Kersey Graves (November 21, 1813 in Brownsville, Pennsylvania – September 4, 1883 in Richmond, Indiana) was a skeptic, atheist, rationalist, spiritualist, reformist writer, who was popular on the American freethought circuit of the late 19th century.
Graves was born in Brownsville, Pennsylvania. His parents were Quakers, and as a young man he followed them in their observance, later moving 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.
- 1875: The World's Sixteen Crucified Saviors ;
I desire to impress upon the minds of my clerical brethren the important fact, that the gospel histories of Christ were written by men who had formerly been Jews (see Acts xxi. 20), and probably possessing the strong proclivity to imitate and borrow which their bible shows was characteristic of that nation ; and being written many years after Christ's death, according to that standard Christian author, Dr. Lardner, it was impossible, under such circumstances, for them to separate (if they had desired to) the real facts and events of his life from the innumerable fictions and fables then afloat everywhere relative to the heathen Gods who had pre-enacted a similar history. Two reasons are thus furnished for their constructing a history of Christ almost identical with that of other Gods.
Writings and legacy
Graves started with the belief that religion corrupted truth, and evolved into a writer claiming that all religious belief was false and that Jesus was fiction. His published works include The Biography of Satan; Or, A Historical Exposition of the Devil and His Fiery Dominions. Disclosing the Oriental Origin of the Belief in a Devil and Future Endless Punishment (1865; 4th ed. 1924), The World's Sixteen Crucified Saviors: Or, Christianity Before Christ (1875), and The Bible of Bibles; Or, Twenty-Seven "Divine Revelations": Containing a Description of Twenty-seven Bibles, and an Exposition of Two Thousand Biblical Errors in Science, History, Morals, Religion, and General Events; Also a Delineation of the Characters of the Principal Personages of the Christian Bible, and an Examination of Their Doctrines (4th ed., Boston: Colby & Rich, 1879). His second book was his most famous and is still quoted by atheists and proponents of the Christ myth theory today despite criticism and dismissal by biblical scholars.
Graves is discussed in The Christ Conspiracy and Suns of God by Dorothy M. Murdock aka Acharya S. His shortcomings are discussed by Richard Carrier. His writings even make a brief showing in The Da Vinci Code.
- 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.
- Graves, Kersey (1875). The World's Sixteen Crucified Saviors: Or, Christianity Before Christ, Containing New, Startling, and Extraordinary Revelations in Religious History, which Disclose the Oriental Origin of All the Doctrines, Principles, Precepts, and Miracles of the Christian New Testament, and Furnishing a Key for Unlocking Many of Its Sacred Mysteries, Besides Comprising the History of 16 Heathen Crucified Gods. Freethought Press. pp. 22–23.
3. Here I desire to impress upon the minds of my clerical brethren the important fact, that the gospel histories of Christ were written by men who had formerly been Jews (see Acts xxi. 20), and probably possessing the strong proclivity to imitate and borrow which their bible shows was characteristic of that nation ; and being written many years after Christ's death, according to that standard Christian author, Dr. Lardner, it was impossible, under such circumstances, for them to separate (if they had desired to) the real facts and events of his life from the innumerable fictions and fables then afloat everywhere relative to the heathen Gods who had pre-enacted a similar history. Two reasons are thus furnished for their constructing a history of Christ almost identical with that of other Gods, as shown in chapters XXX., XXXI. and XXXII. of this work. (Image of p. 22 & p. 23 at Google Books)
- Perry, John T. (1879). Sixteen Saviours or One? The Gospels not Brahmanic. Cincinnati: Peter G. Thompson. Retrieved 7 December 2014.
- Carrier, Richard (2003). "Kersey Graves and The World's Sixteen Crucified Saviors". The Secular Web. Retrieved 7 December 2014.
- S., Acharya. "Beddru is Beddou is Buddha". Truth Be Known. Retrieved 7 December 2014.
- Kersey Graves, by Madalyn Muray O'Hair. Text of “American Atheist Radio Series” program No. 280, first broadcast on February 2, 1974.