Kersey Graves was born in Brownsville, Pennsylvania on 21 November 1813. His parents were Quakers, and as a young man he followed them in their observance, and then later moved to the Hicksite wing of Quakerism. According to one source, Graves did not attend school for more than three or four months in his life, but another source says that he received an "academical education", and at the age of 19 was teaching in a school at Richmond, a career he was to follow for more than twenty years.
He was an advocate of Abolitionism was also interested in language reform, and became involved with a number of radical freethinkers within Quakerism. In August 1844, he joined a group of about fifty utopian settlers in Wayne County, Indiana. In the same month, he was disowned by his Quaker meeting group due to his neglect of attendance, and also setting up a rival group. The groups he was associated with later dabbled in mesmerism and spiritualism.
In July 1845, Graves married the Quaker, Lydia Michiner, at Goschen Meeting House, in Zanesfield, Logan County, Ohio, and they later had five children at their home in Harveysburg, Ohio. They later moved back to Richmond and bought a farm.
The Goschen Meeting House was a centre of the Congregational Friends and were involved with Temperance and Peace, health reform, anti-slavery, women's rights and socialistic utopianism.
Graves' Quaker background conditioned him to the philosophy of the Inner light, whereby all clergy, creeds, and set liturgy in worship were irrelevant, and a hindrance to God's work. This was intensified by Hicks's brand of Quakerism - Quietism - where an individual's spiritual life was most important and all outward manifestations were invalid. The Congregational Friends were to the left of the Hicksites, and withdrew further from even Christianity and eventually a belief in God.
Graves died at his home just north of Richmond, Indiana on 4 September 1883.
Writings and legacy
Graves held the belief that religion corrupted truth, and he evolved into a writer claiming religious belief false and that Jesus was fiction. He wrote The Biography of Satan (1865), The World's Sixteen Crucified Saviors (1875), and Bible of Bibles (1881). His second book was his most famous and is still quoted by atheists and proponents of the Christ myth theory today despite its criticism and dismissal by biblical scholars.
- Who Was Kersey Graves? at the Wayback Machine (archived June 21, 2008) by John Benedict Buescher.
- Henry Clay Fox, Memoirs of Wayne County and the City of Richmond, Indiana, vol. 1 (Madison, Wisc.: Western Historical Association, 1912), p.393: Kersey Graves was born in Pennsylvania, Nov. 14, 1813, and died in Richmond, Indiana, Sept. 4, 1883. He attended school but three or four months in his life, but in spite of this became, by reading, a well educated man. He became dissatisfied with popular theology quite early in life and used his pen to correct what he believed to be errors. He wrote "The World's Sixteen Crucified Saviors" (Colby & Rich, Boston, 1886), which reached its tenth edition and was sold in both America and Europe; "The Bible of Bibles (1883), an account of Twenty Bibles of the World"; "The Biography of Satan" (Religio-Philosophical Pub. Co., 1865), and "Sixteen Saviors or None." He devoted the later years of his life exclusively to literary work and lecturing. At the time of his death he was associate-«ditor of the Indianapolis "Globe," an antitariff paper.
- History of Wayne County, Indiana, together with sketches of its cities, villages and towns, educational, religious, civil, military, and political history, portraits of prominent persons, and biographies of representative citizens, vol. 1 (Chicago: Inter-State Publishing Company, 1884), p.639: PROF. KERSEY GRAVES, well known to the people of Wayne County by his literary labors, was born in Brownsville, Pa., Nov. 21, 1815, and died in Richmond, Sept. 4, 1883. He received an academical education, and at the age of nineteen began teaching in Richmond, Ind. He continued that occupation here and elsewhere for twenty-three years. He early became interested in scientific studies and spent several years traveling and lecturing on phrenology, physiology and physiognomy. He lectured frequently on temperance and was an anti-slavery orator of some note. He became dissatisfied with popular theology quite early in life, and used his pen to correct what he believed to be errors. His first book was "The Biography of Satan," which had a large sale. His next production , "The World's Sixteen Crucified Saviors," reached its tenth edition and was sold in both America and Europe. Among his latest works was a book entitled "The Bible of Bibles," being an account of twenty-seven Bibles of various ages and countries. He devoted the latter years of his life exclusively to literary work and lectnring, and contributed many articles to magazines and newspapers. His memory was remarkable and his mental acumen great. He lived an upright life. He married Miss Lydia Michener and reared four children.
- Kersey Graves, by Madalyn Muray O'Hair. Text of “American Atheist Radio Series” program No. 280, first broadcast on February 2, 1974.
- Who was Kersey Graves? (John Benedict Buescher)
- A well-researched and documented modern study on which this article has been based.
- A modern commentary by Richard Carrier on Graves and his accuracy.
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