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´╗┐Title: Comic Bible Sketches - Reprinted from "The Freethinker"
Author: Foote, G. W. (George William), 1850-1915
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Comic Bible Sketches - Reprinted from "The Freethinker"" ***

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Reprinted From "The Freethinker"

By G. W. Foote

Part I.


Progressive Publishing Company

28 Stonecutter Street, E.C.



English literature has its Comic Histories, its Comic Grammars, its
Comic Geographies, and its Comic Law-Books, and Carlyle once prophesied
that it would some day boast its Comic Bible. Tough as the fine old
Sage of Chelsea was, he predicted this monstrosity with something of the
horror a barbarian might feel at the thought of some irreverent fellow
deliberately laughing at the tribal fetish. But what shocked our
latter-day prophet so greatly in mere anticipation has partially come to
pass. "La Bible Amusante" has had an extensive sale in France, and the
infectious irreverence has extended itself to England. Notwithstanding
that Mr. G. R. Sims, when he saw the first numbers of that abominable
publication, piously turned up the whites of his eyes, and declared his
opinion that no English Freethinker, however extreme, would think of
reproducing or imitating them, there were found persons so utterly
abandoned as not to scruple at this unparalleled profanity. Several
of the French drawings were copied with more or less fidelity in the
_Freethinker_, a scandalous print, as the Christians love to describe
it, which has been prosecuted twice for Blasphemy, and whose editor,
proprietor and publisher, have been punished respectively with twelve,
nine and three months' imprisonment like common felons, all for the
glory and honor of God, for the satisfaction of his dear Son, and for
the vindication of the Holy Spirit. In many cases the French originals
could not be reproduced in England, owing to their Gallic flavor. A
Parisian artist, disporting himself among those highly moral histories
in the Bible which our youths and maidens discover with unerring
instinct, was not a spectacle which one could dare to exhibit before
the pious and chaste British public; any more than an English poet could
follow the lead of Evariste Parny in his "Guerre des Dieux" and "Les
Amours de la Bible." But many others were free from this objection, and
a selection of them served as a basis for the Freethinker artist to work
on. A few were copied pretty closely; some were elaborated and adapted
to our national taste; while others furnished a central suggestion,
which was treated in an independent manner. By-and-bye, as the insular
diffidence wore off, and the minds of the Freethinker staff played
freely on the subject, a new departure was taken; novel ideas were
worked out, and Holy Writ was ransacked for fresh comicalities. Dullards
prophesied a speedy exhaustion of Bible topics, but they did not know
how inexhaustible it is in absurdities. Properly read, it is the most
comical book in the world; and one might say of it, as Enobarbus says
of Cleopatra, that Age cannot wither it, nor custom stale; it's infinite

The following Comic Bible Sketches, which will be succeeded in due
course by others, comprise all those worth preserving that appeared
in the Freethinker before its editor, proprietor and publisher were
imprisoned, including the drawings they were prosecuted for by that
pious guinea: pig, Sir Henry Tyler, who had his dirty fingers severely
rapped by Lord Coleridge, after spending several hundred pounds of
somebody's money in an unsuccessful Blasphemy prosecution, in order to
patch up his threadbare reputation, and perhaps also with a faint hope
of cheating the Almighty into reserving him a front-seat ticket for the
dress-circle in heaven.

The French Comic Bible prints under each illustration a few crisp lines
of satiric narrative. This plan has its advantages; it allows, for
instance, the writer's pen to curvet as well as the artist's pencil. But
it is after all less effective than the plan we have adopted. We merely
give each picture a comprehensive and striking title, and print beneath
it the Bible text which is illustrated. By this means the satire is
greatly heightened. Not even the sentences of a Voltaire could so
illuminate and emphasise the grotesqueness of each topic as this
juxtaposition of the solemnly absurd Scripture with the gaily absurd

The same spirit has animated us in designing the pictures. Our object
has been to take the Bible text always as our basis, to include
no feature which is contradicted by it, and to introduce as many
comicalities and anachronisms as possible consistently with this rule.
We are therefore able to defy criticism. Bibliolators may vituperate us,
persecute us, or imprison us, but they cannot refute us.. We can safely
challenge them to prove that a single incident happened otherwise than
we have depicted it. We can candidly say to them--"The thing must have
happened in some way, as to which the Divine Word is silent; this is our
view,--What is yours?" And we humbly submit that our speculations are
as valid as our neighbors'. Nothing but the insanest bigotry in favor of
their own conjectures could lead them to quarrel with us for expounding
ours. If they can shame us with explicit disproofs from Holy Writ, let
them do so; but what right have they to set up their carnal imaginings
and uninspired theories as the ultimate criteria of truth?

Those who object to any employment of satire on "sacred" subjects should
not go beyond the Preface of this book. It is not for them, nor are they
for it; and they are warned in the hall of what they must expect in the
various chambers. But if they neglect the warning they should take the
responsibility. It will be simply indecent if they turn round afterwards
and assail us with unmerited abuse.

For the sake of those who proceed in a spirit of impartial candor and
honest inquiry, we beg to offer a little further explanation.

