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Roger Bissell

The Literature of Freethought

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The Literature of Freethought

By George H. Smith

“By free-thinking,” wrote Anthony Collins in 1713, “I mean the use of the understanding in endeavoring to find out the meaning of any proposition whatsoever, in considering the nature of the evidence for or against it, and in judging of it according to the seeming force or weakness of the evidence.” Freethought, argued Collins, is opposed to any religion that condemns doubt as sinful, or that demands the acceptance of doctrines on authority or faith.

Freethinkers thus include atheists, agnostics, deists, secularists, rationalists, and others who appeal to reason in order to challenge religious orthodoxy. The literature of freethought is enormous, running into thousands of books and countless pamphlets and periodicals. It is obviously futile, therefore, to attempt anything near a comprehensive bibliography in one essay. I have focused on eighteenth and nineteenth century freethought, primarily in England, with a final note on “Jesus revisionism.” The twentieth century, unfortunately, is left nearly untouched, a victim of space limitations.

A major problem with freethought literature is that it is difficult to find, even in university libraries. Most of the choice items have been out of print for many years, so only the dedicated used-book fanatic stands a chance of obtaining the better works. The “Atheist Viewpoint” reprint series (Arno, 1972) has some good items, but the overall selection is poor. Hence many freethought classics remain buried in obscurity.

I am indebted to my friend, Dr. Gordon Stein—an inveterate freethought scholar and bibliophile—for making me aware of the extent of freethought literature. Aside from the historical works I mention, my selections have been somewhat arbitrary; I have simply selected books with which I am personally familiar or which I personally like. If the reader consults the major freethought references, he will be guided through the thousands of works omitted here.

Indispensable for the history of freethought is the work of the great rationalist scholar J. M. Robertson. His History of Freethought, Ancient and Modern, to the Period of the French Revolution (2 vols., 4th ed.., rev., Watts, 1936) remains the definitive work in its time period, as does A History of Freethought in the Nineteenth Century (2 vols., Watts, 1926). Also valuable is Robertson’s A Short History of Christianity (Watts, 1902).

For those who desire a briefer overview of freethought, James Thrower’s Short History of Western Atheism (Pemberton, 1971) is informative in some areas but strangely oblivious to the American and British freethought movements. Somewhat better in this regard is J. B. Bury’s History of Freedom of Thought (1913; rev. by H. J. Blackman, Oxford, 1952).

There are several good reference works pertaining to freethought, including two biographical dictionaries. J. M. Wheeler’s Biographical Dictionary of Freethinkers (Pioneer Press, 1889) is a mine of useful information, as is Joseph McCabe’s A Biographical Dictionary of Modern Rationalists (Watts, 1920). Another useful book by McCabe is A Rationalist Encyclopedia (Watts, 1950). The two works by McCabe, however, should be read with caution for errors of dates and details.

Many books, although not confined to freethought, deal sympathetically with what may be termed the rationalistic spirit in the development of philosophy, religion, and science. A superb reference of this kind is Harry Elmer Barnes, An Intellectual and Cultural History of the Western World (3 vols., 3rd ed.., rev., Dover, 1952). Though first published in 1865, F. A. Lang’s The History of Materialism (one volume trans., Humanities Press, 1950) may still be profitably consulted. A problem with Lang’s treatment, prevalent among many commentators on “materialism,” is an intolerably vague conception of what the term “materialism” purportedly signifies.

A. D. White’s History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom (2 vols., 1896; Dover, 1960) is deservedly a classic in its field. Although it has been convicted of some errors of detail—which is almost inevitable in any path breaking work—its major theses have withstood the test of time. A precursor to White, though less satisfactory in its overall treatment, is John Draper’s History of the Conflict between Religion and Science (Appleton, 1875). Rejoinders to White and Draper—which delight in pointing out that many great scientists were and are devout Christians—are remarkably adept at missing the point.

A superb study of philosophica thought from the late Middle Ages to the mid-nineteenth century is found in John H. Randall, Jr., The Career of Philosophy (2 vols., Columbia Univ. Press, 1962). Also outstanding is Preserved Smith, A History of Modern Culture (2 vols., Henry Holt, 1930, 1934). Both Randall and Smith give sympathetic accounts of the influence of freethought and secularism.

