Ingersoll’s Lecture on Hereafter
My Friends: I tell you tonight, as I have probably told many of you dozens of times, that the orthodox doctrine of eternal punishment in the hereafter is an infamous one! I have no respect for the man who preaches it, or pretends to you he believes it. Neither have I any respect for the man who will pollute the imagination of innocent childhood with that infamous lie! And I have no respect for the man who will deliberately add to the sorrows of this world with this terrible dogma; no respect for the man who endeavors to put that infinite cloud and shadow over the heart of humanity. I will be frank with you and say, I hate the doctrine; I despise it, I defy it; I loathe it—and what man of sense does not. The idea of a hell was born of revenge and brutality on the one side, and arrant cowardice on the other. In my judgment the American people are too brave, too generous, too magnanimous, too humane to believe in that outrageous doctrine of eternal damnation.
For a great many years the learned intellects of Christendom have been examining into the religions of other countries and other ages, in the world—the religions of the myriads who have passed away. They examined into the religions of Egypt, the religion of Greece, that of Rome and the Scandinavian countries. In the presence of the ruins of those religions, the learned men of Christendom insisted that those religions were baseless, false and fraudulent. But they have all passed away.
Now, while this examination was being made, the Christianity of our day applauded, and when the learned men got through with the religion of other countries, they turned their attention to our religion, and by the same methods, by the same mode of reasoning and the same arrangements that they used with the old religions they were overturning the religion of our day. How is that? Because every religion in this world is the work of man. Every book that was ever written was written by man. Man existed before books. If otherwise, we might reasonably admit that there was such a thing as a sacred bible.
I wish to call your attention to another thing. Man never had an original idea, and he never will have one, except it be supplied to him by his surroundings. Nature gave man every idea that he ever had in the world; and nature will continue to give man his ideas so long as he exists. No man can conceive of anything, the hint of which he has not received from the surroundings. And there is nothing on this earth, coming from any other sphere whatever.
As I have before said, man has produced every religion in the world. Why is this? Because each generation sends forth the knowledge and belief of the people at the time it was made, and in no book is there any knowledge formed, except just at the time it was written. Barbarians have produced barbarian religions, and always will produce them. They have produced, and always will produce, ideas and belief in harmony with their surroundings, and all the religions of the past were produced by barbarians. We are making religions every day; that is to say, we are constantly changing them, adapting them to our purposes, and the religion of today is not the religion of a few months or a year ago. Well, what changes these religions? Science does it, education does it; the growing heart of man does it. Some men have nothing else to do but produce religions; science is constantly changing them. If we are cursed with such barbarian religions today—for our religions are really barbarous—what will they be an hundred or a thousand years hence?
But, friends, we are making inroads upon orthodoxy that orthodox Christians are painfully aware of, and what think you will be left of their fearful doctrines fifty or a hundred years from tonight? What will become of their endless hell—their doctrine of the future anguish of the soul; their doctrine of the eternal burning and never-ending gnashing of teeth. Man will discard the idea of such a future—because there is now a growing belief in the justice of a Supreme Being.
Do you not know that every religion in the world has declared every other religion a fraud? Yes, we all know it. That is the time all religions tell the truth—each of the other.
Now, do you want to know why this is: Suppose Mr. Johnson should tell Mr. Jones that he saw a corpse rise from the grave, and that when he first saw it, it was covered with loathsome worms, and that while he was looking at it, it suddenly was re-clothed in healthy, beautiful flesh. And then, suppose Jones should say to Johnson, “Well, now, I saw that same thing myself. I was in a graveyard once, and I saw a dead man rise and walk away as if nothing had ever happened to him!” Johnson opens wide his eyes and says to Jones, “Jones, you are a confounded liar!” And Jones says to Johnson, “You are an unmitigated liar!” “No, I’m not; you lie yourself.” “No! I say you lie!” Each knew the other lied, because each man knew he lied himself. Thus when a man says: “I was upon Mount Sinai for the benefit of my health, and there I met God, who said to me, “Stand aside, you, and let me drown these people;” and the other man says to him, “I was upon a mountain, and there I met the Supreme Brahma.” And Moses steps in and says, “That is not true!” and contends that the other man never did see Brahma, and the other man swears that Moses never saw God; and each man utters a deliberate falsehood, and immediately after speaks truth.
