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Supporting Civil Rights for Atheists and the Separation of Church and State
by Madalyn Murry O'Hair
This article is the text of “American Atheist Radio Series” program No. 280, first broadcast on February 2, 1974
Back in 1875, a man by the name of Kersey Graves presented a book — to the old Truth Seeker magazine titled
The World's Sixteen Crucified Saviors 1 I have been wanting to give you the story of these sixteen gods for some time. However, I thought that I should find out something about the author first. I have now given up on that. All I know is that he was born in 1813 and that his home was Richmond, Indiana. In 1880, he was hitting the lecture circuit for the freethinkers of those days, and he died on September 4, 1883.
I want to read to you the preface of his book before I go any further here, for this is instructive as to the man.
Inversely to the remoteness of time has been man's ascent toward the temple of knowledge. Truth has made its ingress into the human mind in the ratio by which man has attained the capacity to receive and appreciate it. Hence, as we tread back the meandering pathway of human history, every step in the receding process brings us to a lower plane of intelligence and a state of mind more thoroughly encrusted with ignorance and superstition. It is, therefore, no source of surprise to learn, when we take a survey of the world two or three thousand years in the past, that every religious writer of that era committed errors on every subject which employed his pen, involving a scientific principle. Hence, the bible, or sacred book, to which he was a contributor, is now found to bear the marks of human imperfection. For the temple of knowledge was but partially reared, and its chambers but dimly lighted up. The intellectual brain was in a dark, feeble and dormant condition. Hence, the moral and religious feelings were drifted about without a pilot on the turbulent waves of superstition, and finally stranded on the shoals of bigotry. The Christian bible, like other bibles, having been written in an age when science was but budding into life, and philosophy had attained but a feeble growth, should be expected to teach many things incompatible with the principles of modern science. And accordingly it is found to contain, like other bibles, numerous statements so obviously at war with present established scientific truths that almost any school-boy, at the present day, can demonstrate their falsity. Let the unbiased reader examine and compare the oriental and Christian bibles together, and he will note the following facts, viz: —
1. That the cardinal religious conceptions of all bibles are essentially the same — all running in parallel grooves.
2. That every chapter of every bible is but a transcript of the mental chart of the writer.
3. That no bible, pagan or Christian, contains anything surpassing the natural, mental and moral capacity of the writer to originate. And hence no divine aid or inspiration was necessary for its production.
4. That the moral and religious teachings of no bible reach a higher altitude than the intelligence and mental development of the age and country which produced it.
5. That the Christian bible, in some respects, is superior to some of the other bibles, but only to the extent to which the age in which it was written was superior in intelligence and natural mental capacity to the era in which the older bibles were penned; and that this superiority consists not in its more exalted religious conceptions, but only in the fact that, being of more modern origin, the progress of mind had worn away some of the legendary rubbish of the past. Being written in a later and more enlightened age, it is consequently a little less encrusted with mythological tradition and oriental imagery. Though not free from these elements, it possesses them in less degree. And by comparing Christ's history with those of the oriental Gods, it will be found: —
1. That he taught no new doctrine or moral precept.
2. That he inculcated the same religion and morality, which he elaborated, as other moral teachers, to great extremes.
3. That Christ differs so little in his character, preaching, and practical life from some of the oriental Gods, that no person whose mind is not deplorably warped and biased by early training can call one divine while he considers the other human.
4. That if Christ was a God, then all were Gods.
The author hopes that the work will ultimately effect something towards achieving the important end sought to be attained by its publication. That hope he saw as
the banishment of that wide-spread delusion comprehended in the belief in an incarnate, virgin-born God, called Jesus Christ, and the infallibility of his teachings, with the numerous evils growing legitimately out of this belief — among the most important of which is, its cramping effect upon the mind of the possessor, which interdicts its [the mind's] growth, and thus constitutes a serious obstacle to the progress both of the individual and of society. And such has been the blinding effect of this delusion upon all who have fallen victims to its influence, that the numerous errors and evils of our popular system of religious faith, which constitutes its legitimate fruits, have passed from age to age, unnoticed by all except scientific and progressive minds, who are constantly bringing these errors and evils to light. This state of things has been a source of sorrow and regret to every philanthropist desiring the welfare of the race. And if this work shall achieve anything towards arresting this great evil, the author will feel that he is amply compensated for the years of toil and mental labor spent in its preparation.
After this, the author goes on to relate that he has relied on two hundred unimpeachable historical records for his theory that there were sixteen crucified saviors in human history. He finds that there are certain features about all of these. Usually, the birth is forecast by a Messianic prophecy, and this prophecy often comes from the figure of a serpent. The gods are usually miraculously and immaculately conceived. Most of the mothers are virgins. In each instance, stars point out the time and the birthplace of the savior, and angels, shepherds, or magi visit the savior at or near the time of his birth.
Oddly enough, the twenty-fifth of December, which is the winter solstice, is usually the birthday of the gods. However, once the god is born, it is usually found that he is of royal descent, but that his mother was of humble origin. Each one has a large genealogy.
In each instance, the infant savior is saved from destruction while yet a child. Each one of the sixteen saviors was crucified. Each one had darkness in the sky at the time of the crucifixion, and each descended into hell. They all were resurrected from hell, and after they reappeared on earth — usually to their disciples — they ascended into heaven. That should be enough to excite your interest. Who were the sixteen gods? They were:
- Khrisna of India, crucified 1200 B.C.
- Crite of Chaldea, crucified 1200 B.C.
- Attis of Phrygia, crucified 1170 B.C.
- Thammuz of Syria, crucified 1160 B.C.
- Esus of the Celtic Druids, crucified 834 B.C.
- Bali of Orissa, crucified 725 B.C.
- Indra of Tibet, crucified 725 B.C.
- lao of Nepal, crucified 622 B.C.
- Sakia, a Hindu god, crucified 600 B.C.
- Alcestis of Euripedes, crucified 600 B.C.
- Mithra of Persia, crucified 600 B.C.
- Quexalcoati of Mexico, crucified 587 B.C.
- Aeschylus (Prometheus), crucified 547 B.C.
- Wittoba of the Telingonese, crucified 552 B.C.
- Quirinus of Rome, crucified 506 B.C.
- and Jesus Christ, allegedly about the year A.D. 28 or A.D. 32.
This means, of course, that for a period of about seven hundred years, in the first civilizations, stories of a crucified savior had circulated. The story was very old and had been accepted in all of these cultures throughout the Far East, Middle East, and the Mediterranean countries. Kersey Graves, this author, hammers at several points before he gets to the gods.
Ignorance of science and ignorance of history are the two great bulwarks of religious error. There is scarcely a tenet of religious faith now propagated to the world by the professed disciples of Christ but that, if subjected to a rigid test in the ordeal of modern science, would be found to contain more or less error. Vast acquisitions have been made in the fields of science and history within the last half century, the moral lessons of which have done much to undermine and unsettle our popular system of religious faith, and to bring into disrepute or effectually change many of its long-cherished dogmas. The scientific and historical facts thus brought before the intelligent public, have served as keys for explaining many of the doctrines comprised in the popular creed. ... Many of the doctrines and miraculous events which have always been assigned a divine emanation by the disciples of the Christian faith, are, by these scientific and historical disclosures, shown to be explainable upon natural grounds, and to have exclusively a natural basis. ...
The changes and improvements in religious ideas now observant in the most intelligent portion of the community, are due in part to the rapid progress of scientific discovery and the dissemination of scientific knowledge in Christian countries. ... For many centuries subsequent to the establishment of the Christian religion, but little was known by its disciples of the character, claims and doctrines of the oriental systems of worship. These religions, in fact, were scarcely known to exist, because they had long been veiled in secrecy. They were found, in some cases, enshrined in religious books printed or written in a language so very ancient and obscure, as to bid defiance for centuries to the labors of the most indefatigable, profound and erudite archeological scholar to decipher it. That obstacle is now partially surmounted.
Kersey goes on then to describe the recent translation for the first time of the Hindu Vedas into the English language — and remember that he was describing this all about one hundred years ago. He discusses Horace Greeley's 2 expressed surprise at the translation when Greeley exclaimed, \No doctrine of Christianity but what has been anticipated by the Vedas.\
If, then, this heathen bible [the Vedas, compiled 1500-1200 B.C.] contains all the doctrines of Christianity, then away goes over the dam all claim for the Christian bible as an original revelation, or a work of divine revelation or inspiration.
Bibles are thus shown to be of heathen and human origin, instead of heavenly and divine authorship, as claimed for them by their respective disciples — the Christian bible forming no exception to this statement. The latter [Christian bible], being essentially like other bibles, it must, of course, have had the same or a similar origin — a fact which, though it may be new and startling to millions, will be universally accepted as truth before the lapse of many generations, and a fact which confronts with open denial the claims of the two hundred millions of Christian professors, who assert with unscrupulous boldness that every doctrine, principle and precept of their bible is of divine emanation.
Kersey Graves feels that in this book of his, titled The World's Sixteen Crucified Saviors, he has established forever that the two prime articles of the Christian faith — Revelation and Crucifixion — are human and heathen conceptions.
He recognizes that no demonstrated facts can prove an overmatch for the inherited convictions of a thousand generations of man, and that this is true whether those inherited convictions are Muhammadan, Hindu, or Christian — but he thinks that he would like to insist on trying.