Robert Ingersoll Series

Ingersoll’s Vow…



From ROBERT INGERSOLL (1833 – 1899)

When I became convinced that the Universe is natural – that all the ghosts and gods are myths, there entered into my brain, into my soul, into every drop of my blood, the sense, the feeling, the joy of freedom.

The walls of my prison crumbled and fell, the dungeon was flooded with light and all the bolts, and bars, and manacles became dust. I was no longer a servant, a serf or a slave.

The Doctrine of Eternal Pain…




From ROBERT INGERSOLL (1833 – 1899)

I have concluded that I will never deliver a lecture in which I will not attack the doctrine of eternal pain. That part of the Congregational creed would disgrace the lowest savage that crouches and crawls in the jungles of Africa. The man who now, in the nineteenth century, preaches the doctrine of eternal punishment, the doctrine of an eternal hell, has lived in vain. Think of that doctrine! The eternity of punishment! I find in this same creed—in this latest utterance of Congregationalism—that Christ is finally going to triumph in this world and establish his kingdom. This creed declares that “we believe in the ultimate prevalence of the kingdom of God over all the earth.” If their doctrine is true he will never triumph in the other world. The Congregational Church does not believe in the ultimate prevalence of the kingdom of Christ in the world to come. There he is to meet with eternal failure. He will have billions in hell forever.

In this world we never will be perfectly civilized as long as a gallows casts its shadow upon the earth. As long as there is a penitentiary, within the walls of which a human being is immured, we are not a perfectly civilized people. We shall never be perfectly civilized until we do away with crime. And yet, according to this Christian religion, God is to have an eternal penitentiary; he is to be an everlasting jailer, an everlasting turnkey, a warden of an infinite dungeon, and he is going to keep prisoners there forever, not for the purpose of reforming them—because they are never going to get any better, only worse—but for the purpose of purposeless punishment. And for what? For something they failed to believe in this world. Born in ignorance, supported by poverty, caught in the snares of temptation, deformed by toil, stupefied by want—and yet held responsible through the countless ages of eternity! No man can think of a greater horror; no man can dream of a greater absurdity. For the growth of that doctrine ignorance was soil and fear was rain. It came from the fanged mouths of serpents, and yet it is called “glad tidings of great joy.”

Some Who are Damned.

The New Testament Is Worse Than The Old Testament…




From ROBERT INGERSOLL (1833 – 1899)

One great objection to the Old Testament is the cruelty said to have been commanded by God. All these cruelties ceased with death. The vengeance of Jehovah stopped at the tomb. He never threatened to punish the dead; and there is not one word, from the first mistake in Genesis to the last curse of Malachi, containing the slightest intimation that God will take his revenge in another world. It was reserved for the New Testament to make known the doctrine of eternal pain.

The teacher of universal benevolence rent the veil between time and eternity, and fixed the horrified gaze of man upon the lurid gulf of hell. Within the breast of non-resistance coiled the worm that never dies. Compared with this, the doctrine of slavery, the wars of extermination, the curses, the punishments of the Old Testament were all merciful and just.

Should Atheists Send Their Children To Sunday School?



From Robert Ingersoll (1833 – 1899)

Should parents, who are Infidels, unbelievers or Atheists, send their children to Sunday schools and churches to give them the benefit of Christian education?

Parents who do not believe the Bible to be an inspired book should not teach their children that it is. They should be absolutely honest. Hypocrisy is not a virtue, and, as a rule, lies are less valuable than facts.

An unbeliever should not allow the mind of his child to be deformed, stunted and shriveled by superstition. He should not allow the child’s imagination to be polluted. Nothing is more outrageous than to take advantage of the helplessness of childhood to sow in the brain the seeds of falsehoods, to imprison the soul in the dungeon of Fear, to teach dimpled infancy the infamous dogma of eternal pain—filling life with the glow and glare of hell.

