No God has a right to make a failure, and a man who is destined for hell, destined to be eternally damned, is not a conspicuous success. No God has a right to make an investment that will not finally pay a dividend.
Christianity – orthodox Christianity – teaches that when you draw your last breath you have lost the last opportunity for reformation. Christianity teaches that this little world is the eternal line between time and eternity, and if you do not get religion in this life, you will be eternally damned in the next. That is Christianity. They say: “Now is the accepted time.” If you put it off until you die, that is too late; and the doctrine of the Christian world is that there is no opportunity for reformation in another world. The doctrine of orthodox Christianity is that you must believe on the Lord Jesus Christ here in this life, and it will not do to believe on him in the next world. You must believe on him here and that if you fail here, God in his infinite wisdom will never give you another chance. That is orthodox Christianity
And why is it that Christians now say this is not orthodox Christianity? I have made them ashamed of their doctrine. When I called to their attention the fact that such men as Darwin, such men as Emerson, Dickens, Longfellow, Laplace, Shakespeare, and Humboldt, were in hell, it struck them all at once that the company in heaven would not be very interesting with such men left out.
Orthodoxy says that the best man in the world, if he fails to believe in the existence of God, or in the divinity of Christ, will be eternally lost. Does it not say it? Is there an orthodox minister in this town now who will stand up and say that an honest atheist can be saved? He will not. Let any preacher say it, and he will be tried for heresy.
I will tell you what orthodoxy is.
A man goes to the day of judgment, and they cross-examine him, and they say to him:
“Did you believe the Bible?”
“Did you belong to the church?”
“Did you take care of your wife and children?”
“Pay your debts?”
“Love your country?”
“Love the whole world?”
“Never made anybody unhappy?”
“Not that I know of. If there is any man or woman that I ever wronged let them stand up and say so. That is the kind of man I am; but,” said he, “I did not believe the Bible. I did not believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ, and, to tell you the truth, I did not believe in the existence of God. I now find I was mistaken; but that was my doctrine.”
Now, I want to know what, according to the orthodox church, is done with that man? He is sent to hell. That is their doctrine.
Then the next fellow comes.
They ask him: “Where did you come from?”
And he looks off kind of stiffly, with his head on one side and he says: “I came from the gallows. I was just hung.”
“What were you hung for?”
“Murdering my wife. She wasn’t a Christian either, she got left. The day I was hung I was washed in the blood of the Lamb.”
And they say to him: “Come in! Let the band play!”
That is orthodox Christianity.
Every man that is hanged, there is a minister there, and the minister tells him he is all right. All he has to do is just to believe on the Lord.
All the clergymen in the world could not get one drop of rain out of the sky. I insist on it. All the prayers on earth cannot produce one drop of rain. All the clergymen of the world could not save one human life. They tried it last year. They tried it in the United States. The Christian world upon its knees implored God to save one life, and the man died. The man died! Had the man recovered the whole church would have claimed that it was in answer to prayer. The man having died, what does the church say now? What is the answer to this? The Rev. Dr. Thomas says: “There is prayer and there is rain.” Good. “Can he that is himself or any one else say there is no possible relation between one and the other?” I do.
Let us put it another way. There is rain and there is infidelity; can any one say there is no possible relation between the two? How does Dr. Thomas know that he is not indebted to me for this year’s crops? And yet this gentleman really throws out the idea that there is some possible relation between prayer and rain, between rain and health; and he tells us that he would have died twenty-five years ago had it not been for prayer. I doubt it. Prayer is not a medicine. All the prayer in the world cannot take the place of the circulation of the blood. All the prayer in the world is no substitute for digestion. All the prayer in the world cannot take the place of food; and whenever a man lives by prayer you will find that he eats considerable besides. It will not do.
Again: This reverend Doctor says: “Shall we say that all the love of the unseen world” (how does he know there is any love in the unseen world?) “and the love of God” (how does he know there is any love in God?) “heed not the cries and tears of earth?” I do not know; but let the gentleman read the history of religious persecution. Let him read the history of those who were put in dungeons, of those who lifted their chained hands to God and mingled prayer with the clank of fetters; men that were in the dungeons simply for loving this God, simply for worshiping this God. And what did God do? Nothing. The chains remained upon the limbs of his worshipers. They remained in the dungeons built by theology, by malice, and hatred; and what did God do? Nothing. Thousands of men were taken from their homes, fagots were piled around their bodies; they were consumed to ashes, and what did God do? Nothing. The sword of extermination was unsheathed, hundreds and thousands of men, women and children perished. Women lifted their hands to God and implored him to protect their children, their daughters; and what did God do? Nothing. Whole races were enslaved, and the cruel lash was put upon the naked back of toil. What did God do? Nothing. Children were sold from the arms of mothers. All the sweet humanities of life were trodden beneath the brutal foot of creed; and what did God do? Nothing. Human beings, his children, were tracked through swamps by bloodhounds; and what did God do? Nothing. Wild storms sweep over the earth and the shipwrecked go down in the billows; and what does God do? Nothing. There come plague and pestilence and famine. What does God do? Thousands and thousands perish. Little children die upon the withered breasts of mothers; and what does God do? Nothing.
What evidence has Dr. Thomas that the cries and tears of man have ever touched the heart of God? Let us be honest. I appeal to the history of the world; I appeal to the tears, and blood, and agony, and imprisonment, and death of hundreds and millions of the bravest and best. Have they ever touched the heart of the Infinite? Has the hand of help ever been reached from heaven? I do not know; but I do not believe it.
I can tell you, no trouble about that.
Every man has the capacity to enjoy and the capacity to suffer – every man. Whenever a man enjoys himself he calls that good; whenever he suffers he calls that bad. The animals that are useful to him he calls good; the poisonous, the hurtful, he calls bad. The vegetables that he can eat and use he calls good; those that are of no use except to choke the growth of the good ones, he calls bad. When the sun shines, when everything in nature is out that ministers to him, he says “this is good;” when the storm comes and blows down his hut, when the frost comes and lays down his crop, he says “this is bad.” And all phenomena that affect men well he calls good; all that affect him ill he calls bad.
Now, then, the foundation of the idea of right and wrong is the effect in nature that we are capable of enjoying or capable of suffering. That is the foundation of conscience; and if man could not suffer, if man could not enjoy, we never would have dreamed of the word conscience; and the words right and wrong never could have passed human lips.
There are no supernatural fields. We get our ideas from experience – some of them from our forefathers, many from experience. A man works – food does not come of itself. A man works to raise it, and, after he has worked in the sun and heat, do you think it is necessary that he should have a revelation from heaven before he thinks that he has a better right to it than the man who did not work? And yet, according to the priests and clergymen, we never would have known it was wrong to steal had not the Ten Commandments been given from Mount Sinai.
You go into a savage country where they never heard of the Bible, and let a man hunt all day for game, and finally get one little bird, and let the hungry man that stayed at home endeavor to take it from him, and you would see whether he would need a direct revelation from God in order to make up his mind who had the better right to that bird. Our ideas of right and wrong are born of our surroundings, and if a man will think for a moment he will see it.
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.