Therefore, each religion has charged every other religion with having been an unmitigated fraud. Still, if any man had ever seen a miracle himself, he would be prepared to believe that another man had seen the same or a similar thing. Whenever a man claims to have been cognizant of, or to have seen a miracle, he either utters a falsehood, or he is an idiot. Truth relies upon the unerring course of the laws of nature, and upon reason. Observe, we have a religion—that is, many people have. I make no pretensions to having a religion myself—possibly you do not. I believe in living for this beautiful world—in living for the present, today; living for this very hour, and while I do live to make everybody happy that I can. I cannot afford to squander my short life—and what little talent I am blessed with in studying up and projecting schemes to avoid that seething lake of fire and brimstone. Let the future take care of itself, and when I am required to pass over “on the other side,” I am ready and willing to stand my chances with you howling Christians.
We have in this country a religion which men have preached for about eighteen hundred years, and men have grown wicked just in proportion as their belief in that religion has grown strong; and just in proportion as they have ceased to believe in it, men have become just, humane and charitable. And if they believed in it tonight as they believed, for instance, at the time of the immaculate Puritan fathers, I would not be permitted to talk here in the city of New York. It is from the coldness and infidelity of the churches that I get my right to preach; and I thank them for it, and I say it to their credit.
As I have said, we have a religion. What is it? In the first place, they say this vast universe was created by a God. I don’t know, and you don’t know, whether it was or not. Also, if it had not been for the first sin of Adam, they say there would never have been any Devil, in this world, and if there had been no Devil, there would have been no sin, and if no sin, no death. As for myself I am glad there is death in the world, for that gives me a chance. Somebody has to die to give me room, and when my turn comes I am willing to let some one else take my place. But if there is a Being who gave me this life, I thank Him from the bottom of my heart—because this life has been a joy and a pleasure to me. Further, because of this first sin of Adam, they say, all men are consigned to eternal perdition! But, in order to save man from that frightful hell of the hereafter, Christ came to this world and took upon himself flesh, and in order that we might know the road to eternal salvation. He gave us a book called the bible, and wherever that bible has been read men have immediately commenced throttling each other; and wherever that bible has been circulated they have invented inquisitions and instruments of torture, and commenced hating each other with all their hearts. Then we are told that this bible is the foundation of civilization, but I say it is the foundation of hell and damnation!, and we never shall get rid of that dogma until we get rid of the idea that the book is inspired. Now, what does the bible teach? I am not going to ask this preacher or that preacher what the bible teaches; but the question is, “Ought a man be sent to an eternal hell for not believing this bible to be the work of a merciful God?” A very few people read it now; perhaps they should read it, and perhaps not; if I wanted to believe it, I should never read a word of it—never look upon its pages, I would let it lie on its shelf, until it rotted! Still, perhaps, we ought to read it in order to see what is read in schools that our children might become charitable and good; to be read to our children that they may get ideas of mercy, charity humanity and justice! Oh, yes! Now read:
“I will make mine arrows drunk with blood and my sword shall devour flesh.”—Deut. xxxii, 42.
Very good for a merciful God!
“That thy foot may be dipped in the blood of thine enemies, and the tongue of the dogs in the same.”—Psalms lxviii, 24.
Merciful Being! I will quote several more choice bits from this inspired book, although I have several times made use of them.
“But the Lord thy God shall deliver them unto thee, and shall destroy them with a mighty destruction, until they be destroyed.
“And he shall deliver their kings into thine hand, and thou shalt destroy their name from under heaven; there shall no man be able to stand before thee, until thou have destroyed them.”—Deut. vii, 23, 24.
“And Joshua did unto them as the Lord bade him; he houghed their horses, and burnt their chariots with fire. And Joshua at that time turned back, and took Hazor, and smote the king thereof with the sword; for Hazor beforetime was the head of all those kingdoms.