More specifically focused on religious skepticism during the same general period are, George T. Buckley, Atheism in the English Renaissance (1932; Russell and Russell, 1965); Don Cameron Allen, Doubt’s Boundless Sea (John Hopkins, 1964); and Richard Popkin, The History of Skepticism from Erasmus to Descartes (rev., Harper and Row, 1968). Allen’s book is bulging with information about the many anti-atheist treaties during a period when there were few, if any, real atheists. Popkin’s work is a seminal study of the revival of Pyrrhonic skepticism in the sixteenth century and its effect on theological and philosophical


* * *

One of the most significant precedents to modern freethought was the British deistic movement of the eighteenth century. Some deists sought to “reform” Christianity, while others were openly antagonistic, but they shared belief in a god of “nature,” who, after creating the universe, left it to its own devices. Deists were usually hostile to revealed religion, whether in the form of alleged miracles or sacred scripture, and they became notorious for their attacks on traditional Christian doctrines.

A famous but unfairly negative account of British deism is Leslie Stephen, History of English Thought in the Eighteenth Century (2 vols., 3rd ed., 1902; Harcourt, Brace & World, 1962). Stephen was an agnostic, but he was hard on such deists as Anthony Collins and Thomas Woolston. His excesses are counteracted by the more judicious treatment of J. M. Robertson in The Dynamics of Religion (1897; 2nd ed., rev., Watts, 1926).

A balanced view of deism is presented in Ernest C. Mossner’s Bishop Butler and the Age of Reason (Macmillan, 1936), and an exhaustive summary of the deists and their works is found in John Orr’s English Deism: Its Roots and Its Fruits (Eerdmans, 1934). S. G. Hefelbower, The Relation of John Locke to English Deism (Univ. of Chicago, 1918) explores this sticky issue, while Norman Torrey, Voltaire and the English Deists (1930; Archon, 1967) gives a reliable summary of the French skeptic’s reliance upon his English predecessors. For those who wish to sample the deists first hand, an excellent selection of deistic works is found in E. Graham Waring, Deism and Natural Religion: a Sourcebook (Ungar, 1967).

Important preludes to the deistic movement include De Veritate (1624) by Lord Herbert of Cherbury, who is often referred to as the “Father of English Deism”; Leviathan (1651) by Thomas Hobbes, who scandalized the intellectual community with his broadside attacks on established religious doctrines; and Theological Political Treatise (1670) by Spinoza, who subjected the Bible to the court of reason with consummate skill.

* * *

The writings of the British deists are too numerous to be catalogued here, but we can survey a few of the significant items.

Charles Blount, although he professed loyalty to Christianity, produced three works that laid the foundation for later deistic works. These were Anima Mundi (1679), Great is Diana of the Ephesians (1680), and Oracles of Reason (1698). Influenced by Hobbes and Spinoza, Blount upheld reason over revelation and launched a critical analysis of the Bible.

Another professed Christian reformer, John Toland, wrote Christianity not Mysterious in 1696, which proved to be one of the most influential deistic books ever written. Building upon Locke’s theory of knowledge, Toland sought to remove from Christianity anything that claimed to transcend reason. He received a cold reception from Locke, but this was preferable to the warmer reception of the Irish Parliament, which saw fit to burn the first edition of his work.

Another follower of Locke was Anthony Collins, author of the classic Discourse of the Grounds and Reasons of the Christian Religion (1724), a path-breaking analysis of the Old Testament prophecies allegedly fulfilled by Jesus. Showing the absurdity of taking the prophecies literally, Collins called for an allegorical interpretation—but in the appeal to allegory, common among deists at the time, it is difficult to separate sincerity from a ruse to escape legal penalties for blasphemy.

Then there was Tomas Woolston, called by one critic “poor mad Woolston, most scandalous of the deists,” and charged by another with “scurrilous buffoonery and gross raillery.” This learned Cambridge graduate was thought quite sane until he attacked the reported miracles of the New Testament with uncompromising vigor in a series of six Discourses on the Miracles of Our Savior (1727-29). Woolston, like Collins, sought refuge in allegorical interpretation, but unlike Collins, he signed his name to his books. This led to his conviction on a charge of blasphemy in 1729, for which he was fined and sentenced to one year in prison.

