Tsunami begs us to make sense of the senseless

2004-12-31 / Knight Ridder / By Tom Schaefer

The death toll from Asia's devastating tsunami could surpass 100,000.

One hundred thousand men, women and children. One survivor, describing the scene, said, "Hell was unleashed."

How are we to make sense of the senseless?

The answer is, we can't.

The problem of evil in this world has never been fully understood and cannot be completely explained.

Watching the unbelievable devastation of Sri Lanka, Indonesia, India and other parts of Asia only heightens the anxiety about the role of the divine in the midst of destruction.

How can God allow the innocent to suffer and die so horrendously?

When the Reverand Billy Graham spoke at the National Cathedral following the September 11, 2001, attacks, he recounted how he is often asked why God permits evil in the world. He paused and said that he has never been able to find a fully satisfactory answer.

Not even America's pastor, as he's been called, could explain the tragedies that afflict this planet.

The question of God's power - or seeming lack thereof - has plagued humanity since biblical times.

In the Hebrew Scriptures, suffering is described as a punishment for sin, a cleansing or testing of a person.

The Book of Job tells the story of a righteous man who is afflicted with physical and emotional pain and suffering and demands to know why he must endure such injustice.

The only answer he gets in the end is a voice from the heavens that asserts: Who made the heavens and the earth? Certainly not you. Who are you to question me?

Evidence for atheists

In the play "J.B." by Archibald MacLeish, the main character addresses this paradox of the ages: "If God is God, He is not good; if God is good, He is not God."

The logic seems irrefutable. As one theologian put it, evil and suffering are "evidence for the atheist."

Christian theology has tackled this question - often referred to as theodicy or the justice of God in the face of evil - in various ways.

Some have tried to assert that everything that happens is determined by God. Humans act in a way that is commensurate with the will of God.

Others assert that humans have free will that somehow is wrapped up in a larger scheme that God ordains.

But do any of these attempts completely satisfy?

Perhaps our idea of God, who is usually described as all-loving, all-knowing and all-powerful, needs to be reshaped.

Rabbi Harold Kushner, in his best seller "When Bad Things Happen to Good People," contends that God should be understood as all-knowing and all-loving, but not as all-powerful. For Kushner, it's the only way to make sense of the senseless in life.

All of these points of view, however, inevitably break down. They subdivide and become more complex than a DNA double helix.

The fact is, no religion has a simple answer to the vexing question of evil and suffering.

Judaism dismisses the idea of theodicy and focuses on the righteous who suffer. Islam contends that believers must submit to whatever the will of God is. Christianity asserts that suffering is redemptive through Jesus.

But no matter how we try to understand suffering - our own or others - we will never be completely at ease when we face tragedy ourselves or when we see it on a monumental scale.

To look at the death of more than 100,000 people - or at a loved one who dies tragically - always forces us to confront evil head-on.

Here's what we're left with:

Without faith, the question of suffering and death is unanswered. With faith, we reassert every day our belief in the One who sees the universe from a perspective far greater than our own.

We trust in the ultimate goodness of our God even when unbelief seems so much easier to embrace.

We cling to faith even as we comfort those enveloped by the evil of this world.

Charles Spurgeon, a 19th-century preacher, gives us as much an anchor of hope to hold on to as anyone can:

When we cannot trace God's hand, he said, we must simply trust his heart.

Tom Schaefer writes about religion and ethics for the Eagle.

Letters From The Earth

by Mark Twain (1909)

The Creator sat upon the throne, thinking.
Behind him stretched the illimitable continent of heaven, steeped in a glory of
light and color; before him rose the black night of Space, like a wall. His
mighty bulk towered rugged and mountain-like into the zenith, and His
divine head blazed there like a distant sun. At His feet stood three colossal
figures, diminished to extinction, almost, by contrast -- archangels -- their
heads level with His ankle-bone.

When the Creator had finished thinking, He said, "I have thought. Behold!"

He lifted His hand, and from it burst a fountain-spray of fire, a
million stupendous suns, which clove the blackness and soared, away and away and
away, diminishing in magnitude and intensity as they pierced the far frontiers
of Space, until at last they were but as diamond nailheads sparkling under the
domed vast roof of the universe.

At the end of an hour the Grand Council was dismissed.

They left the Presence impressed and thoughtful, and retired to a private
place, where they might talk with freedom. None of the three seemed to want to
begin, though all wanted somebody to do it. Each was burning to discuss the
great event, but would prefer not to commit himself till he should know how the
others regarded it. So there was some aimless and halting conversation about
matters of no consequence, and this dragged tediously along, arriving nowhere,
until at last the archangel Satan gathered his courage together -- of which he
had a very good supply -- and broke ground. He said: "We know what we are here
to talk about, my lords, and we may as well put pretense aside, and begin. If
this is the opinion of the Council -- "

"It is, it is!" said Gabriel and Michael, gratefully interrupting.

"Very well, then, let us proceed. We have witnessed a wonderful thing; as to
that, we are necessarily agreed. As to the value of it -- if it has any -- that
is a matter which does not personally concern us. We can have as many opinions
about it as we like, and that is our limit. We have no vote. I think Space was
well enough, just as it was, and useful, too. Cold and dark -- a restful place,
now and then, after a season of the overdelicate climate and trying splendors of
heaven. But these are details of no considerable moment; the new feature, the
immense feature, is -- what, gentlemen?"

"The invention and introduction of automatic, unsupervised,
self-regulating law for the government of those myriads of whirling
and racing suns and worlds!"

"That is it!" said Satan. "You perceive that it is a stupendous idea. Nothing
approaching it has been evolved from the Master Intellect before. Law --
Automatic Law -- exact and unvarying Law -- requiring no watching, no
correcting, no readjusting while the eternities endure! He said those countless
vast bodies would plunge through the wastes of Space ages and ages, at
unimaginable speed, around stupendous orbits, yet never collide, and never
lengthen nor shorten their orbital periods by so much as the hundredth part of a
second in two thousand years! That is the new miracle, and the greatest of all
-- Automatic Law! And He gave it a name -- the LAW OF NATURE -- and said
Natural Law is the LAW OF GOD -- interchangeable names for one and the same

"Yes," said Michael, "and He said He would establish Natural Law -- the Law
of God -- throughout His dominions, and its authority should be supreme and

"Also," said Gabriel, "He said He would by and by create animals, and place
them, likewise, under the authority of that Law."

"Yes," said Satan, "I heard Him, but did not understand. What is
animals, Gabriel?"

"Ah, how should I know? How should any of us know? It is a new word."

[Interval of three centuries, celestial time -- the equivalent of a
hundred million years, earthly time. Enter a Messenger-Angel.

"My lords, He is making animals. Will it please you to come and see?"

They went, they saw, and were perplexed. Deeply perplexed -- and the Creator
noticed it, and said, "Ask. I will answer."

"Divine One," said Satan, making obeisance, "what are they for?"

"They are an experiment in Morals and Conduct. Observe them, and be

There were thousands of them. They were full of activities. Busy, all busy --
mainly in persecuting each other. Satan remarked -- after examining one of them
through a powerful microscope: "This large beast is killing weaker animals,
Divine One."

"The tiger -- yes. The law of his nature is ferocity. The law of his nature
is the Law of God. He cannot disobey it."

"Then in obeying it he commits no offense, Divine One?"

"No, he is blameless."

"This other creature, here, is timid, Divine One, and suffers death without

"The rabbit -- yes. He is without courage. It is the law of his nature -- the
Law of God. He must obey it."

"Then he cannot honorably be required to go counter to his nature and resist,
Divine One?"

"No. No creature can be honorably required to go counter to the law of his
nature -- the Law of God."

After a long time and many questions, Satan said, "The spider kills the fly,
and eats it; the bird kills the spider and eats it; the wildcat kills the goose;
the -- well, they all kill each other. It is murder all along the line. Here are
countless multitudes of creatures, and they all kill, kill, kill, they are all
murderers. And they are not to blame, Divine One?"

"They are not to blame. It is the law of their nature. And always the law of
nature is the Law of God. Now -- observe -- behold! A new creature -- and the
masterpiece -- Man!"

Men, women, children, they came swarming in flocks, in droves, in millions.

"What shall you do with them, Divine One?"

"Put into each individual, in differing shades and degrees, all the various
Moral Qualities, in mass, that have been distributed, a single distinguishing
characteristic at a time, among the nonspeaking animal world -- courage,
cowardice, ferocity, gentleness, fairness, justice, cunning, treachery,
magnanimity, cruelty, malice, malignity, lust, mercy, pity, purity, selfishness,
sweetness, honor, love, hate, baseness, nobility, loyalty, falsity, veracity,
untruthfulness -- each human being shall have all of these in him, and
they will constitute his nature. In some, there will be high and fine
characteristics which will submerge the evil ones, and those will be called good
men; in others the evil characteristics will have dominion, and those will be
called bad men. Observe -- behold -- they vanish!"

"Whither are they gone, Divine One?"

"To the earth -- they and all their fellow animals."

"What is the earth?"

"A small globe I made, a time, two times and a half ago. You saw it, but did
not notice it in the explosion of worlds and suns that sprayed from my hand. Man
is an experiment, the other animals are another experiment. Time will show
whether they were worth the trouble. The exhibition is over; you may take your
leave, my lords."

Several days passed by.

This stands for a long stretch of (our) time, since in heaven a day is as a
thousand years.

Satan had been making admiring remarks about certain of the Creator's
sparkling industries -- remarks which, being read between the lines, were
sarcasms. He had made them confidentially to his safe friends the other
archangels, but they had been overheard by some ordinary angels and reported at

He was ordered into banishment for a day -- the celestial day. It was a
punishment he was used to, on account of his too flexible tongue. Formerly he
had been deported into Space, there being nowhither else to send him, and had
flapped tediously around there in the eternal night and the Arctic chill; but
now it occurred to him to push on and hunt up the earth and see how the
Human-Race experiment was coming along.

By and by he wrote home -- very privately -- to St. Michael and St. Gabriel
about it.

Satan's Letter

This is a strange place, and extraordinary place, and interesting. There is
nothing resembling it at home. The people are all insane, the other animals are
all insane, the earth is insane, Nature itself is insane. Man is a marvelous
curiosity. When he is at his very very best he is a sort of low grade
nickel-plated angel; at is worst he is unspeakable, unimaginable; and first
and last and all the time he is a sarcasm. Yet he blandly and in all sincerity
calls himself the "noblest work of God." This is the truth I am telling you. And
this is not a new idea with him, he has talked it through all the ages, and
believed it. Believed it, and found nobody among all his race to laugh at it.