We honestly admit that our purpose is to discredit the Bible as
the infallible word of God. Believing as we do, with Voltaire, that
despotism can never be abolished without destroying the dogmas on which
it rests, and that the Bible is the grand source and sanction of them
all, we are profoundly anxious to expose its pretentions. The educated
classes already see through them, and the upper classes credit them
just as little, although they dare not openly profess a scepticism which
would imperil their privileges. But the multitude are still left to the
manipulation of priests, credulous victims of the Black Army everywhere
arrayed against freedom and progress. It is to liberate these from
thraldom that we labor, sacrifice and suffer. Without being indifferent
to what the world calls success, we acknowledge the sovereignty of
loftier aims. Compared with the advancement of Freethought everything
else is to us of trivial moment. It may interest, and perhaps surprise,
some to learn that for the famous Christmas Number of the Freethinker
which was successfully prosecuted, the editor received absolutely
nothing for his work except twelve months' imprisonment, while the
then registered proprietor, who suffered nine months of the same fate,
actually shared with him a pecuniary loss of five pounds. We are really
in deadly earnest, like all the greater soldiers of freedom who preceded
us; and we employ our smaller resources of satire, as such giants as
Lucian, Rabelais, Erasmus, Voltaire and Heine used theirs, for ends
that reach far forward into the mighty future, and affect the welfare of
unimagined generations of mankind.

Now the masses do not read learned disquisitions; they have no leisure
to make themselves adequately acquainted with the history of the Bible
documents; nor can they study comparative religion, trace out the
analogies between Christianity and older faiths, and realise how all
the elaborate developments of doctrine and ritual in modern creeds have
sprung from a few simple beliefs and practices of savage superstition.
But they are conversant with one or two cardinal ideas of science, and
they know the principles which underlie our daily life. What is called
common sense (the logic of common experience) is their philosophy, and
whoever seeks to move them must appeal to them through that. Strange as
it may appear, it is that very common sense which the clergy dread far
more than all the disclosures of learning and all the revelations of
science; the reason being, that learning and science are the privilege
of a few, while common sense is the possession of all, and affects the
very foundations of spiritual and political tyranny.

Ridicule is a most potent form of common-sense logic. What is the
_reductio ad absurdum_ but an appeal to admitted truths against
plausible falsehoods? Reducing a thing to an absurdity is simply showing
its inconsistency with what is common to both sides in a dispute; and it
frequently means the exposure of a gross contradiction to the principles
of sanity. Laughter, too, as Hobbes pointed out, has always an element
of pride or contempt; being invariably accompanied by a feeling of
superiority to its object. Whoever laughs at an absurdity is above it.
He looks down on it from a loftier altitude than argument can reach.
The man who laughs is safe. He can never more be in danger, unless he
suffers fatty degeneration of the heart or fattier degeneration of the
head. Priestcraft nourishes hope in the scientific laboratory, and feels
only faint misgivings in academic halls; but it pales and withers at the
smile of scepticism, and hears in a low laugh the note of the trump of

Ridicule can never injure truth. What it hurts must be false. Laugh at
the multiplication-table as much as you please, and twice two will still
make four.

Pictorial ridicule has the immense advantage of visualising absurdities.
Lazy minds, or those accustomed to regard a subject with the reverence
of prejudice, read without realising. But the picture supplies the
deficiency of their imagination, translates words into things, and
enables them to see what had else been only a vague sound.

Christians read the Bible without realising its wonders, allowing
themselves to be cheated with words. Mr. Herbert Spencer has remarked
that the image of the Almighty hand launching worlds into space is very
fine until you try to form a mental picture of it, when it is found to
be utterly irrealisable. In the same way, the Creation Story is passable
until you image the Lord making a clay man and blowing up his nose;
or the story of Samson until you picture him slaying file after file of
well-armed soldiers with the jaw-bone of a costermonger's pony.

Let it be observed that these Comic Bible Sketches ridicule nothing but
miracles. Mr. Mathew Arnold has said that the Bible miracles are only
fairy tales (very poor ones, by the way) and their reign is doomed. We
only seek to hasten their deposition. Whatever the Bible contains of
truth, goodness and beauty, we prize as well as its blindest devotees.
But this valuable deposit of antiquity would be more useful if cleared
of the rubbish of superstition. It is not the good, but the evil parts
of the Bible, that are supported by its supernaturalism. Why should
civilised Englishmen go walking about in Hebrew Old-Clothes? Let us heed
Carlyle's stern monition:--"The Jew old-clothes having now grown fairly
pestilential, a poisonous incumbrance in the path of of men, burn them
up with revolutionary fire."

A word in conclusion. The editor of the "Manchester Examiner," writing
over the well-Known signature of "Verax," recently published a long
article, censuring the policy of aggressive Freethought, and declaring
that to laugh at the absurdities of the Bible was to insult the human
race. We might as well, he said, laugh at our poor ancestors, the
ancient Britons, for all their mistakes and follies. Well, when the
ancient Jews are not only dead, but buried like the ancient Britons;
when their mistakes and follies are no longer palmed off on unsuspecting
children, and imposed on grown-up men and women, as divine immortal
truths; we will cease ridiculing them, and devote our attention to
worthier objects. What, would "Verax" say if an ancient Briton, dressed
in a full suit of war-paint, were to walk through the Manchester
streets, boasting himself the pink of fashion, and insulting peaceable
citizens who refused to patronise his tailor? Would he not write a racy
article on the absurd phenomenon, and ask why the police tolerated such
a nuisance? In like manner we publish our Comic Bible Sketches, and
summon the police of thought to remove those ancient Jews who still
infest our mental thoroughfares.

April, 1885.


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