In his charges that Jesus was an imposter and magician, Woolston instigated a ribald, popular form of freethought that influenced such figures as Voltaire. A more dispassionate form of deism with a more constructive emphasis appeared in Matthew Tindal’s Christianity as Old as Creation (1730). Often called the Deistic Bible, this work marked the apex of British deism, eliciting over 150 replies. Here were compiled the most cogent arguments for a “Natural Religion.” The slant of this book may be gleaned from some of its chapter titles: “That the Perfection, and Happiness of all rational Beings, Supreme, as well as Subordinate, consists in living up to the Dictates of Their Nature”; “That the Religion of Nature is an absolutely perfect Religion; and that external Revelation can neither add to, nor take from its Perfection…”

Deism was carried to the “working class” mostly through the writings of Peter Annet. His History and Character of Saint Paul (1750) portrayed Paul as lazy, greedy, and dishonest, and The Resurrection of Jesus Considered (1744) appealed to the unreliable and contradictory nature of the resurrection accounts as a basis for discounting their credibility. “If it not be fit to examine into Truth,” declared Annet in a passionate appeal common among freethinkers, “Truth is not fit to be known.” Apparently the British government disagreed. For attempting to “diffuse and propagate irreligious and diabolical opinions in the minds of His Majesty’s subjects, and to shake the foundations of the Christian religion,” Annet, at the advanced age of seventy, was pilloried (with a paper on his forehead inscribed “blasphemy”) and sentenced to a year of hard labor in prison.

(An interesting sidelight to Annet is his book, Social Bliss Considered: in Marriage and Divorce; Cohabitation Unmarried, and Public Whoring, published under the pseudonym of “Gideon Archer” in 1749. In his call for the legalization of divorce, unmarried cohabitating, and prostitution, Annet seems an eighteenth century version of Walter Block.)

Among other important deistic works of the same period, we should mention the following: The True Gospel of Jesus Christ Asserted (1739) by Thomas Chubb; the posthumous Philosophical Works of Lord Bolingbroke (1754); Free Inquiry into the Miraculous Powers, which are Supposed to have Subsisted in the Christian Church (1749 by Conyers Middleton; and The Religion of Nature Delineated (1722) by William Wollaston (which, incidentally, contains a little-known but superb defense of property rights from a libertarian perspective).

Finally, there was David Hume, the philosophic genius who, although he did not enter the fray of religious controversy to the extent of other deists, contributed the most sophisticated and influential arguments against Christianity and revealed religion—the most famous being his celebrated attack on miracles in An Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding (1748). His other works pertaining to religion were The Natural History of Religion (1757) and Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion (apparently written around 1757 but not published until 1779, after his death). For a good exposition of Hume, see Antony Flew’s Hume’s Philosophy of Belief (Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1961).

Freethought reached its highpoint in nineteenth century Britain, where it became militantly anti-Christian and often atheistic. This period is discussed in detail in J. M. Robertson, A History of Freethought in the Nineteenth Century (supra); a readable survey of the intellectual climate, with a different emphasis than Robertson, is A. W. Benn’s The History of English Rationalism in the Nineteenth Century (2 vols., 1906; Russell & Russell, 1962). Edward Royle’s superb Victorian Infidels (Univ. of Manchester, 1974) concentrates on the secularist movement initiated by G. J. Holyoake. Several other works fill out the century: W. S. Smith’s The London Heretics, 1870-1914 (Dodd, Mead, 1968) is excellent, as is David Tribe’s 100 Years of Freethought (Elek, 1967). A. H. Nethercot’s The First Five Lives of Annie Besant (Univ. of Chicago, 1960) explores the dynamic but unstable life of this enigmatic woman during her association with Charles Bradlaugh and the freethought movement, prior to her conversion to Theosophy under the spell of Mme. Blavatsky.

Of the many significant figures in British freethought, only a few will be mentioned here. George Jacob Holyoke (1817-1906) was a disciple of Robert Owen and a major exponent of “co-operation”—a kind of voluntary socialism. (See his History of Co-operation, rev., T. Fisher Unwin, 1908.) Holyoake coined the term “secularism,” which he believed preferable to “atheism,” and as the founder and editor of about ten magazines he exerted a great deal of influence. For his suggestion that the deity be put on “half-pay,” he served a six-month prison sentence—the details of which are recounted in his History of the Last Trial by Jury for Atheism (1851; Arno, 1972). Among Holyoake’s better works are The Trial of Theism (rev., Trubner & Co., 1877), an excellent defense of atheism, and English Secularism (Open Court, 1896). Like many free-thinkers of his day, Holyoake actively engaged in debates with the clergy. One of his better known was with Rev. Brewin Grant on Christianity and Secularism (Ward & Co., 1854), which occupied six evenings. A rambling autobiography of Holyoake is found in his Sixty Years of an Agitator’s Life (2 vols., T. Fisher Unwin, 1900), and additional details are provided in Joseph McCabe, Life and Letters of George Jacob Holyoake (2 vols., Watts, 1908).

