The Talmagian Catechism, Ingersoll Winds Up His Great Satire

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." Robert Ingersoll answered these seriously; and then followed up by satirizing the teachings of the Reverend in what he called The Talmagian Catechism. Here is the Final Part, sent by Julian Haydon.


Question. Is the New Testament now the same as
it was in the days of the early fathers?

Answer. Certainly not. Many books now thrown
out, and not esteemed of divine origin, were esteemed
divine by Polycarp and Irenæus and Clement and
many of the early churches. These books are now
called "apocryphal."

Question. Have you not the same witnesses in
favor of their authenticity, that you have in favor of
the gospels?

Answer. Precisely the same. Except that they
were thrown out.

Question. Why were they thrown out?

Answer. Because the Catholic Church did not es-
teem them inspired.

Question. Did the Catholics decide for us which
are the true gospels and which are the true epistles?
Answer. Yes. The Catholic Church was then the
only church, and consequently must have been the
true church.

Question. How did the Catholic Church select the
true books?

Answer. Councils were called, and votes were
taken, very much as we now pass resolutions in
political meetings.

Question. Was the Catholic Church infallible then?

Answer. It was then, but it is not now.

Question. If the Catholic Church at that time
had thrown out the book of Revelation, would it
now be our duty to believe that book to have been

Answer. No, I suppose not.

Question. Is it not true that some of these books
were adopted by exceedingly small majorities?

Answer. It is.

Question. If the Epistle to the Hebrews and to
the Romans, and the book of Revelation had been
thrown out, could a man now be saved who honestly
believes the rest of the books?

Answer. This is doubtful.

Question. Were the men who picked out the in-
spired books inspired?

Answer. We cannot tell, but the probability is
that they were.

Question. Do we know that they picked out the
right ones?

Answer. Well, not exactly, but we believe that
they did.

Question. Are we certain that some of the books
that were thrown out were not inspired?

Answer. Well, the only way to tell is to read
them carefully.

Question. If upon reading these apocryphal books
a man concludes that they are not inspired, will he be
damned for that reason?

Answer. No. Certainly not.

Question. If he concludes that some of them are
inspired, and believes them, will he then be damned
for that belief?

Answer. Oh, no! Nobody is ever damned for
believing too much.

Question. Does the fact that the books now com-
prising the New Testament were picked out by the
Catholic Church prevent their being examined now
by an honest man, as they were examined at the time
they were picked out?

Answer. No; not if the man comes to the con-
clusion that they are inspired.

Question. Does the fact that the Catholic Church
picked them out and declared them to be inspired,
render it a crime to examine them precisely as you
would examine the books that the Catholic Church
threw out and declared were not inspired?

Answer. I think it does.

Question. At the time the council was held in which
it was determined which of the books of the New
Testament are inspired, a respectable minority voted
against some that were finally decided to be inspired.
If they were honest in the vote they gave, and died
without changing their opinions, are they now in hell?

Answer. Well, they ought to be.

Question. If those who voted to leave the book
of Revelation out of the canon, and the gospel of
Saint John out of the canon, believed honestly that
these were not inspired books, how should they have

Answer. Well, I suppose a man ought to vote as
he honestly believes—except in matters of religion.

Question. If the Catholic Church was not infal-
liable, is the question still open as to what books are,
and what are not, inspired?

Answer. I suppose the question is still open—
but it would be dangerous to decide it.

Question. If, then, I examine all the books again,
and come to the conclusion that some that were
thrown out were inspired, and some that were ac-
cepted were not inspired, ought I to say so?

Answer. Not if it is contrary to the faith of your
father, or calculated to interfere with your own po-
litical prospects.

Question. Is it as great a sin to admit into the
Bible books that are uninspired as to reject those
that are inspired?

Answer. Well, it is a crime to reject an inspired
book, no matter how unsatisfactory the evidence is
for its inspiration, but it is not a crime to receive an
uninspired book. God damns nobody for believing
too much. An excess of credulity is simply to err in
the direction of salvation.

Question. Suppose a man disbelieves in the inspira-
tion of the New Testament—believes it to be entirely
the work of uninspired men; and suppose he also be-
lieves—but not from any evidence obtained in the New
Testament—that Jesus Christ was the son of God, and
that he made atonement for his soul, can he then be
saved without a belief in the inspiration of the Bible?

