?

Do not attempt to answer these questions by saying, that the Bible is an exceedingly good book, that we are indebted for our civilization to the sacred volume, and that without it, man would lapse into savagery, and mental night. This is no answer. Was there a time when the institution of polygamy was the highest expression of human virtue? Is there a Christian woman, civilized, intelligent, and free, who believes in the institution of polygamy?

Are we better, purer, and more intelligent than God was four thousand years ago? Why should we imprison Mormons, and worship God? Polygamy is just as pure in Utah, as it could have been in the promised land. Love and Virtue are the same the whole world round, and Justice is the same in every star.

All the languages of the world are not sufficient to express the filth of polygamy. It makes of man, a beast, of woman, a trembling slave. It destroys the fireside, makes virtue an outcast, takes from human speech its sweetest words, and leaves the heart a den, where crawl and hiss the slimy serpents of most loathsome lust.

Civilization rests upon the family. The good family is the unit of good government. The virtues grow about the holy hearth of home—they cluster, bloom, and shed their perfume round the fireside where the one man loves the one woman. Lover—husband—wife—mother—father—child—home!—? without these sacred words, the world is but a lair, and men and women merely beasts.

Why should the innocent maiden and the loving mother worship the heartless Jewish God? Why should they, with pure and stainless lips, read the vile record of inspired lust?

The marriage of the one man to the one woman is the citadel and fortress of civilization. Without this, woman becomes the prey and slave of lust and power, and man goes back to savagery and crime. From the bottom of my heart I hate, abhor and execrate all theories of life, of which the pure and sacred home is not the corner-stone. Take from the world the family, the fireside, the children born of wedded love, and there is nothing left. The home where virtue dwells with love is like a lily with a heart of fire—the fairest flower in all the world.


If the Bible be true, God commanded his chosen people to destroy men simply for the crime of defending their native land. They were not allowed to spare trembling and white-haired age, nor dimpled babes clasped in the mothers' arms. They were ordered to kill women, and to pierce, with the sword of war, the unborn child.

"Our heavenly Father" commanded the Hebrews to kill the men and women, the fathers, sons and brothers, but to preserve the girls alive. Why were not the maidens also killed? Why were they spared? Read the thirty-first chapter of Numbers, and you will find that the maidens were given to the soldiers and the priests. Is there, in all the history of war, a more infamous thing than this?

Is it possible that God permitted the violets of modesty, that grow and shed their perfume in the maiden's heart, to be trampled beneath the brutal feet of lust? If this was the order of God, what, under the same circumstances, would have been the command of a devil? When, in this age of the world, a woman, a wife, a mother, reads this record, she should, with scorn and loathing, throw the book away. A general, who now should make such an order, giving over to massacre and rapine a conquered people, would be held in execration by the whole civilized world. Yet, if the Bible be true, the supreme and infinite God was once a savage.

A little while ago, out upon the western plains, in a little path leading to a cabin, were found the bodies of two children and their mother. Her breast was filled with wounds received in the defence of her darlings. They had been murdered by the savages. Suppose when looking at their lifeless forms, some one had said, "This was done by the command of God!" In Canaan there were countless scenes like this. There was no pity in inspired war. God raised the black flag, and commanded his soldiers to kill even the smiling infant in its mother's arms. Who is the blasphemer; the man who denies the existence of God, or he who covers the robes of the Infinite with innocent blood?

We are told in the Pentateuch, that God, the father of us all, gave thousands of maidens, after having killed their fathers, their mothers, and their brothers, to satisfy the brutal lusts of savage men. If there be a God, I pray him to write in his book, opposite my name, that I denied this lie for him.


According to the Bible, God selected the Jewish people through whom to make known the great fact, that he was the only true and living God. For this purpose, he appeared on several occasions to Moses—came down to Sinai's top clothed in cloud and fire, and wrought a thousand miracles for the preservation and education of the Jewish people. In their presence he opened the waters of the sea. For them he caused bread to rain from heaven. To quench their thirst, water leaped from the dry and barren rock. Their enemies were miraculously destroyed; and for forty years, at least, this God took upon himself the government of the Jews.

But, after all this, many of the people had less confidence in him than in gods of wood and stone. In moments of trouble, in periods of disaster, in the darkness of doubt, in the hunger and thirst of famine, instead of asking this God for aid, they turned and sought the help of senseless things.