* * *

Charles Bradlaugh (1833-1891) was the most important atheist ever produced by Britain. A superb orator, writer, and organizer, Bradlaugh replaced Holyoake as the militant force in British freethought. He edited the National Reformer, a freethought weekly, and in 1866 he founded the National Secular Society. In 1876 he and Annie Besant were prosecuted for publishing C. Knowlton’s Fruits of Philosophy (a pamphlet on birth control), but Bradlaugh, an excellent lawyer, succeeded in quashing the indictment. (For an account of the trial, see The Queen v. Charles Bradlaugh and Annie Besant, Freethought Publishing Co., n.d.) Although elected to Parliament in 1880, Bradlaugh’s atheism prevented him from being seated until 1886.

Some of Bradlaugh’s better essays—including his magnificent “Plea for Atheism”—are contained in Humanity’s Gain From Unbelief (Watts, 1929), and articles by and about Bradlaugh are found in J. P. Gilmour ed., Champion of Liberty: Charles Bradlaugh (Watts, 1933; Arno, 1972). An outstanding biography of Bradlaugh is David Tribe’s President Charles Bradlaugh, M. P. (Archon, 1971), which contains an extensive list of his writings. Still useful is the older biography by Bradlaugh’s daughter, H. B. Bonner, Charles Bradlaugh: A Record of His Life and Work (with J. M. Robertson, 2 vols., T. Fisher Unwin, 1898).

One of the great contributions of nineteenth century freethinkers was their dogged persistence in fighting for freedom of speech and press. Many well-known freethinkers—such as Holyoake, Robert Taylor, and G. W. Foote in Britain, and D. N. Bennett in the United States—were routinely trotted off to jail, sometimes for long sentences, not to mention heavy fines. The highest price paid was by the publisher Richard Carlile, who, between 1817 and 1835, served over nine years in prison for publishing, among other items, Paine’s Age of Reason. In addition, Carlile’s wife, sister, and over twenty of his workers served time, sometimes for two years or more. But the freethinkers had a knack for making adversity work for them, and Carlile was no exception. As a result of the publicity surrounding one of his trials, sales of the Age of Reason skyrocketed to over 2000 within two months. Moreover, Carlile read the entire text of the Age of Reason during his defense, which was then allowed to circulate as part of the verbatim trial transcript. In this inexpensive form it sold over 10,000 copies. For details on Carlile, see Guy A. Aldred, Richard Carlile, Agitator (Pioneer Press, 1923). A summary account of blasphemy prosecutions is contained in H. B. Bonner, Penalties Upon Opinion (Watts, 1913).

* * *

Freethought in eighteenth century America, as in England, took the form of deistic belief in a good of nature and vigorous attacks on Christian revelation. An excellent treatment of American deism is Adolf Koch, Republican Religion (1933), reprinted as Religion of the American Enlightenment (Thomas Crowell, 1968). The first overt American attack on Christianity was Ethan Allen’s Reason the Only Oracle of Man (1784), a rambling and poorly written collection of essays compiled by Allen since his youth. In stark contrast is Thomas Paine’s classic masterpiece, Age of Reason (Pt. I, 1794; Pt. II, 1796). Although it appeared after the peak of the deistic movement and contains little that is original, Age of Reason is perhaps the finest deistic piece ever penned, thanks to Paine’s literary genius.

Concerning Paine’s religious views, see M. D. Conway, The Life of Thomas Paine (1892; G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1909); and Ira M. Thompson, Jr., The Religious Beliefs of Thomas Paine (Vantage, 1965). Recent biographies of Paine include Audrey Williamson, Thomas Paine (Allen & Unwin, 1973); and David F. Hawke, Paine (Harper & Row, 1974).

Early nineteenth century American freethought is surveyed in A. Post, Popular Freethought, 1820-1850 (Columbia Univ. Press, 1943). This survey is continued in Sidney Warren, American Freethought, 1860-1914 (Columbia Univ. Press, 1943). A sprawling and rare work that contains much first-hand information about nineteenth century American freethinkers, is S. P. Putnam, 400 Years of Freethought (Truth Seeker, 1894). Another informative account of American freethought, centering around the history of The Truth Seeker (a freethought paper started by D. M. Bennett in 1873), is George MacDonald’s Fifty Years of Freethought (2 vols., Truth Seeker, 1929, 1931).