No unbeliever should allow his child to be tortured in the orthodox inquisitions. He should defend the mind from attack as he would the body. He should recognize the rights of the soul. In the orthodox Sunday schools, children are taught that it is a duty to believe—that evidence is not essential—that faith is independent of facts and that religion is superior to reason. They are taught not to use their natural sense—not to tell what they really think—not to entertain a doubt—not to ask wicked questions, but to accept and believe what their teachers say. In this way the minds of the children are invaded, corrupted and conquered. Would an educated man send his child to a school in which Newton’s statement in regard to the attraction of gravitation was denied—in which the law of falling bodies, as given by Galileo, was ridiculed—Kepler’s three laws declared to be idiotic, and the rotary motion of the earth held to be utterly absurd?

Freethinkers: Christian Creeds…




There is a natural desire on the part of every intelligent human being to harmonize his information—to make his theories agree—in other words, to make what he knows, or thinks he knows, in one department, agree and harmonize with what he knows, or thinks he knows, in every other department of human knowledge.

The human race has not advanced in line, neither has it advanced in all departments with the same rapidity. It is with the race as it is with an individual. A man may turn his entire attention to some one subject—as, for instance, to geology—and neglect other sciences. He may be a good geologist, but an exceedingly poor astronomer; or he may know nothing of politics or of political economy. So he may be a successful statesman and know nothing of theology. But if a man, successful in one direction, takes up some other question, he is bound to use the knowledge he has on one subject as a kind of standard to measure what he is told on some other subject. If he is a chemist, it will be natural for him, when studying some other question, to use what he knows in chemistry; that is to say, he will expect to find cause and effect everywhere —succession and resemblance. He will say: It must be in all other sciences as in chemistry—there must be no chance. The elements have no caprice. Iron is always the same. Gold does not change. Prussic acid is always poison—it has no freaks. So he will reason as to all facts in nature. He will be a believer in the atomic integrity of all matter, in the persistence of gravitation. Being so trained, and so convinced, his tendency will be to weigh what is called new information in the same scales that he has been using.

Words of Robert Ingersoll Still Ring True…


From Freedom From Religion Foundation

Read these quotes and imagine:

“It may be that ministers really think that their prayers do good and it may be that frogs imagine that their croaking brings spring.”

“If there be an infinite Being, he does not need our help — we need not waste our energies in his defense.”

“The inspiration of the Bible depends upon the ignorance of the gentleman who reads it.”

Imagine an auditorium, filled to capacity to hear an orator known worldwide discuss atheism and question Christian tenets. Imagine thousands of people willing to pay a substantial admission to hear his eloquence and irreverent wit. Ingersoll, “The Great Agnostic,” would speak extemporaneously for three hours.

He was a lawyer and former colonel in the army. He was called the “most brilliant speaker of the English tongue of all the men on the globe.” Who could this be — Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens? You may be surprised to learn this remarkable speaker was popular over 130 years ago!

William Edelen: Robert Ingersoll

The Contrary Minister
[Repost Celebrating Ingersoll’s Birthday August 11]

What is surprising is that Robert Ingersoll is so little known in our time. He lived from 1833 to 1899 and was internationally known as the “great Agnostic,” one of the most brilliant thinkers, lawyers, orators, debaters and authors of his day, or any day. Twelve volumes of his works are still available and are a collector’s treasure. He lectured all over the United States and abroad to standing-room-only audiences.

He spoke on many subjects, but thousands upon thousands turned out to hear him demolish the absurdities of orthodox religious dogmas. He found them repugnant due to the damage they did to the human mind and spirit. He and Thomas Jefferson shared similar views regarding organized religion. And yet, on a deep and profound level he had a sense of the mystery that was breathtaking.

I can tell you that without exception his funeral eulogies are the most beautiful that I have read in the English language. The poet laureate of the universe, Walt Whitman, said that only one man could speak at his funeral, and that man was Robert Ingersoll.

Carl Sandburg said of Ingersoll’s eulogy of Whitman, “It was a most precious treasure.”

Ingersoll: 60 Reasons For Doubting The Inspiration Of The Bible…



The Old Testament must have been written nearly two thousand years before the invention of Printing. There were but few copies, and these were in the keeping of those whose interest might have prompted interpolations, and whose ignorance might have led to mistakes.

Second. The written Hebrew was composed entirely of consonants, without any points or marks standing for vowels, so that anything like accuracy was impossible. Anyone can test this for himself by writing an English sentence, leaving out the vowels. It will take far more inspiration to read than to write a book with consonants alone.

Third. The books composing the Old Testament were not divided into chapters or verses, and no system of punctuation was known.

Ingersoll on Civil Rights: The first duty of the Government is to protect each citizen…



My doctrine is this: The first duty of the General Government is to protect each citizen. The first duty of each citizen is to be true – not to his State, but to the Republic.

…That is affirmative in its character. That affirmation imposes the obligation upon the General Government to protect its citizens everywhere. That affirmation clothes the Federal Government with power to protect its citizens. Under that clause, the Federal arm can reach to the boundary of the Republic, for the purpose of protecting the weakest citizen from the tyranny of citizens or States. That clause is a contract between the Government and every man – a contract wherein the citizen promises allegiance, and the nation promises protection.

This decision takes from seven millions of people the shield of the Constitution. It leaves the best of the colored race at the mercy of the meanest of the white. It feeds fat the ancient grudge that vicious ignorance bears toward race and color. It will be approved and quoted by hundreds of thousands of unjust men.

The Devil, Part Five…



Parts | One | Two | Three | Four | Five |

Personifications of Evil

The Orthodox Ostrich Thrusts His Head into The Sand.

Many of the clergy are now ashamed to say that they believe in devils. The belief has become ignorant and vulgar. They are ashamed of the lake of fire and brimstone. It is too savage.

At the same time they do not wish to give up the inspiration of the Bible. They give new meanings to the inspired words. Now they say that devils were only personifications of evil.

If the devils were only personifications of evil what were the angels? Was the angel who told Joseph who the father of Christ was, a personification? Was the Holy Ghost only the personification of a father? Was the angel who told Joseph that Herod was dead a personification of news?

Were the angels who rolled away the stone and sat clothed in shining garments in the empty sepulcher of Christ a couple of personifications? Were all the angels described in the Old Testament imaginary shadows — bodiless personifications? If the angels of the Bible are real angels, the devils are real devils.

Let us be honest with ourselves and each other and give to the Bible its natural, obvious meaning. Let us admit that the writers believed what they wrote. If we believe that they were mistaken, let us have the honesty and courage to say so. Certainly we have no right to change or avoid their meaning, or to dishonestly correct their mistakes. Timid preachers sully their own souls when they change what the writers of the Bible believed to be facts to allegories, parables, poems and myths.

It is impossible for any man who believes in the inspiration of the Bible to explain away the Devil.

The Devil, Part Four…



Parts | One | Two | Three | Four | Five |

The Evidence of the Church

All the fathers of the church believed in devils. All the saints won their crowns by overcoming devils. All the popes and cardinals, bishops and priests, believed in devils. Most of their time was occupied in fighting devils. The whole Catholic world, from the lowest layman to the highest priest, believed in devils. They proved the existence of devils by the New Testament. They knew that these devils were citizens of hell. They knew that Satan was their king. They knew that hell was made for the Devil and his angels.

The founders of all the Protestant churches — the makers of all the orthodox creeds — all the leading Protestant theologians, from Luther to the president of Princeton College — were, and are, firm believers in the Devil. All the great commentators believed in the Devil as firmly as they did in God.

Under the “Scheme of Salvation” the Devil was a necessity. Somebody had to be responsible for the thorns and thistles, for the cruelties and crimes. Somebody had to father the mistakes of God. The Devil was the scapegoat of Jehovah.

The Devil, Part Three…



Parts | One | Two | Three | Four | Five |

Take the Devil From the Drama of Christianity and the Plot is Gone.

The next question is: Does the New Testament teach the existence of the Devil?

As a matter of fact, the New Testament is far more explicit than the Old. The Jews, believing that Jehovah was God, had very little business for a devil. Jehovah was wicked enough and malicious enough to take the Devil’s place.

The first reference in the New Testament to the Devil is in the fourth chapter of Matthew. We are told that Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the Devil.

It seems that he was not led by the Devil into the wilderness, but by the Spirit; that the Spirit and the Devil were acting together in a kind of pious conspiracy.

In the wilderness Jesus fasted forty days, and then the Devil asked him to turn stones into bread. The Devil also took him to Jerusalem and set him on a pinnacle of the temple, and tried to induce him to leap to the earth. The Devil also took him to the top of a mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and offered them all to him in exchange for his worship. Jesus refused. The Devil went away and angels came and ministered to Christ.

The Devil, Part Two…



Parts | One | Two | Three | Four | Five |

The Atlas of Christianity is the Devil

The religion known as “Christianity” was invented by God himself to repair in part the wreck and ruin that had resulted from the Devil’s work.

Take the Devil from the scheme of salvation — from the atonement — from the dogma of eternal pain — and the foundation is gone.

The Devil is the keystone of the arch.

He inflicted the wounds that Christ came to heal. He corrupted the human race.

The question now is: Does the Old Testament teach the existence of the Devil?

If the Old Testament teaches anything, it does teach the existence of the Devil, of Satan, of the Serpent, of the enemy of God and man, the deceiver of men and women.

Those who believe the Scriptures are compelled to say that this Devil was created by God, and that God knew when he created him just what he would do — the exact measure of his success; knew that he would be a successful rival; knew that he would deceive and corrupt the children of men; knew that, by reason of this Devil, countless millions of human beings would suffer eternal torment in the prison of pain. And this God also knew when he created the Devil, that he, God, would be compelled to leave his throne, to be born a babe in Palestine, and to suffer a cruel death. All this he knew when he created the Devil. Why did he create him?

It is no answer to say that this Devil was once an angel of light

The Devil, Part One…


From Robert Ingersoll (1899)

Parts | One | Two | Three | Four | Five |

I — If the Devil Should Die Would God Make Another?

A little while ago I delivered a lecture on “Superstition,” in which, among other things, I said that the Christian world could not deny the existence of the Devil; that the Devil was really the keystone of the arch, and that to take him away was to destroy the entire system.

A great many clergymen answered or criticized this statement. Some of these ministers avowed their belief in the existence of his Satanic Majesty, while others actually denied his existence; but some, without stating their own position, said that others believed, not in the existence of a personal devil, but in the personification of evil, and that all references to the Devil in the Scriptures could be explained on the hypothesis that the Devil thus alluded to was simply a personification of evil.

When I read these answers I thought of this line from Heine: “Christ rode on an ass, but now asses ride on Christ.”

Now, the questions are, first, whether the Devil does really exist; second, whether the sacred Scriptures teach the existence of the Devil and of unclean spirits, and third, whether this belief in devils is a necessary part of what is known as “orthodox Christianity.”

Now, where did the idea that a Devil exists come from? How was it produced?

Fear is an artist — a sculptor — a painter. All tribes and nations, having suffered, having been the sport and prey of natural phenomena, having been struck by lightning, poisoned by weeds, overwhelmed by volcanoes, destroyed by earthquakes, believed in the existence of a Devil, who was the king — the ruler — of innumerable smaller devils, and all these devils have been from time immemorial regarded as the enemies of men.

Ingersoll: Crumbling Creeds…



There is a desire in each brain to harmonize the knowledge that it has. If a man knows, or thinks he knows, a few facts, he will naturally use those facts for the purpose of determining the accuracy of his opinions on other subjects. This is simply an effort to establish or prove the unknown by the known — a process that is constantly going on in the minds of all intelligent people.

It is natural for a man not governed by fear, to use what he knows in one department of human inquiry, in every other department that he investigates. The average of intelligence has in the last few years greatly increased. Man may have as much credulity as he ever had, on some subjects, but certainly on the old subjects he has less. There is not as great difference to-day between the members of the learned professions and the common people. Man is governed less and less by authority. He cares but little for the conclusions of the universities. He does not feel bound by the actions of synods or ecumenical councils — neither does he bow to the decisions of the highest tribunals, unless the reasons given for the decision satisfy his intellect. One reason for this is, that the so-called “learned” do not agree among themselves — that the universities dispute each other — that the synod attacks the ecumenical council — that the parson snaps his fingers at the priest

Telling the Truth about the Holy Bible, Part Seven…


Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four | Part Five | Part Six | Part Seven |


Millions assert that the philosophy of Christ is perfect — that he was the wisest that ever uttered speech.

Let us see:

Resist not evil. If smitten on one cheek turn the other.

Is there any philosophy, any wisdom in this? Christ takes from goodness, from virtue, from the truth, the right of self-defence. Vice becomes the master of the world, and the good become the victims of the infamous.

No man has the right to protect himself, his property, his wife and children. Government becomes impossible, and the world is at the mercy of criminals. Is there any absurdity beyond this?

Love your enemies.

Is this possible? Did any human being ever love his enemies? Did Christ love his, when he denounced them as whited sepulchers, hypocrites and vipers?

We cannot love those who hate us. Hatred in the hearts of others does not breed love in ours. Not to resist evil is absurd; to love your enemies is impossible.

Telling the Truth about the Holy Bible, Part Six…


Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four | Part Five | Part Six | Part Seven |


Who wrote the New Testament?

Christian scholars admit that they do not know. They admit that, if the four gospels were written by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, they must have been written in Hebrew. And yet a Hebrew manuscript of any one of these gospels has never been found. All have been and are in Greek. So, educated theologians admit that the Epistles, James and Jude, were written by persons who had never seen one of the four gospels. In these Epistles — in James and Jude — no reference is made to any of the gospels, nor to any miracle recorded in them.

The first mention that has been found of one of our gospels was made about one hundred and eight years after the birth of Christ, and the four gospels were first named and quoted from at the beginning of the third century, about one hundred an seventy years after the death of Christ.

We now know that there were many other gospels besides our four, some of which have been lost. There were the gospels of Paul, of the Egyptians, of the Hebrews, of Perfection, of Judas, of Thaddeus, of the Infancy, of Thomas, of Mary, of Andrew, of Nicodemus, of Marcion and several others.

Telling the Truth about the Holy Bible, Part Five…


Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four | Part Five | Part Six | Part Seven |


Did these words come from the heart of love? — “When the Lord thy God shall drive them before thee, thou shalt smite them and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, or show mercy unto them.”

“I will heap mischief upon them. I will send mine arrows upon them; they shall be burned with hunger and devoured with burning heat and with bitter destruction.”

“I will send the tooth of beasts upon them, with the poison of serpents of the dust.”

“The sword without, and terror within, shall destroy both the young man and the virgin; the suckling also with the man of gray hairs.”

“Let his children be fatherless and his wife a widow; let his children be continually vagabonds and beg; let them seek their bread also out of their desolate places; let the extortioner catch all that he hath, and let the stranger spoil his labor; let there be none to extend mercy unto him, neither let there be any to favor his fatherless children.”

“And thou shalt eat the fruit of thine own body — the flesh of thy sons and daughters.”

Telling the Truth about the Holy Bible, Part Four…



Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four | Part Five | Part Six | Part Seven |

“Take the entire Bible, multiply it by a million, and it does not carry the weight of one single smile.” ~Jerry DeWitt



Will some Christian scholar tell us the value of Genesis?

We know that it is not true — that it contradicts itself. There are two accounts of the creation in the first and second chapters. In the first account birds and beasts were created before man.

In the second, man was created before the birds and beasts.

In the first, fowls are made out of the water.

In the second, fowls are made out of the ground.

Telling the Truth about the Holy Bible, Part Three…



Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four | Part Five | Part Six | Part Seven |



Some Christian lawyers — some eminent and stupid judges — have said and still say, that the Ten Commandments are the foundation of all law.

Nothing could be more absurd. Long before these commandments were given there were codes of laws in India and Egypt — laws against murder, perjury, larceny, adultery and fraud. Such laws are as old as human society; as old as the love of life; as old as industry; as the idea of prosperity; as old as human love.

All of the Ten Commandments that are good were old; all that were new art foolish. If Jehovah had been civilized he would have left out the commandment about keeping the Sabbath, and in its place would have said: “Thou shalt not enslave thy fellow-men.” He would have omitted the one about swearing, and said: “The man shall have but one wife, and the woman but one husband.” He would have left out the one about graven images, and in its stead would have said: “Thou shalt not wage wars of extermination, and thou shalt not unsheathe the sword except in self-defence.”

If Jehovah had been civilized, how much grander the Ten Commandments would have been.

All that we call progress — the enfranchisement of man, of labor, the substitution of imprisonment for death, of fine for imprisonment, the destruction of polygamy, the establishing of free speech, of the rights of conscience; in short, all that has tended to the development and civilization of man; all the results of investigation, observation, experience and free thought;

Telling the Truth about the Holy Bible, Part Two…


Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four | Part Five | Part Six | Part Seven |



If it is, it should be a book that no man — no number of men — could produce.

It should contain the perfection of philosophy.

It should perfectly accord with every fact in nature.

There should be no mistakes in astronomy, geology, or as to any subject or science.

Its morality should be the highest, the purest.

Its laws and regulations for the control of conduct should be just, wise, perfect, and perfectly adapted to the accomplishment of the ends desired.

It should contain nothing calculated to make man cruel, revengeful, vindictive or infamous.

It should be filled with intelligence, justice, purity, honesty, mercy and the spirit of liberty.

It should be opposed to strife and war, to slavery and lust, to ignorance, credulity and superstition.

It should develop the brain and civilize the heart.

It should satisfy the heart and brain of the best and wisest.

It should be true.

Telling the Truth about the Holy Bible, Part One…



Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four | Part Five | Part Six | Part Seven |

Somebody ought to tell the truth about the Bible. The preachers dare not, because they would be driven from their pulpits. Professors in colleges dare not, because they would lose their salaries. Politicians dare not. They would be defeated. Editors dare not. They would lose subscribers. Merchants dare not, because they might lose customers. Men of fashion dare not, fearing that they would lose caste. Even clerks dare not, because they might be discharged. And so I thought I would do it myself.

There are many millions of people who believe the Bible to be the inspired word of God — millions who think that this book is staff and guide, counselor and consoler; that it fills the present with peace and the future with hope — millions who believe that it is the fountain of law, justice and mercy, and that to its wise and benign teachings the world is indebted for its liberty, wealth and civilization — millions who imagine that this book is a revelation from the wisdom and love of God to the brain and heart of man — millions who regard this book as a torch that conquers the darkness of death, and pours its radiance on another world — a world without a tear.

They forget its ignorance and savagery, its hatred of liberty, its religious persecution; they remember heaven, but they forget the dungeon of eternal pain. They forget that it imprisons the brain and corrupts the heart. They forget that it is the enemy of intellectual freedom. Liberty is my religion. Liberty of hand and brain — of thought and labor, liberty is a word hated by kings — loathed by popes.

Ingersoll: Vivisection is the Hell of Science…



Vivisection is the Inquisition — the Hell — of Science. All the cruelty which the human — or rather the inhuman — heart is capable of inflicting, is in this one word. Below this there is no depth. This word lies like a coiled serpent at the bottom of the abyss.

We can excuse, in part, the crimes of passion. We take into consideration the fact that man is liable to be caught by the whirlwind, and that from a brain on fire the soul rushes to a crime. But what excuse can ingenuity form for a man who deliberately — with an un-accelerated pulse — with the calmness of John Calvin at the murder of Servetus — seeks, with curious and cunning knives, in the living, quivering flesh of a dog, for all the throbbing nerves of pain? The wretches who commit these infamous crimes pretend that they are working for the good of man; that they are actuated by philanthropy; and that their pity for the sufferings of the human race drives out all pity for the animals they slowly torture to death. But those who are incapable of pitying animals are, as a matter of fact, incapable of pitying men.

A physician who would cut a living rabbit in pieces — laying bare the nerves, denuding them with knives, pulling them out with forceps — would not hesitate to try experiments with men and women for the gratification of his curiosity.

How To Be Saved, Conclusion — What I Propose…


The Great Agnostic


[In memory of the local loving lives of Holly Cratty and Carrie Hamburg… -DS]

Then they say to me: “What do you propose? You have torn this down, what do you propose to give us in place of it?” I have not torn the good down. I have only endeavored to trample out the ignorant, cruel fires of hell. I do not tear away the passage: “God will be merciful to the merciful.” I do not destroy the promise; “If you will forgive others, God will forgive you.” I would not for anything blot out the faintest star that shines in the horizon of human despair, nor in the sky of human hope; but I will do what I can to get that infinite shadow out of the heart of man.