Moreover -- if I may put another strain upon you -- he thinks he is the
Creator's pet. He believes the Creator is proud of him; he even believes the
Creator loves him; has a passion for him; sits up nights to admire him; yes, and
watch over him and keep him out of trouble. He prays to Him, and thinks He
listens. Isn't it a quaint idea? Fills his prayers with crude and bald and
florid flatteries of Him, and thinks He sits and purrs over these extravagancies
and enjoys them. He prays for help, and favor, and protection, every day; and
does it with hopefulness and confidence, too, although no prayer of his has ever
been answered. The daily affront, the daily defeat, do not discourage him, he
goes on praying just the same. There is something almost fine about this
perseverance. I must put one more strain upon you: he thinks he is going to

He has salaried teachers who tell him that. They also tell him there is a
hell, of everlasting fire, and that he will go to it if he doesn't keep the
Commandments. What are Commandments? They are a curiosity. I will tell you about
them by and by.

Letter II

"I have told you nothing about man that is not true." You must pardon me if I
repeat that remark now and then in these letters; I want you to take seriously
the things I am telling you, and I feel that if I were in your place and you in
mine, I should need that reminder from time to time, to keep my credulity from

For there is nothing about man that is not strange to an immortal. He looks
at nothing as we look at it, his sense of proportion is quite different from
ours, and his sense of values is so widely divergent from ours, that with all
our large intellectual powers it is not likely that even the most gifted among
us would ever be quite able to understand it.

For instance, take this sample: he has imagined a heaven, and has left
entirely out of it the supremest of all his delights, the one ecstasy that
stands first and foremost in the heart of every individual of his race -- and of
ours -- sexual intercourse!

It is as if a lost and perishing person in a roasting desert should be told
by a rescuer he might choose and have all longed-for things but one, and he
should elect to leave out water!

His heaven is like himself: strange, interesting, astonishing, grotesque. I
give you my word, it has not a single feature in it that he actually
It consists -- utterly and entirely -- of diversions which he cares
next to nothing about, here in the earth, yet is quite sure he will like them in
heaven. Isn't it curious? Isn't it interesting? You must not think I am
exaggerating, for it is not so. I will give you details.

Most men do not sing, most men cannot sing, most men will not stay when
others are singing if it be continued more than two hours. Note that.

Only about two men in a hundred can play upon a musical instrument, and not
four in a hundred have any wish to learn how. Set that down.

Many men pray, not many of them like to do it. A few pray long, the others
make a short cut.

More men go to church than want to.

To forty-nine men in fifty the Sabbath Day is a dreary, dreary bore.

Of all the men in a church on a Sunday, two-thirds are tired when the
service is half over, and the rest before it is finished.

The gladdest moment for all of them is when the preacher uplifts his hands
for the benediction. You can hear the soft rustle of relief that sweeps the
house, and you recognize that it is eloquent with gratitude.

All nations look down upon all other nations.

All nations dislike all other nations.

All white nations despise all colored nations, of whatever hue, and oppress
them when they can.

White men will not associate with "niggers," nor marry them.

They will not allow them in their schools and churches.

All the world hates the Jew, and will not endure him except when he is rich.

I ask you to note all those particulars.

Further. All sane people detest noise.

All people, sane or insane, like to have variety in their life. Monotony
quickly wearies them.

Every man, according to the mental equipment that has fallen to his share,
exercises his intellect constantly, ceaselessly, and this exercise makes up a
vast and valued and essential part of his life. The lowest intellect, like the
highest, possesses a skill of some kind and takes a keen pleasure in testing it,
proving it, perfecting it. The urchin who is his comrade's superior in games is
as diligent and as enthusiastic in his practice as are the sculptor, the
painter, the pianist, the mathematician and the rest. Not one of them could be
happy if his talent were put under an interdict.

Now then, you have the facts. You know what the human race enjoys, and what
it doesn't enjoy. It has invented a heaven out of its own head, all by itself:
guess what it is like! In fifteen hundred eternities you couldn't do it. The
ablest mind known to you or me in fifty million aeons couldn't do it. Very well,
I will tell you about it.

1. First of all, I recall to your attention the extraordinary fact with which
I began. To wit, that the human being, like the immortals, naturally places
sexual intercourse far and away above all other joys -- yet he has left it out
of his heaven! The very thought of it excites him; opportunity sets him wild; in
this state he will risk life, reputation, everything -- even his queer heaven
itself -- to make good that opportunity and ride it to the overwhelming climax.
From youth to middle age all men and all women prize copulation above all other
pleasures combined, yet it is actually as I have said: it is not in their
heaven; prayer takes its place.

They prize it thus highly; yet, like all their so-called "boons," it is
a poor thing. At its very best and longest the act is brief beyond imagination
-- the imagination of an immortal, I mean. In the matter of repetition the man
is limited -- oh, quite beyond immortal conception. We who continue the act and
its supremest ecstasies unbroken and without withdrawal for centuries, will
never be able to understand or adequately pity the awful poverty of these people
in that rich gift which, possessed as we possess it, makes all other possessions
trivial and not worth the trouble of invoicing.

2. In man's heaven everybody sings! The man who did not sing on earth
sings there; the man who could not sing on earth is able to do it there. The
universal singing is not casual, not occasional, not relieved by intervals of
quiet; it goes on, all day long, and every day, during a stretch of twelve
hours. And everybody stays; whereas in the earth the place would be empty
in two hours. The singing is of hymns alone. Nay, it is of one hymn
alone. The words are always the same, in number they are only about a dozen,
there is no rhyme, there is no poetry: "Hosannah, hosannah, hosannah, Lord God
of Sabaoth, 'rah! 'rah! 'rah! siss! -- boom! ... a-a-ah!"

3. Meantime, every person is playing on a harp -- those millions and
millions! -- whereas not more than twenty in the thousand of them could play an
instrument in the earth, or ever wanted to.

Consider the deafening hurricane of sound -- millions and millions of voices
screaming at once and millions and millions of harps gritting their teeth at the
same time! I ask you: is it hideous, is it odious, is it horrible?

Consider further: it is a praise service; a service of compliment, of
flattery, of adulation! Do you ask who it is that is willing to endure this
strange compliment, this insane compliment; and who not only endures it, but
likes it, enjoys it, requires if, commands it? Hold your breath!

It is God! This race's god, I mean. He sits on his throne, attended by his
four and twenty elders and some other dignitaries pertaining to his court, and
looks out over his miles and miles of tempestuous worshipers, and smiles, and
purrs, and nods his satisfaction northward, eastward, southward; as quaint and
nave a spectacle as has yet been imagined in this universe, I take it.

It is easy to see that the inventor of the heavens did not originate the
idea, but copied it from the show-ceremonies of some sorry little sovereign
State up in the back settlements of the Orient somewhere.

All sane white people hate noise; yet they have tranquilly accepted this kind
of heaven -- without thinking, without reflection, without examination -- and
they actually want to go to it! Profoundly devout old gray-headed men put
in a large part of their time dreaming of the happy day when they will lay down
the cares of this life and enter into the joys of that place. Yet you can see
how unreal it is to them, and how little it takes a grip upon them as being
fact, for they make no practical preparation for the great change: you never see
one of them with a harp, you never hear one of them sing.

As you have seen, that singular show is a service of praise: praise by hymn,
praise by prostration. It takes the place of "church." Now then, in the earth
these people cannot stand much church -- an hour and a quarter is the limit, and
they draw the line at once a week. That is to say, Sunday. One day in seven; and
even then they do not look forward to it with longing. And so -- consider what
their heaven provides for them: "church" that lasts forever, and a Sabbath that
has no end! They quickly weary of this brief hebdomadal Sabbath here, yet they
long for that eternal one; they dream of it, they talk about it, they
think they think they are going to enjoy it -- with all their simple
hearts they think they think they are going to be happy in it!

It is because they do not think at all; they only think they think. Whereas
they can't think; not two human beings in ten thousand have anything to think
with. And as to imagination -- oh, well, look at their heaven! They accept it,
they approve it, they admire it. That gives you their intellectual measure.

4. The inventor of their heaven empties into it all the nations of the earth,
in one common jumble. All are on an equality absolute, no one of them ranking
another; they have to be "brothers"; they have to mix together, pray together,
harp together, hosannah together -- whites, niggers, Jews, everybody -- there's
no distinction. Here in the earth all nations hate each other, and every one of
them hates the Jew. Yet every pious person adores that heaven and wants to get
into it. He really does. And when he is in a holy rapture he thinks he thinks
that if he were only there he would take all the populace to his heart, and hug,
and hug, and hug!

He is a marvel -- man is! I would I knew who invented him.

5. Every man in the earth possesses some share of intellect, large or small;
and be it large or be it small he takes pride in it. Also his heart swells at
mention of the names of the majestic intellectual chiefs of his race, and he
loves the tale of their splendid achievements. For he is of their blood, and in
honoring themselves they have honored him. Lo, what the mind of man can do! he
cries, and calls the roll of the illustrious of all ages; and points to the
imperishable literatures they have given to the world, and the mechanical
wonders they have invented, and the glories wherewith they have clothed science
and the arts; and to them he uncovers as to kings, and gives to them the
profoundest homage, and the sincerest, his exultant heart can furnish -- thus
exalting intellect above all things else in the world, and enthroning it there
under the arching skies in a supremacy unapproachable. And then he contrived a
heaven that hasn't a rag of intellectuality in it anywhere!

Is it odd, is it curious, is it puzzling? It is exactly as I have said,
incredible as it may sound. This sincere adorer of intellect and prodigal
rewarder of its mighty services here in the earth has invented a religion and a
heaven which pay no compliments to intellect, offer it no distinctions, fling it
no largess: in fact, never even mention it.

By this time you will have noticed that the human being's heaven has been
thought out and constructed upon an absolute definite plan; and that this plan
is, that it shall contain, in labored detail, each and every imaginable thing
that is repulsive to a man, and not a single thing he likes!

Very well, the further we proceed the more will this curious fact be

Make a note of it: in man's heaven there are no exercises for the intellect,
nothing for it to live upon. It would rot there in a year -- rot and stink. Rot
and stink -- and at that stage become holy. A blessed thing: for only the holy
can stand the joys of that bedlam.

Letter III

You have noticed that the human being is a curiosity. In times past he has
had (and worn out and flung away) hundreds and hundreds of religions; today he
has hundreds and hundreds of religions, and launches not fewer than three new
ones every year. I could enlarge that number and still be within the facts.

One of his principle religions is called the Christian. A sketch of it will
interest you. It sets forth in detail in a book containing two million words,
called the Old and New Testaments. Also it has another name -- The Word of God.
For the Christian thinks every word of it was dictated by God -- the one I have
been speaking of.

It is full of interest. It has noble poetry in it; and some clever fables;
and some blood-drenched history; and some good morals; and a wealth of
obscenity; and upwards of a thousand lies.

This Bible is built mainly out of the fragments of older Bibles that had
their day and crumbled to ruin. So it noticeably lacks in originality,
necessarily. Its three or four most imposing and impressive events all happened
in earlier Bibles; all its best precepts and rules of conduct came also from
those Bibles; there are only two new things in it: hell, for one, and that
singular heaven I have told you about.