The giant of American freethought was Robert G. Ingersoll (1833-1899). One of America’s greatest orators, he was immensely successful in popularizing the ideas of free thought. Many different editions of his speeches were published (some of them pirated), but the authorized editions are contained in the “Dresden Edition” of The Works of Robert G. Ingersoll (12 vols., C. P. Farrell, 1900). A meticulous bibliography of works by and about Ingersoll is found in Gordon Stein, Robert G. Ingersoll: A Checklist (Kent State Univ. Press, 1969). The best biography of Ingersoll to date is Orvin Larson’s American Infidel: Robert G. Ingersoll (Citadel Press, 1962).

* * *

Although this essay deals primarily with freethought in England and America, it would border on criminal negligence not to mention the tremendously important contributions of eighteenth century French freethinkers, commonly referred to as philosophes.

J. S. Spink’s French Free-Thought from Gassendi to Voltaire (Univ. of London, 1960) is a reliable, scholarly treatment. The formative period of the Enlightenment, 1680-1715, is treated by Paul Hazard in The European Mind (1935; World, 1963). A sympathetic account of the philosophes is contained in Peter Gay, The Enlightenment: An Interpretation (Vol., I, Knopf, 1967). Also recommended is George R. Havens, The Age of Ideas (1955; Collier 1962). An excellent selection of Enlightenment writing is found in Peter Gay, ed., The Enlightenment: A Comprehensive Anthology (Simon & Schuster, 1973).

One of the important influences on the French Enlightenment was Pierre Bayle’s Historical and Critical Dictionary, first published in 1607 and revised on several subsequent occasions. An abridged translation of this voluminous work is in the Library of Liberal Arts series (Richard Popkin, ed., Bobbs-Merrill, 1965). Although Bayle professed Calvinism, his sincerity has been questioned due to his many scandalous remarks about Christianity and the Bible. It is widely believed that Bayle, like other unorthodox thinkers of his time, professed to be more religious than he really was in an effort to avoid potentially severe legal penalties. This is the general view, for instance, of Howard Robinson’s Bayle the Sceptic (Columbia Univ. Press, 1931). More recently, however, scholars have granted more credibility to Bayle’s fideism (attacking reason to make room for faith), as is demonstrated in Karl C. Sandberg, At the Crossroads of Faith and Reason: An Essay on Pierre Bayle (Univ. of Arizona, 1966).

The best known figure of the French Enlightenment was Francois-Marie Arouet, better known as Voltaire. His writing is extensive and is available in many easily located editions. A representative selection of his work is contained in Peter Gay’s edited translation of the Philosophical Dictionary (Basic Books, 1962). Of the numerous biographies of Voltaire, one of the best is Theodore Besterman, Voltaire (Harcourt, Brace, and World, 1969).

As a deist, Voltaire was at loggerheads with the more radical atheists of his time, such as Diderot and d’Holbach. Diderot, known primarily as the editor of the monumental Encyclopedia (which he worked on from 1751-65), paid his dues with three years of imprisonment. Arthur M. Wilson’s Diderot (Oxford, 1972) is a brilliant biography of this amazing and versatile mind. Some of Diderot’s opinions on religion—e.g., “The Christian religion teaches us to imitate a God that cruel, insidious, jealous, and implacable in his wrath”—are contained in “Thoughts on Religion,” an essay reprinted by Richard Carlile in 1819. For an anthology of Diderot’s philosophical writing, see J. Kemp, ed., Diderot: Interpreter of Nature (International Pub., 1963).

Baron d’Holbach, an import from Germany and a patron of the philosophes, is justly famous for his System of Nature, published in 1770 under the name of “Mirabaud” (a French writer who died in 1760)—a device to conceal and protect the true author. D’Holbach was probably assisted by Diderot and other Paris intellectuals, and the result was a magnificent, if somewhat prolix, defense of atheism and naturalism—the first explicit atheistic treatise of Western civilization (or at least the first one to survive). “Let us then conclude,” wrote d’Holbach, “that the word God…not presenting to the mind any true idea, ought to be banished [from] the language of all those who are desirous to speak so as to be understood” (H. D. Robinson, trans., J. P. Mendum, 1889). This is typical of the vigorous, uncompromising tone of The System of Nature, the best and most influential defense of atheism ever written.