Answer. This has not yet been decided by
our church, and I do not wish to venture an

Question. Suppose a man denies the inspiration
of the Scriptures; suppose that he also denies the
divinity of Jesus Christ; and suppose, further, that
he acts precisely as Christ is said to have acted;
suppose he loves his enemies, prays for those who
despitefully use him, and does all the good he pos-
sibly can, is it your opinion that such a man will be

Answer. No, sir. There is "none other name
"given under heaven and among men," whereby a
sinner can be saved but the name of Christ.

Question. Then it is your opinion that God
would save a murderer who believed in Christ, and
would damn another man, exactly like Christ, who
failed to believe in him?

Answer. Yes; because we have the blessed
promise that, out of Christ, "our God is a consuming

Question. Suppose a man read the Bible care-
fully and honestly, and was not quite convinced that
it was true, and that while examining the subject, he
died; what then?

Answer. I do not believe that God would allow
him to examine the matter in another world, or to
make up his mind in heaven. Of course, he would
eternally perish.

Question. Could Christ now furnish evidence
enough to convince every human being of the truth
of the Bible?

Answer. Of course he could, because he is in-

Question. Are any miracles performed now?

Answer. Oh, no!

Question. Have we any testimony, except human
testimony, to substantiate any miracle?

Answer. Only human testimony.

Question. Do all men give the same force to the
same evidence?

Answer. By no means.

Question. Have all honest men who have exam-
ined the Bible believed it to be inspired?

Answer. Of course they have. Infidels are not

Question. Could any additional evidence have
been furnished?

Answer. With perfect ease.

Question. Would God allow a soul to suffer
eternal agony rather than furnish evidence of the
truth of his Bible?

Answer. God has furnished plenty of evidence,
and altogether more than was really necessary. We
should read the Bible in a believing spirit.

Question. Are all parts of the inspired books
equally true?

Answer. Necessarily.

Question. According to Saint Matthew, God
promises to forgive all who will forgive others; not
one word is said about believing in Christ, or believ-
ing in the miracles, or in any Bible; did Matthew tell
the truth?

Answer. The Bible must be taken as a whole;
and if other conditions are added somewhere else,
then you must comply with those other conditions.
Matthew may not have stated all the conditions.

Question. I find in another part of the New
Testament, that a young man came to Christ and
asked him what was necessary for him to do in order
that he might inherit eternal life. Christ did not tell
him that he must believe the Bible, or that he must
believe in him, or that he must keep the Sabbath-
day; was Christ honest with that young man?

Answer. Well, I suppose he was.

Question. You will also recollect that Zaccheus
said to Christ, that where he had wronged any man
he had made restitution, and further, that half his
goods he had given to the poor; and you will re-
member that Christ said to Zaccheus: "This day
"hath salvation come to thy house." Why did not
Christ tell Zaccheus that he "must be born again;"
that he must "believe on the Lord Jesus Christ"?

Answer. Of course there are mysteries in our
holy religion that only those who have been "born
"again" can understand. You must remember that
"the carnal mind is enmity with God."

Question. Is it not strange that Christ, in his Ser-
mon on the Mount, did not speak of "regeneration,"
or of the "scheme of salvation"?

Answer. Well, it may be.

Question. Can a man be saved now by living
exactly in accordance with the Sermon on the Mount?

Answer. He can not.

Question. Would then a man, by following the
course of conduct prescribed by Christ in the Sermon
on the Mount, lose his soul?

Answer. He most certainly would, because there
is not one word in the Sermon on the Mount about
believing on the Lord Jesus Christ; not one word
about believing in the Bible; not one word about the
"atonement;" not one word about "regeneration."
So that, if the Presbyterian Church is right, it is abso-
lutely certain that a man might follow the teachings
of the Sermon on the Mount, and live in accordance
with its every word, and yet deserve and receive the
eternal condemnation of God.

But we must remember that the Sermon on the Mount was preached be-
fore Christianity existed. Christ was talking to Jews.

Question. Did Christ write anything himself, in
the New Testament?

Answer. Not a word.

Question. Did he tell any of his disciples to write
any of his words?

Answer. There is no account of it, if he did.

Question. Do we know whether any of the dis-
ciples wrote anything?

Answer. Of course they did.

Question. How do you know?

Answer. Because the gospels bear their names.

Question. Are you satisfied that Christ was abso-
lutely God?

Answer. Of course he was. We believe that
Christ and God and the Holy Ghost are all the same,
that the three form one, and that each one is three.

