If there be a God in this universe who made a hell; if there be a God in this universe who denies to any human being the right of reformation, then that God is not good, that God is not just, and the future of man is infinitely dark. I despise that doctrine, and I have done what little I could to get that horror from the cradle, that horror from the hearts of mothers, that horror from the hearts of husbands and fathers, and sons, and brothers, and sisters. It is a doctrine that turns to ashes all the humanities of life and all the hopes of mankind. I despise it.
Some make the charge that I am wanting in “reverence”. I admit here today that I have no reverence for a falsehood. I do not care how old it is, and I do not care who told it, whether the men were inspired or not. I have no reverence for what I believe to be false, and in determining what is false I go by my reason. And whenever another man gives me an argument I examine it. If it is good I follow it. If it is bad I throw it away. I have no reverence for any book that upholds human slavery. I despise such a book. I have no reverence for any book that upholds or palliates the infamous institution of polygamy. I have no reverence for any book that tells a husband to kill his wife if she differs with him upon the subject of religion. I have no reverence for any book that defends wars of conquest and extermination. I have no reverence for a God that orders his legions to slay the old and helpless, and to whet the edge of the sword with the blood of mothers and babes. I have no reverence for such a book; neither have I any reverence for the author of that book. No matter whether he be God or man, I have no reverence. I have no reverence for the miracles of the Bible. I have no reverence for the story that God allowed bears to tear children in pieces. I have no reverence for the miraculous, but I have reverence for the truth, for justice, for charity, for humanity, for intellectual liberty, and for human progress.
I have the right to do my own thinking. I am going to do it. I have never met any minister that I thought had brain enough to think for himself and for me too. I do my own. I have no reverence for barbarism, no matter how ancient it may be, and no reverence for the savagery of the Old Testament; no reverence for the malice of the New. And let me tell you here and now that the Old Testament is a thousand times better than the New. The Old Testament threatened no vengeance beyond the grave. God was satisfied when his enemy was dead. It was reserved for the New Testament – it was reserved for universal benevolence – to rend the veil between time and eternity and fix the horrified gaze of man upon the abyss of hell. The New Testament is just as much worse than the Old, as hell is worse than sleep. And yet it is the fashion to say that the Old Testament is bad and that the New Testament is good. I have no reverence for any book that teaches a doctrine contrary to my reason; no reverence for any book that teaches a doctrine contrary to my heart; and, no matter how old it is, no matter how many have believed it, no matter how many have died on account of it, no matter how many live for it, I have no reverence for that book, and I am glad of it.