|Atheists and Agnostics Compendium|
from the writings of Robert Ingersoll
Let us, if possible, banish all fear from the mind. Dont imagine there is some being in the infinite expanse who is not willing that every man and woman should think for him and for herself. Dont imagine that there is any being who would give to his children the holy torch of reason, and then damn them for following where the sacred light might lead. Let us have courage. Priests have invented a crime called blasphemy, and behind that crime hypocrisy has crouched for thousands of years. There is but one blasphemy, and that is injustice. There is but one worship, and that is justice.
To live upon the unpaid labor of others that is blasphemy. To enslave your fellow man, to put chains upon his body that is blasphemy. To enslave the minds of men, to put manacles upon the brain, padlocks upon the lips that is blasphemy. To deny what you believe to be true, to admit to be true what you believe to be a lie that is blasphemy. To persecute the intelligent few, at the command of the ignorant many that is blasphemy. To pollute the souls of children with the dogma of eternal pain that is blasphemy.
Blasphemy is an epithet bestowed by superstition upon common sense.
There are in nature neither rewards nor punishments, there are consequences.
An honest God is the noblest work of man.
If a man would follow, today, the teachings of the Old Testament, he would be a criminal. If he would follow strictly the teachings of the New, he would be insane.
It is an old habit with
theologians to beat the living with the bones of the dead.
The notion that faith in Christ is to be rewarded by an eternity of bliss, while a dependence upon reason, observation, and experience merits everlasting pain, is too absurd for refutation, and can be relieved only by that unhappy mixture of insanity and ignorance called faith.
We have heard talk enough. We have listened to all the drowsy, idealess, vapid sermons that we wish to hear. We have read your Bible and the works of your best minds. We have heard your prayers, your solemn groans and your reverential amens. All these amount to less than nothing. We want one fact. We beg at the doors of your churches for just one little fact. We pass our hats along your pews and under your pulpits and implore you for just one fact. We know all about your mouldy wonders and your stale miracles. We want a this year's fact. We ask only one. Give us one fact for charity. Your miracles are too ancient. The witnesses have been dead for nearly two thousand years.
Churches are becoming
political organizations.... It probably will not be long until the churches
will divide as sharply upon political, as upon theological questions;
and when that day comes, if there are not liberals enough to hold the
balance of power, this Government will be destroyed. The liberty of man
is not safe in the hands of any church. