Robert Ingersoll – The Great Agnostic

Ingersoll: Thanksgiving Sermon

 

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From The Archives
ROBERT INGERSOLL (1833 – 1899)
The Great Agnostic

Many ages ago our fathers were living in dens and caves. Their bodies, their low foreheads, were covered with hair. They were eating berries, roots, bark and vermin. They were fond of snakes and raw fish. They discovered fire and, probably by accident, learned how to cause it by friction. They found how to warm themselves—to fight the frost and storm. They fashioned clubs and rude weapons of stone with which they killed the larger beasts and now and then each other. Slowly, painfully, almost imperceptibly they advanced. They crawled and stumbled, staggered and struggled toward the light. To them the world was unknown. On every hand was the mysterious, the sinister, the hurtful. The forests were filled with monsters, and the darkness was crowded with ghosts, devils, and fiendish gods.

These poor wretches were the slaves of fear, the sport of dreams.

Now and then, one rose a little above his fellows—used his senses—the little reason that he had—found something new—some better way. Then the people killed him and afterward knelt with reverence at his grave. Then another thinker gave his thought—was murdered—another tomb became sacred—another step was taken in advance. And so through countless years of ignorance and cruelty—of thought and crime—of murder and worship, of heroism, suffering, and self-denial, the race has reached the heights where now we stand.

Looking back over the long and devious roads that lie between the barbarism of the past and the civilization of to-day, thinking of the centuries that rolled like waves between these distant shores, we can form some idea of what our fathers suffered—of the mistakes they made—some idea of their ignorance, their stupidity—and some idea of their sense, their goodness, their heroism.

Robert Ingersoll: Crumbling Creeds

 

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From The Archives
ROBERT INGERSOLL (1833 – 1899)
The Great Agnostic

[My father was a fundamentalist preacher/pastor who warned me about two men: Liberace (gay) and Robert Ingersoll… ds]

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,

WILLIAM EDELEN: Robert Ingersoll

 

 

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

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.”

Mark Twain literally idolized Ingersoll. Twain wrote: “I heard four speeches which I can never forget by that splendid soul Bob Ingersoll. It was just the most supreme combination of words ever put together since the world began. His words will sing through my memory always as the divinest that ever enchanted my ears. America will never again see his equal. Of all men, living and dead, I love Ingersoll the most. Except for my daughter, I have not grieved for any death as I have grieved for his.”

The greatest man in the Christian pulpit of that day was the Congregational minister Henry Ward Beecher, 200 years ahead of his time, and Ingersoll’s closest friend. He and Ingersoll were in complete agreement regarding their views of the Bible and Christian dogma and doctrines.

Of Ingersoll, Beecher wrote: “He is the most brilliant speaker in the English tongue. In him, we find the magnificent, glorious flame of genius and honest, free thought.”

Some samples of his writings to whet your appetite: “Religion is like a palm tree… it grows at the top. The dead leaves are all orthodox, while the new ones are all heretics.”

“True religion must be free. Without perfect liberty of mind, there can never be true religion. Without freedom of thought, the brain is a dungeon, the mind a convict.”

“Who can account for the fact, if we are to be saved by faith in Christ, that Matthew forgot it and Luke said nothing about it?”

Ingersoll put down in writing his creed for all of the thousands wanting such a statement from him: “To love justice, to love mercy, to assist the weak, to love the truth, to utter honest words, to love freedom, to love family and friend, to make a joyful home, to love the beautiful in art and nature, to cultivate the mind, to be familiar with the mighty thoughts that genius has expressed, to fill life with generous acts and the warmth of loving words, to destroy prejudice and superstition, to receive new truth with gladness, to cultivate hope and see the dawn beyond the night. This is the religion of reason. This satisfied the heart and the brain.”
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See also Robert Ingersoll’s The Foundations of Faith Series here.
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Freethinker: Robert Ingersoll

 

