The scientific Christians now admit that the Bible is not inspired in its astronomy, geology, botany, zoology, nor in any science. In other words, they admit that on these subjects, the Bible cannot be depended upon. If all the statements in the scriptures were true, there would be no necessity for admitting that some of them are not inspired. A Christian will not admit that a passage in the Bible is uninspired, until he is satisfied that it is untrue. Orthodoxy itself has at last been compelled to say, that while a passage may be true and uninspired, it cannot be inspired if false.
If the people of Europe had known as much of astronomy and geology when the Bible was introduced among them, as they do now, there never could have been one believer in the doctrine of inspiration. If the writers of the various parts of the Bible had known as much about the sciences as is now known by every intelligent man, the book never could have been written. It was produced by ignorance, and has been believed and defended by its author. It has lost power in the proportion that man has gained knowledge. A few years ago, this book was appealed to in the settlement of all scientific questions; but now, even the clergy confess that in such matters, it has ceased to speak with the voice of authority. For the establishment of facts, the word of man is now considered far better than the word of God. In the world of science, Jehovah was superseded by Copernicus, Galileo, and Kepler. All that God told Moses, admitting the entire account to be true, is dust and ashes compared to the discoveries of Descartes, Laplace, and Humboldt. In matters of fact, the Bible has ceased to be regarded as a standard. Science has succeeded in breaking the chains of theology. A few years ago, Science endeavored to show that it was not inconsistent with the Bible. The tables have been turned, and now, Religion is endeavoring to prove that the Bible is not inconsistent with Science. The standard has been changed.
For many ages, the Christians contended that the Bible, viewed simply as a literary performance, was beyond all other books, and that man without the assistance, of God could not produce its equal. This claim was made when but few books existed, and the Bible, being the only book generally known, had no rival. But this claim, like the other, has been abandoned by many, and soon will be by all. Compared with Shakespeare's "book and volume of the brain," the "sacred" Bible shrinks and seems as feebly impotent and vain, as would a pipe of Pan, when some great organ, voiced with every tone, from the hoarse thunder of the sea to the winged warble of a mated bird, floods and fills cathedral aisles with all the wealth of sound.
It is now maintained--and this appears to be the last fortification behind which the doctrine of inspiration skulks and crouches--that the Bible, although false and mistaken in its astronomy, geology, geography, history and philosophy, is inspired in its morality. It is now claimed that had it not been for this book, the world would have been inhabited only by savages, and that had it not been for the Holy scriptures, man never would have even dreamed of the unity of God. A belief in one God is claimed to be a dogma of almost infinite importance, that without this belief civilization is impossible, and that this fact is the sun around which all the virtues revolve. For my part, I think it infinitely more important to believe in man. Theology is a superstition--Humanity a religion.