Question. Was Christ the God of the universe at
the time of his birth?

Answer. He certainly was.

Question. Was he the infinite God, creator
and controller of the entire universe, before he was

Answer. Of course he was. This is the mystery
of "God manifest in the flesh." The infidels have
pretended that he was like any other child, and was
in fact supported by Nature instead of being the
supporter of Nature. They have insisted that like
other children, he had to be cared for by his mother.
Of course he appeared to be cared for by his mother.
It was a part of the plan that in all respects he should
appear to be like other children.

Question. Did he know just as much before he
was born as after?

Answer. If he was God of course he did.

Question. How do you account for the fact that
Saint Luke tells us, in the last verse of the second
chapter of his gospel, that "Jesus increased in wis-
"dom and stature"?

Answer. That I presume is a figure of speech;
because, if he was God, he certainly could not have
increased in wisdom. The physical part of him could
increase in stature, but the intellectual part must have
been infinite all the time.

Question. Do you think that Luke was mistaken?

Answer. No; I believe what Luke said. If it
appears untrue, or impossible, then I know that it is
figurative or symbolical.

Question. Did I understand you to say that Christ
was actually God?

Answer. Of course he was.

Question. Then why did Luke say in the same
verse of the same chapter that "Jesus increased in
"favor with God"?

Answer. I dare you to go into a room by your-
self and read the fourteenth chapter of Saint John!

Question. Is it necessary to understand the Bible
in order to be saved?

Answer. Certainly not; it is only necessary that
you believe it.

Question. Is it necessary to believe all the

Answer. It may not be necessary, but as it is im-
possible to tell which ones can safely be left out, you
had better believe them all.

Question. Then you regard belief as the safe

Answer. Of course it is better to be fooled in this
world than to be damned in the next.

Question. Do you think that there are any cruel-
ties on God's part recorded in the Bible?

Answer. At first flush, many things done by God
himself, as well as by his prophets, appear to be
cruel; but if we examine them closely, we will find
them to be exactly the opposite.

Question. How do you explain the story of Elisha
and the children,—where the two she-bears destroyed
forty-two children on account of their impudence?

Answer. This miracle, in my judgment, estab-
lishes two things: 1. That children should be polite
to ministers, and 2. That God is kind to animals—
"giving them their meat in due season." These
bears have been great educators—they are the
foundation of the respect entertained by the young
for theologians. No child ever sees a minister now
without thinking of a bear.

Question. What do you think of the story of
Daniel—you no doubt remember it? Some men
told the king that Daniel was praying contrary to
law, and thereupon Daniel was cast into a den of
lions; but the lions could not touch him, their
mouths having been shut by angels.

The next morning, the king, finding that Daniel was still
intact, had him taken out; and then, for the purpose
of gratifying Daniels God, the king had all the men
who had made the complaint against Daniel, and
their wives and their little children, brought and cast
into the lions' den. According to the account, the
lions were so hungry that they caught these wives
and children as they dropped, and broke all their
bones in pieces before they had even touched the
ground. Is it not wonderful that God failed to pro-
tect these innocent wives and children?

Answer. These wives and children were heathen;
they were totally depraved. And besides, they were
used as witnesses. The fact that they were devoured
with such quickness shows that the lions were
hungry. Had it not been for this, infidels would
have accounted for the safety of Daniel by saying
that the lions had been fed.

Question. Do you believe that Shadrach, Meshach
and Abednego were cast "into a burning fiery furnace
"heated one seven times hotter than it was wont to
"be heated," and that they had on "their coats, their
"hosen and their hats," and that when they came
out "not a hair of their heads was singed, nor was
"the smell of fire upon their garments"?

Answer. The evidence of this miracle is exceed-
ingly satisfactory. It resulted in the conversion of

Question. How do you know he was converted?

Answer. Because immediately after the miracle
the king issued a decree that "every people, nation
"and language that spoke anything amiss against
"the God of Shadrach and Company, should be cut
"in pieces." This decree shows that he had become
a true disciple and worshiper of Jehovah.

Question. If God in those days preserved from
the fury of the fire men who were true to him and
would not deny his name, why is it that he has failed
to protect thousands of martyrs since that time?

Answer. This is one of the divine mysteries.
God has in many instances allowed his enemies to
kill his friends. I suppose this was allowed for the
good of his enemies, that the heroism of the mar-
tyrs might convert them.

Question. Do you believe all the miracles?

