My objection to orthodox religion is that it destroys human love, and tells us that the love of this world is not necessary to make a heaven in the next.
No matter about your wife, your children, your brother, your sister--no matter about all the affections of the human heart--when you get there, you will be with the angels. I do not know whether I would like the angels. I do not know whether the angels would like me. I would rather stand by the ones who have loved me and whom I know; and I can conceive of no heaven without the loved of this earth. That is the trouble with this Christian religion. Leave your father, leave your mother, leave your wife, leave your children, leave everything and follow Jesus Christ. I will not. I will stay with my people. I will not sacrifice on the altar of a selfish fear all the grandest and noblest promptings of my heart.
Do away with human love and what are we? What would we be in another world, and what would we be here? Can any one conceive of music without human love? Of art, or joy? Human love builds every home. Human love is the author of all beauty. Love paints every picture, and chisels every statue. Love builds every fireside. What could heaven be without human love? And yet that is what we are promised--a heaven with your wife lost, your mother lost, some of your children gone. And you expect to be made happy by falling in with some angel! Such a religion is infamous. Christianity holds human love for naught; and yet--
Love is the only bow on Life's dark cloud. It is the morning and the evening star. It shines upon the babe, and sheds its radiance on the quiet tomb. It is the mother of art, inspirer of poet, patriot and philosopher. It is the air and light of every heart--builder of every home, kindler of every fire on every hearth. It was the first to dream of immortality. It fills the world with melody--for music is the voice of love. Love is the magician, the enchanter, that changes worthless things to Joy, and makes royal kings and queens of common clay. It is the perfume of that wondrous flower, the heart, and without that sacred passion, that divine swoon, we are less than beasts; but with it, earth is heaven, and we are gods.
And how are you to get to this heaven? On the efforts of another. You are to be a perpetual heavenly pauper, and you will have to admit through all eternity that you never would have been there if you had not been frightened. "I am here," you will say, "I have these wings, I have this musical instrument, because I was scared. That's why I am here. The ones who loved me are among the damned; the ones I loved are also there--but I am here, that is enough." What a glorious world heaven must be! No reformation in that world--not the slightest. If you die in Arkansas that is the end of you! Think of telling a boy in the next world, who lived and died in Delaware, that he had been fairly treated! Can anything be more infamous?
All on an equality--the rich and the poor, those with parents loving them, those with every opportunity for education, on an equality with the poor, the abject and the ignorant--and this little day called life, this moment with a hope, a shadow and a tear, this little space between your mother's arms and the grave, balances eternity.
God can do nothing for you when you get there. A Methodist preacher can do more for the soul here than its creator can there. The soul goes to heaven, where there is nothing but good society; no bad examples; and they are all there, Father, Son and Holy Ghost, and yet they can do nothing for that poor unfortunate except to damn him. Is there any sense in that?
Why should this be a period of probation? It says in the Bible, I believe, "Now is the accepted time." When does that mean? That means whenever the passage is pronounced. "Now is the accepted time." It will be the same to-morrow, will it not? And just as appropriate then as to-day, and if appropriate at any time, appropriate through all eternity.
What I say is this: There is no world--there can be no world--in which every human being will not have the eternal opportunity of doing right.
That is my objection to this Christian religion; and if the love of earth is not the love of heaven, if those we love here are to be separated from us there, then I want eternal sleep. Give me a good cool grave rather than the furnace of Jehovah's wrath. I pray the angel of the resurrection to let me sleep. Gabriel, do not blow! Let me alone! If, when the grave bursts, and I am not to meet the faces that have been my sunshine in this life, let me sleep. Rather than that this doctrine of endless punishment should be true, I would gladly see the fabric of our civilization crumbling fall to unmeaning chaos and to formless dust, where oblivion broods and even memory forgets. I would rather that the blind Samson of some imprisoned force, released by chance, should so wreck and strand the mighty world that man in stress and strain of want and fear should shudderingly crawl back to savage and barbaric night. I would rather that every planet should in its orbit wheel a barren star!