Robert Ingersoll: Traditional Christianity’s persecution of universalists

“Strange! that no one has ever been persecuted by the church for believing God bad, while hundreds of millions have been destroyed for thinking him good. The orthodox church never will forgive the Universalist for saying “God is love.” It has always been considered as one of the very highest evidences of true and undefiled religion to insist that all men, women and children deserve eternal damnation. It has always been heresy, to say, “God will at last save all”.

For myself I can say, that if there is a God, and he is such a being as [the Universalist] describes, I can bow before him and give him all my heart.
He says God is love, made the world in love, and in perfect wisdom, and well adapted to serve the divine purpose. He then made a family, all of them have sinned, and some of them have fallen very low, but God is determined, according to [the Universalist], to stand by His family, every one of them, let come what will come, till he makes all of them respectable.

This standing by His family, as every true Father ought to do, is what I like in [the Universalist’s] idea of God. But if there is a God, and he has created a family and will at last turn against most of them, and in burning wrath cast them into Hell forever, as [traditional Christianity] describes, I should hate him—he is not as good as I am, for I propose to stand by my family and every member of it for as long as I live. It is an insult to ask me to love and worship a God who is guilty of doing what we would detest in an earthly father.”

~ Robert Ingersoll

Robert Ingersoll has eloquently expressed the strange but true phenomenon of how the Orthodox Church would seek to persecute those who believe God is good whose love is inclusive and whose salvation is universal. This attitude might well be a reflection of their ego and carnality of thinking, or what is known as works of the flesh – envy, jealousy, hatred (including self-loathing, no thanks to their adherence to the sin theology) and idolatry (including worshipping the Bible, idolising Jesus and loving their own theology more than loving their fellow brother or sister).

It reminds me of the elder brother syndrome in Jesus’ parable of the lost son – the elder brother (who may represent the orthodox church) was incensed to learn that the father is so good, loving and gracious to the younger brother (who may represent those who do not subscribe to organised religion). Similarly, the idea of everyone having a chance to enjoy the goodness of God and experiencing the kingdom of heaven both now and in the future without doing or believing the same things as the followers of mainstream or evangelical Christianity may stir up envy and resentment in them since they had thought they were exclusively hand-picked by god to be “saved” for a certain heaven and be “raptured” somewhere in the future, or they couldn’t reconcile the legalistic teachings they were taught about Jesus dying to “pay for sins”, not realising the cross is not about God’s wrath but about man’s violence done to Jesus who was the ultimate scapegoat.

On another note, I googled about Robert Ingersoll and learnt that he was a notable civil war veteran and orator, and was known as the great agnostic. Perhaps he can be considered a new theist, according to Peter Rollins’ recent article, since he actually advocates the sacredness of life, the beauty of art and Nature, and the essentiality of freedom.

“Ingersoll was born in upstate New York in 1833 to an abolitionist minister and his wife. He knew the Bible backward and forward but preferred the work of Shakespeare. Ingersoll objected to organized religion, especially its obsession with damning non-believers to hell.

He thought religion should be destroyed. “In its place,” he wrote, “I want humanity, I want good fellowship, I want intellectual liberty . . . the religion of art, music and poetry. . . that is to say, the religion of this world.”

He was the Christopher Hitchens or Richard Dawkins of his day, but without those writers’ acid tone. To read Ingersoll is to encounter a man ahead of his time. He supported equality for African Americans, women’s suffrage, even D.C. voting rights.”

(From “Robert Ingersoll, The Great Agnostic” by John Kelly)

I also learnt Roger Ingersoll is a good friend of Walt Whitman, who was known for his famous quote below.

“Re-examine all that you have been told…dismiss that which insults your soul.” Walt Whitman

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