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Agnostic Letter To Grieving Mother


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The following was written by the great agnostic, Robert G ingersoll in the 19th century



"Mrs. Cooper has told me the sad story of your almost infinite sorrow. I am not foolish enough to suppose that I can say or do anything to lessen your great grief, your anguish for his loss; but maybe I can say something to drive from your poor heart the fiend of fear -- fear for him."


"If there is a God, let us believe that he is good, and if he is good, the good have nothing to fear. I have been told that your son was kind and generous; that he was filled with charity and sympathy. Now, we know that in this world like begets like, kindness produces kindness, and all goodness bears the fruit of joy. Belief is nothing -- deeds are everything; and if your son was kind he will naturally find kindness wherever he may be. You would not inflict endless pain upon your worst enemy. Is God less merciful than you? You could not bear to see a viper suffer forever. Is it possible that God will doom a kind and generous boy to everlasting pain? Nothing can be more monstrously absurd and cruel."


"The truth is, that no human being knows anything of what is beyond the grave. If nothing is known, then it is not honest for anyone to pretend that he does know. If nothing is known, then we 'Can hope only for the good. If there be a God your boy is no more in his power now than he was before his death -- no more than you are at the present moment. Why should we fear God more after death than before? Does the feeling of God toward his children change the moment they die? While we are alive they say God loves us; when will he cease to love us? True love never changes. I beg of you to throw away all fear. Take counsel of your own heart. If God exists, your heart is the best revelation of him, and your heart could never send your boy to endless pain. After all, no one knows. The ministers know nothing. All the churches in the world know no more on this subject than the ants on the ant-hills. Creeds are good for nothing except to break the hearts of the loving. Have courage. Under the seven-hued arch of hope let your boy sleep. I do not pretend to know, but I do know that others do not know. Listen to your heart, believe what it says, and wait with patience and without fear for what the future has for all. If we can get no comfort from what people know, let us avoid being driven to despair by what they do not know."


"I wish I could say something that would put a star in your night of grief -- a little flower in your lonely path -- and if an unbeliever has such a wish, surely an infinitely good being never made a soul to be the food of pain through countless years."



To this letter came the prompt reply:


"Dear Colonel Ingersoll: I found your letter inclosed with one from Mrs. Cooper at my door on the way to this hotel to see a friend. I broke the seal here, and through blinding tears -- letting it fall from my hands between each sentence to sob my heart out -- read it. The first peace I have known, real peace, since the terrible blow, has come to me now. While I will not doubt the existence of a God, I feel that I can rest my grief-stricken heart on his goodness and mercy; and you have helped me to do this. Why, you have helped me to believe in an all-merciful and loving creator, who has gathered (I will try to believe) my poor little boy -- my kind, large-hearted child -- into his tender and sheltering arms. There is a genuine ring in your words that lifts me up."


"Your belief, so clear and logical, so filled with common sense, corresponds, so far back as I can remember, with my own matter-of-fact ideas; and I was the child of good and praying parents, and my great wondering eyes, questioning silently when they talked to me, my strange ways, while I tried to be good, caused them often great anxiety and many a pang -- God forgive me."


"I am writing, while people are talking about me, just a line to thank you from the bottom of my heart for the comfort you have given me to-day. You great, good man; I see the traces of your tears all over your letter, and I could clasp your hand and bless you for this comfort you have given my poor heart."

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I love that man - an American hero. That letter touched me many years ago and I have thought of it often over the years.

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