Read What's God Got to Do with it? Robert Ingersoll on Free Thought, Honest Talk & the Separation of Church & State by Robert G. Ingersoll Free Online
Book Title: What's God Got to Do with it? Robert Ingersoll on Free Thought, Honest Talk & the Separation of Church & State|
The author of the book: Robert G. Ingersoll
Date of issue: August 16th 2005
ISBN 13: 9781586420963
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 3.23 MB
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[In view of my recent review of Christopher Hitchens' God is Not Great, I'm reposting this earlier review of a book on the Hitchens of the 19th century, Robert Ingersoll.]
A hundred years or so ago, it was easier than it would be today to go around the country telling everyone you didn't believe in God. Robert Ingersoll was a major figure in the day when public speaking had more pull both as an entertainment and informational experience. Saturated now as we are with mass media and by homogenizing messages that more rigidly define acceptable standards of expression and thought, the message that Ingersoll conveyed and the manner and method in which he conveyed it would be lost in the din, or ridiculed, marginalized and consigned to yesterday's news. It's a shame. The golden age of "freethought" is long over. H.L. Mencken tried valiantly in the generation after Ingersoll to continue the message of questioning religion, but the forces of big money and blind faith have effectively buried this illustrious legacy.
Ingersoll's impact in his own day was considerable, yet time and the opposition have buried him. Not only was he the leading advocate of secularism of his day, but he was the very embodiment of America: a Civil war veteran and POW and defender of the rights of black Americans and women. He was also one of the most fearless and articulate speakers in American history. Going deep into the Bible Belt to speak his mind uncompromisingly in front of hostile crowds was a challenge he accepted with relish.
This book is a breezy, well-selected springboard introduction to Ingersoll and his philosophy. It begins with a good short biography, and leads into deftly edited versions of Ingersoll's stump speeches. The idea is to present him and his ideas in a pithy, welcoming manner.
I won't shower you with quotes; the entire thing is a treasure trove. "God in the Constitution" is a classic, and should be required reading. Ingersoll is by turns eloquent, good-humored, charitable, funny, cutting, devastating and profound.
Ingersoll was a rationalist, but that does not mean he coldly lacks poetry and humor; indeed, these writings are suffused with them. His jabs at puffed-up religious righteous types are hilarious. His parables and anecdotes are charming. It's no wonder that even his philosophical and ideological enemies had admiration and good words for him. Perhaps the most moving piece here is an extract from an obituary, "On His Friendship with Reverend Clark," in which he talks about his own deep admiration and love for a man of the cloth who taught of a god of love and tolerance instead of one of hatred. Ingersoll's portraits of loving family life are also warm and moving.
These writings should be better known. And so should Ingersoll.
(kevinR@Ky 2016; amended, corrected and revised)
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Read information about the author"On August 11, 1833, was born the greatest and noblest of the Western World; an immense personality, -- unique, lovable, sublime; the peerless orator of all time, and as true a poet as Nature ever held in tender clasp upon her loving breast, and, in words coined for the chosen few, told of the joys and sorrows, hopes, dreams, and fears of universal life; a patriot whose golden words and deathless deeds were worthy of the Great Republic; a philanthropist, real and genuine; a philosopher whose central theme was human love, -- who placed 'the holy hearth of home' higher than the altar of any god; an iconoclast, a builder -- a reformer, perfectly poised, absolutely honest, and as fearless as truth itself -- the most aggressive and formidable foe of superstition -- the most valiant champion of reason -- Robert G. Ingersoll." - Herman E. Kittredge
Robert Green Ingersoll, who became the best known advocate of freethought in the 19th-century, 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.
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. 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. 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!"
During the Civil War he was commissioned as Colonel and commander of the 11th Illinois Volunteer Cavalry, and was captured near Corinth, Mississippi. Although soon released, he still made time to treat his Confederate captors to a rousing anti slavery speech.
He hoped for but was never awarded a Cabinet post. The Republicans were afraid of his unorthodox religious views. He was told that he could progress politically if he hid his religious views, but Ingersoll refused on the charge that withholding information from the public would be immoral.
He strongly advocated equal rights for blacks and women. He defended Susan B. Anthony from hecklers when she spoke in Peoria; when every hotel in the city refused to house Frederick Douglass, he welcomed him into his home.