“And all the cities of those kings, and all the kings of them, did Joshua take, and smote them with the edge of the sword, and he utterly destroyed them, as Moses, the servant of the Lord, commanded.
“And they smote all the souls that were therein with the edge of the sword, utterly destroying them; there was not any left to breathe; and he burnt Hazor with fire.”
(Do not forget that these things were done by the command of God!)
“But as for the cities that stood still in their strength, Israel burnt none of them, save Hazor only, that did Joshua burn.
“And all the spoil of those cities and the cattle, the children of Israel took for a prey unto themselves; but every man they smote with the edge of the sword, until they had destroyed them, neither left they any to breathe.” (As the moral and just God had commanded them.)
“As the Lord commanded Moses His servant, so did Moses command Joshua, and so did Joshua; he left nothing undone of all that the Lord had commanded Joshua.
“So Joshua took all that land, the hills, and all the south country, and all the land of Goshen, and the valley, and the plain and mountain of Israel, and the valley of the same;
“Even from the Mount Halak, that goeth up to Seir, even unto Baalgad in the valley of Lebanon under Mount Hermon; and all their kings he took, and smote theme and slew them.
“Joshua made war a long time on all those kings. There was not a city that made peace with the children of Israel, save the Hivites, the inhabitants of Gibeon; all the others they took in battle.
“So Joshua took the whole land, according to all that the Lord said unto Moses; and Joshua gave it for an inheritance unto Israel, according to their divisions by their tribes. And the land rested from war.”—Josh. xi, 7-23.
“When thou comest nigh unto a city to fight against it, then proclaim peace unto it.
“And it shall be, if it make thee answer of peace, and open unto thee, then it shall be that all the people that is found therein shall be tributaries unto thee, and they shall serve thee.
“And if it will make no peace with thee, but will make war against thee, then thou shalt besiege it.
“And when the Lord thy God hath delivered it into thine hands, thou shalt smite every male thereof with the edge of the sword.
“But the women, and the little ones, and the cattle, and all that is in the city, even all the spoil thereof, shaft thou take unto thyself; and thou shalt eat the spoil of thine enemies, which the Lord thy God hath given thee.
“Thus shalt thou do unto all the cities which are very far off from thee, which are not of the cities of those nations.
“But of the cities of these people, which the Lord thy God doth give thee for an inheritance, thou shaft save alive nothing that breatheth.
“But thou shalt utterly destroy them.”
(Neither the old man nor the woman, nor the beautiful maiden, nor the sweet dimpled babe, smiling upon the lap of its mother.)
“And He said unto them, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel (a merciful God, indeed), put every man his sword by his side, and go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his neighbor.”—Es. xxxii, 29.
(Now recollect, these instructions were given to an army of invasion, and the people who were slayed were guilty of the crime of fighting for their homes and their firesides. Oh, most merciful God! The old testament is full of curses, vengeance, jealousy and hatred, and of barbarity and brutality. Now, do you for one moment believe that these words were written by the most merciful God? Don’t pluck from the heart the sweet flower of piety and crush it by superstition. Do not believe that God ever ordered the murder of innocent women and helpless babes. Do not let this superstition turn our heart into stone. When anything is said to have been written by the most merciful God, and the thing is not merciful, that I deny it, and say He never wrote it. I will live by the standard of reason, and if thinking in accordance with reason takes me to perdition, then I will go to hell with my reason, rather than to heaven without it.)
Now, does this bible teach political freedom; or does it teach political tyranny? Does it teach a man to resist oppression? Does it teach a man to tear from the throne of tyranny the crowned thing and robber called king. Let us see.
“Let every soul be subject to the higher powers; For there is no power but God: the powers that be are ordained of God.”—Rom. xiii, I.
“Therefore to must needs be subject not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.”—Rom. viii, 4, 4.
(I deny this wretched doctrine. Wherever the sword of rebellion is drawn to protect the rights of man, I am a rebel. Wherever the sword of rebellion is drawn to give men liberty, to clothe him in all his just rights, I am on the side of that rebellion.)