“What do you propose in place of this?”

Well, in the first place, I propose good fellowship — good friends all around. No matter what we believe, shake hands and let it go. That is your opinion; this is mine: let us be friends. Science makes friends; religion, superstition, makes enemies. They say: Belief is important. I say: No, actions are important. Judge by deed, not by creed. Good fellowship — good friends — sincere men and women — mutual forbearance, born of mutual respect. We have had too many of these solemn people. Whenever I see an exceedingly solemn man, I know he is an exceedingly stupid man. No man of any humor ever founded a religion — never. Humor sees both sides. While reason is the holy light, humor carries the lantern, and the man with a keen sense of humor is preserved from the solemn stupidities of superstition.

Moyers on Ingersoll and American Freethought…


Excerpt: The Great Agnostic: Robert Ingersoll and American Freethought

“It’s hard to exaggerate how famous he was in the last two decades of the 19th century,” our guest Susan Jacoby says of Robert Ingersoll, the subject of her new book, The Great Agnostic: Robert Ingersoll and American Freethought. But Ingersoll, once a “mover and shaker” in the Republican Party, is largely forgotten today. Why? He spoke out in favor of the separation of church and state and promoted Darwin’s theory of evolution, and because of that, could never run for public office. Ingersoll’s ideas were as controversial then as they are now.

[D]ivided response to Ingersoll at the end of the century was ignited not only by the continuing tension between religious power in American society and legal separation of church and state but also by the expanding influence of secularism even among the religious. In this respect, the religious landscape of the United States during the Gilded Age was not dissimilar from our own: the influence of biblically literal evangelicalism was growing even as mainstream Protestantism struggled to accommodate science and modernism by viewing the stories in both the Christian and Jewish Bibles in a metaphoric rather than a literal sense.

In the nineteenth century, despite the much stronger influence of Protestantism and the growing influence of Catholicism, the formidable nature of the challenge posed by contemporary science, especially biology and geology, to biblical literalism may be inferred from the fact that the young William Jennings Bryan, while a student at Illinois College, wrote a letter

How To Be Saved, Part Four…


The Great Agnostic




Now, upon these gospels that I have read the churches rest; and out of these things, mistakes and interpolations, they have made their creeds. And the first church to make a creed, so far as I know, was the Catholic. It was the first church that had any power. That is the church that has preserved all these miracles for us. That is the church that preserved the manuscripts for us, that is the church whose word we have to take, that church is the first witness that Protestantism brought to the bar of history to prove miracles that took place eighteen hundred years ago; and while the witness is there Protestantism takes pains to say: “You cannot believe one word that witness says now.”

That church is the only one that keeps up a constant communication with heaven through the instrumentality of a large number of decayed saints. That church has an agent of God on earth, has a person who stands in the place of deity; and that church is infallible. That church has persecuted to the exact extent of her power — and always will. In Spain that church stands erect, and is arrogant. In the United States that church crawls; but the object in both countries is the same — and that is the destruction of intellectual liberty. That church teaches us that we can make God happy by being miserable ourselves; that a nun is holier in the sight of God than a loving mother with her child in her thrilled and thrilling arms; that a priest is better than a father; that celibacy is better than that passion of love that has made everything of beauty in this world. That church tells the girl of sixteen or eighteen years of age, with eyes like dew and light; that girl with the red of health in the white of her beautiful cheeks — tells that girl, “Put on the veil, woven of death and night, kneel upon stones, and you will please God.”

I tell you that, by law, no girl should be allowed to take the veil and renounce the joys and beauties of this life.

I am opposed to allowing these spider-like priests to weave webs to catch the loving maidens of the world. There ought to be a law appointing commissioners to visit such places twice a year and release every person who expresses a desire to be released. I do not believe in keeping the penitentiaries of God. No doubt they are honest about it. That is not the question. These ignorant superstitions fill millions of lives with weariness and pain, with agony and tears.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 4,680 other followers