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A Hill-Billy Book

A PAMPHLET by James E. Bennet, entitled "The Bible Defeats Atheism", has just come to my notice. It purports to be "A Story of the Famous Harry Rimmer Trial as told by the Attorney for the Defendant", but anyone who attended the hearing would hardly recognize the proceedings from Mr. Bennet's garbled account. His batting average, in the matter of mis-statement, is almost perfect.


Mr. Bennet's pamphlet deserves a high rating in Fundamentalist circles. Culturally, it belongs in the Jurassic Age, when animals had thirty-ton bodies and three ounce brains.


As for Mr. Bennet himself, he is more to be pitied than scorned, for his the type of individual one will find teaching Bible classes at Babbitt's Corners. He is probably the victim of his Sunday school days. Believe it or not, I once attended Sunday school, too, and, at the age of ten, won a prize for writing a religious essay. It must have been a masterpiece. If I had it today, I would offer it to Mr. Bennett as a model for Sunday school writing.


Like his pal-in-Jesus, Rimmer, Mr. Bennett is an all-out Fundamentalist. He will employ any kind of statement that will bolster his faith. The Rot of Ages is the rock for him.


His spelling is atrocious. He writes "Lyall" for Lyell, "Santa Clause" for Santa Claus, twice refers to Henry Fairfield "Osbourn", and misspells G. Elliot Smith's name. He does manage, however, to spell God correctly a great many times, probably from long practice. His familiarity with scientific names and terms gives one a shudder.


His diction is abominable. If you are a stickler for even ordinary decent English, try this sentence: "If the canary one thousand years ago was today a horse, or some other animal, that would be evolution". Or, better still, how do you like this grammar: These exhibits, seen by children in museums, "are made by man as in his opinion they think evolution might have occurred".


Like Harry Rimmer, Mr. Bennet is interested in science only when it irritates his piety. "I believe that the Bible is the Word of God, and the only infallible rule of faith and practice. I do not have to argue about it. If you do not believe, then you prove that I am wrong, if you can . . . I believe that man became a sinner through the disobedience of Adam . . . I get great joy and comfort from my belief."


He probably does. But he gets even greater joy from telling the Fundamentalists how he flabbergasted the plaintiff's witnesses. All of us were just snowed under by his amazing erudition. Mr. Floyd's "swell bunch of anti-Bible witnesses" were ground to dust by his clever questioning, and sat blanched and bewildered before his profound knowledge. He knew more about the Bible, it seems, than Major Joseph Wheless, the plaintiff's attorney the Rev. John Haynes Holmes, the Rev. Charles Francis Potter, Rabbi Baruch Braunstein, and the rest of us put together. He thinks so, anyway. And what does Christian meekness matter if it sometimes slips a cog and becomes cocky?


Not all of us, of course, can be as bright and as scholarly as Mr. Bennet. He talks about "hunks of gas", not knowing that "hunks" applies to solids, can't keep his verbs straight ("each of which flatly contradict the other"), and refers to the deer family as "cervidoe" instead of cervidae. But what does it matter? Those for whom the book is written will never know the difference. God gave us the Bible, didn't he, and ain't that enough? And didn't he give us Jesus Christ? And what have you atheists got to put in their place?


Scientifically, he is an ace investigator and something of a zoologist. "I rather regretted the fact that they did not offer more proof, because I had been studying up on the subject as far as I could and was convinced that the ark was large enough to hold the prescribed cargo." And he agrees with Mr. Rimmer: "You could get two of every species of insect on the hides of two good-sized elephants, and they would not, therefore, occupy any additional space in the ark."


As for geology, "most all present-day scientists have completely discredited the theory of the record of the rocks".


As for the formation of clouds, it came about in this way: "I showed how God pushed the clouds further back and made what the aviators call a 'ceiling' between the clouds and the substance of the earth, and God called it a 'firmament' and men call this cloudy ceiling 'heaven'.


Half the pamphlet is devoted to me, and if it weren't for the source, I might feel a bit flattered. "There were," says Bennet, "179 typed pages of the official record, being 25 lines to the page, and the testimony of Mr. Teller actually covered about eighty pages." If there is any merit in this, it lies in the opportunity I had, for four hours on the witness stand, to testify for science and against the Bible to a packed court room. Every hamlet in America, reached by the Associated and United Press, heard of the Floyd-Rimmer case. And though highly colored and distorted, the reports let every hick know that the Bible had been kicked around in a municipal court.


"The Judge, a Hebrew in his thirties," says Mr. Bennet, "was a very bright lawyer and a good judge." He was. He reprimanded Mr. Bennet for getting too personal with me, and extended me a compliment at the end of the trial. I do not recall that Mr. Bennet was complimented by the Court.


And by way of accuracy, let it be stated that the Court did not pass on the scientific evidence presented, as stated by Mr. Bennet. It passed on the question whether Mr. Rimmer should be held responsible for a certain advertisement in a New York newspaper, offering a reward of a thousand dollars for errors in the Bible. But what do Fundamentalists care for trifling details like these? The fact that Rimmer ducked responsibility for the ad closed the case. The Fundamentalists won by running away.

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