Sunday, February 3, 2013

"Get[ting] The Fear Of Hell Out Of The Human Heart"

Robert Ingersoll was asked the following question (one of several
in an interview in the Philadelphia Times):

Question. Haven't you just the faintest glimmer of a hope that in some future state you will meet and be reunited to those who are dear to you in this?

Answer. I have no particular desire to be destroyed. I am willing to go to heaven if there be such a place, and enjoy myself for ever and ever. It would give me infinite satisfaction to know that all mankind are to be happy forever. Infidels love their wives and children as well as Christians do theirs. I have never said a word against heaven—never said a word against the idea of immortality. On the contrary, I have said all I could truthfully say in favor of the idea that we shall live again. I most sincerely hope that there is another world, better than this, where all the broken ties of love will be united. It is the other place I have been fighting. Better that all of us should sleep the sleep of death forever than that some should suffer pain forever. If in order to have a heaven there must be a hell, then I say away with them both. My doctrine puts the bow of hope over every grave; my doctrine takes from every mother's heart the fear of hell. No good man would enjoy himself in heaven with his friends in hell. No good God could enjoy himself in heaven with millions of his poor, helpless mistakes in hell. The orthodox idea of heaven—with God an eternal inquisitor, a few heartless angels and some redeemed orthodox, all enjoying themselves, while the vast multitude will weep in the rayless gloom of God's eternal dungeon—is not calculated to make man good or happy. I am doing what I can to civilize the churches, humanize the preachers and get the fear of hell out of the human heart. In this business I am meeting with great success.
Philadelphia Times, September 25, 1885.

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