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Robert Ingersoll Sowing And Reaping

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Sowing And Reaping

Robert Green Ingersoll


I HAVE read the sermon on "Sowing and Reaping," and I now
understand Mr. Moody better than I did before. The other day, in
New York, Mr. Moody said that he implicitly believed the story of
Jonah and really thought that he was in the fish for three days.

When I read it I was surprised that a man living in the
century of Humboldt, Darwin, Huxley, Spencer and Haeckel, should
believe such an absurd and idiotic story.

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Now I understand the whole thing. I can account for the
amazing credulity of this man. Mr. Moody never read one of my
lectures, That accounts for it all, and no wonder that he is a
hundred years behind the times. He never read one of my lectures;
that is a perfect explanation.

Poor man! He has no idea of what he has lost. He has been
living on miracles and mistakes, on falsehood and foolishness,
stuffing his mind with absurdities when he could have had truth,
facts and good, sound sense.

Poor man!

Probably Mr. Moody has never read one word of Darwin and so he
still believes in the Garden of Eden and the talking snake and
really thinks that Jehovah took some mud, molded the form of a man,
breathed in its nostrils, stood it up and called it Adam, and that
he then took one of Adam's ribs and some more mad and manufactured
Eve. Probably he has never read a word written by any great
geologist and consequently still believes in the story of the
flood. Knowing nothing of astronomy. he still thinks that Joshua
stopped the sun.

Poor man! He has neglected Spencer and has no idea of
evolution. He thinks that man has, through all the ages,
degenerated, the first pair having been perfect. He does not
believe that man came from lower forms and has gradually journeyed

He really thinks that the Devil outwitted God and vaccinated
the human race with the virus of total depravity.

Poor man!

He knows nothing of the great scientists -- of the great
thinkers, of the emancipators of the human race; knows nothing of
Spinoza, of Voltaire, of Draper, Buckle, of Paine or Renan.

Mr. Moody ought to read something besides the Bible -- ought
to find out what the really intelligent have thought. He ought to
get some new ideas -- a few facts -- and I think that, after he did
so, he would be astonished to find how ignorant and foolish he had
been. He is a good man. His heart is fairly good, but his head is
almost useless.

The trouble with this sermon, "Sowing and Reaping," is that he
contradicts it. I believe that a man must reap what he sows, that
every human being must bear the natural consequences of his acts.
Actions are good or bad according to their consequences. That is my

There is no forgiveness in nature. But Mr. Moody tells us that
a man may sow thistles and gather figs, that having acted like a
fiend for seventy years, he can, between his last dose of medicine
and his last breath, repent; that he can be washed clean by the
blood of the lamb, and that myriads of angels will carry his soul
to heaven -- in other words, that this man will not reap what he
sowed, but what Christ sowed, that this man's thistles will be
changed to figs.
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This doctrine, to my mind, is not only absurd. but dishonest
and corrupting.

This is one of the absurdities in Mr. Moody's theology. The
other is that a man can justly be damned for the sin of another.

Nothing can exceed the foolishness of these two ideas --
first: "Man can be justly punished forever for the sin of Adam."
Second: "Man can be justly rewarded with eternal joy for the
goodness of Christ."

Yet the man who believes this, preaches a sermon in which he
says that a man must reap what he sows. Orthodox Christians teach
exactly the opposite. They teach that no matter what a man sows, no
matter how wicked his life has been, that he can by repentance
change the crop. That all his sins shall be forgotten and that only
the goodness of Christ will be remembered.

Let us see how this works:

Mr. A. has lived a good and useful life, kept his contracts,
paid his debts, educated his children, loved his wife and made his
home a heaven, but he did not believe in the inspiration of Mr.
Moody's Bible. He died and his soul was sent to hell. Mr. Moody
says that as a man sows so shall he reap.

Mr. B. lived a useless and wicked life. By his cruelty he
drove his wife to insanity, his children became vagrants and
beggars, his home was a perfect hell, he committed many crimes, he
was a thief, a burglar, a murderer. A few minutes before he was
hanged he got religion and his soul went from the scaffold to
heaven. And yet Mr. Moody says that as a man sows so shall he reap.

Mr. Moody ought to have a little philosophy -- a little good

So Mr. Moody says that only in this life can a man secure the
reward of repentance.

Just before a man dies, God loves him -- loves him as a ,other
loves her baby -- but a moment after he dies, he sends his soul to
hell. In other words nothing can be done to reform him. The society
of God and the angels can have no good effect. Nobody can be made
better in heaven. This world is the only place where reform is
possible. Here, surrounded by the wicked in the midst of
temptations, in the darkness of ignorance, a human being may reform
if he is fortunate enough to hear the words of some revival
preacher, but when he goes before his maker -- before the Trinity
-- he has no chance. God can do nothing for his soul except to send
it to hell.

This shows that the power for good is confined to people in
this world and that in the next world God can do nothing to reform
his children. This is theology. This is what they call "Tidings of
great joy."

Every orthodox creed is savage, ignorant and idiotic.

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In the orthodox heaven there is no mercy, no pity. In the
orthodox hell there is no hope, no reform. God is an
eternal jailer, an everlasting turnkey.

And yet Christians now say that while there may be no fire in
hell -- no actual flames -- yet the lost souls feel forever the
tortures of conscience.

What will conscience trouble the people in hell about? They
tell us that they will remember their sins.

Well, what about the souls in heaven? They committed awful
sins, they made their fellow-men unhappy. They took the lives of
others -- sent many to eternal torment. Will they have no
conscience? Is hell the only place where souls regret the evil they
have done? Have the angels no regret, no remorse, no conscience?

If this be so, heaven must be somewhat worse than hell.

In old times, if people wanted to know anything they
asked the preacher. Now they do if they don't.

The Bible has, with intelligent men, lost its authority.

The miracles are now regarded by sensible people as the spawn
of ignorance and credulity. On every hand people are looking for
facts -- for truth -- and all religions are taking their places in
the museum of myths.

Yes, the people are becoming civilized, and so they are
putting out the fires of hell. They are ceasing to believe in a God
who seeks eternal revenge.

The people are becoming sensible. They are asking for
evidence. They care but little for the winged phantoms of the air
-- for the ghosts and devils and supposed gods. The people are
anxious to be happy here and they want a little heaven in this

Theology is a curse. Science is a blessing. We do not need
preachers, but teachers; not priests, but thinkers; not churches,
but schools; not steeples, but observatories. We want knowledge.

Let us hope that Mr. Moody will read some really useful books.

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