Answer. I believe them all, because I believe the
Bible to be inspired.

Question. What makes you think it is inspired?

Answer. I have never seen anybody who knew
it was not; besides, my father and mother believed it.

Question. Have you any other reasons for be-
lieving it to be inspired?

Answer. Yes; there are more copies of the Bible
printed than of any other book; and it is printed in
more languages. And besides, it would be impossible
to get along without it.

Question. Why could we not get along without it?

Answer. We would have nothing to swear wit-
nesses by; no book in which to keep the family
record; nothing for the centre-table, and nothing for
a mother to give her son. No nation can be civilized
without the Bible.

Question. Did God always know that a Bible was
necessary to civilize a country?

Answer. Certainly he did.

Question. Why did he not give a Bible to
the Egyptians, the Hindus, the Greeks and the

Answer. It is astonishing what perfect fools in-
fidels are.

Question. Why do you call infidels "fools"?

Answer. Because I find in the fifth chapter of the
gospel according to Matthew the following: "Who-
"soever shall say 'Thou fool!' shall be in danger of
"hell fire."

Question. Have I the right to read the Bible?

Answer. Yes. You not only have the right, but
it is your duty.

Question. In reading the Bible the words make
certain impressions on my mind. These impressions
depend upon my brain,—upon my intelligence. Is
not this true?

Answer. Of course, when you read the Bible, im-
pressions are made upon your mind.

Question. Can I control these impressions?

Answer. I do not think you can, as long as you
remain in a sinful state.

Question. How am I to get out of this sinful state?

Answer. You must believe on the Lord Jesus
Christ, and you must read the Bible in a prayerful
spirit and with a believing heart.

Question. Suppose that doubts force themselves
upon my mind?

Answer. Then you will know that you are a sin-
ner, and that you are depraved.

Question. If I have the right to read the Bible,
have I the right to try to understand it?

Answer. Most assuredly.

Question. Do you admit that I have the right to
reason about it and to investigate it?

Answer. Yes; I admit that. Of course you can-
not help reasoning about what you read.

Question. Does the right to read a book include
the right to give your opinion as to the truth of what
the book contains?

Answer. Of course,—if the book is not inspired.
Infidels hate the Bible because it is inspired, and
Christians know that it is inspired because infidels
say that it is not.

Question. Have I the right to decide for myself
whether or not the book is inspired?

Answer. You have no right to deny the truth of
God's Holy Word.

Question. Is God the author of all books?

Answer. Certainly not.

Question. Have I the right to say that God did
not write the Koran?

Answer. Yes.

Question. Why?

Answer. Because the Koran was written by an

Question. How do you know?

Answer. My reason tells me so.

Question. Have you the right to be guided by
your reason?

Answer. I must be.

Question. Have you the same right to follow your
reason after reading the Bible?

Answer. No. The Bible is the standard of reason.
The Bible is not to be judged or corrected by your
reason. Your reason is to be weighed and measured
by the Bible. The Bible is different from other
books and must not be read in the same critical spirit,
nor judged by the same standard.

Question. What did God give us reason for?

Answer. So that we might investigate other
religions, and examine other so-called sacred books.

Question. If a man honestly thinks that the Bible
is not inspired, what should he say?

Answer. He should admit that he is mistaken.

Question. When he thinks he is right?

Answer. Yes. The Bible is different from other
books. It is the master of reason. You read the
Bible, not to see if that is wrong, but to see
whether your reason is right. It is the only book
about which a man has no right to reason. He must
believe. The Bible is addressed, not to the reason,
but to the ears: "He that hath ears to hear, let
"him hear."

Question. Do you think we have the right to tell
what the Bible means—what ideas God intended to
convey, or has conveyed to us, through the medium
of the Bible?

Answer. Well, I suppose you have that right.
Yes, that must be your duty. You certainly ought
to tell others what God has said to you.

Question. Do all men get the same ideas from
the Bible?

Answer. No.

Question. How do you account for that?

Answer. Because all men are not alike; they
differ in intellect, in education, and in experience.

Question. Who has the right to decide as to the
real ideas that God intended to convey?

Answer. I am a Protestant, and believe in the
right of private judgment. Whoever does not is a
Catholic. Each man must be his own judge, but God
will hold him responsible.

Question. Does God believe in the right of private

Answer. Of course he does.

