Col. Bob Ingersoll lectured last night at the opera house, on "The Religion of Our Day." The night was a most disagreeable one, sleety snow and fierce winds united in battling with the pedestrians. Indeed, it took a brave heart to venture out of doors.
At 8 o'clock Colonel Ingersoll came to the front in company with Rev. Dr. Cravens, of the Unitarian Church. The Reverend gentleman in eloquent words introduced the orator as a noble man, of genius and brains who was zealously laboring to break the chains that bind the religious freedom of mankind. He rejoiced that liberty and freedom had such a grand champion, who had consecrated his great talent and his unsurpassed eloquence to the noble cause.
Colonel Ingersoll bowed to the audience and was received with great applause.
He said that he was glad that he had lived long enough to see one gentleman in the pulpit brave enough to say that God would not be offended at one who speaks according to the dictates of his conscience; who does not believe that God will give wings to a bird, and then damn the bird for flying. He thanked the pastor and he thanked the church for allowing its pastor to be so brave. He then tackled the subject of discourse announced for the night, and for nearly two hours and half held the close attention of his audience.
He admitted that thousands and thousands of church people, with their pastors and the deacons, are to-day advocating religious principles that they deem right and good. He honored these men, but he did not believe that their method was a good one. He did not want these people to forgive him for the views he entertained, but he wanted them so to act that he would not have to forgive them. He was the friend of every one who preached the gospel of absolute intellectual liberty and that man was his friend.
Is there a God who sang, that if a man does so and so, He will damn him? Can there be such a fiend? I am not responsible to man unless I injure him; nor to God unless I injure Him, but one cannot injure God, for "He is infinite."
When I was young, I was told that the Bible was inspired, written by God, that even the lids of the book were inspired. They say he is a personal God; if so, He has not revealed himself to me. There may be many Gods. As I look around I see that justice does not prevail, that innocence is not always effectual and a perfect shield. If there be a God these things could not be. If God made us all, why did He not make us all equally well? He had the power of an infinite God. Why did God people the earth with so many idiots. I admit that orthodoxy could not exist without them, but why did God make them? If we believe the Bible then He should have made us all idiots, for the orthodox Christian says the idiots will not be damned, simply transplanted, while the sensible man, who believeth not will be sent to eternal damnation? If there is any God that made us, what right had He to make idiots? Is a man with a head like a pin under any obligation to thank God? Is the black man, born in slavery, under any obligation to thank God for his badge of servitude?
What kind of a God is it that will allow men and women to be put in dungeons and chains simply because they loved Him and prayed to Him? And what kind of a God is it that will allow such men and women to be burned at the stake? If God won't love such men and women, then under what circumstances will He love?
Famine stalks over the land and millions die, not only the bad but the good, and there in the heavens above sits an infinite God who can do anything, can change the rocks and the stones and yet these millions die. I do not say there is no God, but I do ask, what is God doing? Look at the agony, and wretchedness and woe all over the land. Is there goodness, is there mercy in this? I do not say there is not, but I want to know, and I want to know if a man is to be damned for asking the question?
He eloquently recited the agonies that clustered around the French Bastille, where great men and heroic women suffered and died for loving liberty, and said: If there is a God I think that one word, Bastille, would bring the blush of shame to his face.
I find that the men who have received revelation are the worst; that where the Bible goes, there goes the sword and the fagot. If an infinite God makes a revelation to me He knows how I will understand it. If God wrote the Bible He knew that no two people would understand it alike.
When I read the Bible I found that God, in His infinite wisdom, couldn't control the people He had created, and that He had to drown them. If I had infinite power and couldn't make a people that I could control them and had to drown them, why I'd resign.
Then I read in the Bible such cruel things; and I do not believe that a God can be cruel. Such cruelty may make one afraid, but cannot inspire love. I can't love a God that will inflict pain and sorrow and I won't.
The preachers say, all unbelievers will go to hell--tidings of great joy. When I confront them they say I'm taking away their consolation. The old Bible does not mention hell or heaven. Now God should have notified Adam and Cain of hell, but He didn't. When He came to drown all those people He didn't tell a single one that He would drown him. He talked all about water--nothing about fire. When He came down on Mt. Sinai, and told Moses how to cut out clothes for a priest, He never said a word on the subject. When God gave to Moses the ten commandments, engraved on stone, he did not say anything to him about hell. There was plenty of room on the stone; why did he not add, "if you don't keep these commandments you will be damned." Through all these ages, when God was talking all the time and when every howling prophet had His ear, not one word did He utter or hell or heaven. For 4000 years God got along without mentioning those places or even hinting of them. It seems to me that we ought to have been notified by Him.
Here the orator recalled many stores from the old Bible and subjected them to keen irony and ridicule. Reciting the story wherein the she-bears came out of the woods and tore to pieces the forty children who mocked the prophet, he asked: If God did that, what would the devil have done under the same circumstances? Why, he said, did not God give a sure cure for leprosy, unless He wanted His chosen people to have that frightful disease? He continued:
Do you believe that God ever told a widow if her brother-in-law refused to marry her to spit in his face? Do you believe any such nonsense from a God? I call that courting under difficulties. He dwelt pathetically on the sweet, innocent babes eaten by the lions in the den, after Daniel was rescued from their jaws, and asked the question, what kind of a God was it that allowed such horrible deeds?
They say that I picked out all the bad things in the Bible. Well God ought not to have put bad things in the book. If you only read the Bible you will not believe it. Why it is such a bad book that it has to be supported by legislation. In Maine and elsewhere they will send you to jail for two years if you deny the Bible on the judgment day.
So we are told we must not only believe in the God we have been talking about, but must also believe in another one.
Let us look at the church to-day. The orthodox church--that is, all but the Universalist. He is trying to be orthodox but he can't get in. The God of the Universalists, to say the least, is a gentleman.
Now, what is this religion? To believe certain things that we may be saved, that we won't be damned. What are they?
First, that the Old and New Testament are inspired. No matter how kind, how just a man may be, unless he believes in the inspiration, he will be damned.
Second, he must believe in the trinity. There there are three in one. That father and son are precisely of the same age, the son, possibly, a little mite older; that three times one is one, and that once one is three. It is a mercy you don't know how to understand it, but you must believe it or be damned. Therein you see the mercy of the Lord. This trinity doctrine was announced several hundred years after Christ was born.
Do you believe such a doctrine will make a man good or honest? Will it make him more just? Is the man that believes, any better than the man who does not believe?
How is it with nations? Look at Spain, the last slaveholder in the civilized world; she's Christian, she believes in the trinity! And Italy, the beggar of the world. Under the rule of priestcraft money streamed in from every land and yet she did not advance. To-day she is reduced to a hand organ. Take poor Ireland, groaning under the heel of British oppression; could she cast off her priests she would soon be one with American in freedom.
Protestantism is better than Catholicism, because there is less of it. Both dread education. They say, they brought the arts and sciences out of the dark ages, why, they made the dark ages and what did they preserve? Nothing of value, only an account of events that never happened. What did they teach the world? Slavery?
The best country the sun ever shone upon is the northern part of the United States, and there you will find less religion than anywhere else on the face of the earth. You will find here more people that don't believe the Bible, and you will find better husbands, better wives, happier homes, where the women are most respected and where the children get less blows and more huggings and kissings. We have improved just as we have lost this religion and this superstition.
Great Britain is the religious nation par excellence and there you will find the most cant and most hypocrisy. They are always thanking God that they have killed somebody. Look at the opium war with China. They forced the Chinese to open their ports and receive the deadly drug and then had the impudence to send a lot of driveling idiots of missionaries into China.
Go around the world, and where you find the least superstition, there you will find the best men, the best women, the best children. Two powerful levers are at work : love and intelligence. The true test of a man is generosity, that covers a multitude of sins.
They have got so now that they damn a man on a technicality. You must be baptized by immersion, sprinkling or pouring. If you come to the day of judgment and can't show the water mark, you're damned.
What more: That a fellow named Adam, whom you don't know and never voted for, is your representative. You are charged with his sins. Equally abused is the doctrine of atonement, that you are created with the sacrifices of another.
If Christ had more virtue than Adam had meanness, then you are ahead.
Atonement is the corner stone of the Christian religion. But there is one great objection. It saves the wrong man, and it is not honest. In holding up the atonement to ridicule the orator said: "If Judas had failed to betray Christ, the mother of Christ would be in hell to-day."
Then he ridiculed the miracles recorded in the New Testament, pronounced them absurdities. He said that the four apostolic writers were very contradictory in their statements, and did not even agree as to the last word of this great man.
The ascension was the most striking, the grandest of the miracles, if true, yet the ascension is only recorded by two of these writers. If He was God, I know he will forgive somebody for not believing the miracles, unless convinced.
Another contradiction in the book. In one gospel the condition of salvation is "whosoever believeth not shall be damned," and in another we are promised that if we forgive our enemies God will forgive us--and there's sense in this last promise. The first I believe a lie--it was never spoken by God.
Christ said: Love your enemies. Nobody can do that. The doctrine of Confucius is sound--to love one's friend and to do justice to one's enemies without any mixture of revenge.
Christ was God, did he not know on his cross what crimes would be done in his name? Why didn't He settle all disputes about the Trinity and about baptism? Why don't he post his disciples? Because He could no more see into the future than I can. Only in this way can you acquit him of the crimes committed in his name.
The way to save our souls is to save another soul. God can't turn into hell a man who makes on this earth a little heaven for himself, his wife and babes.
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Any minister who preaches the doctrine of hell ought to be ashamed. I want, if I can, while I live, to put an end to all belief on this infamous doctrine. That doctrine had done incalculable harm, wrought incalculable injury. I despise it and I defy it.
The orthodox church says that religion does good, that it restrains crime. It restrains a man from artificial, not from natural crimes. A man can be made so religious that he will not eat meat on Friday, yet he will steal.
Did you ever hear of a tramp coming to town and inquiring where the deacon of the Presbyterian church lived?
The Bible says consider the lilies. What good would it do a naked man standing out in the bitter blasts of this night to consider the lilies?
What is the social position of a man in Heaven who through all eternity remembers that if he had a grain of courage he would never have been there?
The realization of our day does not satisfy the intelligence of the people--the people have outgrown it. It shocks us and we have got to have another religion. We must have a religion of charity; one that will do away with poverty, close the prisons and cover this world with happy homes.