| A new series on this blog, Follies of Christianity, highlights the astonishing unreason, human rights abuses, and anti-scientific myopia of religion… (It’s about time!)
This first FOLLY is a satirical letter written in 1877 by one Richard Fox. It is drawn from a book by the late Madalyn Murray O’Hair (founder of American Atheists) entitled Atheist Heroes and Heroines (American Atheist Press, 1991, used by permission). Enjoy!—RS
Questions I Would Like to Ask Should I Ever Meet Up With Jesus Christ
by Richard Fox
To His Excellency the Immanuel J. Christ,
If memory serves you, you probably can bring to mind that something over half a century ago I was in the habit of addressing you quite often, and from one year’s end to another. Yes, to put it on a commercial basis, I was a regular paying and praying customer. But, coming to the final conclusion that my appeals were not heard, or that they availed me nothing, I then discontinued my appeals and my church dues, thus saving effort and money, and losing nothing, in so far as I have been able to learn. After a silence of more than fifty-five years it is hoped this interrogation, if it ever takes place, may meet with more success, but if not then I shall not be greatly surprised.
I am not accustomed to dealing with the supernatural, and I hope you will make allowances. I may sound a little crude. But, if you really are the source of light, as claimed, may I hope to be successful in getting answers to my questions? Questions that have bothered the world, and myself, ever since you were reported to have appeared, more than 1,900 years ago.
In nearly all the lives and biographies that have been written of you, a great lack exists of a description of the days of your infancy, childhood, and youth. How is it that the “Evangelists,” who are said to have been divinely delegated to write your life and teachings, should have been so silent in regard to these interesting portions of your existence? Was this information purposely suppressed?
There is a great uncertainty in the minds of many people relative to the origin of your existence; the account we have seems to rest largely upon a dream which is said you stepfather dreamed. May I ask you—is that reliable? Is a dream sufficiently reliable and safe that the salvation of the whole world should depend on faith in such a thing?
Were you begotten by the Creator of the Universe? Were you begotten by the same process as all other being have been, who have lived in the world, or was it out of the ordinary course of nature? Did love have anything to do with the transaction? If so, was it an example of “free love”? Did the occurrence cause any scandal in the neighborhood, and was it generally understood that you stepfather had dreamed out the true theory?
Your friends, the clergy, assert that you existed as an individual from all eternity, and that your begetting and birth, some nineteen hundred years ago, was merely a formality for the purpose of endowing you with the quality of mortality. Is that true?
How come you quit the carpentry business? Was it not a good trade at the time? Did you like preaching and performing miracles better? Have you ever wondered whether your first miracle—changing water into wine at the wedding of Cana—was well advised, especially as the guests were already drunk? Upon mature reflection, do you still think you were right and reasonable when you got angry at the fig tree and cursed it because it did not bear figs at an untimely season of the year? Do you still think it kind and god-like to damn people to endless punishment because they do not believe that which they cannot believe?
Is there not a silent, secret understanding—a partnership in fact—between the Devil and your Father and yourself? Does not the Devil carry out the wishes of your Father and yourself in the punishment and tormenting of his helpless victims? Could he be more faithful in your service if he occupied the same throne with you? If men act badly, or fail to meet the wishes of your Father or yourself, does not Christian theology teach the Devil torments them for it? Would your grand scheme of salvation be worth anything without the threat of the Devil? Is not the Devil in the divine program a personage equally important as your Father or yourself? Could Christianity get along without a Devil? Would the system of theology which we have in this country, and which is attributed to you, be worth a grain of salt without a Devil in it? Could your many thousands of clergymen in this country, or the hundreds of thousands in Christendom, manage for long without a Devil? Would their business pay running expenses without a Devil to warm it up?
