DAY TEN’s material comes from Lectures of Colonel Robert Green Ingersoll, Vol. 2. Robert Ingersoll (1833-1899) was a political leader, orator, and Civil War veteran known as “the Great Agnostic.”
Ingersoll contends that priests invented “blasphemy,” which (in my understanding) he defines as “the belief and statement that God doesn’t exist.” In today’s selection from his Lectures, he repeats the phrase “a God somewhere” with scathing sarcasm: priests can’t identify where this God actually resides, but they can definitely use him as their weapon to shoot down free thought and reason.
He also refers to “the bankrupt court of the Gospel,” which ignores terrible acts of humans against humans in favor of labeling denial of God’s existence as “unforgivable.” Furthermore, he questions how the Infinite could possibly become enraged at the finite simply because the finite says “I don’t know.” It would makes as much sense as Shakespeare getting mad at a bug for not believing in Shakespeare.
Ingersoll maintains that a God who behaves like this is no better than the devil. But Ingersoll isn’t surprised at this God’s behavior, because “the raw materials of gods” are “cheap,” and every nation makes at least one. What’s worse, we humans make these gods after our own pattern; whatever we believe and approve, our God believes and approves. As humanity has become civilized, so has God become civilized. Four thousand years ago, our God was a monster. If he’s any better now, it’s because we’ve made him that way.
Ingersoll also points out that humans invent devils as readily as they invent gods — and the devils tend to be the better friends to humanity. Satan doesn’t shoot down free thought; instead, Satan whispers “liberty and knowledge.” Satan doesn’t cause world-destroying floods.
On the other hand, when Satan goes after God via Job, God doesn’t protect Job or Job’s family from Satan. And anyway, what kind of sociopath thinks that replacing dead children with more attractive ones is any kind of healing for the greatest pain a parent can suffer?
“Did (God) govern this country when it had four million slaves? When it turned the Cross of Christ into a whipping post? When the Holy Bible was an auction block? …When bloodhounds were considered apostles?
“…The majority of Christians I am acquainted with are worse than sinners.”
In Ingersoll’s conclusion, the gods “grow” only as we do.
I’m thinking of theologian Pete Enns, who often quotes one of his own mentors:
“God lets his children tell the story.”–Al Groves,
via Peter Enns,
I was raised in a tradition that considered the Bible infallible: the mindset was that by means of the Holy Spirit, God more-or-less “dictated” God’s words to the Bible authors (Genesis through Revelation, minus any apocrypha; after all, we weren’t Catholic). In this view, the whole of the Bible contains the beginning and end of everything God wants humanity to know about God, life, the universe, everything. In these scriptures, the revelation of God is complete. Nothing should be added, upon pain of eternal death.
As a writer, and seeing the different personalities and styles of the Bible writers shine through (especially in the so-called “New Testament”: Paul’s tone is vastly different from Peter’s; Matthew wrote for a Jewish audience; Luke was a physician with a bent for chronological detail), I gave up the “Holy Spirit dictation” idea a long time ago. Sure, okay, maybe God dictated to each writer exactly the way God wanted each writer to express God. Fine.
But I kept coming back to my own writing aptitude. There are times when I write something — fiction, non-fiction, poetry — and it doesn’t feel like it’s coming from me. Those moments are rare, but when they happen, it’s like someone is telling me word-for-word what to write. All I have to do is scribble it out.
thoughts on what i wrote earlierCourtney Cantrell
it was complete,
every word in the right place
its contours smooth
and perfectly formed in my mind
before i ever brought it to paper.
maybe that means i finally wrote something real.
Or maybe it just means I wrote something inspired.
We all can, if we’re open.
But is inspiration a supernatural thing? Writer and overall glorious human Elizabeth Gilbert calls it “Big Magic” and believes that ideas are living, sentient beings. They come to us, and we can choose to embrace them — or not. We can listen to them through the cacophonies of everyday life — or not. We can let them lead us into something new and strange and beautiful — or not.
What if the writers of the Genesis-to-Revelation scriptures were simply humans particularly adept at listening through the noise? What if they were the kind of people driven to recording the thoughts they had as a result of letting “big magic” into their lives? What if these 30-40 men, over the course of approximately 1500 years, just had a knack for seeing their world as it was and putting those impressions, ideas, and events in writing that was compelling enough to survive history?
What if they were writers, telling the stories as they heard them or lived them, and they were just damn good at their jobs?
Their world was harsh, misogynist, violent, tyrannical, superstitious, polygamist, polytheist, authoritarian, and brutal. (Yes, I am generalizing. Yes, there were exceptions. That’s not the point here.) They saw their world that way because, in part, they were that way. They wrote their world that way because, in part, they were that way.
“God” “lets” “his children” tell the story.
They wrote their God that way because, in part, they were that way.
It doesn’t make them right. It doesn’t make them people for us to emulate. It doesn’t make their God one for us to worship.
It does, however, make them human. Just like us.