From FFRF

On this date in 1833, Robert Green Ingersoll, who became the best known advocate of freethought in 19th-century United States, was born in Dresden, N.Y. The son of an impoverished itinerant pastor, he later recalled his formative church experiences: “The minister asked us if we knew that we all deserved to go to hell, and we all answered ‘yes.’ Then we were asked if we would be willing to go to hell if it was God’s will, and every little liar shouted ‘Yes!’ ”

He became an attorney by apprenticeship, and a colonel in the Civil War, fighting in the Battle of Shiloh. In 1867, Ingersoll was appointed Illinois’ first Attorney General. His political career was cut short by his refusal to halt his controversial lectures, but he achieved national political fame for his thrilling nomination speech for James G. Blaine for president at the national convention of the Republican Party in 1876. Ingersoll was good friends with three U.S. presidents. The distinguished attorney was known and admired by most of the leading progressives and thinkers of his day. “Who can over estimate the progress of the world if all the money wasted in superstition could be used to enlighten, elevate and civilize mankind?” (Some Mistakes of Moses)

Ingersoll traveled the continent for 30 years, speaking to capacity audiences, once attracting 50,000 people to a lecture in Chicago—40,000 too many for the Exposition Center. His repertoire included 3 to 4-hour lectures on Shakespeare, Voltaire and Burns, but the largest crowds turned out to hear him denounce the bible and religion. Ingersoll’s speaking fees ranged as high as $7,000, in an era of low wages and no income tax. He married Eva Parker Ingersoll, a rationalist whom he deemed a “Woman Without Superstition,” in dedicating his first freethought book to her. He initially settled in Peoria, Illinois, then in Washington, D.C., where he successfully defended falsely accused men in the “Star Route” scandal, the most famous political trial of the 19th century. The family later relocated to New York.

A devoted family man, he lived with his extended family, and the Ingersoll “at homes” were celebrated, both in Washington D.C., and in New York. Religious rumors against Ingersoll abounded. One had it that Ingersoll’s son was a drunkard who more than once had to be carried away from the table. Ingersoll wrote: “It is not true that intoxicating beverages are served at my table. It is not true that my son ever was drunk. It is not true that he had to be carried away from the table. Besides, I have no son!” The 12-volume Dresden Edition of his lectures, poetry and interviews was collected after his death and has been reprinted many times. D. 1899.

“All religions are inconsistent with mental freedom. Shakespeare is my bible, Burns my hymn-book.”

“I do not borrow ideas. I have a factory of my own.”

“I do not believe in putting out the sun to keep weeds from growing.”

“With soap, baptism is a good thing.”

“[Of William Jennings Bryan] He talks, but he does not think.”
—-Robert G. Ingersoll.

For more information on Ingersoll see https://ukiahcommunityblog.wordpress.com/category/robert-ingersoll-the-great-agnostic/

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Ingersoll: Denies the Lie Told about God…

 

From The Archives
ROBERT INGERSOLL (1833 – 1899)
The Great Agnostic

This Infinite LIE. No human being has imagination enough to conceive of this infinite horror [hell – eternal pain] 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 of this is 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.

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Ingersoll, the sceptic who scandalized Victorian America…

 

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KATHERINE MANGU-WARD
The Weekly Standard
Repost

Robert Ingersoll was fat. The Great Agnostic, as he was known in his day, was so portly that critics sighed over the “spectacular auto da fé” he would have made if set alight for heresy—as he surely would have been in an earlier era.

Speaking to sold-out crowds around the nation at the turn of the 19th century, Ingersoll argued against belief in God, poked fun at religious authority, and gently introduced a skeptical American public to the idea that humans might be related to apes. Along the way, the jurist and Republican party kingmaker revived the reputation of another great doubter, Thomas Paine, restoring him to his rightful place in the Founders’ pantheon.

Now largely forgotten himself, Ingersoll once rivaled Mark Twain in popularity on the lecture circuit during the Golden Age of Freethought. A small but surprisingly influential cluster of fans and followers have kept Ingersoll’s memory alive, ranging from Clarence Darrow to Eugene Debs to Penn Jillette, the magician. But in her light, readable new biography