Question. Is he willing that I should exercise my
judgment in deciding whether the Bible is inspired or

Answer. No. He believes in the exercise of
private judgment only in the examination and rejec-
tion of other books than the Bible.

Question. Is he a Catholic?

Answer. I cannot answer blasphemy! Let me
tell you that God will "laugh at your calamity, and
"will mock when your fear cometh." You will be

Question. Why do you curse infidels?

Answer. Because I am a Christian.

Question. Did not Christ say that we ought to
"bless those who curse us," and that we should
"love our enemies"?

Answer. Yes, but he cursed the Pharisees and
called them "hypocrites" and "vipers."

Question. How do you account for that?

Answer. It simply shows the difference between
theory and practice.

Question. What do you consider the best way to
answer infidels.

Answer. The old way is the best. You should
say that their arguments are ancient, and have been
answered over and over again. If this does not
satisfy your hearers, then you should attack the
character of the infidel—then that of his parents—
then that of his children.

Question. Suppose that the infidel is a good man,
how will you answer him then?

Answer. But an infidel cannot be a good man.
Even if he is, it is better that he should lose his
reputation, than that thousands should lose their
souls. We know that all infidels are vile and infa-
mous. We may not have the evidence, but we know
that it exists.

Question. How should infidels be treated? Should
Christians try to convert them?

Answer. Christians should have nothing to do
with infidels. It is not safe even to converse with
them. They are always talking about reason, and
facts, and experience. They are filled with sophistry
and should be avoided.

Question. Should Christians pray for the con-
version of infidels?

Answer. Yes; but such prayers should be made
in public and the name of the infidel should be given
and his vile and hideous heart portrayed so that the
young may be warned.

Question. Whom do you regard as infidels?

Answer. The scientists—the geologists, the as-
tronomers, the naturalists, the philosophers. No one
can overestimate the evil that has been wrought
by Laplace, Humboldt, Darwin, Huxley, Haeckel,
Renan, Emerson, Strauss, Bikhner, Tyndall, and
their wretched followers. These men pretended to
know more than Moses and the prophets. They
were "dogs baying at the moon." They were
"wolves" and "fools." They tried to "assassinate
"God," and worse than all, they actually laughed
at the clergy,

Question. Do you think they did, and are doing
great harm?

Answer. Certainly. Of what use are all the
sciences, if you lose your own soul? People in hell
will care nothing about education. The rich man
said nothing about science, he wanted water.
Neither will they care about books and theories
in heaven. If a man is perfectly happy, it makes
no difference how ignorant he is.

Question. But how can he answer these scientists?

Answer. Well, my advice is to let their argu-
ments alone. Of course, you will deny all their
facts; but the most effective way is to attack their

Question. But suppose they are good men,—
what then?

Answer. The better they are, the worse they are.
We cannot admit that the infidel is really good. He
may appear to be good, and it is our duty to strip
the mask of appearance from the face of unbelief. If
a man is not a Christian, he is totally depraved, and
why should we hesitate to make a misstatement
about a man whom God is going to make miserable

Question. Are we not commanded to love our

Answer. Yes, but not the enemies of God.

Question. Do you fear the final triumph of infi-

Answer. No. We have no fear. We believe
that the Bible can be revised often enough to agree
with anything that may really be necessary to the
preservation of the church. We can always rely
upon revision. Let me tell you that the Bible is the
most peculiar of books.

At the time God inspired his holy prophets to write it, he knew exactly what the
discoveries and demonstrations of the future would
be, and he wrote his Bible in such a way that the
words could always be interpreted in accordance with
the intelligence of each age, and so that the words
used are capable of several meanings, so that, no
matter what may hereafter be discovered, the Bible
will be found to agree with it,—for the reason that
the knowledge of Hebrew will grow in the exact
proportion that discoveries are made in other depart-
ments of knowledge. You will therefore see, that all
efforts of infidelity to destroy the Bible will simply
result in giving a better translation.

Question. What do you consider is the strongest
argument in favor of the inspiration of the Scrip-

Answer. The dying words of Christians.

Question. What do you consider the strongest
argument against the truth of infidelity?

Answer. The dying words of infidels. You know
how terrible were the death-bed scenes of Hume,
Voltaire, Paine and Hobbes, as described by hundreds
of persons who were not present; while all Christians
have died with the utmost serenity, and with their
last words have testified to the sustaining power of
faith in the goodness of God.

Question. What were the last words of Jesus

Answer. "My God, my God, why hast thou for-
"saken me?"