18. We have hitherto combated the dogma of eternal punishment by argument only; we shall now show that it is in contradiction with positive facts that we have before our eyes, and that it is, consequently, impossible that it can be true.
According to the dogma we are considering, the fate of the soul is irrevocably fixed at death, so that death constitutes an absolute barrier to progress. The one question, therefore, which has to be decided, is this; – Is the soul capable of progress, or is it not capable of progress? On this question the whole subject must be rested; for, if the soul is capable of progress, eternal punishment is impossible.
And how can we doubt that the soul has such a capability, when we behold the immense variety of moral and intellectual aptitudes existing among the peoples of the Earth, from that of the most savage to that of the most civilized, and when we reflect upon the differences presented by the same people in successive periods of history? If we assume that the souls of a given people, at those successive periods, are not the same souls, we must also assume that God creates souls at every degree of advancement, according to some differences of times and places, thus favoring some, while condemning others to perpetual inferiority; but such an assumption is incompatible with the Divine justice, which must be the same for all the creatures of the universe.