WILLIAM EDELEN: More Robert Ingersoll



From Our Archives
WILLIAM EDELEN (1922 – 2015)
The Contrary Minister

One of the joyful rewards of writing a column is to receive the delightful letters that arrive in response, with often developing new friendships. After my column on Robert Ingersoll, many wrote, or called, saying the column brought back a bit of nostalgia, because “I remembered how my father (or grandfather, or mother) used to rave about Robert Ingersoll… and I had forgotten.

Since my last column was primarily introducing the man to those who had not heard of him, I did not have space to give examples of the gems that flowed from his pen.

Women: “The men who declare that woman is the intellectual inferior of man, do not and cannot, by offering themselves in evidence, substantiate their declaration. Husbands as a rule, do not know a great deal, and it will not do for every wife to depend on the ignorance of her worst half… It is the women of today who are the great readers. No woman should have to live with a man whom she abhors. I despise the man that has to be begged for money by his wife. ‘Please give me a dollar?’… ‘What did you do with the 50 cents I gave you last Christmas?’ he asks.”

Government: “I despise the doctrine of state sovereignty. States are political conveniences. Rising above states as the Alps above valleys are the rights of man, the sublime rights of the people… Nothing is farther from democracy than the application of the veto power. It should be abolished… I do not believe in being the servant of any political party. I am not the property of any organization, I do not believe in giving a mortgage on yourself or a deed of trust for any purpose. It is better to be free.”

Church and state: “Church and state should be absolutely and totally divorced… Presidents and governors should never issue religious proclamations. It is not part of their official duty. It is outside and beyond the horizon of their authority. There is nothing in the Constitution to justify this religious impertinence… Jefferson, when president, refused to issue a ‘Thanksgiving proclamation,’ on the grounds that the government had no business making religious statements. He was quite right.”

Bible: “Any woman who regards the Bible as the charter of her rights will always be the slave of man… If a person would follow the teachings of the Old Testament, he would be a criminal. If he would strictly follow the teachings of the New Testament, he would be insane… Jesus never wrote a solitary word of the gospels and he never told anybody to write a word…

“Was Adam the first man? Who was Cain’s wife? Who was the snake? How did he walk? What language did he speak? This turns a church into a nursery and makes a cradle out of each pew, and gives to each member a rattle wit which he can amuse what he calls his mind.”

Jesus: “Jesus takes his place with other teachers of mankind. He hated oppression; he despised superstition and hypocrisy; he attacked the heartless church of his time; he received the hatred of bigots and priests; he was an infidel in denouncing the orthodox religion as it then existed… What if Jesus was an illegitimate child, I would think no less of him.

“Nothing ever was, nothing ever can be more perfectly idiotic and absurd than the dogma of the trinity… A creed is the ignorant past bullying the enlightened present… A Christian who does not believe in absolute intellectual freedom is a curse to mankind. An agnostic or ‘infidel’ who does believe in absolute intellectual freedom is a blessing to the world.

“Is life worth living? How I love life, to be alive, to breathe the air, to look at clouds and stars, read poems, listen to good music, hear the voices of my loved ones.”