Really, after all, considering how much the Devil has done carrying out the divine plan concocted by your Father and yourself, considering how much he has done for the human race by introducing education, science, inventions, innovations, and Freethought into the world—while your church has been doing all it could to keep them out, and to keep the poor ignorant people paying dues—is he not a pretty decent fellow? Is he really as cruel and relentless as the clergy represents him to be? Is it your Father or the Devil that is the most revengeful and unforgiving?
Infidel that I am, I could not be happy under such circumstances, and were I to believe it possible that ninety-nine hundredths of the human race are doomed to forever suffer tortures without cessation or alleviation, I should heartily curse the existence of the author of it. What possible good can it do your Father, yourself, or any being to punish eternally quintillions of poor helpless fallible men and women? Is there no possibility of ending this most wretched and damnable Holy Business?
If you had to be betrayed before you could be tried and crucified, was not the betrayal most essential to the promotion of your Christian religion? If this is true, is it not wrong to despise Judas and hold him in detestations for the important work he was scheduled to perform? Should not he be canonized by your church, as a saint of the first water? Otherwise, how could a single being ever have found salvation under your system had there been no Judas Iscariot?
How is it that the four evangelists differ so widely in reference to your ascension—Matthew representing that you ascended from a mountain in Galilee; Mark stating that the ascension took place in a room where the eleven were at feast; Luke having it that you led your disciples out to Bethany and there ascended; while John says nothing about your going up at all? How come John was not so impressed? How could such an important event in your career be so differently stated by the four? If either was right, were not the others wrong? Should not persons divinely inspired to write accounts of such an extraordinary event be able to agree better in their versions? Would such kind of testimony have any value in a court of law?
Has any of the great similarities between many characters in the heathen god mythologies and your own ever attracted your attention?
Are you not aware that the main fact, or what are claimed as facts, in your history appear to have been copied from similar legends pertaining to pre-existing individuals?
Were not Buddha, Krishna, Sakia, Zulis, Bacchus, Hercules—or Alcides, as he is also known—along with Hesus and others who lived hundreds of years before, said to have been born of virgins and to have a God for a father? [This list is derived from the book The World’s Sixteen Crucified Saviors by Kersey Graves, published in 1875.—R.S.]
Should the world hold these personages in holy reverence because it is said of them that they were begotten by Gods and without their mothers losing their virginity?
Have we not as much proof of this remarkable conception in each of these cases, as in your own, when yours only rests on a dream?
Can the mere assertion, in either case, be sufficient to demand the belief of any sensible person?
Was it not said about many of them that they had disciples to whom they taught excellent morals, and before whom they also performed wonderful miracles?
As the stories about them are much older than yours, would it be fair to suppose theirs were copied from yours?
Were not Krishna, Sakia, Tammuz, Wittoba, Iao, Hesus, Quexalcote, Quirinus, Prometheus, Thulis, Indra, Alcestos, Atys, Crite, Bali, Mithra, and still others—all of whom lived centuries before your time—claimed to have been crucified as expiations for the sins of the world?Is not the proof that these personages lived and died in the manner represented, equally reliable and probable as in your case?
Are not the striking similarities between the various mythologies the world has known, enough to cause any thinking person to believe each system was borrowed from some similar system?
As Christianity is the youngest mythology of the lot, does it not seem probable that it is wholly a plagiarism?
When you uttered your best and grandest sentiments and morals, did you know that the same had been uttered by many, hundreds of years earlier?
Do you know that what is called the “Golden Rule” was written much earlier and taught by Confucius, Socrates, Sextus, Hillel, Isocrates and others, who lived before you?
Did you give any of these old Pagans credit for any of the sentiments borrowed from them? What about Apollonius of Tyana, who as born before you, and did not die until after you—that he performed wonderful miracles, among which was raising the dead? Are you not aware that there is great uncertainty relative to the account of your career on earth?