What shall we do? If we believe, with these people, that their God invented
these cruel things, we slander him; if we believe that these people invented
them themselves, we slander them. It is an unpleasant dilemma in either case,
for neither of these parties has done us any harm.

For the sake of tranquility, let us take a side. Let us join forces with the
people and put the whole ungracious burden upon him -- heaven, hell,
Bible and all. It does not seem right, it does not seem fair; and yet when you
consider that heaven, and how crushingly charged it is with everything that is
repulsive to a human being, how can we believe a human being invented it? And
when I come to tell you about hell, the stain will be greater still, and you
will be likely to say, No, a man would not provide that place, for either
himself or anybody else; he simply couldn't.

That innocent Bible tells about the Creation. Of what -- the universe? Yes,
the universe. In six days!

God did it. He did not call it the universe -- that name is modern. His whole
attention was upon this world. He constructed it in five days -- and then? It
took him only one day to make twenty million suns and eighty million planets!

What were they for -- according to this idea? To furnish light for this
little toy-world. That was his whole purpose; he had no other. One of the
twenty million suns (the smallest one) was to light it in the daytime, the rest
were to help one of the universe's countless moons modify the darkness of its

It is quite manifest that he believed his
fresh-made skies were diamond-sown with those myriads of twinkling
stars the moment his first-day's sun sank below the horizon; whereas, in
fact, not a single star winked in that black vault until three years and a half
after that memorable week's formidable industries had been completed.[href="#NOTELIGHT">**] then
one star appeared, all solitary and alone, and began to blink. Three years later
another one appeared. The two blinked together for more than four years before a
third joined them. At the end of the first hundred years there were not yet
twenty-five stars twinkling in the wide wastes of those gloomy skies. At
the end of a thousand years not enough stars were yet visible to make a show. At
the end of a million years only half of the present array had sent their light
over the telescopic frontiers, and it took another million for the rest to
follow suit, as the vulgar phrase goes. There being at that time no telescope,
their advent was not observed.

For three hundred years, now, the Christian astronomer has known that his
Deity didn't make the stars in those tremendous six days; but the Christian
astronomer does not enlarge upon that detail. Neither does the priest.

In his Book, God is eloquent in his praises of his mighty works, and calls
them by the largest names he can find -- thus indicating that he has a strong
and just admiration of magnitudes; yet he made those millions of prodigious suns
to light this wee little orb, instead of appointing this orb's little sun to
dance attendance upon them. He mentions Arcturus in his book -- you remember
Arcturus; we went there once. It is one of the earth's night lamps! -- that
giant globe which is fifty thousand times as large as the earth's sun, and
compares with it as a melon compares with a cathedral.

However, the Sunday school still teaches the child that Arcturus was created
to help light this earth, and the child grows up and continues to believe it
long after he has found out that the probabilities are against it being so.

According to the Book and its servants the universe is only six thousand
years old. It is only within the last hundred years that studious, inquiring
minds have found out that it is nearer a hundred million.

During the Six Days, God created man and the other animals.

He made a man and a woman and placed them in a pleasant garden, along with
the other creatures. they all lived together there in harmony and contentment
and blooming youth for some time; then trouble came. God had warned the man and
the woman that they must not eat of the fruit of a certain tree. And he added a
most strange remark: he said that if they ate of it they should surely die.
Strange, for the reason that inasmuch as they had never seen a sample death they
could not possibly know what he meant. Neither would he nor any other god have
been able to make those ignorant children understand what was meant, without
furnishing a sample. The mere word could have no meaning for them, any more than
it would have for an infant of days.

Presently a serpent sought them out privately, and came to them walking
upright, which was the way of serpents in those days. The serpent said the
forbidden fruit would store their vacant minds with knowledge. So they ate it,
which was quite natural, for man is so made that he eagerly wants to know;
whereas the priest, like God, whose imitator and representative he is, has made
it his business from the beginning to keep him from knowing any useful thing.

Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, and at once a great light streamed into
their dim heads. They had acquired knowledge. What knowledge -- useful
knowledge? No -- merely knowledge that there was such a thing as good, and such
a thing as evil, and how to do evil. they couldn't do it before. Therefore all
their acts up to this time had been without stain, without blame, without

But now they could do evil -- and suffer for it; now they had acquired what
the Church calls an invaluable possession, the Moral Sense; that sense which
differentiates man from the beast and sets him above the beast. Instead of below
the beast -- where one would suppose his proper place would be, since he is
always foul-minded and guilty and the beast always clean-minded and
innocent. It is like valuing a watch that must go wrong, above a watch that

The Church still prizes the Moral Sense as man's noblest asset today,
although the Church knows God had a distinctly poor opinion of it and did what
he could in his clumsy way to keep his happy Children of the Garden from
acquiring it.

Very well, Adam and Eve now knew what evil was, and how to do it. They knew
how to do various kinds of wrong things, and among them one principal one -- the
one God had his mind on principally. That one was the art and mystery of sexual
intercourse. To them it was a magnificent discovery, and they stopped idling
around and turned their entire attention to it, poor exultant young things!

In the midst of one of these celebrations they heard God walking among the
bushes, which was an afternoon custom of his, and they were smitten with fright.
Why? Because they were naked. They had not known it before. They had not minded
it before; neither had God.

In that memorable moment immodesty was born; and some people have valued it
ever since, though it would certainly puzzle them to explain why.

Adam and Eve entered the world naked and unashamed -- naked and
pure-minded; and no descendant of theirs has ever entered it otherwise. All
have entered it naked, unashamed, and clean in mind. They have entered it
modest. They had to acquire immodesty and the soiled mind; there was no other
way to get it. A Christian mother's first duty is to soil her child's mind, and
she does not neglect it. Her lad grows up to be a missionary, and goes to the
innocent savage and to the civilized Japanese, and soils their minds. Whereupon
they adopt immodesty, they conceal their bodies, they stop bathing naked

The convention miscalled modesty has no standard, and cannot have one,
because it is opposed to nature and reason, and is therefore an artificiality
and subject to anybody's whim, anybody's diseased caprice. And so, in India the
refined lady covers her face and breasts and leaves her legs naked from the hips
down, while the refined European lady covers her legs and exposes her face and
her breasts. In lands inhabited by the innocent savage the refined European lady
soon gets used to full-grown native stark-nakedness, and ceases to be
offended by it. A highly cultivated French count and countess -- unrelated to
each other -- who were marooned in their nightclothes, by shipwreck, upon an
uninhabited island in the eighteenth century, were soon naked. Also ashamed --
for a week. After that their nakedness did not trouble them, and they soon
ceased to think about it.

You have never seen a person with clothes on. Oh, well, you haven't lost

To proceed with the Biblical curiosities. Naturally you will think the threat
to punish Adam and Eve for disobeying was of course not carried out, since they
did not create themselves, nor their natures nor their impulses nor their
weaknesses, and hence were not properly subject to anyone's commands, and not
responsible to anybody for their acts. It will surprise you to know that the
threat was carried out. Adam and Eve were punished, and that crime finds
apologists unto this day. The sentence of death was executed.

As you perceive, the only person responsible for the couple's offense
escaped; and not only escaped but became the executioner of the innocent.

In your country and mine we should have the privilege of making fun of this
kind of morality, but it would be unkind to do it here. Many of these people
have the reasoning faculty, but no one uses it in religious matters.

The best minds will tell you that when a man has begotten a child he is
morally bound to tenderly care for it, protect it from hurt, shield it from
disease, clothe it, feed it, bear with its waywardness, lay no hand upon it save
in kindness and for its own good, and never in any case inflict upon it a wanton
cruelty. God's treatment of his earthly children, every day and every night, is
the exact opposite of all that, yet those best minds warmly justify these
crimes, condone them, excuse them, and indignantly refuse to regard them as
crimes at all, when he commits them. Your country and mine is an
interesting one, but there is nothing there that is half so interesting as the
human mind.

Very well, God banished Adam and Eve from the Garden, and eventually
assassinated them. All for disobeying a command which he had no right to utter.
But he did not stop there, as you will see. He has one code of morals for
himself, and quite another for his children. He requires his children to deal
justly -- and gently -- with offenders, and forgive them
seventy-and-seven times; whereas he deals neither justly nor gently
with anyone, and he did not forgive the ignorant and thoughtless first pair of
juveniles even their first small offense and say, "You may go free this time,
and I will give you another chance."

On the contrary! He elected to punish their children, all through the
ages to the end of time, for a trifling offense committed by others before they
were born. He is punishing them yet. In mild ways? No, in atrocious ones.

You would not suppose that this kind of Being gets many compliments.
Undeceive yourself: the world calls him the All-Just, the
All-Righteous, the All-Good, the All-Merciful, the
All-Forgiving, the All-Truthful, the All-Loving, the Source of
All Morality. These sarcasms are uttered daily, all over the world. But not as
conscious sarcasms. No, they are meant seriously: they are uttered without a

Letter IV

So the First Pair went forth from the Garden under a curse -- a permanent
one. They had lost every pleasure they had possessed before "The Fall"; and yet
they were rich, for they had gained one worth all the rest: they knew the
Supreme Art.

They practiced it diligently and were filled with contentment. The Deity
ordered them to practice it. They obeyed, this time. But it was just as well it
was not forbidden, for they would have practiced it anyhow, if a thousand
Deities had forbidden it.

Results followed. By the name of Cain and Abel. And these had some sisters;
and knew what to do with them. And so there were some more results: Cain and
Abel begot some nephews and nieces. These, in their turn, begot some second
cousins. At this point classification of relationships began to get difficult,
and the attempt to keep it up was abandoned.

The pleasant labor of populating the world went on from age to age, and with
prime efficiency; for in those happy days the sexes were still competent for the
Supreme Art when by rights they ought to have been dead eight hundred years. The
sweeter sex, the dearer sex, the lovelier sex was manifestly at its very best,
then, for it was even able to attract gods. Real gods. They came down out of
heaven and had wonderful times with those hot young blossoms. The Bible tells
about it.

By help of those visiting foreigners the population grew and grew until it
numbered several millions. But it was a disappointment to the Deity. He was
dissatisfied with its morals; which in some respects were not any better than
his own. Indeed they were an unflatteringly close imitation of his own. They
were a very bad people, and as he knew of no way to reform them, he wisely
concluded to abolish them. This is the only really enlightened and superior idea
his Bible has credited him with, and it would have made his reputation for all
time if he could only have kept to it and carried it out. But he was always
unstable -- except in his advertisements -- and his good resolution broke down.
He took a pride in man; man was his finest invention; man was his pet, after the
housefly, and he could not bear to lose him wholly; so he finally decided to
save a sample of him and drown the rest.

Nothing could be more characteristic of him. He created all those infamous
people, and he alone was responsible for their conduct. Not one of them deserved
death, yet it was certainly good policy to extinguish them; especially since in
creating them the master crime had already been committed, and to allow them to
go on procreating would be a distinct addition to the crime. But at the same
time there could be no justice, no fairness, in any favoritism -- all should be
drowned or none.

No, he would not have it so; he would save half a dozen and try the race over
again. He was not able to foresee that it would go rotten again, for he is only
the Far-Sighted One in his advertisements.

He saved out Noah and his family, and arranged to exterminate the rest. He
planned an Ark, and Noah built it. Neither of them had ever built an Ark before,
nor knew anything about Arks; and so something out of the common was to be
expected. It happened. Noah was a farmer, and although he knew what was required
of the Ark he was quite incompetent to say whether this one would be large
enough to meet the requirements or not (which it wasn't), so he ventured no
advice. The Deity did not know it wasn't large enough, but took the chances and
made no adequate measurements. In the end the ship fell far short of the
necessities, and to this day the world still suffers for it.

Noah built the Ark. He built it the best he could, but left out most of the
essentials. It had no rudder, it had no sails, it had no compass, it had no
pumps, it had no charts, no lead-lines, no anchors, no log, no light, no
ventilation, and as for cargo room -- which was the main thing -- the less said
about that the better. It was to be at sea eleven months, and would need fresh
water enough to fill two Arks of its size -- yet the additional Ark was not
provided. Water from outside could not be utilized: half of it would be salt
water, and men and land animals could not drink it.

For not only was a sample of man to be saved, but business samples of the
other animals, too. You must understand that when Adam ate the apple in the
Garden and learned how to multiply and replenish, the other animals learned the
Art, too, by watching Adam. It was cunning of them, it was neat; for they got
all that was worth having out of the apple without tasting it and afflicting
themselves with the disastrous Moral Sense, the parent of all immoralities.

Letter V

Noah began to collect animals. There was to be one couple of each and every
sort of creature that walked or crawled, or swam or flew, in the world of
animated nature. We have to guess at how long it took to collect the creatures
and how much it cost, for there is no record of these details. When Symmachus
made preparation to introduce his young son to grown-up life in imperial
Rome, he sent men to Asia, Africa and everywhere to collect wild animals for the
arena-fights. It took the men three years to accumulate the animals and
fetch them to Rome. Merely quadrupeds and alligators, you understand -- no
birds, no snakes, no frogs, no worms, no lice, no rats, no fleas, no ticks, no
caterpillars, no spiders, no houseflies, no mosquitoes -- nothing but just plain
simple quadrupeds and alligators: and no quadrupeds except fighting ones. Yet it
was as I have said: it took three years to collect them, and the cost of animals
and transportation and the men's wages footed up \\$4,500,000.

How many animals? We do not know. But it was under five thousand, for that
was the largest number ever gathered for those Roman shows, and it was Titus,
not Symmachus, who made that collection. Those were mere baby museums, compared
to Noah's contract. Of birds and beasts and fresh-water creatures he had to
collect 146,000 kinds; and of insects upwards of two million species.

Thousands and thousands of those things are very difficult to catch, and if
Noah had not given up and resigned, he would be on the job yet, as Leviticus
used to say. However, I do not mean that he withdrew. No, he did not do that. He
gathered as many creatures as he had room for, and then stopped.

If he had known all the requirements in the beginning, he would have been
aware that what was needed was a fleet of Arks. But he did not know how many
kinds of creatures there were, neither did his Chief. So he had no Kangaroo, and
no 'possom, and no Gila monster, and no ornithorhynchus, and lacked a multitude
of other indispensable blessings which a loving Creator had provided for man and
forgotten about, they having long ago wandered to a side of this world which he
had never seen and with whose affairs he was not acquainted. And so everyone of
them came within a hair of getting drowned.

They only escaped by an accident. There was not water enough to go around.
Only enough was provided to flood one small corner of the globe -- the rest of
the globe was not then known, and was supposed to be nonexistent.

However, the thing that really and finally and definitely determined Noah to
stop with enough species for purely business purposes and let the rest become
extinct, was an incident of the last days: an excited stranger arrived with some
most alarming news. He said he had been camping among some mountains and valleys
about six hundred miles away, and he had seen a wonderful thing there: he stood
upon a precipice overlooking a wide valley, and up the valley he was a billowy
black sea of strange animal life coming. Presently the creatures passed by,
struggling, fighting, scrambling, screeching, snorting -- horrible vast masses
of tumultuous flesh! Sloths as big as an elephant; frogs as big as a cow; a
megatherium and his harem huge beyond belief; saurians and saurians and
saurians, group after group, family after family, species after species -- a
hundred feet long, thirty feet high, and twice as quarrelsome; one of them hit a
perfectly blameless Durham bull a thump with its tail and sent it whizzing three
hundred feet into the air and it fell at the man's feet with a sigh and was no
more. The man said that these prodigious animals had heard about the Ark and
were coming. Coming to get saved from the flood. And not coming in pairs, they
were all coming: they did not know the passengers were restricted to
pairs, the man said, and wouldn't care a rap for the regulations, anyway -- they
would sail in that Ark or know the reason why. The man said the Ark would not
hold the half of them; and moreover they were coming hungry, and would eat up
everything there was, including the menagerie and the family.

All these facts were suppressed, in the Biblical account. You find not a hint
of them there. The whole thing is hushed up. Not even the names of those vast
creatures are mentioned. It shows you that when people have left a reproachful
vacancy in a contract they can be as shady about it in Bibles as elsewhere.
Those powerful animals would be of inestimable value to man now, when
transportation is so hard pressed and expensive, but they are all lost to him.
All lost, and by Noah's fault. They all got drowned. Some of them as much as
eight million years ago.

Very well, the stranger told his tale, and Noah saw that he must get away
before the monsters arrived. He would have sailed at once, but the upholsterers
and decorators of the housefly's drawing room still had some finishing touches
to put on, and that lost him a day. Another day was lost in getting the flies
aboard, there being sixty-eight billions of them and the Deity still afraid
there might not be enough. Another day was lost in stowing forty tons of
selected filth for the flies' sustenance.

Then at last, Noah sailed; and none too soon, for the Ark was only just
sinking out of sight on the horizon when the monsters arrived, and added their
lamentations to those of the multitude of weeping fathers and mothers and
frightened little children who were clinging to the wave-washed rocks in
the pouring rain and lifting imploring prayers to an All-Just and
All-Forgiving and All-Pitying Being who had never answered a prayer
since those crags were builded, grain by grain, out of the sands, and would
still not have answered one when the ages should have crumbled them to sand

Letter VI

On the third day, about noon, it was found that a fly and been left behind.
The return voyage turned out to be long and difficult, on account of the lack of
chart and compass, and because of the changed aspects of all coasts, the
steadily rising water having submerged some of the lower landmarks and given to
higher ones an unfamiliar look; but after sixteen days of earnest and faithful
seeking, the fly was found at last, and received on board with hymns of praise
and gratitude, the Family standing meanwhile uncovered, our of reverence for its
divine origin. It was weary and worn, and had suffered somewhat from the
weather, but was otherwise in good estate. Men and their families had died of
hunger on barren mountain tops, but it had not lacked for food, the
multitudinous corpses furnishing it in rank and rotten richness. Thus was the
sacred bird providentially preserved.

Providentially. That is the word. For the fly had not been left behind by
accident. No, the hand of Providence was in it. There are no accidents. All
things that happen, happen for a purpose. They are foreseen from the beginning
of time, they are ordained from the beginning of time. From the dawn of Creation
the Lord had foreseen that Noah, being alarmed and confused by the invasion of
the prodigious brevet fossils, would prematurely fly to sea unprovided with a
certain invaluable disease. He would have all the other diseases, and could
distribute them among the new races of men as they appeared in the world, but he
would lack one of the very best -- typhoid fever; a malady which, when the
circumstances are especially favorable, is able to utterly wreck a patient
without killing him; for it can restore him to his feet with a long life in him,
and yet deaf, dumb, blind, crippled, and idiotic. The housefly is its main
disseminator, and is more competent and more calamitously effective than all the
other distributors of the dreaded scourge put together. And so, by
foreordination from the beginning of time, this fly was left behind to seek out
a typhoid corpse and feed upon its corruptions and gaum its legs with germs and
transmit them to the re-peopled world for permanent business. From that one
housefly, in the ages that have since elapsed, billions of sickbeds have been
stocked, billions of wrecked bodies sent tottering about the earth, and billions
of cemeteries recruited with the dead.

It is most difficult to understand the disposition of the Bible God, it is
such a confusion of contradictions; of watery instabilities and iron firmness;
of goody-goody abstract morals made out of words, and concreted
hell-born ones made out of acts; of fleeting kindness repented of in
permanent malignities.

However, when after much puzzling you get at the key to his disposition, you
do at last arrive at a sort of understanding of it. With a most quaint and
juvenile and astonishing frankness he has furnished that key himself. It is

I expect that to take your breath away. You are aware -- for I have already
told you in an earlier letter -- that among human beings jealousy ranks
distinctly as a weakness; a trade-mark of small minds; a property of
all small minds, yet a property which even the smallest is ashamed of;
and when accused of its possession will lyingly deny it and resent the
accusation as an insult.

Jealousy. Do not forget it, keep it in mind. It is the key. With it you will
come to partly understand God as we go along; without it nobody can understand
him. As I have said, he has openly held up this treasonous key himself, for all
to see. He says, naïvely, outspokenly, and without suggestion of embarrassment:
"I the Lord thy God am a jealous God."

You see, it is only another way of saying, "I the Lord thy God am a small
God; a small God, and fretful about small things."

He was giving a warning: he could not bear the thought of any other God
getting some of the Sunday compliments of this comical little human race -- he
wanted all of them for himself. He valued them. To him they were riches; just as
tin money is to a Zulu.

But wait -- I am not fair; I am misrepresenting him; prejudice is beguiling
me into saying what is not true. He did not say he wanted all of the adulations;
he said nothing about not being willing to share them with his fellow gods; what
he said was, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me."

It is a quite different thing, and puts him in a much better light -- I
confess it. There was an abundance of gods, the woods were full of them, as the
saying is, and all he demanded was that he should be ranked as high as the
others -- not above any of them, but not below any of them. He was willing that
they should fertilize earthly virgins, but not on any better terms than he could
have for himself in his turn. He wanted to be held their equal. This he insisted
upon, in the clearest language: he would have no other gods before him.
They could march abreast with him, but none of them could head the procession,
and he did not claim the right to head it himself.

Do you think he was able to stick to that upright and creditable position?
No. He could keep to a bad resolution forever, but he couldn't keep to a good
one a month. By and by he threw aside and calmly claimed to be the only God in
the entire universe.

As I was saying, jealousy is the key; all through his history it is present
and prominent. It is the blood and bone of his disposition, it is the basis of
his character. How small a thing can wreck his composure and disorder his
judgement if it touches the raw of his jealousy! And nothing warms up this trait
so quickly and so surely and so exaggeratedly as a suspicion that some
competition with the god-Trust is impending. The fear that if Adam and Eve
ate of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge they would "be as gods" so fired his
jealousy that his reason was affected, and he could not treat those poor
creatures either fairly or charitably, or even refrain from dealing cruelly and
criminally with their blameless posterity.

