The lives of thousands of young Frenchmen were ready for this literary bath of blood and sentiment in the 1830's. Their fathers and grandfathers had had their romanticism in the raw: the drama of the French Revolution, the glamour of the Napoleonic campaigns in Europe and in Africa had filled their lives with colour; now the young people, listening with envy to reminiscence and tradition, knew they were living in a world that had become flat and dull. For the unshackling of the Revolution and the pageantry and devotion of the Empire had been succeeded by two colourless Bourbon kings, who had learned nothing from the times and were so stupid as to insist on absolutism without providing any splendour to justify it; and when their line was expelled in a minor revolution in 1830 they were replaced by their even more colourless cousin, Louis Philippe of Orleans, a constitutional monarch whose virtue was that he was more bourgeois than the bourgeois and whom the newspapers caricatured unendingly, strolling with his family past the shops he owned, carrying an umbrella under his arm. In placing him on the throne the French bourgeoisie consolidated the gains it had begun to make forty years before and his prime minister gave the watchword of the day when he urged his fellow-citizens to make as much money as they possibly could. The French bourgeois — the revolutionaries of 1789, the conquerors of Europe under Napoleon — became rich, smug, tenacious and fearful of change; and their children and grandchildren, the young men of Flaubert's generation, were raised in an atmosphere of careful, commercial materialism, of complete lack of interest in literature and the arts and of complete distrust of impulse and imagination.
Francis Steegmuller
For the first time I understood the dogma of eternal pain -- appreciated the glad tidings of great joy. For the first time my imagination grasped the height and depth of the Christian horror. Then I said: It is a lie and I hate your religion. If it is true, I hate your God.From that day I have had no fear, no doubt. For me, on that day, the flames of hell were quenched. From that day I have passionately hated every orthodox creed. That Sermon did some good.In the Old Testament, they said. God is the judge -- but in the New, Christ is the merciful. As a matter of fact, the New Testament is infinitely worse than the Old. In the Old there is no threat of eternal pain. Jehovah had no eternal prison -- no everlasting fire. His hatred ended at the grave. His revenge was satisfied when his enemy was dead.In the New Testament, death is not the end, but the beginning of punishment that has no end. In the New Testament the malice of God is infinite and the hunger of his revenge eternal.The orthodox God, when clothed in human flesh, told his disciples not to resist evil, to love their enemies and when smitten on one cheek to turn the other and yet we are told that this same God, with the same loving lips, uttered these heartless, these fiendish words; Depart ye cursed into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.These are the words of eternal love.No human being has imagination enough to conceive of this infinite horror.All that the human race has suffered in war and want, in pestilence and famine, in fire and flood, -- all the pangs and pains of every disease and every death -- all this is as nothing compared with the agonies to be endured by one lost soul.This is the consolation of the Christian religion. This is the justice of God -- the mercy of Christ.This frightful dogma, this infinite lie, made me the implacable enemy of Christianity. The truth is that this belief in eternal pain has been the real persecutor. It founded the Inquisition, forged the chains and furnished the fagots. It has darkened the lives of many millions. It made the cradle as terrible as the coffin. It enslaved nations and shed the blood of countless thousands. It sacrificed the wisest, the bravest and the best. It subverted the idea of justice, drove mercy from the heart, changed men to fiends and banished reason from the brain.Like a venomous serpent it crawls and coils and hisses in every orthodox creed.It makes man an eternal victim and God an eternal fiend. It is the one infinite horror. Every church in which it is taught is a public curse. Every preacher who teaches it is an enemy of mankind. Below this Christian dogma, savagery cannot go. It is the infinite of malice, hatred and revenge.Nothing could add to the horror of hell, except the presence of its creator, God.While I have life, as long as I draw breath, I shall deny with all my strength and hate with every drop of my blood, this infinite lie.
Robert G. Ingersoll