Does the bible give woman her rights? Does it treat woman as she ought to be treated, or is it barbarian? We will see:
“Let woman learn in silence with all subjection.”—I Tim. ii, 11
(If a woman should know anything let her ask her husband. Imagine the ignorance of a lady who had only that source of information.)
“But suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. (Indeed!)
“And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, was in the transgression.” (Poor woman!)
Here is something from the old testament:
“When thou goest forth to war against thine enemies, and the Lord thy God hath delivered them into thine hands, and thou hast taken them captives;
“And seest among the captives a beautiful woman, and hast a desire unto her, that thou wouldst have her to be thy wife;
“Then thou shalt bring her home to thine house; and she shall shave her head, and pare her nails.”—Deut. xxi, 10, 11, 12.
(That is self-defense, I suppose!)
I need not go further in bible quotations to show that woman, throughout the old testament, is a degraded being, having no rights which her husband, father, brother, or uncle is bound to respect. Still, that is bible doctrine, and that bible is the word of a just and omniscient God!
Does the bible teach the existence of devils? Of course it does. Yes, it teaches not only the existence of a good being, but a bad being. This good being has to have a home; that home was heaven. This bad being had to have a home; and that home was hell. This hell is supposed to be nearer to earth than I would care to have it, and to be peopled with spirits, spooks, hobgoblins, and all the fiery shapes with which the imagination of ignorance and fear could people that horrible place; and the bible teaches the existence of hell and this big devil and all these little devils. The bible teaches the doctrine of witchcraft and makes us believe that there are sorcerers and witches, and that the dead could be raised by the power of sorcery. Does anybody believe it now?
“Then said Saul unto his servants, seek me a woman that hath a familiar spirit, that I may go to her and inquire of her. And his servants said to him, Behold, there is a woman that hath a familiar spirit at Endor.”
In another place he declares that witchcraft is an abomination unto the Lord. He wants no rivals in this business. Now what does the new testament teach:
“Then was Jesus lead up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.
“And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward a-hungered.
“And when the tempter came to him, he said if thou be the Son of God, command these stones to be made bread.
“But He answered and said it is written, man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.
“Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple;
“And saith unto him. If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down, for it is written, He shall give His angels charge concerning thee; and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.
“Jesus said unto him, it is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord, thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve.”—Matt. iv, 1-7.
(Is it possible that anyone can believe that the devil absolutely took God Almighty, and put him upon the pinnacle of the temple, and endeavored to persuade him to jump down? Is it possible?)
“Again, the devil taketh him into an exceedingly high mountain, and showeth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them;
“And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.
“Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan, for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.”—Matthew iv, 8-11.
(Now only the devil must have known at that time that He was God, and God at that time must have known that the other was the devil, who had the impudence to promise God a world in which he did not have a tax-title to an inch of land.)
Now, what of the Sabbath—the Lord’s day? Why is Sunday the Lord’s day? If Sunday alone is the Lord’s day, whose day is Monday, Tuesday, Friday, etc.? No matter! The idea, that God hates to hear your children laugh on Sunday! On Sunday let your children play games. I see a poor man who hasn’t money enough to go to a big church, and he has too much independence to go to the little church which the big church built for charity. If he enters the portals of the big church with poor clothes on, the usher approaches him with a severe face, and “Brother, I’m sorry, but only high-toned servants of the living God congregate in this church for worship, and with that seedy suit on they cannot admit you. All the seats in this magnificent edifice are owned and represented by ‘solid’ men, by men of capital. We pay our pastor $5,000 a year—the annual eight weeks vacation thrown in—and it would not be profitable for us to seriously encourage the attendance of so insignificant a person as yourself. Just around the corner there is a little cheap church with a little cheap pastor, where they can dish up hell to you in an approved style—in a style more suitable to your needs and condition; and the dish will not be as expensive to you, either!”