Do you not know that there is no proof of what are called the “four gospels” being in existence before the latter part of the second century; that none of the “early fathers” ever mentioned them before Eusebius, who died in the first part of the fourth century? Are you aware that the Church did not decide the “four gospels” to be canonical until the fourth century, and that the other books of the New Testament were not taken into the Bible until the sixth century, and that the councils of contentious and fighting bishops and priests who assembled together to decide which and what should be the word of God indulged in a great amount of quarreling upon the subject, and that in one contest over the matter one bishop was kicked to death?
Is it not strange, with these facts before us, that incredulous people honestly doubt the reliability and divinity of the book called the Bible? If it was part of the word of God, why then was it 600 years before the New Testament was added to the Bible, and then only by Priest and Bishop?
In fact, is it not time the world discarded all mythologies, man made gods, mental crudities, absurdities, monstrosities, falsities, senseless creeds, witchcraft, superstitions and impositions?
Are not Truth, Science, Reason, Fraternal Love, and Human Brotherhood vastly superior to all these?
Have not many of the propagandists of your religion been mostly blood tyrants? Was not Constantine, who murdered many of this number? Did you approve of that infernal institution called the “Holy Inquisition” which for five hundred years cursed the most populous portions of Europe?
Would not natural truths, science, positive knowledge, and general education have been of far more benefit to the world than your blood, or the relics of ancient paganism which you handed down, or which have been forced upon the world in your name?
Here is the question I have been wanting to ask you for many years: As God, or as man, are you or were you ever acquainted with what is called the sciences? Do you understand astronomy, chemistry, geology, biology, physiology, psychology, mathematics, geometry, natural philosophy, and natural history in all branches?
Are these not all valuable and very beneficial to the human race and do they not help greatly in elevating man about the plane of barbarism, sensuality, and ignorance?
If you had known these, and had taught them to the world, would it not have been immensely better than to give your blood or to retail the mysticisms, parables, fables, beatitudes, and impractical injunctions which you presented to the world?
Is it not better and wiser now to follow in the light of science, reason, and truth than to adhere longer to any of the pagan mythologies, superstitions, and absurdities of the past?
Has not man advanced as far as he has by his own efforts, and is it ot vastly better for him to depend upon his own powers, and to exercise them, rather than to look to gods, demigods, popes, bishops, priests, or preachers?
Have not these held the world back in ignorance, darkness, and slavery for thousands of years? Have you been mindful of the villainous popes who have, from time to time, filled the papal chair, and who claimed to be your viceregents and special favorites?
Did you approve the conduct of Gregory the Great in the sixth century, who was an aspiring, unscrupulous despot, notorious for his cruelty and crimes, and who sanctioned one of the most bloody assassinations ever perpetrated?
Was John XII in the tenth century a favorite of yours, who was an unscrupulous libertine, gambler, debauchee, and murderer, and who turned the Vatican into a brothel?
How did you like John XXIII in the fifteenth century, who was proved to have been guilty of seventy different kinds of crime, too filthy to mention?Do you remember the delectable Alexander VI also in the fifteenth century, whose record reeked in dripping blood and the most abominable crimes ever recorded in the archives of the human race?
Can you approve of the conduct of many of your modern clergymen who have claimed to be bright lights in your galaxy of stars? Does not the worship of gold, the greed for riches, power of fashion, of respectability, of selfishness, control their actions and inspire their lives far more than the meek and lowly doctrines you enumerated? In a few words, is not Christianity, as known and practiced in the world, a cheat, a fraud, a costly and an expensive luxury which mankind could well spare, and do without, losing nothing by its rejection?
Finally, as you now view the field, the past, the present, and the future, would it not, in your opinion, be much better to wipe from the face of the earth all priestcraft, superstition, sectarianism, falsehood, all absurdities and monstrosities which have so preyed upon mankind, and to inaugurate an era of truth, reason, common sense, science, education, simplicity, fraternity, and humanity; disregarding false gods, base devils, useless saviors, and degrading creeds, and to devote our time and attention to the improvement of the world and the happiness of the human race?
[Signed: Richard Fox]