To this day his reason has never recovered from that shock; a wild nightmare
of vengefulness has possessed him ever since, and he has almost bankrupted his
native ingenuities in inventing pains and miseries and humiliations and
heartbreaks wherewith to embitter the brief lives of Adam's descendants. Think
of the diseases he has contrived for them! They are multitudinous; no book can
name them all. And each one is a trap, set for an innocent victim.

The human being is a machine. An automatic machine. It is composed of
thousands of complex and delicate mechanisms, which perform their functions
harmoniously and perfectly, in accordance with laws devised for their
governance, and over which the man himself has no authority, no mastership, no
control. For each one of these thousands of mechanisms the Creator has planned
an enemy, whose office is to harass it, pester it, persecute it, damage it,
afflict it with pains, and miseries, and ultimate destruction. Not one has been

From cradle to grave these enemies are always at work; they know no rest,
night or day. They are an army: an organized army; a besieging army; an
assaulting army; an army that is alert, watchful, eager, merciless; an army that
never relents, never grants a truce.

It moves by squad, by company, by battalion, by regiment, by brigade, by
division, by army corps; upon occasion it masses its parts and moves upon
mankind with its whole strength. It is the Creator's Grand Army, and he is the
Commander-in-Chief. Along its battlefront its grisly banners wave
their legends in the face of the sun: Disaster, Disease, and the rest.

Disease! That is the main force, the diligent force, the devastating force!
It attacks the infant the moment it is born; it furnishes it one malady after
another: croup, measles, mumps, bowel troubles, teething pains, scarlet fever,
and other childhood specialties. It chases the child into youth and furnishes it
some specialties for that time of life. It chases the youth into maturity,
maturity into age, age into the grave.

With these facts before you will you now try to guess man's chiefest pet name
for this ferocious Commander-in-Chief? I will save you the trouble --
but you must not laugh. It is Our Father in Heaven!

It is curious -- the way the human mind works. The Christian begins with this
straight proposition, this definite proposition, this inflexible and
uncompromising proposition: God is all-knowing, and

This being the case, nothing can happen without his knowing beforehand that
it is going to happen; nothing happens without his permission; nothing can
happen that he chooses to prevent.

That is definite enough, isn't it? It makes the Creator distinctly
responsible for everything that happens, doesn't it?

The Christian concedes it in that italicized sentence. Concedes it with
feeling, with enthusiasm.

Then, having thus made the Creator responsible for all those pains and
diseases and miseries above enumerated, and which he could have prevented, the
gifted Christian blandly calls him Our Father!

It is as I tell you. He equips the Creator with every trait that goes to the
making of a fiend, and then arrives at the conclusion that a fiend and a father
are the same thing! Yet he would deny that a malevolent lunatic and a Sunday
school superintendent are essentially the same. What do you think of the human
mind? I mean, in case you think there is a human mind.

Letter VII

Noah and his family were saved -- if that could be called an advantage. I
throw in the if for the reason that there has never been an intelligent
person of the age of sixty who would consent to live his life over again. His or
anyone else's. The Family were saved, yes, but they were not comfortable, for
they were full of microbes. Full to the eyebrows; fat with them, obese with
them, distended like balloons. It was a disagreeable condition, but it could not
be helped, because enough microbes had to be saved to supply the future races of
men with desolating diseases, and there were but eight persons on board to serve
as hotels for them. The microbes were by far the most important part of the
Ark's cargo, and the part the Creator was most anxious about and most infatuated
with. They had to have good nourishment and pleasant accommodations. There were
typhoid germs, and cholera germs, and hydrophobia germs, and lockjaw germs, and
consumption germs, and black-plague germs, and some hundreds of other
aristocrats, specially precious creations, golden bearers of God's love to man,
blessed gifts of the infatuated Father to his children -- all of which had to be
sumptuously housed and richly entertained; these were located in the choicest
places the interiors of the Family could furnish: in the lungs, in the heart, in
the brain, in the kidneys, in the blood, in the guts. In the guts particularly.
The great intestine was the favorite resort. There they gathered, by countless
billions, and worked, and fed, and squirmed, and sang hymns of praise and
thanksgiving; and at night when it was quiet you could hear the soft murmur of
it. The large intestine was in effect their heaven. They stuffed it solid; they
made it as rigid as a coil of gaspipe. They took pride in this. Their principal
hymn made gratified reference to it:

      Constipation, O Constipation,
      The Joyful sound proclaim
      man's remotest entrail
      Shall praise its Maker's name

The discomforts furnished by the Ark were many and various. The family had to
live right in the presence of the multitudinous animals, and breathe the
distressing stench they make and be deafened day and night with the
thunder-crash of noise their roarings and screechings produced; and in
additions to these intolerable discomforts it was a peculiarly trying place for
the ladies, for they could look in no direction without seeing some thousands of
the creatures engaged in multiplying and replenishing. And then, there were the
flies. They swarmed everywhere, and persecuted the Family all day long. They
were the first animals up, in the morning, and the last ones down, at night. But
they must not be killed, they must not be injured, they were sacred, their
origin was divine, they were the special pets of the Creator, his darlings.

By and by the other creatures would be distributed here and there about the
earth -- scattered: the tigers to India, the lions and the elephants to the
vacant desert and the secret places of the jungle, the birds to the boundless
regions of empty space, the insects to one or another climate, according to
nature and requirement; but the fly? He is of no nationality; all the climates
are his home, all the globe is his province, all creatures that breathe are his
prey, and unto them all he is a scourge and a hell.

To man he is a divine ambassador, a minister plenipotentiary, the Creator's
special representative. He infests him in his cradle; clings in bunches to his
gummy eyelids; buzzes and bites and harries him, robbing him of his sleep and
his weary mother of her strength in those long vigils which she devotes to
protecting her child from this pest's persecutions. The fly harries the sick man
in his home, in the hospital, even on his deathbed at his last gasp. Pesters him
at his meals; previously hunts up patients suffering from loathsome and deadly
diseases; wades in their sores, gaums its legs with a million death-dealing
germs; then comes to that healthy man's table and wipes these things off on the
butter and discharges a bowel-load of typhoid germs and excrement on his
batter-cakes. The housefly wrecks more human constitutions and destroys
more human lives than all God's multitude of misery-messengers and
death-agents put together.

Shem was full of hookworms. It is wonderful, the thorough and comprehensive
study which the Creator devoted to the great work of making man miserable. I
have said he devised a special affliction-agent for each and every detail
of man's structure, overlooking not a single one, and I said the truth. Many
poor people have to go barefoot, because they cannot afford shoes. The Creator
saw his opportunity. I will remark, in passing, that he always has his eye on
the poor. Nine-tenths of his disease-inventions were intended for the
poor, and they get them. The well-to-do get only what is left over. Do
not suspect me of speaking unheedfully, for it is not so: the vast bulk of the
Creator's affliction-inventions are specially designed for the persecution
of the poor. You could guess this by the fact that one of the pulpit's finest
and commonest names for the Creator is "The Friend of the Poor." Under no
circumstances does the pulpit ever pay the Creator a compliment that has a
vestige of truth in it. The poor's most implacable and unwearying enemy is their
Father in Heaven. The poor's only real friend is their fellow man. He is sorry
for them, he pities them, and he shows it by his deeds. He does much to relieve
their distresses; and in every case their Father in Heaven gets the credit of

Just so with diseases. If science exterminates a disease which has been
working for God, it is God that gets the credit, and all the pulpits break into
grateful advertising-raptures and call attention to how good he is! Yes,
he has done it. Perhaps he has waited a thousand years before doing it.
That is nothing; the pulpit says he was thinking about it all the time. When
exasperated men rise up and sweep away an age-long tyranny and set a nation
free, the first thing the delighted pulpit does is to advertise it as God's
work, and invite the people to get down on their knees and pour out their thanks
to him for it. And the pulpit says with admiring emotion, "Let tyrants
understand that the Eye that never sleeps is upon them; and let them remember
that the Lord our God will not always be patient, but will loose the whirlwinds
of his wrath upon them in his appointed day."

They forget to mention that he is the slowest mover in the universe; that his
Eye that never sleeps, might as well, since it takes it a century to see what
any other eye would see in a week; that in all history there is not an instance
where he thought of a noble deed first, but always thought of it just a
little after somebody else had thought of it and done it. He arrives
then, and annexes the dividend.

Very well, six thousand years ago Shem was full of hookworms. Microscopic in
size, invisible to the unaided eye. All of the Creator's specially deadly
disease-producers are invisible. It is an ingenious idea. For thousands of
years it kept man from getting at the roots of his maladies, and defeated his
attempts to master them. It is only very recently that science has succeeded in
exposing some of these treacheries.

The very latest of these blessed triumphs of science is the discovery and
identification of the ambuscaded assassin which goes by the name of the
hookworm. Its special prey is the barefooted poor. It lies in wait in warm
regions and sandy places and digs its way into their unprotected feet.

The hookworm was discovered two or three years ago by a physician, who had
been patiently studying its victims for a long time. The disease induced by the
hookworm had been doing its evil work here and there in the earth ever since
Shem landed on Ararat, but it was never suspected to be a disease at all.
The people who had it were merely supposed to be lazy, and were therefore
despised and made fun of, when they should have been pitied. The hookworm is a
peculiarly sneaking and underhanded invention, and has done its surreptitious
work unmolested for ages; but that physician and his helpers will exterminate it

God is back of this. He has been thinking about it for six thousand years,
and making up his mind. The idea of exterminating the hookworm was his. He came
very near doing it before Dr. Charles Wardell Stiles did. But he is in time to
get the credit of it. He always is.

It is going to cost a million dollars. He was probably just in the act of
contributing that sum when a man pushed in ahead of him -- as usual. Mr.
Rockefeller. He furnishes the million, but the credit will go elsewhere -- as
usual. This morning's journal tells us something about the hookworm's

    The hookworm parasites often so lower the vitality of those who are
    affected as to retard their physical and mental development, render them more
    susceptible to other diseases, make labor less efficient, and in the sections
    where the malady is most prevalent greatly increase the death rate from
    consumption, pneumonia, typhoid fever and malaria. It has been shown that the
    lowered vitality of multitudes, long attributed to malaria and climate and
    seriously affecting economic development, is in fact due in some districts to
    this parasite. The disease is by no means confined to any one class; it takes
    its toll of suffering and death from the highly intelligent and well to do as
    well as from the less fortunate. It is a conservative estimate that two
    millions of our people are affected by this parasite. The disease is more
    common and more serious in children of school age than in other persons.

    Widespread and serious as the infection is, there is still a most
    encouraging outlook. The disease can be easily recognized, readily and
    effectively treated and by simple and proper sanitary precautions successfully
    prevented [with God's help].

The poor children are under the Eye that never sleeps, you see. They have had
that ill luck in all the ages. They and "the Lord's poor" -- as the sarcastic
phrase goes -- have never been able to get away from that Eye's attentions.