If I had chanced to be that poor man in the seedy garments, and had been endeavoring to serve my Maker for even half a century, I would have felt like muttering audibly, “You go to hell!” (I am not much given to profanity, but when I am sorely aggravated and vexed in spirit, I declare to you that it is such a relief to me, such a solace to my troubled soul, and gives me such heavenly peace, to now and then allow a word or phrase to escape my lips which can serve the no other earthly purpose, seemingly, than to render emphatic my otherwise mildly expressed ideas. I make this confession parenthetically, and in a whisper, my friends, trusting you will not allow it to go further.)
Now, I tell you, if you don’t want to go to church, go to the woods and take your wife and children and a lunch with you, and sit down upon the old log and let the children gather flowers, and hear the leaves whispering poems like memories of long ago! and when the sun is about going down, kissing the summits of the distant hills, go home with your hearts filled with throbs of joy and gladness, and the cheeks of your little ones covered with the rose-blushes of health! There is more recreation and solid enjoyment in that than putting on your Sunday clothes and going to a canal-boat with a steeple on top of it and listening to a man tell you that your chances are about ninety-nine thousand nine hundred and ninety-nine to one for being eternally damned!
Oh, strike with a hand of fire, weird musician, thy harp, strung with Apollo’s golden hair! Fill the vast cathedral aisles with symphonies sweet and dim, deft toucher of the organ’s keys! Blow, bugler, blow, until thy silver notes do touch and kiss the moonlit waves, and charm the lovers wandering mid the vine-clad hills!—but know your sweetest strains are but discord compared with childhood’s happy laugh—the laugh that fills the eyes with light and every heart with joy! O, rippling river of laughter; thou art the blessed boundary line between beasts and men, and every wayward wave of thine doth drown some fretful fiend of care. O, Laughter, rose-lipped daughter of joy, there are dimples enough in thy cheek to catch and hold and glorify all the tears of grief!
Do not make slaves of your children on Sunday. Don’t place them in long, straight rows, like fence-posts, and “Sh! children, it’s Sunday!” when by chance you hear a sound or rustle. Let winsome Johnny have light and air, and let him grow beautiful; let him laugh until his little sides ache, if he feels like it; let him pinch the cat’s tail until the house is in an uproar with his yells—let him do anything that will make him happy. When I was a little boy, children went to bed when they were not sleepy, and always got up when they were? I would like to see that changed—we may see it some day. It is really easier to wake a child with a kiss than a blow; with kind words than with harshness and a curse. Another thing: let the children eat what they want to. Let them commence at whichever end of the dinner they please. They know what they want much better than you do. Nature knows perfectly well what she is about, and if you go a-fooling with her you may get into trouble. The crime charged to me is this: I insist that the bible is not the word of God; that we should not whip our children; that we should treat our wives as loving equals; that God never upheld polygamy and slavery; deny that God ever commanded his generals to slaughter innocent babes and tear and rip open women with the sword of war; that God ever turned Lot’s wife into a pillar of salt (although she might have deserved that fate); that God ever made a woman out of a man’s, or any other animal’s rib! And I emphatically deny that God ever signed or sealed a commission appointing his satanic majesty governor-general over an extensive territory popularly styled hell, with absolute power to torture, burn, maim, boil, or roast at his pleasure the victims of his master’s displeasure! I deny these things, and for that I am assailed by the clergy throughout the United States. Now, you have read the bible romance of the fall of Adam? Yes, well, you know that nearly or quite all the religions of this world account for the existence of evil by such a story as that! Adam, the miserable coward, informed God that his wife was at the bottom of the whole business! “She did tempt me and I did eat!” And then commenced a row, and we have been engaged in it ever since! You know what happened to Adam and his wife for her transgressions?
In another account of what is said to have been the same transaction—which is the most sensible account of the two—the Supreme Brahma concluded, as he had a little leisure, that he would make a world, and a man and woman. He made the world, the man, and then the woman, and then placed the pair on the Island of Ceylon. (Bear in mind, there were no ribs used in this affair.) This island is said to be the most beautiful that the mind of man can conceive of. Such birds you never saw, such songs you never heard! and then such flowers, such verdure! The branches of the trees were so arranged that when the winds swept through, there floated out from every tree melodious strains of music from a thousand! Aeolian harps! After Brahma put them there, he said: “Let them have a period of courtship, for it is my desire and will that true love should forever precede marriage.” And with the nightingale singing, and the stars twinkling, and the little brooklets murmuring, and the flowers blooming, and the gentle breezes fanning their brows, they courted, and loved! What a sweet courtship. Then Brahma married the happy pair, and remarked: “Remain here; you can be happy on this island, and it is my will that you never leave it.” Well, after a little while the man became uneasy, and said to the wife of his youth, “I believe I’ll look about a little.” He determined to seek greener pastures. He proceeded to the western extremity of the island, and discovered a little narrow neck of land connecting the island with the mainland, and the devil—they had a genuine devil in those days, too, it seems, who is always “playing the devil” with us—produced a mirage, and over on the mainland were such hills and vales, such dells and dales, such lofty mountains crowned with perpetual snow, such cataracts clad in bows of glory, that he rushed breathlessly back to his wife, exclaiming:—”O, Heva! the country over there is a thousand times better and lovelier than this; let us migrate.” She, woman-like, said “Adami, we must let well enough alone; we have all we want; let us stay here.” But he said: “No, we will go.” She followed him, and when they came to this narrow neck of land, he took her upon his back and carried her across. But at the instant he put her down there was a crash, and looking back they discovered that this narrow neck of land had fallen into the sea. The mirage had disappeared, and there was nothing but rocks and sand, and the Supreme Brahma cursed them to the lowest hell. Then Adami spoke—and it showed him to be every inch a man—”Curse me, but curse not her; it was not her fault, it was mine.” (Our Adam says, with a pusillanimous whine,—Curse her, for it is her fault: she tempted me and I did eat!” The world, today, is teeming with just such cowards!) Then said Brahma, “I will save her, but not thee.” And then spoke his wife, out of the fullness of the love of a heart in which there was enough to make all her daughters rich in holy affection, “If thou wilt not spare him, spare neither me; I do not wish to live without him. I love him.” Then magnanimously said the Supreme Brahma, “I will spare you both, and watch over you and your children forever!”
Now, tell me truly, which is the grander story? The book containing this story is full of good things; and yet Christians style as heathens those who have adopted this book as their guide, and spend thousands of dollars annually in sending missionaries to convert them!
It has been too often conceded that because the new testament contains, in many passages, a lofty and terse expression of love as the highest duty of man, Christianity must have a tendency to ennoble his nature. But Christianity is like sweetened whisky and water—it perverts and destroys that which it should nourish and strengthen.
Christianity makes an often fatal attack on a man’s morality—if he happens to be blessed with any—by substituting for the sentiments of love and duty to our neighbors, a sense of obligation of blind obedience to an infinite, mysterious, revengeful, tyrannical God! The real principle of Christian morality, is servile obedience to a dangerous Power! Dispute the assertions of even your priest as to the requirements, dislikes, desires and wishes of the Almighty, and you might as well count yourself as lost, sulphurically lost! If you are one of God’s chosen, or in other words, have been saved, and are even so fortunate as to attain to the glories and joys of the gold-paved streets of heaven, you are expected, in looking over the banisters of heaven down into the abyss of eternal torture, to view with complacency the agonized features of your mother, sister, brother, or infant child—who are writhing in hell—and laugh at their calamity! You are not allowed to carry them a drop of water to cool their parched tongue! And if you are a Christian, you at this moment believe you will enjoy the situation!
If a man in a quarrel cuts down his neighbor in his sins, the poor, miserable victim goes directly to hell! The murderer may reasonably count on a lease of a few weeks of life, interviews his pastor, confesses the crime, repents, accepts the grace of God, is forgiven, and then smoothly and gently slides from the rudely-constructed scaffold into a haven of joy and bliss, there to sing the praises of the Lamb of God forever and forever! Poor, unfortunate victim! Happy murderer!
Ah, what a beautiful religion humanitarianism and charity* might become!
[* The following incident, showing Col. Ingersoll’s disposition to practice what he preaches whenever the opportunity presents itself, we have never before seen in print. One day, during the winter of 1863-4, when the colonel had a law office in Peoria. Ill.—and before the close of the late war of the rebellion—a thinly clad, middle-aged, lady-like woman came into his office and asked assistance, “My good woman, why do you ask it?” “Sir, my husband is a private in the —th Illinois infantry, and stationed somewhere in Virginia, but I do not know where as I have not heard from him for nearly six months, although previous to that time I seldom failed to get a letter from him as often as once a week, and whenever he received his pay the most of his money came to me. To tell the truth, I do not know whether he is living or not. But one thing I do know, I do not hear from him. I have seven children to provide for, but no money in the house, not a particle of bread in the pantry, nor a lump of coal in the shed, and the landlord threatening to turn us out in the storm. This city pledged itself to give wives a certain sum monthly, providing they consented to their husband’s responding to the call of the President for troops, but, disregarding these pledges, we and our children are left to starve and freeze, and to be turned out of our houses and homes by relentless landlords. Now, sir, can you tell me what I am to do?
The Colonel drew his bandanna from his great coat pocket, lightly touched his eyes with it, and rising to his feet, pointed to a chair—”Sit down, madame, and remain till I return. I will be back in a few minutes.” He picked up a half-sheet of legal-cap and a pencil, and departed for the law and other offices of the building—of which there were several. Entering the first that appeared, “Good morning, Smith, give me half-a-dollar.” “Well, now, colonel, you are—” “Never mind if I am—I must have it!” It came. He entered another. “Hello! colonel, what’s new?” “I want a half-dollar from you!” “What for?” “None of your business—I want the money.” He got it. He entered a third. “Hello, Bob! Anything new on eter—” “Never mind, I must have fifty cents!” “But—” “But nothing, Jones, give me what I ask for.” Of course he got what he asked for. So on through fourteen offices, from which he obtained $7. Returning to his office, he put his hand in his own pocket and drew forth a $5 note, and handed the woman $12. “Take this, my good woman, and make it go as far as you can. If you obtain relief from no other source, call on me again and I will do the best I can for you!” And still Col. Ingersoll is styled by hell-fire advocates an infidel, atheist, dog!]
To do so sweet a thing as to love our neighbors as we love ourselves; to strive to attain to as perfect a spirit as a Golden Rule would bring us into; to make virtue lovely by living it, grandly and nobly and patiently the outgrowth of a brotherhood not possible in this world where men are living away from themselves, and trampling justice and mercy and forgiveness under their feet!
Speaking of the different religions, of course they are represented by the different churches; and the best hold of the churches, and the surest way of giving totally depraved humanity a realizing sense of their utterly lost condition, is to talk and preach hell with all its horrible, terrible concomitants. True, the different priests advocate the doctrine, only when they see that it is the only thing to rouse the sinners from their lethargy; for where is the man who will not accept the grace of Jesus Christ, if he becomes convinced that his state in the hereafter is a terrible one! The ministers of the different churches know full well which side of their bread is buttered. A priest is a divinity among his people—a man around whom his parishioners throw a glamour of sanctity, and one who can do no wrong; albeit, his chief and growing characteristics are tyranny, arrogancy, self-conceit, deception, bigotry and superstition! Tyrannical do I call them? Most assuredly! Suppose, for example, the Methodist, or Presbyterian church had the power to decide whether you, or I, or any other man, should be a Methodist or Presbyterian, and we should decline to follow the path pointed out to us, or either of us, what I solemnly and candidly ask you, would be the result? Our fate would be more terrible than their endless hell! The inquisition would rise again in all its horrid blackness! Instruments of torture would darken our vision on every hand! But, thank God—not that terrible being whom Christians would have us believe is our Maker—this is a free land—free as the air we breathe; and you and I can partake of the orthodox waters of life freely, or we can let them alone! When I see a man perched upon a pedestal called a “pulpit” a man who is one of nature’s noblemen, physically, and fully able to breast the storms of life and earn his honest living—telling his hearers with perspiring brow and all his might and main of the terrors of the seething cauldron of hell, and how certain it is that they are to be unceremoniously dumped therein to be boiled through all ages, yet never boiled done—unless they seek salvation—when I look upon that man, honor bright, I pity him, for I cannot help comparing him with the lower animals! Then there is a reaction, and I feel an utter contempt for him, for he may know, when he declares hell is a reality, that he is lying!
Now, of the deception of the preacher. At the close of a sermon in an orthodox church, Rev. Mr. Solemnface steps to the side of Bro. Everbright, who has been absent from the brimstone-mill for several months:
“Ah, Bro. Everbright, how do you do? Long time since I have seen you; how’s your family? Quite well? Is it well with thee today? Rather lukewarm, eh? Sorry, sorry. Well, brother, can you do something for us financially, today? Our people think my pulpit is too common, and say a couple hundred will put it in good shape, and make it desirable and attractive. Can you contribute a few dollars to the fund?”
“Well, Bro. Solemnface, for four long months I have been ill; not a day’s work have I done, and not a cent of money have I that I can call my own. Next year I trust I can do something for the cause of my Maker.”
“Ah-h-h-h-h-h!” and Bro. S.’s face assumes a terrible look of disappointment, and he is gone in a moment. Out upon such a fraud! The pulpits of the land are full of them. The world is cursed with them! They possess all the elements of vagabonds, dead-beats, falsifiers, beggars, vultures, hyenas and jackals!
In past ages the cross has been in partnership with the sword, and the religion of Christ was established by murderers, tyrants and hypocrites. I want you to know that the church carried the black flag, and I ask you what must have been the civilizing influence of such a religion? Of all the selfish things in this world, it is one man wanting to get to heaven, caring nothing what becomes of the rest of mankind, saying: “If I can only get my little soul in!” I have always noticed that the people who have the smallest souls make the most fuss about getting them saved. Here is what we are taught by the church of today. We are taught by them that fathers and mothers can all be happy in heaven, no matter who may be in hell; that the husband could be happy there, with the wife that would have died for him at any moment of his life, in hell. But they say, “Hell, we don’t believe in fire. I don’t think you understand me. What we believe in now is remorse.” What will you have remorse for? For the mean things you have done when you are in hell? Will you have any remorse for the mean things you have done when you are in heaven? Or will you be so good then that you won’t care how you used to be? I tell you today, that no matter in what heaven you may be, no matter in what star you are spending the summer; if you meet another man whom you have wronged, you will drop a little behind in the tune. And, no matter in what part of hell you are, you will meet some one who has suffered, whose nakedness you have clothed, and the fire will cool up a little. According to this Christian doctrine, you won’t care how mean you were once. Is it a compliment to an infinite God to say that every being He ever made deserved to be damned the minute He had got him done, and that He will damn everybody He has not had a chance to make over? Is it possible that somebody else can be good for me, and that this doctrine of the atonement is the only anchor for the human soul?
We sit by the fireside and see the flames and sparks fly up the chimney—everybody happy, and the cold wind and sleet beating on the window, and out on the doorstep a mother with a child on her breast freezing. How happy it makes a fire, that beautiful contrast. And we say God is good, and there we sit, and there she sits and moans, not one night, but forever. Or we are sitting at the table with our wives and children, everybody eating, happy and delighted, and Famine comes and pushes out its shriveled palms, and, with hungry eyes, implores us for a crust; how that would increase the appetite! And that is the Christian heaven. Don’t you see that these infamous doctrines petrify the human heart? And I would have every one who hears me swear that he will never contribute another dollar to build another church, in which is taught such infamous lies. Let every man try to make every day a joy, and God cannot afford to damn such a man. Consequently humanity is the only real religion.
“Man’s inhumanity to man Makes countless millions mourn.”
SOURCE-ABOUT THE HOLY BIBLE -A Lecture By Robert G. Ingersoll 1894