Today’s blog is brought to you courtesy of my book Faith Lacking Understanding. More specifically, it is excerpted from the beginning of the chapter on the doctrine of hell. The passage includes a great quote from Robert Ingersoll, a skeptic of the nineteenth century who was confounding good midwestern American Christians on the whistlestop tour when Richard Dawkins’ grandfather was just a twinkle in his great granddad’s eye. I have rendered the text in a fine wine colored font for your viewing pleasure:
The nineteenth century free thinker Robert Ingersoll records an exchange with an unsuspecting young Presbyterian who unwittingly approached the great skeptic with an evangelistic tract, an offer of salvation, and a testimony that he was “perfectly happy.” This was too much for Ingersoll who subjected the poor fellow to a stinging Socratic enquiry:
“Do you think a great many people are going to hell?”
“And you are perfectly happy?” […] “Would you not be happier if they were all going to heaven?”
“Well, then, you are not perfectly happy?”
No, he did not think he was.
“When you get to heaven, then you will be perfectly happy?”
Now, when we are only going to hell, you are not quite happy ; but when we are in hell, and you are in heaven, then you will be perfectly happy? You will not be as decent when you get to be an angel as you are now, will you?”
“Well,” he said, “that was not exactly it.”
Said I: “Suppose your mother were in hell, would you be happy in heaven then?”
“Well,” he says, “I suppose God would know the best place for mother.”
And I thought to myself, then, if I was a woman, I would like to have five or six boys like that.