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Friday, November 23, 2007

Peikoff and Ingersoll: Religion vs. Happiness


I ran across a reference to Robert G. Ingersoll in a biography of Edison (who was greatly influenced by him). Ingersoll was part of the "Freethought" movement of the 19th century and an outspoken opponent of religion. The above links to a brilliant piece titled "About the Holy Bible" written in 1894 which not only provides a thorough expose of biblical contradiction but more importantly recognizes the fundamental conflict between religion and liberty or more specifically between religion and man's happiness on earth. Here are two brief excerpts:

There are many millions of people who believe the Bible to be the inspired word of God -- millions who think that this book is staff and guide, counselor and consoler; that it fills the present with peace and the future with hope -- millions who believe that it is the fountain of law, Justice and mercy, and that to its wise and benign teachings the world is indebted for its liberty, wealth and civilization -- millions who imagine that this book is a revelation from the wisdom and love of God to the brain and heart of man -- millions who regard this book as a torch that conquers the darkness of death, and pours its radiance on another world -- a world without a tear.

They forget its ignorance and savagery, its hatred of liberty, its religious persecution; they remember heaven, but they forget the dungeon of eternal pain. They forget that it imprisons the brain and corrupts the heart. They forget that it is the enemy of intellectual freedom. Liberty is my religion. Liberty of hand and brain -- of thought and labor, liberty is a word hated by kings -- loathed by popes. It is a word that shatters thrones and altars -- that leaves the crowned without subjects, and the outstretched hand of superstition without alms. Liberty is the blossom and fruit of justice -- the perfume of mercy. Liberty is the seed and soil, the air and light, the dew and rain of progress, love and joy.

Here is another excerpt:

For thousands of years men have been writing the real Bible, and it is being written from day to day, and it will never be finished while man has life. All the facts that we know, all the truly recorded events, all the discoveries and inventions, all the wonderful machines whose wheels and levers seem to think, all the poems, crystals from the brain, flowers from the heart, all the songs of love and joy, of smiles and tears, the great dramas of Imagination's world, the wondrous paintings, miracles of form and color, of light and shade, the marvelous marbles that seem to live and breathe, the secrets told by rock and star, by dust and flower, by rain and snow, by frost and flame, by winding stream and desert sand, by mountain range and billowed sea.

All the wisdom that lengthens and ennobles life, all that avoids or cures disease, or conquers pain -- all just and perfect laws and rules that guide and shape our lives, all thoughts that feed the flames of love the music that transfigures, enraptures
and enthralls the victories of heart and brain, the miracles that hands have wrought, the deft and cunning hands of those who worked for wife and child, the histories of noble deeds, of brave and useful men, of faithful loving wives, ofquenchless mother-love, of conflicts for the right, of sufferings for the truth, of all the best that all the men and women of the world have said, and thought and done through all the years.

These treasures of the heart and brain -- these are the Sacred Scriptures of the human race.

I also enjoyed the following answer to a questioner by Dr. Leonard Peikoff on his website linked below.


Q: I am concerned about the “global warming” movement, and think that it might be a worse threat than Islamic Fundamentalism. Do you agree?

A: The global-warming movement is one offshoot of today’s mysticism and statism. As many have observed, it represents in essence the onetime pro-industrial Reds changing—with the same purpose, but to be achieved this time by different means—into the anti-industrial Greens. The global-warming call to statism will have harmful effects but, I think, the movement is going to be short-lived; too many people remember how recently we were terrorized by the prospect of an imminent, man-caused ice age, and before that by the doom of over-population, DDT, etc.

The danger to the West is not this kaleidoscope of absurd concrete-bound threats, but the philosophy which makes their common denominator stick. This is the very philosophy (unreason and self-sacrifice) which is the essence of religion.

If and when people do become frightened by all these projections of the Apocalypse, it will not advance the secular or quasi-religious doomsayers, but merely push people more strongly into the arms of their basic teachers, who have taught them their intellectual and moral framework and who promise safety from everything, in the hands of God.

The Greens offer no solution to the disasters they predict but sacrifice for worms and forests, a big and permanent cut in man’s standard of living, and a big increase in government. This is not exactly a platform which will attract a mass base; its adherents will mainly be corrupted intellectuals, with not much national influence. The religionists, by contrast, offer as the solution to all problems a firm code of values, moral principles supposedly provided by God and proved through the ages—and claim to promote the dignity of man and his eternal joy. Which of these contenders do you think people will follow?