A greatly condensed version of d’Holbach’s masterpiece is available under the title Superstition in All Ages (Peter Eckler, 1889; reprinted many times by various freethought publishers), which is mistakenly attributed to Jean Meslier, a priest who declared himself a heretic posthumously in his Testament. (This mistaken authorship remains uncorrected even in the 1972 Arno Press edition.)

* * *

I shall conclude this survey of freethought works with an important but neglected body of literature that denies any basis for belief in a historical Jesus, even the watered-down Jesus of Protestant liberalism. The first mention of this “Jesus revisionism” is by Voltaire, who reported that he was visited in 1769 by “some disciples of Bolingbroke, more ingenious than learned,” who argued that Jesus never existed. Voltaire was unconvinced, but the mythicist theory was given shape by two Frenchmen: Count Volney in Ruins of Empires (1791) and Charles Francois Dupuis in Origins of All Religions (5 vols., 1795).

Dupuis contended that Christianity is a variation of the ancient Solar Myth and that Jesus is merely another guise of ancient mythical deities. “The hero of the legends known by the name of gospels,” he wrote, “is the same hero who has been celebrated with far more genius in the poems written in honor of Bacchus, Osiris, Hercules, Adonis, and others.”

Another staunch defender of the mythicist thesis was the renegade British clergyman, Robert Taylor. During his first imprisonment for blasphemy, he wrote Syntagma of the Evidences of the Christian Religion (1828; J. P. Mendum, 1876) and The Diegesis, Being a Discovery of the Origin, Evidences, and Early History of Christianity (1829; J. P. Mendum, 1853). Taylor was a learned ad original—if sometimes unreliable—scholar. This last is understandable considering the difficult conditions under which he worked.

Better known than Taylor was German theologian Bruno Bauer, who, in a series of books appearing after 1840, denied the historicity of Jesus. Bauer regarded Jesus as a fictitious character invented by the author of Mark as an expression of faith. (For an account of Bauer and other radical theologians during the same period, see Albert Schweitzer, The Quest of the Historical Jesus, 1906; Macmillan, 1968),

Another interesting presentation of the mythicist case is Revelations of Antichrist, published anonymously but written by W. H. Burr (1879; Arno, 1972).

The most scholarly and formidable presentation of the mythicist thesis was penned by John M. Robertson. His major works on this subject were Christianity and Mythology (Watts, 1900; rev., 1910) and Pagan Christs (Watts, 1903; rev., 1911). These were followed by three volumes in which he expanded his case and replied to his critics: The Historical Jesus (Watts, 1916), The Jesus Problem (Watts, 1917), and Jesus and Judas (Watts, 1927).

Among the other books defending Jesus revisionism, the following are noteworthy: The Christ Myth (Open Court, 1911) and The Witness to the Historicity of Jesus (Watts, 1912; Arno, 1972), both by Arthur Drews; Ecce Deus (Watts, 1912) by W. B. Smith; The Origins of Christianity (4th ed., Watts, 1933) by Thomas Whittaker; The Creation of Christ (2 vols., Watts, 1939) by P. L. Couchoud; and Ancient History of the God Jesus (Watts, 1938) by Edouard Dujardin.

An excellent overview of the mythicist controversy, written by a rationalist scholar who believed in the historical reality of Jesus, is A. Robertson, Jesus: Myth or History (2nd ed., Watts, 1949). More recently, an excellent defense of the mythicist thesis is found in Herbert Cutner’s Jesus: God, Man, or Myth? (Truth Seeker, 1950). And the mythicist gauntlet has been skillfully wielded in the past few years by G. A. Wells in two books still in print: The Jesus of the Early Christians (Pemberton, 1971) and Did Jesus Exist? (Elek, 1975). Both of these detailed works are highly recommended.

[This essay was first published in Libertarian Review, Vol. VI, No. 1 (January-February 1977) and was posted to Objectivist Living with the author's permission on Friday January 12, 2007. That makes this essay 30 years old this month!]

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Roger; Thanks for reprinting this essay. I like to look at Ingersol's speechs. His oration on the death of his brother is one of finest funeral speeches ever given. Someone has said that a nominating speech he gave at a GOP convention almost caused the nomination of Ingersol's candidate. The convention had to be adjourned. Ingersol is a pleasure to read.

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