Why I Am Agnostic (Part II)
By: Robert Green Ingersoll
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From my childhood I had heard read, and read the Bible myself. Morning and evening the sacred volume was opened and prayers were said. The Bible was my first history, the Jews were the first people, and the events narrated by Moses and the other inspired writers, and those predicted by prophets were the all important things. In other books were found the thoughts and dreams of men, but in the Bible were the sacred truths of God.
Yet in spite of my surroundings, of my education, I had no love for God. He was so saving of mercy, so extravagant in murder, so anxious to kill, so ready to assassinate, that I hated him with all my heart. At his command, babes were butchered, women violated, and the white hair of trembling age stained with blood. This God visited the people with pestilence -- filled the houses and covered the streets with the dying and the dead -- saw babes starving on the empty breasts of pallid mothers, heard the sobs, saw the tears, the sunken cheeks, the sightless eyes, the new made graves, and remained as pitiless as the pestilence.
This God withheld the rain -- caused the famine, saw the fierce eyes of hunger -- the wasted forms, the white lips, saw mothers eating babes, and remained ferocious as famine.
It seems to me impossible for a civilized man to love or worship, or respect the God of the Old Testament. A really civilized man, a really civilized woman, must hold such a God in abhorrence and contempt.
But in the old days the good people justified Jehovah in his treatment of the heathen. The wretches who were murdered were idolaters and therefore unfit to live.
According to the Bible, God had never revealed himself to these people and he knew that without a revelation they could not know that he was the true God. Whose fault was it then that they were heathen?
The Christians said that God had the right to destroy them because he created them. What did he create them for? He knew when he made them that they would be food for the sword. He knew that he would have the pleasure of seeing them murdered.
As a last answer, as a final excuse, the worshipers of Jehovah said that all these horrible things happened under the "old dispensation" of unyielding law, and absolute justice, but that now under the "new dispensation," all had been changed -- the sword of justice had been sheathed and love enthroned. In the Old Testament, they said. God is the judge -- but in the New, Christ is the merciful. As a matter of fact, the New Testament is infinitely worse than the Old. In the Old there is no threat of eternal pain. Jehovah had no eternal prison -- no everlasting fire. His hatred ended at the grave. His revenge was satisfied when his enemy was dead.
In the New Testament, death is not the end, but the beginning of punishment that has no end. In the New Testament the malice of God is infinite and the hunger of his revenge eternal.
The orthodox God, when clothed in human flesh, told his disciples not to resist evil, to love their enemies, and when smitten on one cheek to turn the other, and yet we are told that this same God, with the same loving lips, uttered these heartless, these fiendish words; "Depart ye cursed into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels."
These are the words of "eternal love."
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 this is as 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.
Nothing gives me greater joy than to know that this belief in eternal pain is growing weaker every day -- that thousands of ministers are ashamed of it. It gives me joy to know that Christians are becoming merciful, so merciful that the fires of hell are burning low -- flickering, choked with ashes, destined in a few years to die out forever.
For centuries Christendom was a madhouse. Popes, cardinals, bishops, priests, monks and heretics were all insane.
Only a few -- four or five in a century were sound in heart and brain. Only a few, in spite of the roar and din, in spite of the savage cries, heard reason's voice. Only a few in the wild rage of ignorance, fear and zeal preserved the perfect calm that wisdom gives.
We have advanced. In a few years the Christians will become -- let us hope -- humane and sensible enough to deny the dogma that fills the endless years with pain. They ought to know now that this dogma is utterly inconsistent with the wisdom, the justice, the goodness of their God. They ought to know that their belief in hell, gives to the Holy Ghost -- the Dove -- the beak of a vulture, and fills the mouth of the Lamb of God with the fangs of a viper.