There may be some other religion in the world that sings of a God more cruel than the God of Christianity, but we do not know of any. At any rate, we believe it is safe to say that no religion of a civilized people has a God who is more vindictive. We have always wondered how men and women could set such infernal ideas to music as we find in Christian hymns. It is really too bad that human beings are compelled to sing such lies as we find in the pious song-books of the church. The sentiments contained in them are not fit for savages. It can only brutalize the heart to sing of blood, and nothing but blood, no matter whose blood it is. The “precious blood of Jesus” is just as suggestive of cruelty as the blood on the executioner’s knife. Men become what they read, what they think, what they sing, what they believe. Religions have made men wicked, cruel, hard, unkind. It is impossible to have faith in a God of wrath and vindictiveness without in time developing these qualities. Men grow into the likeness of their belief. As a man believes, so is he, to a certain extent.
The influence of cruel sentiments on the mind is greater with the young than with adults. Some hymns sung in Christian churches are positively brutal in tone. Think of human beings singing the following verse:
“But vengeance and damnation lie
On rebels who refuse His grace;
Who God’s eternal Son despise,
The hottest hell shall be their place.”
Christians seem to delight in pictures of hell. God would hardly be God to them if he did not damn somebody. In painting the divine idea vengeance and damnation are laid on thick.
Here is the Christian notion of father and son:
“How justice frowned and vengeance stood
To drive me down to endless pain!
But the great Son propos’d his blood,
And heavenly wrath grew mild again.”
Think of the religion based on such an idea of God! And think on the terrible effect on men and women which such religion must have!
The following description of the Christian God was probably written by one of his adorers:
“Adore and tremble for our God
Is a consuming fire!
His jealous eyes with wrath inflame,
And raise His vengeance higher.
“Almighty vengeance, how it burns,
How bright His fury glows!
Vast magazines of plagues and storms
Lie treasured for His foes.
“Those heaps of wrath, by slow degrees,
Are force into a flame:
But kindled, Oh! how fierce they blaze!
And rend all nature’s frame.
“At His approach the mountains flee,
And seek a watery grave;
The frighted sea makes haste away,
And shrinks up every wave.
“Through the wide air the weighty rocks
Are swift as hailstones hurled;
Who dares engage His fiery rage,
That shakes the solid world?
“Thy hand shall on rebellious kings
A fiery tempest pour,
While we, beneath Thy sheltering wings,
Thy just revenge adore.”
And we are asked to love this God! We should just as soon think of loving a tiger, a cyclone, a deluge, a fiend. Love goes out to what is lovely. We can love what is good, what is beautiful, what is noble; a great-hearted man, a pitying woman we cannot help loving, but if we should say that we love such a God as is pictured in the words of that hymn we should lie. Man cannot love hate, vengeance, wrath – even in a God.
The Christian church, down through the ages, has been like the God it worshiped — full of hate, malice and cruelty. The world has grown kind and humane just in proportion as it has given up worship of this divine monster. We judge gods as we judge men, and we can respect and love only what is worthy of respect and love from a human point of view. If there is such a God as is painted in Christian literature he deserves, not to be worshiped, but to be ignored.