This--the entertainment of an eternity. Who so poor in his ambitions as to consent to be God on those terms? Blasphemy? No, it is not blasphemy. If God is as vast as that, He is above blasphemy; if He is as little as that, He is beneath it.

"The Bible," he said, "reveals the character of its God with minute exactness. It is a portrait of a man, if one can imagine a man with evil impulses far beyond the human limit. In the Old Testament He is pictured as unjust, ungenerous, pitiless, and revengeful, punishing innocent children for the misdeeds of their parents; punishing unoffending people for the sins of their rulers, even descending to bloody vengeance upon harmless calves and sheep as punishment for puny trespasses committed by their proprietors. It is the most damnatory biography that ever found its way into print. Its beginning is merely childish. Adam is forbidden to eat the fruit of a certain tree, and gravely informed that if he disobeys he shall die. How could that impress Adam? He could have no idea of what death meant. He had never seen a dead thing. He had never heard of one. If he had been told that if he ate the apples he would be turned into a meridian of longitude that threat would have meant just as much as the other one. The watery intellect that invented that notion could be depended on to go on and decree that all of Adam's descendants down to the latest day should be punished for that nursery trespass in the beginning.

"There is a curious poverty of invention in Bibles. Most of the great races each have one, and they all show this striking defect. Each pretends to originality, without possessing any. Each of them borrows from the other, confiscates old stage properties, puts them forth as fresh and new inspirations from on high. We borrowed the Golden Rule from Confucius, after it had seen service for centuries, and copyrighted it without a blush. We went back to Babylon for the Deluge, and are as proud of it and as satisfied with it as if it had been worth the trouble; whereas we know now that Noah's flood never happened, and couldn't have happened--not in that way. The flood is a favorite with Bible-makers. Another favorite with the founders of religions is the Immaculate Conception. It had been worn threadbare; but we adopted it as a new idea. It was old in Egypt several thousand years before Christ was born. The Hindus prized it ages ago. The Egyptians adopted it even for some of their kings. The Romans borrowed the idea from Greece. We got it straight from heaven by way of Rome. We are still charmed with it."

He would continue in this strain, rising occasionally and walking about the room. Once, considering the character of God--the Bible God-he said:

"We haven't been satisfied with God's character as it is given in the Old Testament; we have amended it. We have called Him a God of mercy and love and morals. He didn't have a single one of those qualities in the beginning. He didn't hesitate to send the plagues on Egypt, the most fiendish punishments that could be devised--not for the king, but for his innocent subjects, the women and the little children, and then only to exhibit His power just to show off--and He kept hardening Pharaoh's heart so that He could send some further ingenuity of torture, new rivers of blood, and swarms of vermin and new pestilences, merely to exhibit samples of His workmanship. Now and then, during the forty years' wandering, Moses persuaded Him to be a little more lenient with the Israelites, which would show that Moses was the better character of the two. That Old Testament God never had an inspiration of His own."

He referred to the larger conception of God, that Infinite Mind which had projected the universe. He said:

"In some details that Old Bible God is probably a more correct picture than our conception of that Incomparable One that created the universe and flung upon its horizonless ocean of space those giant suns, whose signal-lights are so remote that we only catch their flash when it has been a myriad of years on its way.

Mark Twain
Classic Literature Library

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