Yes, the poor, the humble, the ignorant -- they are the ones that catch it.
Take the "Sleeping Sickness," of Africa. This atrocious cruelty has for its
victims a race of ignorant and unoffending blacks whom God placed in a remote
wilderness, and bent his parental Eye upon them -- the one that never sleeps
when there is a chance to breed sorrow for somebody. He arranged for these
people before the Flood. The chosen agent was a fly, related to the tsetse; the
tsetse is a fly which has command of the Zambezi country and stings cattle and
horses to death, thus rendering that region uninhabitable by man. The tsetse's
awful relative deposits a microbe which produces the Sleeping Sickness. Ham was
full of these microbes, and when the voyage was over he discharged them in
Africa and the havoc began, never to find amelioration until six thousand years
should go by and science should pry into the mystery and hunt out the cause of
the disease. The pious nations are now thanking God, and praising him for coming
to the rescue of his poor blacks. The pulpit says the praise is due to him. He
is surely a curious Being. He commits a fearful crime, continues that crime
unbroken for six thousand years, and is then entitled to praise because he
suggests to somebody else to modify its severities. He is called patient, and he
certainly must be patient, or he would have sunk the pulpit in perdition ages
ago for the ghastly compliments it pays him.

Science has this to say about the Sleeping Sickness, otherwise called the
Negro Lethargy:

    It is characterized by periods of sleep recurring at intervals. The disease
    lasts from four months to four years, and is always fatal. The victim appears
    at first languid, weak, pallid, and stupid. His eyelids become puffy, an
    eruption appears on his skin. He falls asleep while talking, eating, or
    working. As the disease progresses he is fed with difficulty and becomes much
    emaciated. The failure of nutrition and the appearance of bedsores are
    followed by convulsions and death. Some patients become insane.

It is he whom Church and people call Our Father in Heaven who has invented
the fly and sent him to inflict this dreary long misery and melancholy and
wretchedness, and decay of body and mind, upon a poor savage who has done that
Great Criminal no harm. There isn't a man in the world who doesn't pity that
poor black sufferer, and there isn't a man that wouldn't make him whole if he
could. To find the one person who has no pity for him you must go to heaven; to
find the one person who is able to heal him and couldn't be persuaded to do it,
you must go to the same place. There is only one father cruel enough to afflict
his child with that horrible disease -- only one. Not all the eternities can
produce another one. Do you like reproachful poetical indignations warmly
expressed? Here is one, hot from the heart of a slave:

      Man's inhumanity to man
      Makes countless thousands mourn!

I will tell you a pleasant tale which has in it a touch of pathos. A man got
religion, and asked the priest what he must do to be worthy of his new estate.
The priest said, "Imitate our Father in Heaven, learn to be like him." The man
studied his Bible diligently and thoroughly and understandingly, and then with
prayers for heavenly guidance instituted his imitations. He tricked his wife
into falling downstairs, and she broke her back and became a paralytic for life;
he betrayed his brother into the hands of a sharper, who robbed him of his all
and landed him in the almshouse; he inoculated one son with hookworms, another
with the sleeping sickness, another with gonorrhea; he furnished one daughter
with scarlet fever and ushered her into her teens deaf, dumb, and blind for
life; and after helping a rascal seduce the remaining one, he closed his doors
against her and she died in a brothel cursing him. Then he reported to the
priest, who said that that was no way to imitate his Father in Heaven.
The convert asked wherein he had failed, but the priest changed the subject and
inquired what kind of weather he was having, up his way.

Letter VIII

Man is without any doubt the most interesting fool there is. Also the most
eccentric. He hasn't a single written law, in his Bible or out of it, which has
any but just one purpose and intention -- to limit or defeat the law of

He can seldom take a plain fact and get any but a wrong meaning out of it. He
cannot help this; it is the way the confusion he calls his mind is constructed.
Consider the things he concedes, and the curious conclusions he draws from them.

For instance, he concedes that God made man. Made him without man's desire of

This seems to plainly and indisputably make God, and God alone, responsible
for man's acts. But man denies this.

He concedes that God has made the angels perfect, without blemish, and immune
from pain and death, and that he could have been similarly kind to man if he had
wanted to, but denies that he was under any moral obligation to do it.

He concedes that man has no moral right to visit the child of his begetting
with wanton cruelties, painful diseases and death, but refuses to limit God's
privileges in this sort with the children of his begetting.

The Bible and man's statutes forbid murder, adultery, fornication, lying,
treachery, robbery, oppression and other crimes, but contend that God is free of
these laws and has a right to break them when he will.

He concedes that God gives to each man his temperament, his disposition, at
birth; he concedes that man cannot by any process change this temperament, but
must remain always under its dominion. Yet if it be full of dreadful passions,
in one man's case, and barren of them in another man's, it is right and rational
to punish the one for his crimes, and reward the other for abstaining from

There -- let us consider these curiosities.

Temperament (Disposition)

Take two extremes of temperament -- the goat and the tortoise.

Neither of these creatures makes its own temperament, but is born with it,
like man, and can no more change it than can man.

Temperament is the law of God written in the heart of every creature by God's
own hand, and must be obeyed, and will be obeyed in spite of all
restricting or forbidding statutes, let them emanate whence they may.

Very well, lust is the dominant feature of the goat's temperament, the law of
God is in its heart, and it must obey it and will obey it the whole day
long in the rutting season, without stopping to eat or drink. If the Bible said
to the goat, "Thou shalt not fornicate, thou shalt not commit adultery," even
Man -- sap-headed man -- would recognize the foolishness of the
prohibition, and would grant that the goat ought not to be punished for obeying
the law of his Maker. Yet he thinks it right and just that man should be put
under the prohibition. All men. All alike.

On its face this is stupid, for, by temperament, which is the real law
of God, many men are goats and can't help committing adultery when they get a
chance; whereas there are numbers of men who, by temperament, can keep their
purity and let an opportunity go by if the woman lacks in attractiveness. But
the Bible doesn't allow adultery at all, whether a person can help it or not. It
allows no distinction between goat and tortoise -- the excitable goat, the
emotional goat, that has to have some adultery every day or fade and die; and
the tortoise, that cold calm puritan, that takes a treat only once in two years
and then goes to sleep in the midst of it and doesn't wake up for sixty days. No
lady goat is safe from criminal assault, even on the Sabbath Day, when there is
a gentleman goat within three miles to leeward of her and nothing in the way but
a fence fourteen feet high, whereas neither the gentleman tortoise nor the lady
tortoise is ever hungry enough for solemn joys of fornication to be willing to
break the Sabbath to get them. Now according to man's curious reasoning, the
goat has earned punishment, and the tortoise praise.

"Thou shalt not commit adultery" is a command which makes no distinction
between the following persons. They are all required to obey it:

Children at birth.

Children in the cradle.

School children.

Youths and maidens.

Fresh adults.

Older ones.

Men and women of 40.

Of 50.

Of 60.

Of 70.

Of 80.

Of 90.

Of 100.

The command does not distribute its burden equally, and cannot.

It is not hard upon the three sets of children.

It is hard -- harder -- still harder upon the next three sets -- cruelly

It is blessedly softened to the next three sets.

It has now done all the damage it can, and might as well be put out of
commission. Yet with comical imbecility it is continued, and the four remaining
estates are put under its crushing ban. Poor old wrecks, they couldn't disobey
if they tried. And think -- because they holily refrain from adulterating each
other, they get praise for it! Which is nonsense; for even the Bible knows
enough to know that if the oldest veteran there could get his lost heyday back
again for an hour he would cast that commandment to the winds and ruin the first
woman he came across, even though she were an entire stranger.

It is as I have said: every statute in the Bible and in the law-books is
an attempt to defeat a law of God -- in other words an unalterable and
indestructible law of nature. These people's God has shown them by a million
acts that he respects none of the Bible's statutes. He breaks every one of the
himself, adultery and all.

The law of God, as quite plainly expressed in woman's construction is this:
There shall be no limit put upon your intercourse with the other sex sexually,
at any time of life.

The law of God, as quite plainly expressed in man's construction is this:
During your entire life you shall be under inflexible limits and restrictions,

During twenty-three days in every month (in absence of pregnancy) from
the time a woman is seven years old till she dies of old age, she is ready for
action, and competent. As competent as the candlestick is to receive the
candle. Competent every day, competent every night. Also she wants that
candle -- yearns for it, longs for it, hankers after it, as commanded by the law
of God in her heart.

But man is only briefly competent; and only then in the moderate measure
applicable to the word in his sex's case. He is competent from the age of
sixteen or seventeen thence-forward for thirty-five years. After fifty
his performance is of poor quality, the intervals between are wide, and its
satisfactions of no great value to either party; whereas his
great-grandmother is as good as new. There is nothing the matter with her
plant. Her candlestick is as firm as ever, whereas his candle is increasingly
softened and weakened by the weather of age, as the years go by, until at last
it can no longer stand, and is mournfully laid to rest in the hope of a blessed
resurrection which is never to come.

By the woman's make, her plant has to be out of service three days in the
month, and during a part of her pregnancy. These are times of discomfort, often
of suffering. For fair and just compensation she has the high privilege of
unlimited adultery all the other days of her life.

That is the law of God, as revealed in her make. What
becomes of this high privilege? Does she live in free enjoyment of it? No.
Nowhere in the whole world. She is robbed of it everywhere. Who does this? Man.
Man's statutes -- if the Bible is the Word of God.

Now there you have a sample of man's "reasoning powers," as he calls them. He
observes certain facts. For instance, that in all his life he never sees the day
that he can satisfy one woman; also, that no woman ever sees the day that she
can't overwork, and defeat, and put out of commission any ten masculine plants
that can be put to bed to her.[href="#NOTESANDWICH">**]
He puts those strikingly suggestive and luminous facts together, and from them
draws this astonishing conclusion: The Creator intended the woman to be
restricted to one man.

So he concretes that singular conclusion into law, for good and all.

And he does it without consulting the woman, although she has a thousand
times more at stake in the matter than he has. His procreative competency is
limited to an average of a hundred exercises per year for fifty years, hers is
good for three thousand a year for that whole time -- and as many years longer
as she may live. Thus his life interest in the matter is five thousand
refreshments, while hers is a hundred and fifty thousand; yet instead of fairly
and honorably leaving the making of the law to the person who has an
overwhelming interest at stake in it, this immeasurable hog, who has nothing at
stake in it worth considering, makes it himself!

You have heretofore found out, by my teachings, that man is a fool; you are
now aware that woman is a damned fool.