To compare ecology and religion in terms of the threat to our future is to fail to understand the power of abstract ideas. No political movement, however popular at the moment, can compete in the long run with a basic philosophy.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ingersol raises some good questions regarding why Jehovah would tell the Israelites to destroy everyone in the land including women and children. We are faced with one of two conclusions, first either Jehovah was cruel to those people as Ingersol suggests, or the people were in some way deserving of death. Notice these comments from the Watchtower magazine of 1968 which addresses the latter point (Ingersol made his comments in the late 1800s and some of the archealogical evidence is from the 1900s so he may not have been aware of how the Canaanites worshiped their gods):

'But were the Canaanites really that wicked to merit extermination? Did the women and children also have to be wiped out? Was it in harmony with God’s justice and love to subject those people to such complete destruction?...After commanding the Israelites to avoid incest, fornication and other such practices, God commanded: “You must not allow the devoting of any of your offspring to Molech. . . . And you must not lie down with a male the same as you lie down with a woman. It is a detestable thing. And you must not give your emission to any beast to become unclean by it, and a woman should not stand before a beast to have connection with it. It is a violation of what is natural. For all these detestable things the men of the land who were before you have done, so that the land is unclean.” (Lev. 18:2-23, 27) Yes, child sacrifice, incest, sodomy and bestiality were the way of life of the Canaanites! ...—Deut. 18:9-12.

The Canaanite religion was extraordinarily base and degraded, their “sacred poles” evidently being sex emblems and many of the rites of their “high places” involving gross sexual excesses and depravity....From secular sources, particularly the ancient documents discovered in 1929 at Ras Shamra (ancient Ugarit) on the Syrian coast, much has been learned about the gross immorality of Canaanite worship. Baal is presented as the most prominent of the gods, and Astarte or “Ashtoreth” as a prominent goddess, even as the Bible record shows to have been the case.—Judg. 2:12, 13; 6:25-32; 10:6; 1 Sam. 7:3, 4.

A god of fertility, Baal is described as going through recurrent cycles of dying and reviving, corresponding with the seasonal cycles of growth and decay or dormancy of the vegetation on earth. Thus, Baal’s coming to life again to be enthroned and mated with his wife, considered to be Ashtoreth, was celebrated with licentious fertility rites at the autumnal new year. Worshipers gave themselves up to drunkenness and sexual orgies of unrestrained debauchery, believing that their sexual intercourse helped to bring about the full awakening and mating of Baal with his wife.

Although Ashtoreth was represented principally as a fertility goddess, she also symbolized the qualities of violence and war. Thus Professor John B. Noss in his book Man’s Religions, notes of her: “She sometimes took sword in hand, sprang naked upon a horse, and rode forth to bloody slaughter.” Among the Philistine inhabitants of Canaan, Ashtoreth was apparently a goddess of war, since the armor of defeated King Saul was placed in the temple of the Ashtoreth images.—1 Sam. 31:10.

Archaeological finds have pointed to the gross immorality associated with the worship of Ashtoreth. Halley’s Bible Handbook, 1964 printing, page 161, says of such finds: “Also, in this ‘High Place,’ under the rubbish, Macalister found enormous quantities of images and plaques of Ashtoreth with rudely exaggerated sex organs, designed to foster sensual feelings.

“So, Canaanites worshipped, by immoral indulgence, as a religious rite, in the presence of their gods; and then, by murdering their first-born children, as a sacrifice to these same gods.”
...Unger’s Bible Dictionary, page 912, observes: “Canaanite religion with its orgiastic nature worship, the cult of fertility in the form of serpent symbols, sensuous nudity and gross mythology are revealed in their stark reality in these texts [discovered at Ras Shamra]. No longer can critics accuse the God of Israel of injustice in ordering the extermination of these debilitating cults.”'

As indicated from the above text, archeaology has shown that the Canaanites were cruel people who thought it was normal to sacrifice their children to their gods. If there was a cult today that believed in sacrificing children as part of their worship would you call the governments cruel if they put a stop to it?