This God, with all his power and wisdom, could not even convince a few wandering and wretched savages that he was more potent than the idols of Egypt. This God was not willing that the Jews should think and investigate for themselves. For heresy, the penalty was death. Where this God reigned, intellectual liberty was unknown. He appealed only to brute force; he collected taxes by threatening plagues; he demanded worship on pain of sword and fire; acting as spy, inquisitor, judge and executioner.

In the thirteenth chapter of Deuteronomy, we have the ideas of God as to mental freedom. "If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend which is as thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which thou hast not known, thou nor thy fathers; namely of the gods of the people which are around about you, nigh unto thee, or far off from thee, from the one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth, Thou shalt not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him, neither shall thine eye pity him, neither shalt thou spare him, neither shalt thou conceal him. But thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all the people. And thou shalt stone him with stones that he die."

This is the religious liberty of God; the toleration of Jehovah. If I had lived in Palestine at that time, and my wife, the mother of my children, had said to me, "I am tired of Jehovah, he is always asking for blood; he is never weary of killing; he is always telling of his might and strength; always telling what he has done for the Jews, always asking for sacrifices; for doves and lambs—blood, nothing but blood.—Let us worship the sun. Jehovah is too revengeful, too malignant, too exacting. Let us worship the sun. The sun has clothed the world in beauty; it has covered the earth with flowers; by its divine light I first saw your face, and my beautiful babe."

If I had obeyed the command of God, I would have killed her. My hand would have been first upon her, and after that the hands of all the people, and she would have been stoned with stones until she died. For my part, I would never kill my wife, even if commanded so to do by the real God of this universe. Think of taking up some ragged rock and hurling it against the white bosom filled with love for you; and when you saw oozing from the bruised lips of the death wound, the red current of her sweet life—think of looking up to heaven and receiving the congratulations of the infinite fiend whose commandment you had obeyed!

Can we believe that any such command was ever given by a merciful and intelligent God? Suppose, however, that God did give this law to the Jews, and did tell them that whenever a man preached a heresy, or proposed to worship any other God that they should kill him; and suppose that afterward this same God took upon himself flesh, and came to this very chosen people and taught a different religion, and that thereupon the Jews crucified him; I ask you, did he not reap exactly what he had sown? What right would this God have to complain of a crucifixion suffered in accordance with his own command?

Nothing can be more infamous than intellectual tyranny. To put chains upon the body is as nothing compared with putting shackles on the brain. No god is entitled to the worship or the respect of man who does not give, even to the meanest of his children, every right that he claims for himself.

If the Pentateuch be true, religious persecution is a duty. The dungeons of the Inquisition were temples, and the clank of every chain upon the limbs of heresy was music in the ear of God. If the Pentateuch was inspired, every heretic should be destroyed; and every man who advocates a fact inconsistent with the sacred book, should be consumed by sword and flame.

In the Old Testament no one is told to reason with a heretic, and not one word is said about relying upon argument, upon education, nor upon intellectual development—nothing except simple brute force. Is there to-day a Christian who will say that four thousand years ago, it was the duty of a husband to kill his wife if she differed with him upon the subject of religion?

Is there one who will now say that, under such circumstances, the wife ought to have been killed? Why should God be so jealous of the wooden idols of the heathen? Could he not compete with Baal? Was he envious of the success of the Egyptian magicians? Was it not possible for him to make such a convincing display of his power as to silence forever the voice of unbelief?

Did this God have to resort to force to make converts? Was he so ignorant of the structure of the human mind as to believe all honest doubt a crime? If he wished to do away with the idolatry of the Canaanites, why did he not appear to them? Why did he not give them the tables of the law? Why did he only make known his will to a few wandering savages in the desert of Sinai? Will some theologian have the kindness to answer these questions?

Will some minister, who now believes in religious liberty, and eloquently denounces the intolerance of Catholicism, explain these things; will he tell us why he worships an intolerant God? Is a god who will burn a soul forever in another world, better than a Christian who burns the body for a few hours in this? Is there no intellectual liberty in heaven? Do the angels all discuss questions on the same side? Are all the investigators in perdition? Will the penitent thief, winged and crowned, laugh at the honest folks in hell? Will the agony of the damned increase or decrease the happiness of God? Will there be, in the universe, an eternal auto da fe?


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 �?schylus 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 today 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."