The Reverend De Witt Talmage, head of the Presbyterian Church in America, was so incensed by Ingersoll, that he devoted six sermons denouncing him as "The Great Blasphemer". Ingersoll answered these seriously, and then followed up by satirizing the teachings of the Reverend in what he called The Talmagian Catechism. Here is Part 1 of 3, as selected by Julian Haydon.
THE TALMAGIAN CATECHISM, by Robert Ingersoll.
As Mr. Talmage delivered the series of sermons referred to in these interviews, for the purpose of furnishing arguments to the young, so that they might not be misled by the sophistry of modern infi-delity, I have thought it best to set forth, for use in Sunday schools, the pith and marrow of what he has been pleased to say, in the form of
A SHORTER CATECHISM.
Question. Who made you?
Answer. Jehovah, the original Presbyterian.
Question. What else did he make?
Answer. He made the world and all things.
Question. Did he make the world out of nothing?
Question. What did he make it out of?
Answer. Out of his "omnipotence." Many infidels
have pretended that if God made the universe, and if
there was nothing until he did make it, he had nothing
to make it out of. Of course this is perfectly absurd
when we remember that he always had his "omnipo-
tence and that is, undoubtedly, the material used.
Question. Did he create his own "omnipotence"?
Answer. Certainly not, he was always omnipotent.
Question. Then if he always had "omnipotence,"
he did not "create" the material of which the uni-
verse is made; he simply took a portion of his
"omnipotence" and changed it to "universe"?
Answer. Certainly, that is the way I understand it.
Question. Is he still omnipotent, and has he as
much "omnipotence" now as he ever had?
Answer. Well, I suppose he has.
Question. How long did it take God to make the
Answer. Six "good-whiles."
Question. How long is a "good-while"?
Answer. That will depend upon the future dis-
coveries of geologists. "Good-whiles" are of such
a nature that they can be pulled out, or pushed up;
and it is utterly impossible for any infidel, or scien-
tific geologist, to make any period that a "good-while"
Question. What do you understand by "the
"morning and evening" of a "good-while"?
Answer. Of course the words "morning and
"evening" are used figuratively, and mean simply
the beginning and the ending, of each "good-while."
Question. On what day did God make vegetation?
Answer. On the third day.
Question. Was that before the sun was made?
Answer. Yes; a "good-while" before.
Question. How did vegetation grow without sun-
Answer. My own opinion is, that it was either
"nourished by the glare of volcanoes in the moon
or "it may have gotten sufficient light from rivers
"of molten granite;" or, "sufficient light might have
"been emitted by the crystallization of rocks." It
has been suggested that light might have been fur-
nished by fire-flies and phosphorescent bugs and
worms, but this I regard as going too far.
Question. Do you think that light emitted by
rocks would be sufficient to produce trees?
Answer. Yes, with the assistance of the "Aurora
"Borealis, or even the Aurora Australis;" but with
both, most assuredly.
Question. If the light of which you speak was
sufficient, why was the sun made?
Answer. To keep time with.
Question. What did God make man of?
Answer. He made man of dust and "omnipo-
Question. Did he make a woman at the same
time that he made a man?
Answer. No; he thought at one time to avoid
the necessity of making a woman, and he caused all
the animals to pass before Adam, to see what he
would call them, and to see whether a fit companion
could be found for him. Among them all, not one
suited Adam, and Jehovah immediately saw that he
would have to make an help-meet on purpose.
Question. What was woman made of?
Answer. She was made out of "man's side, out of
his right side," and some more "omnipotence." Infi-
dels say that she was made out of a rib, or a bone, but
that is because they do not understand Hebrew.
Question. What was the object of making woman
out of man's side?
Answer. So that a young man would think more
of a neighbor's girl than of his own uncle or grand-
Question. What did God do with Adam and Eve
after he got them done?
Answer. He put them into a garden to see what
they would do.
Question. Do we know where the Garden of Eden
was, and have we ever found any place where a
"river parted and became into four heads"?
Answer. We are not certain where this garden
was, and the river that parted into four heads cannot
at present be found. Infidels have had a great deal
to say about these four rivers, but they will wish
they had even one, one of these days.
Question. What happened to Adam and Eve in
Answer. They were tempted by a snake who was
an exceedingly good talker, and who probably came
in walking on the end of his tail. This supposition
is based upon the fact that, as a punishment, he was
condemned to crawl on his belly. Before that time,
of course, he walked upright.
Question. What happened then?
Answer. Our first parents gave way, ate of the
forbidden fruit, and in consequence, disease and
death entered the world. Had it not been for this,
there would have been no death and no disease.
Suicide would have been impossible, and a man
could have been blown into a thousand atoms by
dynamite, and the pieces would immediately have
come together again. Fire would have refused to
burn and water to drown; there could have been no
hunger, no thirst; all things would have been equally
Question. Do you mean to say that there would
have been no death in the world, either of animals,
insects, or persons?
Answer. Of course.
Question. Do you also think that all briers and
thorns sprang from the same source, and that had
the apple not been eaten, no bush in the world
would have had a thorn, and brambles and thistles
would have been unknown?
Question. Would there have been no poisonous
plants, no poisonous reptiles?
Answer. No, sir; there would have been none;
there would have been no evil in the world if Adam
and Eve had not partaken of the forbidden fruit.
Question. Was the snake who tempted them to
Answer. Certainly. '
Question. Was he in the world before the for-
bidden fruit was eaten?
Answer. Of course he was; he tempted them to
Question. How, then, do you account for the fact
that, before the forbidden fruit was eaten, an evil
serpent was in the world?
Answer. Perhaps apples had been eaten in other
Question. Is it not wonderful that such awful con-
sequences flowed from so small an act?
Answer. It is not for you to reason about it; you
should simply remember that God is omnipotent.
There is but one way to answer these things, and
that is to admit their truth. Nothing so puts the
Infinite out of temper as to see a human being
impudent enough to rely upon his reason. The
moment we rely upon our reason, we abandon God,
and try to take care of ourselves. Whoever relies
entirely upon God, has no need of reason, and
reason has no need of him.
Question. Were our first parents under the im-
mediate protection of an infinite God?
Answer. They were.
Question. Why did he not protect them? Why
did he not warn them of this snake? Why did he
not put them on their guard? Why did he not
make them so sharp, intellectually, that they could
not be deceived? Why did he not destroy that
snake; or how did he come to make him; what did
he make him for?
Answer. You must remember that, although God
made Adam and Eve perfectly good, still he was very
anxious to test them. He also gave them the power
of choice, knowing at the same time exactly what they
would choose, and knowing that he had made them
so that they must choose in a certain way. A being
of infinite wisdom tries experiments. Knowing ex-
actly what will happen, he wishes to see if it will.
Question. What punishment did God inflict upon
Adam and Eve for the sin of having eaten the for-
Answer. He pronounced a curse upon the woman,
saying that in sorrow she should bring forth children,
and that her husband should rule over her; that she,
having tempted her husband, was made his slave;
and through her, all married women have been de-
prived of their natural liberty. On account of the
sin of Adam and Eve, God cursed the ground, saying
that it should bring forth thorns and thistles, and
that man should eat his bread in sorrow, and that he
should eat the herb of the field.
Question. Did he turn them out of the garden
because of their sin?
Answer. No. The reason God gave for turning
them out of the garden was: "Behold the man is
"become as one of us, to know good and evil; and
"now, lest he put forth his hand and take of the
"tree of life and eat and live forever, therefore, the
"Lord God sent him forth from the Garden of Eden
"to till the ground from whence he was taken."
Question. If the man had eaten of the tree of life,
would he have lived forever?
Question. Was he turned out to prevent his
Answer. He was.
Question. Then the Old Testament tells us how we
lost immortality, not that we are immortal, does it?
Answer. Yes; it tells us how we lost it.
Question. Was God afraid that Adam and Eve
might get back into the garden, and eat of the fruit
of the tree of life?
Answer. I suppose he was, as he placed "cher-
"ubim and a flaming sword which turned every
"way to guard the tree of life."
Question. Has any one ever seen any of these
Answer. Not that I know of.
Question. Where is the flaming sword now?
Answer. Some angel has it in heaven.
Question. Do you understand that God made
coats of skins, and clothed Adam and Eve when
he turned them out of the garden?
Answer. Yes, sir.
Question. Do you really believe that the infinite
God killed some animals, took their skins from them,
cut out and sewed up clothes for Adam and Eve?
Answer. The Bible says so; we know that he
had patterns for clothes, because he showed some
to Moses on Mount Sinai.
Question. About how long did God continue
to pay particular attention to his children in this
Answer. For about fifteen hundred years; and
some of the people lived to be nearly a thousand
years of age.
Question. Did this God establish any schools or
institutions of learning? Did he establish any church?
Did he ordain any ministers, or did he have any re-
Answer. No; he allowed the world to go on
pretty much in its own way. He did not even keep
his own boys at home. They came down and made
love to the daughters of men, and finally the world
got exceedingly bad.
Question. What did God do then?
Answer. He made up his mind that he would drown
them. You see they were all totally depraved,—in
every joint and sinew of their bodies, in every drop
of their blood, and in every thought of their brains.
Question. Did he drown them all?
Answer. No, he saved eight, to start with again.
Question. Were these eight persons totally de-
Question. Why did he not kill them, and start
over again with a perfect pair? Would it not have
been better to have had his flood at first, before he
made anybody, and drowned the snake?
Answer. "God's way are not our ways;" and
besides, you must remember that "a thousand years
"are as one day" with God.
Question. How did God destroy the people?
Answer. By water; it rained forty days and forty
nights, and "the fountains of the great deep were
Question. How deep was the water?
Answer. About five miles.
Question. How much did it rain each day?
Answer. About eight hundred feet; though the
better opinion now is, that it was a local flood. In-
fidels have raised objections and pressed them to that
degree that most orthodox people admit that the
flood was rather local.
Question. If it was a local flood, why did they put
birds of the air into the ark? Certainly, birds could
have avoided a local flood?
Answer. If you take this away from us, what do
you propose to give us in its place? Some of the
best people of the world have believed this story.
Kind husbands, loving mothers, and earnest patriots
have believed it, and that is sufficient.
Question. At the time God made these people,
did he know that he would have to drown them all?
Answer. Of course he did.
Question. Did he know when he made them that
they would all be failures?
Answer. Of course.
Question. Why, then, did he make them?
Answer. He made them for his own glory, and
no man should disgrace his parents by denying it.
Question. Were the people after the flood just as
bad as they were before?
Answer. About the same.
Question. Did they try to circumvent God?
Answer. They did.
Answer. They got together for the purpose of build-
ing a tower, the top of which should reach to heaven,
so that they could laugh at any future floods, and go
to heaven at any time they desired.
Question. Did God hear about this?
Answer. He did.
Question. What did he say?
Answer. He said: "Go to; let us go down," and
see what the people are doing; I am satisfied they
Question. How were the people prevented from
Answer. God confounded their language, so that
the mason on top could not cry "mort'!" to the
hod-carrier below; he could not think of the word
to use, to save his life, and the building stopped.
Question. If it had not been for the confusion of
tongues at Babel, do you really think that all the
people in the world would have spoken just the same
language, and would have pronounced every word
precisely the same?
Answer. Of course.
Question. If it had not been, then, for the con-
fusion of languages, spelling books, grammars and
dictionaries would have been useless?
Answer. I suppose so.
Question. Do any two people in the whole world
speak the same language, now?
Answer. Of course they don't, and this is one of
the great evidences that God introduced confusion
into the languages. Every error in grammar, every
mistake in spelling, every blunder in pronunciation,
proves the truth of the Babel story.
Question. This being so, this miracle is the best
attested of all?
Answer. I suppose it is.
Question. Do you not think that a confusion of
tongues would bring men together instead of separa-
ting them? Would not a man unable to converse
with his fellow feel weak instead of strong; and
would not people whose language had been con-
founded cling together for mutual support?
Answer. According to nature, yes; according to
theology, no; and these questions must be answered
according to theology. And right here, it may be
well enough to state, that in theology the unnatural
is the probable, and the impossible is what has always
happened. If theology were simply natural, anybody
could be a theologian.
Question. Did God ever make any other special
efforts to convert the people, or to reform the world?
Answer. Yes, he destroyed the cities of Sodom
and Gomorrah with a storm of fire and brimstone.
Question. Do you suppose it was really brim-
Question. Do you think this brimstone came from
Answer. Let me tell you that you have no right
to examine the Bible in the light of what people are
pleased to call "science." The natural has nothing
to do with the supernatural. Naturally there would
be no brimstone in the clouds, but supernaturally
there might be. God could make brimstone out of
his "omnipotence." We do not know really what
brimstone is, and nobody knows exactly how brim-
stone is made. As a matter of fact, all the brimstone
in the world might have fallen at that time.
Question. Do you think that Lot's wife was
changed into salt?
Answer. Of course she was. A miracle was per-
formed. A few centuries ago, the statue of salt made
by changing Lot's wife into that article, was standing.
Christian travelers have seen it.
Question. Why do you think she was changed
Answer. For the purpose of keeping the event
fresh in the minds of men.
Question. God having failed to keep people in-
nocent in a garden; having failed to govern them
outside of a garden; having failed to reform them by
water; having failed to produce any good result by a
confusion of tongues; having failed to reform them
with fire and brimstone, what did he then do?
Answer. He concluded that he had no time to
waste on them all, but that he would have to select
one tribe, and turn his entire attention to just a few
Question. Whom did he select?
Answer. A man by the name of Abram.
Question. What kind of man was Abram?
Answer. If you wish to know, read the twelfth
chapter of Genesis; and if you still have any doubts
as to his character, read the twentieth chapter of the
same book, and you will see that he was a man who
made merchandise of his wife's body. He had had
such good fortune in Egypt, that he tried the experi-
ment again on Abimelech.
Question. Did Abraham show any gratitude?
Answer. Yes; he offered to sacrifice his son, to
show his confidence in Jehovah.
Question. What became of Abraham and his
Answer. God took such care of them, that in
about two hundred and fifteen years they were all
slaves in the land of Egypt.
Question. How long did they remain in slavery?
Answer. Two hundred and fifteen years.
Question. Were they the same people that God
had promised to take care of?
Answer. They were.
Question. Was God at that time, in favor of
Answer. Not at that time. He was angry at the
Egyptians for enslaving the Jews, but he afterwards
authorized the Jews to enslave other people.
Question. What means did he take to liberate
Answer. He sent his agents to Pharaoh, and de-
manded their freedom; and upon Pharaoh s refusing,
he afflicted the people, who had nothing to do with
it, with various plagues,—killed children, and tor-
mented and tortured beasts.
Question. Was such conduct Godlike?
Answer. Certainly. If you have anything against
your neighbor, it is perfectly proper to torture his
horse, or torment his dog. Nothing can be nobler
than this. You see it is much better to injure his
animals than to injure him. To punish animals for
the sins of their owners must be just, or God would
not have done it. Pharaoh insisted on keeping the
people in slavery, and therefore God covered the
bodies of oxen and cows with boils. He also bruised
them to death with hailstones. From this we infer,
that "the loving kindness of God is over all his works."
Question. Do you consider such treatment of ani-
mals consistent with divine mercy?
Answer. Certainly. You know that under the
Mosaic dispensation, when a man did a wrong, he
could settle with God by killing an ox, or a sheep,
or some doves. If the man failed to kill them, of
course God would kill them. It was upon this prin-
ciple that he destroyed the animals of the Egyptians.
They had sinned, and he merely took his pay.
Question. How was it possible, under the old dis-
pensation, to please a being of infinite kindness?
Answer. All you had to do was to take an innocent
animal, bring it to the altar, cut its throat, and sprinkle
the altar with its blood. Certain parts of it were to be
given to the butcher as his share, and the rest was to
be burnt on the altar. When God saw an animal thus
butchered, and smelt the warm blood mingled with
the odor of burning flesh, he was pacified, and the
smile of forgiveness shed its light upon his face.
Of course, infidels laugh at these things; but what
can you expect of men who have not been "born
"again"? "The carnal mind is enmity with God."
Question. What else did God do in order to in-
duce Pharaoh to liberate the Jews?
Answer. He had his agents throw down a cane
in the presence of Pharaoh and thereupon Jehovah
changed this cane into a serpent.
Question. Did this convince Pharaoh?
Answer. No; he sent for his own magicians.
Question. What did they do?
Answer. They threw down some canes and they
also were changed into serpents.
Question. Did Jehovah change the canes of the
Egyptian magicians into snakes?
Answer. I suppose he did, as he is the only one
capable of performing such a miracle.
Question. If the rod of Aaron was changed into
a serpent in order to convince Pharaoh that God had
sent Aaron and Moses, why did God change the
sticks of the Egyptian magicians into serpents—why
did he discredit his own agents, and render worth-
less their only credentials?
Answer. Well, we cannot explain the conduct of
Jehovah; we are perfectly satisfied that it was for
the best. Even in this age of the world God allows
infidels to overwhelm his chosen people with argu-
ments; he allows them to discover facts that his
ministers can not answer, and yet we are satisfied
that in the end God will give the victory to us. All
these things are tests of faith. It is upon this prin-
ciple that God allows geology to laugh at Genesis,
that he permits astronomy apparently to contradict
his holy word.
Question. What did God do with these people
after Pharaoh allowed them to go?
Answer. Finding that they were not fit to settle
a new country, owing to the fact that when hungry
they longed for food, and sometimes when their lips
were cracked with thirst insisted on having water,
God in his infinite mercy had them marched round
and round, back and forth, through a barren wilder-
ness, until all, with the exception of two persons,
Question. Why did he do this?
Answer. Because he had promised these people
that he would take them "to a land flowing with
"milk and honey."
Question. Was God always patient and kind and
merciful toward his children while they were in the
Answer. Yes, he always was merciful and kind
and patient. Infidels have taken the ground that he
visited them with plagues and disease and famine;
that he had them bitten by serpents, and now and
then allowed the ground to swallow a few thousands
of them, and in other ways saw to it that they were
kept as comfortable and happy as was consistent with
good government; but all these things were for their
good; and the fact is, infidels have no real sense of
Question. How did God happen to treat the Is-
raelites in this way, when he had promised Abraham
that he would take care of his progeny, and when he
had promised the same to the poor wretches while
they were slaves in Egypt?
Answer. Because God is unchangeable in his na-
ture, and wished to convince them that every being
should be perfectly faithful to his promise.
Question. Was God driven to madness by the
conduct of his chosen people?
Question. Did he know exactly what they would
do when he chose them?
Question. Were the Jews guilty of idolatry?
Answer. They were. They worshiped other gods
—gods made of wood and stone.
Question. Is it not wonderful that they were not
convinced of the power of God, by the many mira-
cles wrought in Egypt and in the wilderness?
Answer. Yes, it is very wonderful; but the Jews,
who must have seen bread rained from heaven; who
saw water gush from the rocks and follow them up hill
and down; who noticed that their clothes did not
wear out, and did not even get shiny at the knees,
while the elbows defied the ravages of time, and
their shoes remained perfect for forty years; it is
wonderful that when they saw the ground open
and swallow their comrades; when they saw God
talking face to face with Moses as a man talks with
his friend; after they saw the cloud by day and the
pillar of fire by night,—it is absolutely astonishing
that they had more faith in a golden calf that they
made themselves, than in Jehovah.
Question. How is it that the Jews had no confi-
dence in these miracles?
Answer. Because they were there and saw them.
Question. Do you think that it is necessary for
us to believe all the miracles of the Old Testament
in order to be saved?
Answer. The Old Testament is the foundation of
the New. If the Old Testament is not inspired, then
the New is of no value. If the Old Testament is
inspired, all the miracles are true, and we cannot
believe that God would allow any errors, or false
statements, to creep into an inspired volume, and to
be perpetuated through all these years.
Question. Should we believe the miracles, whether
they are reasonable or not?
Answer. Certainly; if they were reasonable, they
would not be miracles. It is their unreasonableness
that appeals to our credulity and our faith. It is im-
possible to have theological faith in anything that
can be demonstrated. It is the office of faith to
believe, not only without evidence, but in spite of
evidence. It is impossible for the carnal mind to
believe that Samsons muscle depended upon the
length of his hair. "God has made the wisdom of
"this world foolishness." Neither can the uncon-
verted believe that Elijah stopped at a hotel kept by
ravens. Neither can they believe that a barrel would
in and of itself produce meal, or that an earthen pot
could create oil. But to a Christian, in order that a
widow might feed a preacher, the truth of these
stories is perfectly apparent.
Question. How should we regard the wonderful
stories of the Old Testament?
Answer. They should be looked upon as "types"
and "symbols." They all have a spiritual signifi-
cance. The reason I believe the story of Jonah is,
that Jonah is a type of Christ.
Question. Do you believe the story of Jonah to
be a true account of a literal fact?
Answer. Certainly. You must remember that
Jonah was not swallowed by a whale. God "pre-
"pared a great fish" for that occasion. Neither is it by
any means certain that Jonah was in the belly of
this whale. "He probably stayed in his mouth."
Even if he was in his stomach, it was very easy
for him to defy the ordinary action of gastric juice
by rapidly walking up and down..
Question. Do you think that Jonah was really in
the whale's stomach?
Answer. My own opinion is that he stayed in his
mouth. The only objection to this theory is, that it
is more reasonable than the other and requires less
faith. Nothing could be easier than for God to make
a fish large enough to furnish ample room for one
passenger in his mouth. I throw out this suggestion
simply that you may be able to answer the objections
of infidels who are always laughing at this story.
Question. Do you really believe that Elijah went
to heaven in a chariot of fire, drawn by horses of
Answer. Of course he did.
Question. What was this miracle performed for?
Answer. To convince the people of the power of
Question. Who saw the miracle?
Answer. Nobody but Elisha.
Question. Was he convinced before that time?
Answer. Oh yes; he was one of God's prophets.
Question. Suppose that in these days two men
should leave a town together, and after a while one
of them should come back having on the clothes of
the other, and should account for the fact that he had
his friend's clothes by saying that while they were
going along the road together a chariot of fire came
down from heaven drawn by fiery steeds, and there-
upon his friend got into the carriage, threw him his
clothes, and departed,—would you believe it?
Answer. Of course things like that don't happen
in these days; God does not have to rely on wonders
Question. Do you mean that he performs no
miracles at the present day?
Answer. We cannot say that he does not perform
miracles now, but we are not in position to call atten-
tion to any particular one. Of course he supervises
the affairs of nations and men and does whatever in
his judgment is necessary.
Next Issue -- Part 2 of 3.