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Dec 07 2012

Friday Freethought: “The Church Also Had Its Geology”

Robert Ingersoll would not have been surprised by Pat Robertson’s acceptance of science when it comes to the age of the earth. He lived during a time when science was advancing with extraordinary leaps and bounds. Lyell and his geologists were figuring out how the Earth worked; Darwin and Wallace with evolution by natural selection had discovered how you get design without the designer. Unanswerable questions were being answered. And churches, once sole arbiters of The Truth™, were finding themselves forced to be accommodating. Science had to be shoehorned in somehow, if they didn’t want to perfect the art of shoving their fingers in their earholes and screaming, “LA LA-LA LA-LA NOT LISTENING.”

Ken Ham woulda howled.

Of course, trying to have their cake and eat it too makes churches look ridiculous, only not as ridiculous as shunning reality altogether…

 

THE DIVIDED HOUSEHOLD OF FAITH

by Colonel Robert G. Ingersoll

from The Works of Robert G. Ingersoll Volume XI

The church also had its geology. The time when the earth was created had been definitely fixed and was certainly known. This fact had not only been stated by inspired writers, but their statement had been indorsed by priests, by bishops, cardinals, popes and ecumenical councils; that was settled.

But a few men had learned the art of seeing. There were some eyes not always closed in prayer. They looked at the things about them; they observed channels that had been worn in solid rock by streams; they saw the vast territories that had been deposited by rivers; their attention was called to the slow inroads upon continents by seas—to the deposits by volcanoes—to the sedimentary rocks—to the vast reefs that had been built by the coral, and to the countless evidences of age, of the lapse of time—and finally it was demonstrated that this earth had been pursuing its course about the sun for millions and millions of ages.

The church disputed every step, denied every fact, resorted to every device that cunning could suggest or ingenuity execute, but the conflict could not be maintained. The Bible, so far as geology was concerned, was in danger of being driven from the earth.

Beaten in the open field, the church began to equivocate, to evade, and to give new meanings to inspired words. Finally, falsehood having failed to harmonize the guesses of barbarians with the discoveries of genius, the leading churchmen suggested that the Bible was not written to teach astronomy, was not written to teach geology, and that it was not a scientific book, but that it was written in the language of the people, and that as to unimportant things it contained the general beliefs of its time.

The ground was then taken that, while it was not inspired in its science, it was inspired in its morality, in its prophecy, in its account of the miraculous, in the scheme of salvation, and in all that it had to say on the subject of religion.

The moment it was suggested that the Bible was not inspired in everything within its lids, the seeds of suspicion were sown. The priest became less arrogant. The church was forced to explain. The pulpit had one language for the faithful and another for the philosophical, i. e., it became dishonest with both.

Pillars of the temple at Pozzuoli (Italy) used by Lyell to show former sea level differing from today. The corroded part at each pillar has once been below sea level. This higher sea level obviously is after the temple was built and was caused by downwarp and uplift of the land surface as a result of volcanic activity.

Pillars of the temple at Pozzuoli (Italy) used by Lyell to show former sea level differing from today. The corroded part at each pillar has once been below sea level. This higher sea level obviously is after the temple was built and was caused by downwarp and uplift of the land surface as a result of volcanic activity. Image and caption credit Wikimedia Commons.

[Note: There are twelve volumes of Robert Ingersoll, and the man was an orator, and so by volume Ingersoll makes up about 75% of my freethinkers of yore. So we'll be having him at least every other week. If you want more variety, there are two things you can do: 1) digitize more works by freethinkers of yore and 2) contribute to my upkeep so I can quit my job and devote myself to research and writing. Otherwise, you're stuck with Robert Ingersoll every other week, and you shall just have to like it. As he is a superb orator, I don't believe this will be a problem.]

5 comments

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  1. 1
    azportsider

    Bring it, Dana! Ingersoll’s one of my favorites too.

  2. 2
    rq

    I can deal with Ingersoll. If I have to.
    But in all seriousness, I agree – he is an excellent orator. Looking forward to more!
    (PS Away this weekend. ;) Going here. Camera’s still broke, otherwise I could bring back some photos.)

  3. 3
    Tabun

    After reading this post last night, I must’ve spent three hours reading bits of Ingersoll’s work. Something I’ve not done in quite a while.

  4. 4
    F [i'm not here, i'm gone]

    I love how libraries destroy books with their ownership marks.

  5. 5
    grahamjones

    Not very relevant to Ingersoll, but I think this quote belongs in ETEV somewhere.

    If only the Geologists would let me alone, I could do very well, but those dreadful Hammers! I hear the clink of them at the end of every cadence of the Bible verses.

    — John Ruskin, Letter to Henry Acland (24 May 1851).

    From: http://www.victorianweb.org/authors/ruskin/atheories/4.2.html

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