Now if you or any other really intelligent person were arranging the fairness
and justices between man and woman, you would give the man one-fiftieth
interest in one woman, and the woman a harem. Now wouldn't you? Necessarily. I
give you my word, this creature with the decrepit candle has arranged it exactly
the other way. Solomon, who was one of the Deity's favorites, had a copulation
cabinet composed of seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines. name=REFPUBLISH>To save his life he could not have kept two of these young
creatures satisfactorily refreshed, even if he had had fifteen experts to help
him. Necessarily almost the entire thousand had to go hungry years and years on
a stretch. Conceive of a man hardhearted enough to look daily upon all that
suffering and not be moved to mitigate it. He even wantonly added a sharp pang
to that pathetic misery; for he kept within those women's sight, always,
stalwart watchmen whose splendid masculine forms made the poor lassies' mouths
water but who hadn't anything to solace a candlestick with, these gentry being
eunuchs. A eunuch is a person whose candle has been put out. By art.[href="/twain/earth.html#NOTEPUBLISH">**]

From time to time, as I go along, I will take up a Biblical statute and show
you that it always violates a law of God, and then is imported into the lawbooks
of the nations, where it continues its violations. But those things will keep;
there is no hurry.

Letter IX

The Ark continued its voyage, drifting around here and there and yonder,
compassless and uncontrolled, the sport of the random winds and swirling
currents. And the rain, the rain, the rain! It kept falling, pouring, drenching,
flooding. No such rain had ever been seen before. Sixteen inches a day had been
heard of, but that was nothing to this. This was a hundred and twenty inches a
day -- ten feet! At this incredible rate it rained forty days and forty nights,
and submerged every hill that was four hundred feet high. Then the heavens and
even the angels went dry; no more water was to be had.

As a Universal flood it was a disappointment, but there had been heaps of
Universal Floods before, as is witnessed by all the Bibles of all the nations,
and this was as good as the best one.

At last the Ark soared aloft and came to rest on top of Mount Ararat,
seventeen thousand feet above the valley, and its living freight got out and
went down the mountain.

Noah planted a vineyard, and drank the wine and was overcome.

This person had been selected from all the populations because he was the
best sample there was. He was to start the human race on a new basis. This was
the new basis. The promise was bad. To go further with the experiment was to run
a great and most unwise risk. Now was the time to do with these people what had
been so judiciously done with the others -- drown them. Anybody but the Creator
would have seen this. But he didn't see it. That is, maybe he didn't.

It is claimed that from the beginning of time he foresaw everything that
would happen in the world. If that is true, he foresaw that Adam and Eve would
eat the apple; that their posterity would be unendurable and have to be drowned;
that Noah's posterity would in their turn be unendurable, and that by and by he
would have to leave his throne in heaven and come down and be crucified to save
that same tiresome human race again. The whole of it? No! A part of it? Yes. Now
much of it? In each generation, for hundreds and hundreds of generations, a
billion would die and all go to perdition except perhaps ten thousand out of the
billion. The ten thousand would have to come from the little body of Christians,
and only one in the hundred of that little body would stand any chance. None of
them at all except such Roman Catholics as should have the luck to have a priest
handy to sandpaper their souls at the last gasp, and here and there a
presbyterian. No others savable. All the others damned. By the million.

Shall you grant that he foresaw all this? The pulpit grants it. It is the
same as granting that in the matter of intellect the Deity is the Head Pauper of
the Universe, and that in the matter of morals and character he is away down on
the level of David.

Letter X

The two Testaments are interesting, each in its own way. The Old one gives us
a picture of these people's Deity as he was before he got religion, the other
one gives us a picture of him as he appeared afterward. The Old Testament is
interested mainly in blood and sensuality. The New one in Salvation. Salvation
by fire.

The first time the Deity came down to earth, he brought life and death; when
he came the second time, he brought hell.

Life was not a valuable gift, but death was. Life was a fever-dream made
up of joys embittered by sorrows, pleasure poisoned by pain, a dream that was a
nightmare-confusion of spasmodic and fleeting delights, ecstasies,
exultations, happinesses, interspersed with long-drawn miseries, griefs,
perils, horrors, disappointments, defeats, humiliations, and despairs -- the
heaviest curse devisable by divine ingenuity; but death was sweet, death was
gentle, death was kind; death healed the bruised spirit and the broken heart,
and gave them rest and forgetfulness; death was man's best friend; when man
could endure life no longer, death came and set him free.

In time, the Deity perceived that death was a mistake; a mistake, in that it
was insufficient; insufficient, for the reason that while it was an admirable
agent for the inflicting of misery upon the survivor, it allowed the dead person
himself to escape from all further persecution in the blessed refuge of the
grave. This was not satisfactory. A way must be conceived to pursue the dead
beyond the tomb.

The Deity pondered this matter during four thousand years unsuccessfully, but
as soon as he came down to earth and became a Christian his mind cleared and he
knew what to do. He invented hell, and proclaimed it.

Now here is a curious thing. It is believed by everybody that while he was in
heaven he was stern, hard, resentful, jealous, and cruel; but that when he came
down to earth and assumed the name Jesus Christ, he became the opposite of what
he was before: that is to say, he became sweet, and gentle, merciful, forgiving,
and all harshness disappeared from his nature and a deep and yearning love for
his poor human children took its place. Whereas it was as Jesus Christ that he
devised hell and proclaimed it!

Which is to say, that as the meek and gentle Savior he was a thousand billion
times crueler than ever he was in the Old Testament -- oh, incomparably more
atrocious than ever he was when he was at the very worst in those old days!

Meek and gentle? By and by we will examine this popular sarcasm by the light
of the hell which he invented.

While it is true that the palm for malignity must be granted to Jesus, the
inventor of hell, he was hard and ungentle enough for all godlike purposes even
before he became a Christian. It does not appear that he ever stopped to reflect
that he was to blame when a man went wrong, inasmuch as the man was
merely acting in accordance with the disposition he had afflicted him with. No,
he punished the man, instead of punishing himself. Moreover, the punishment
usually oversized the offense. Often, too, it fell, not upon the doer of a
misdeed, but upon somebody else -- a chief man, the head of a community, for

    And Israel abode in Shittim, and the people began to commit whoredom with
    the daughters of Moab.

    And the Lord said unto Moses, Take all the heads of the people, and hang
    them up before the Lord against the Sun, that the fierce anger of the Lord may
    be turned away from Israel.

Does that look fair to you? It does not appear that the "heads of the people"
got any of the adultery, yet it is they that are hanged, instead of "the

If it was fair and right in that day it would be fair and right today, for
the pulpit maintains that God's justice is eternal and unchangeable; also that
he is the Fountain of Morals, and that his morals are eternal and unchangeable.
Very well, then, we must believe that if the people of New York should begin to
commit whoredom with the daughters of New Jersey, it would be fair and right to
set up a gallows in front of the city hall and hang the mayor and the sheriff
and the judges and the archbishop on it, although they did not get any of it. It
does not look right to me.

Moreover, you may be quite sure of one thing: it couldn't happen. These
people would not allow it. They are better than their Bible. Nothing
would happen here, except some lawsuits, for damages, if the incident couldn't
be hushed up; and even down South they would not proceed against persons who did
not get any of it; they would get a rope and hunt for the correspondents, and if
they couldn't find them they would lynch a nigger.

Things have greatly improved since the Almighty's time, let the pulpit say
what it may.

Will you examine the Deity's morals and disposition and conduct a little
further? And will you remember that in the Sunday school the little children are
urged to love the Almighty, and honor him, and praise him, and make him their
model and try to be as like him as they can? Read:

    1 And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,
    2 Avenge the children of
    Israel of the Midianites: afterward shalt thou be gathered unto thy people....

    7 And they warred against the Midianites, as the Lord commanded Moses; and
    they slew all the males.
    8 And they slew the kings of Midian, beside the
    rest of them that were slain; namely, Evi, and Rekem, and Zur, and Hur,
    and Reba, five kings of Midian: Balaam also the son of Beor they slew with the
    9 And the children of Israel took all the women of Midian
    captives, and their little ones, and took the spoil of all their cattle, and
    all their flocks, and all their goods.
    10 And they burnt all their cities
    wherein they dwelt, and all their goodly castles, with fire.
    11 And they
    took all the spoil, and all the prey, both of men and of beasts.
    And they brought the captives, and the prey, and the spoil unto Moses, and
    Eleazar the priest, and unto the congregation of the children of Israel, unto
    the camp at the plains of Moab, which are by Jordan near
    13 And Moses, and Eleazar the priest, and all the princes of the
    congregation, went forth to meet them without the camp.
    14 And Moses was
    wroth with the officers of the host, with the captains over thousands,
    and captains over hundreds, which came from the battle.
    15 And Moses said
    unto them, Have ye saved all the women alive?
    16 Behold, these caused the
    children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to commit trespass against
    the Lord in the matter of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation
    of the Lord.
    17 Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and
    kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him.
    18 But all the
    women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for
    19 And do ye abide without the camp seven days: whosoever hath
    killed any person, and whosoever hath touched any slain, purify both
    yourselves and your captives on the third day, and on the seventh day.
    And purify all your raiment, and all that is made of skins, and all
    work of goats' hair, and all things made of wood.
    21 And Eleazar
    the priest said unto the men of war which went to the battle, This is
    the ordinance of the law which the Lord commanded Moses....
    25 And the
    Lord spake unto Moses, saying,
    26 Take the sum of the prey that was taken,
    both of man and of beast, thou, and Eleazar the priest, and the chief fathers
    of the congregation:
    27 And divide the prey into two parts; between them
    that took the war upon them, who went out to battle, and between all the
    28 And levy a tribute unto the Lord of the men of war which
    went out to battle....
    31 And Moses and Eleazar the priest did as the Lord
    commanded Moses.
    32 And the booty, being the rest of the prey which
    the men of war had caught, was six hundred thousand and seventy thousand and
    five thousand sheep,
    33 And threescore and twelve thousand beeves,
    And threescore and one thousand asses,
    35 And thirty and two thousand
    persons in all, of woman that had not known man by lying with him....
    And the persons were sixteen thousand; of which the Lord's tribute
    was thirty and two persons.
    41 And Moses gave the tribute,
    which was the Lord's heave offering, unto Eleazar the priest, as the
    Lord commanded Moses....
    47 Even of the children of Israel's half, Moses
    took one portion of fifty, both of man and of beast, and gave them unto
    the Levites, which kept the charge of the tabernacle of the Lord; as the Lord
    commanded Moses.

    10 When thou comest nigh unto a city to fight against it, then proclaim
    peace unto it....
    13 And when the Lord thy God hath delivered it into
    thine hands, thou shalt smite every male thereof with the edge of the sword:

    14 But the women, and the little ones, and the cattle, and all that is in
    the city, even all the spoil thereof, shalt thou take unto thyself; and
    thou shalt eat the spoil of thine enemies, which the Lord thy God hath given
    15 Thus shalt thou do unto all the cities which are very far
    off from thee, which are not of the cities of these nations.
    16 But of the
    cities of these people, which the Lord thy God doth give thee for an
    inheritance, thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth:

The Biblical law says: "Thou shalt not kill."

The law of God, planted in the heart of man at his birth, says: "Thou shalt

The chapter I have quoted shows you that the book-statute is once more a
failure. It cannot set aside the more powerful law of nature.

