Why I Am Agnostic (Part VII)
By: Robert Green Ingersoll
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My attention was turned to other religions, to the sacred books, the creeds and ceremonies of other lands -- of India, Egypt, Assyria, Persia, of the dead and dying nations.
I concluded that all religions had the same foundation -- a belief in the supernatural -- a power above nature that man could influence by worship -- by sacrifice and prayer.
I found that all religions rested on a mistaken conception of nature -- that the religion of a people was the science of that people, that is to say, their explanation of the world -- of life and death -- of origin and destiny.
I concluded that all religions had substantially the same origin, and that in fact there has never been but one religion in the world. The twigs and leaves may differ, but the trunk is the same.
The poor African that pours out his heart to deity of stone is on an exact religious level with the robed priest who supplicates his God. The same mistake, the same superstition, bends the knees and shuts the eyes of both. Both ask for supernatural aid, and neither has the slightest thought of the absolute uniformity of nature.
It seems probable to me that the first organized ceremonial religion was the worship of the sun. The sun was the "Sky Father," the "All Seeing," the source of life -- the fireside of the world. The sun was regarded as a god who fought the darkness, the power of evil, the enemy of man.
There have been many sun-gods, and they seem to have been the chief deities in the ancient religions. They have been worshiped in many lands, by many nations that have passed to death and dust.
Apollo was a sun-god and he fought and conquered the serpent of night. Baldur was a sun-god. He was in love with the Dawn -- a maiden. Chrishna was a sun-god. At his birth the Ganges was thrilled from its source to the sea, and all the trees, the dead as well as the living, burst into leaf and bud and flower. Hercules was a sun-god and so was Samson, whose strength was in his hair -- that is to say, in his beams. He was shorn of his strength by Delilah, the shadow -- the darkness. Osiris, Bacchus, and Mithra, Hermes, Buddha, and Quetzalcoatl, Prometheus, Zoroaster, and Perseus, Cadom, Lao-tsze, Fo-hi, Horus and Rameses, were all sun- gods.
All of these gods had gods for fathers and their mothers were virgins. The births of nearly all were announced by stars, celebrated by celestial music, and voices declared that a blessing had come to the poor world. All of these gods were born in humble places -- in caves, under trees, in common inns, and tyrants sought to kill them all when they were babes. All of these sun-gods were born at the winter solstice -- on Christmas. Nearly all were worshiped by "wise men." All of them fasted for forty days -- all of them taught in parables -- all of them wrought miracles -- all met with a violent death, and all rose from the dead.
The history of these gods is the exact history of our Christ.
This is not a coincidence -- an accident. Christ was a sun- god. Christ was a new name for an old biography -- a survival -- the last of the sun-gods. Christ was not a man, but a myth -- not a life, but a legend.
I found that we had not only borrowed our Christ -- but that all our sacraments, symbols and ceremonies were legacies that we received from the buried past. There is nothing original in Christianity.
The cross was a symbol thousands of years before our era. It was a symbol of life, of immortality -- of the god Agni, and it was chiseled upon tombs many ages before a line of our Bible was written.
Baptism is far older than Christianity -- than Judaism. The Hindus, Egyptians, Greeks and Romans had Holy Water long before a Catholic lived. The eucharist was borrowed from the Pagans. Ceres was the goddess of the fields -- Bacchus of the vine. At the harvest festival they made cakes of wheat and said: "This is the flesh of the goddess." They drank wine and cried: "This is the blood of our god."
The Egyptians had a Trinity. They worshiped Osiris, Isis and Horus, thousands of years before the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost were known.
The Tree of Life grew in India, in China, and among the Aztecs, long before the Garden of Eden was planted.
Long before our Bible was known, other nations had their sacred books.
The dogmas of the Fall of Man, the Atonement and Salvation by Faith, are far older than our religion.
In our blessed gospel, -- in our "divine scheme," -- there is nothing new -- nothing original. All old -- all borrowed, pieced and patched.
Then I concluded that all religions had been naturally produced, and that all were variation, modifications of one, -- then I felt that I knew that all were the work of man.