I happened across a newspaper article from the Liberty Tribune in Liberty, MO from June 17, 1853. The article talks of an anti-Bible convention that took place in Hartford, CT. Here is the text of the article:
The Anti-Bible Convention
We did design to pass over in silence this puerile gathering at Hartford. A friend, however, suggests that some notice of their sayings would supply a desirable key to the men and women - aye, women save the mark!-who are mumbling their aversion to a book which being inspired of God is therefore pure, and holy, and practicle in its teachings, and has become a stone of stumbling in their path. We propose, in compliance with the suggestion, to cull some of their insane ravings, taking our extracts from the report of the Herald.
The first speaker was Andrew Jackson Davis, who being the professed author of a book impiously styled "Revelations"is scarcely to be considered an impartial witness. The more the Bible is diffused and read the less Mr. Davis' book be sold and the more will his idle dreamings be contemned and dispised. Hear him:
"The speaker went on to deny the authenticity of the Bible and the Christian religion. We pray for work and for liberty, continued he, for human love and the kingdom of Heaven upon earth, which must necessarily come after all sectarianism is forgotten. In conclusion, I would say we should free ourselves from the sectarianism of the church, free ourselves from the mythology of the Bible, and free ourselves from the chains of superstition and bigotry. Reason, reason is the sovereign of the soul, and truth is the sovereign of reason."
Mr. William Green was appointed chairman. His sentiments are worthy of the Convention:
"Truth is indestructible, error alone can be destroyed. I am an atheist. If rum-selling is wrong, if slavery is wrong, if war is wrong, and if you believe in a God that sanctions such things, I do not. He is not my God. If government can be overturned by reason and argument, let it be overturned. If the gentleman who wishes to prove I am a monkey, or a tiger, let him do so. I am content. If he will prove me a devil, very well. I am content to go to hell; for I want to go where I belong. Let us be plain spoken. I intend hereafter to speak of Jesus and other personages in the Bible, and I mean to do as a man, and if you won't permit me, I will - that's all. I believe some things in the Bible to be historical, and metaphysical, and moral. They will stand, but I shall attack which I believe to be immoral. I have no respect for it as a book, and I shall reject what I conceive to be untrue and uphold what I think is true. I shall sit in judgement upon Jesus of Nazareth as a man accountable to be the same laws that I a, liable to be mistaken, as I am, and to be tried in the judgement day with me; therefore, in reviewing what he said and did, I shall judge him as I think fit. I don't care that, (snapping his fingers) for I am a man."
A Mr. Wright offered the following resolution:
"Resolved, that the Bible, in some parts of the Old and New Testament, sanctions injustice, concubinage, prostitution, oppression, war, plunder, and wholesale murder; and therefore the doctrine that the Bible, as a whole, originated, is false and injurious to the social and spiritual growth and perfection of man."
His speech, however, was but an echo of his resolution, not the slightest attempt to demonstrate its truth seeming to have entered his mind. The chairman followed, with more of his reckless blasphemy. He must be the pink of the infidels. He said:
"The Bible contains the strangest, the wildest, the most childish, and the most blasphemous represenations of God that ever entered into the mind of man. God is represented as eating, drinking, and depending upon reports from his servants, as to what is going on in the world; for instance, in the case of Sodom and Gomorrah, He is made to say that He will go down and see for himself.
"We insist that this book gives us a slanderous and blasphemous representation of the character and being of God, and there is nothing wicked, base and cruel in man, that God is not represented as doing. The Bible sanctions polygamy, concubinage, theft, conjugal infidelity, bloodshed, and murder. Theologians condemn the Mormon Bible, but it is far less vicious than the Christian.
Readers will, from these extracts, judge of both the intellectual and moral calibre of members of this convention, and will see that we were abundantly justified in expressing the hope that the friends of the inspired volume would not give them importance by entering into conflict with them. Such are not the men to impede the circulation of the holy scriptures, or to destroy confidence in their truthful inspiration, - not a wit of it. A Mormon Bible, or an Andrew Jackson Davis' revelation, could withstand more severe and abler assaults than these; how much more so the immortal volume which was given by the inspiration of God?
Interesting that the attendees of this conference were not quite so bold as to actually question the existence of the deity represented by the bible, yet they WERE willing to impugn the book itself! It may be that the mindset of the age was not ready for a complete rejection both of the book and the god.
Still, it is worth noting that, though it may seem otherwise, this struggle is not so young as we may think it is and that people before us were asking hard and uncomfortable questions regarding the verity and morality of the bible.
Loren, have you ever read the memoir of Jean Meslier? If you aren't familiar, he was a Catholic priest who wrote what was probably the first book-length essay in favor of atheism. This was written in the 1720s, a time when such writings would likely get you executed. So, he secretly kept his thoughts in a journal and they were published posthumously. Voltaire was greatly influenced by Meslier's writing and published an edited version of the work called Extracts of the Sentiments of Jean Meslier, in which Voltaire tried to make Meslier look like a deist.
Meslier's original writings were only recently translated into English by Michael Shreve and released as a book titled "Testament: Memoir of the Thoughts and Sentiments of Jean Meslier".
Another early atheist author was Baron d'Holbach, who wrote books such as Christianity Unveiled and Good Sense in the 1760s and '70s. English translations of his works are available on the following site:
Here's a link to another newspaper article, this one from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle of June 3, 1853:
And here's a screencap of the article:
I did a search on Andrew Jackson Davis and found that he was a renowned "Spiritualist" of the era. William Green, as he states in the article, was an atheist. I haven't been able to find anything else about William Green. His story may be one that has been lost to history. These guys probably paved the way for Robert G. Ingersoll and others who would come a few decades later.
and still they are arguing not the worthless concept of a god but, suposing to know better they only do away with the text and , between the lines suggest that a "better book" be writen showing as they would put it the true nature of god.
much closer to what the founders of the U.S. held as a belief.
I'm not sure if that's the same person.
The websites I've found indicate William Henry Green was a Christian apologist who argued for the historicity of the Bible. It's certainly possible he changed his mind after going to the seminary (as has happened with many Christians turned atheists).
here is another article that mentions the convention.