According to the belief of these people, it was God himself who said: "Thou
shalt not kill."

Then it is plain that he cannot keep his own commandments.

He killed all those people -- every male.

They had offended the Deity in some way. We know what the offense was,
without looking; that is to say, we know it was a trifle; some small thing that
no one but a god would attach any importance to. It is more than likely that a
Midianite had been duplicating the conduct of one Onan, who was commanded to "go
into his brother's wife" -- which he did; but instead of finishing, "he spilled
it on the ground." The Lord slew Onan for that, for the lord could never abide
indelicacy. The Lord slew Onan, and to this day the Christian world cannot
understand why he stopped with Onan, instead of slaying all the inhabitants for
three hundred miles around -- they being innocent of offense, and therefore the
very ones he would usually slay. For that had always been his idea of fair
dealing. If he had had a motto, it would have read, "Let no innocent person
escape." You remember what he did in the time of the flood. There were
multitudes and multitudes of tiny little children, and he knew they had never
done him any harm; but their relations had, and that was enough for him: he saw
the waters rise toward their screaming lips, he saw the wild terror in their
eyes, he saw that agony of appeal in the mothers' faces which would have touched
any heart but his, but he was after the guiltless particularly, than he drowned
those poor little chaps.

And you will remember that in the case of Adam's posterity all the
billions are innocent -- none of them had a share in his offense, but the Deity
holds them guilty to this day. None gets off, except by acknowledging that guilt
-- no cheaper lie will answer.

Some Midianite must have repeated Onan's act, and brought that dire disaster
upon his nation. If that was not the indelicacy that outraged the feelings of
the Deity, then I know what it was: some Midianite had been pissing against the
wall. I am sure of it, for that was an impropriety which the Source of all
Etiquette never could stand. A person could piss against a tree, he could piss
on his mother, he could piss on his own breeches, and get off, but he must not
piss against the wall -- that would be going quite too far. The origin of the
divine prejudice against this humble crime is not stated; but we know that the
prejudice was very strong -- so strong that nothing but a wholesale massacre of
the people inhabiting the region where the wall was defiled could satisfy the

Take the case of Jeroboam. "I will cut off from Jeroboam him that pisseth
against the wall." It was done. And not only was the man that did it cut off,
but everybody else.

The same with the house of Baasha: everybody was exterminated, kinsfolks,
friends, and all, leaving "not one that pisseth against a wall."

In the case of Jeroboam you have a striking instance of the Deity's custom of
not limiting his punishments to the guilty; the innocent are included. Even the
"remnant" of that unhappy house was removed, even "as a man taketh away dung,
till it be all gone." That includes the women, the young maids, and the little
girls. All innocent, for they couldn't piss against a wall. Nobody of that sex
can. None but members of the other sex can achieve that feat.

A curious prejudice. And it still exists. Protestant parents still keep the
Bible handy in the house, so that the children can study it, and one of the
first things the little boys and girls learn is to be righteous and holy and not
piss against the wall. They study those passages more than they study any
others, except those which incite to masturbation. Those they hunt out and study
in private. No Protestant child exists who does not masturbate. That art is the
earliest accomplishment his religion confers upon him. Also the earliest her
religion confers upon her.

The Bible has this advantage over all other books that teach refinement and
good manners: that it goes to the child. It goes to the mind at its most
impressible and receptive age -- the others have to wait.

    "Thou shalt have a paddle upon thy weapon; and it shall be, when thou wilt
    ease thyself abroad, thou shalt dig therewith, and shalt turn back and cover
    that which cometh from thee."

That rule was made in the old days because "The Lord thy God walketh in the
midst of thy camp."

It is probably not worthwhile to try to find out, for certain, why the
Midianites were exterminated. We can only be sure that it was for no large
offense; for the cases of Adam, and the Flood, and the defilers of the wall
teach us that much. A Midianite may have left his paddle at home and thus
brought on the trouble. However, it is no matter. The main thing is the trouble
itself, and the morals of one kind and another that it offers for the
instruction and elevation of the Christian of today.

God wrote upon the tables of stone: "Thou shalt not kill," Also: "Thou shalt
not commit adultery."

Paul, speaking by the divine voice, advised against sexual intercourse
altogether. A great change from the divine view as it existed at the time
of the Midianite incident.

Letter XI

Human history in all ages is red with blood, and bitter with hate, and
stained with cruelties; but not since Biblical times have these features been
without a limit of some kind. Even the Church, which is credited with having
spilt more innocent blood, since the beginning of its supremacy, than all the
political wars put together have spilt, has observed a limit. A sort of limit.
But you notice that when the Lord God of Heaven and Earth, adored Father of Man,
goes to war, there is no limit. He is totally without mercy -- he, who is called
the Fountain of Mercy. He slays, slays, slays! All the men, all the beasts, all
the boys, all the babies; also all the women and all the girls, except those
that have not been deflowered.

He makes no distinction between innocent and guilty. The babies were
innocent, the beasts were innocent, many of the men, many of the women, many of
the boys, many of the girls were innocent, yet they had to suffer with the
guilty. What the insane Father required was blood and misery; he was indifferent
as to who furnished it.

The heaviest punishment of all was meted out to persons who could not by any
possibility have deserved so horrible a fate -- the 32,000 virgins. Their naked
privacies were probed, to make sure that they still possessed the hymen
unruptured; after this humiliation they were sent away from the land that had
been their home, to be sold into slavery; the worst of slaveries and the
shamefulest, the slavery of prostitution; bed-slavery, to excite lust, and
satisfy it with their bodies; slavery to any buyer, be he gentleman or be he a
coarse and filthy ruffian.

It was the Father that inflicted this ferocious and undeserved punishment
upon those bereaved and friendless virgins, whose parents and kindred he had
slaughtered before their eyes. And were they praying to him for pity and rescue,
meantime? Without a doubt of it.

These virgins were "spoil" plunder, booty. He claimed his share and got it.
What use had he for virgins? Examine his later history and you will know.

His priests got a share of the virgins, too. What use could priests make of
virgins? The private history of the Roman Catholic confessional can answer that
question for you. The confessional's chief amusement has been seduction -- in
all the ages of the Church. Père Hyacinth testifies that of a hundred priests
confessed by him, ninety-nine had used the confessional effectively for the
seduction of married women and young girls. One priest confessed that of nine
hundred girls and women whom he had served as father and confessor in his time,
none had escaped his lecherous embrace but he elderly and the homely. The
official list of questions which the priest is required to ask will
overmasteringly excite any woman who is not a paralytic.

There is nothing in either savage or civilized history that is more utterly
complete, more remorselessly sweeping than the Father of Mercy's campaign among
the Midianites. The official report does not furnish the incidents, episodes,
and minor details, it deals only in information in masses: all the
virgins, all the men, all the babies, all "creatures
that breathe," all houses, all cities; it gives you just
one vast picture, spread abroad here and there and yonder, as far as eye can
reach, of charred ruin and storm-swept desolation; your imagination adds a
brooding stillness, an awful hush -- the hush of death. But of course there were
incidents. Where shall we get them?

Out of history of yesterday's date. Out of history made by the red Indian of
America. He has duplicated God's work, and done it in the very spirit of God. In
1862 the Indians in Minnesota, having been deeply wronged and treacherously
treated by the government of the United States, rose against the white settlers
and massacred them; massacred all they could lay their hands upon, sparing
neither age nor sex. Consider this incident:

Twelve Indians broke into a farmhouse at daybreak and captured the family. It
consisted of the farmer and his wife and four daughters, the youngest aged
fourteen and the eldest eighteen. They crucified the parents; that is to say,
they stood them stark naked against the wall of the living room and nailed their
hands to the wall. Then they stripped the daughters bare, stretched them upon
the floor in front of their parents, and repeatedly ravished them. Finally they
crucified the girls against the wall opposite this parents, and cut off their
noses and their breasts. They also -- but I will not go into that. There is a
limit. There are indignities so atrocious that the pen cannot write them. One
member of that poor crucified family -- the father -- was still alive when help
came two days later.

Now you have one incident of the Minnesota massacre. I could give you fifty.
They would cover all the different kinds of cruelty the brutal human talent has
ever invented.

And now you know, by these sure indications, what happened under the personal
direction of the Father of Mercies in his Midianite campaign. The Minnesota
campaign was merely a duplicate of the Midianite raid. Nothing happened in the
one that didn't happen in the other.

No, that is not strictly true. The Indian was more merciful than was the
Father of Mercies. He sold no virgins into slavery to minister to the lusts of
the murderers of their kindred while their sad lives might last; he raped them,
then charitably made their subsequent sufferings brief, ending them with the
precious gift of death. He burned some of the houses, but not all of them. He
carried out innocent dumb brutes, but he took the lives of none.

Would you expect this same conscienceless God, this moral bankrupt, to become
a teacher of morals; of gentleness; of meekness; of righteousness; of purity? It
looks impossible, extravagant; but listen to him. These are his own words:

    Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

    Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.
    Blessed are
    the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
    Blessed are they which do
    hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.

    Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
    are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
    Blessed are the
    , for they shall be called the children of God.
    Blessed are
    they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom
    of heaven.
    Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you,
    and say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.

The mouth that uttered these immense sarcasms, these giant hypocrisies, is
the very same that ordered the wholesale massacre of the Midianitish men and
babies and cattle; the wholesale destruction of house and city; the wholesale
banishment of the virgins into a filthy and unspeakable slavery. This is the
same person who brought upon the Midianites the fiendish cruelties which were
repeated by the red Indians, detail by detail, in Minnesota eighteen centuries
later. The Midianite episode filled him with joy. So did the Minnesota one, or
he would have prevented it.

The Beatitudes and the quoted chapters from Numbers and Deuteronomy ought
always to be read from the pulpit together; then the congregation would get an
all-round view of Our Father in Heaven. Yet not in a single instance have I
ever known a clergyman to do this.


*NOTE: It takes the light of the nearest star (61
Cygni) three and a half years to come to the earth, traveling at the rate of
186,000 miles per second. Arcturus had been shining 200 years before it was
visible from the earth. Remoter stars gradually became visible after thousands
and thousands of years. -- The Editor [M. T.]   [href="#REFLIGHT">Return to

*NOTE:  In the Sandwich Islands in 1866 a buxom
royal princess died. Occupying a place of distinguished honor at her funeral
were thirty-six splendidly built young native men. In a laudatory song
which celebrated the various merits, achievements and accomplishments of the
late princess those thirty-six stallions were called her harem, and
the song said it had been her pride and boast that she kept the whole of them
busy, and that several times it had happened that more than one of them had been
able to charge overtime. [M.T.]  [href="#REFSANDWICH">Return to

*NOTE:  I purpose publishing these Letters here
in the world before I return to you. Two editions. One, unedited, for Bible
readers and their children; the other, expurgated, for persons of refinement.
[M.T.]  [href="#REFPUBLISH">Return to

Pageviews this week: