From ROBERT INGERSOLL (1833 – 1899)
Is it necessary that Heaven should borrow its light from the glare of Hell?
Infinite punishment is infinite cruelty, endless injustice, immortal meanness. To worship an eternal gaoler hardens, debases, and pollutes even the vilest soul. While there is one sad and breaking heart in the universe, no good being can be perfectly happy.
Against the heartlessness of the Christian religion every grand and tender soul should enter solemn protest. The God of Hell should be held in loathing, contempt and scorn. A God who threatens eternal pain should be hated, not loved – cursed, not worshiped. A heaven presided over by such a God must be below the lowest hell. I want no part in any heaven in which the saved, the ransomed and redeemed will drown with shouts of joy the cries and sobs of hell – in which happiness will forget misery, where the tears of the lost only increase laughter and double bliss.
The idea of hell was born of ignorance, brutality, fear, cowardice, and revenge. This idea testifies that our remote ancestors were the lowest beasts. Only from dens, lairs, and caves, only from mouths filled with cruel fangs, only from hearts of fear and hatred, only from the conscience of hunger and lust, only from the lowest and most debased could come this cruel, heartless and bestial of all dogmas.
I would not for my life destroy one star of human hope, but I want it so that when a poor woman rocks the cradle and sings a lullaby to the dimpled darling, she will not be compelled to believe that ninety-nine chances in a hundred she is raising kindling wood for hell.
I would not for anything blot out the faintest star that shines in the horizon of human despair, nor in the sky of human hope; but I will do what I can to get that infinite shadow out of the heart of man…
This Infinite LIE. No human being has imagination enough to conceive of this infinite horror. All that the human race has suffered in war and want, in pestilence and famine, in fire and flood – all the pangs and pains of every disease and every death – all of this is nothing compared with the agonies to be endured by one lost soul.
This is the consolation of the Christian religion. This is the justice of God – the mercy of Christ.
This frightful dogma, this infinite lie, made me the implacable enemy of Christianity. The truth is that this belief in eternal pain has been the real persecutor.
It founded the Inquisition, forged the chains, and furnished the fagots. It has darkened the lives of many millions. It made the cradle as terrible as the coffin. It enslaved nations and shed the blood of countless thousands.
It sacrificed the wisest, the bravest and the best. It subverted the idea of justice, drove mercy from the heart, changed men to fiends and banished reason from the brain.
Like a venomous serpent it crawls and coils and hisses in every orthodox creed.
It makes man an eternal victim and God an eternal fiend.
It is the one infinite horror.
Every church in which it is taught is a public curse. Every preacher who teaches it is an enemy of mankind.
Below this Christian dogma, savagery cannot go. It is the infinite of malice, hatred, and revenge.
Nothing could add to the horror of hell, except the presence of its creator, God.
While I have life, as long as I draw breath, I shall deny with all my strength, and hate with every drop of my blood, this infinite lie.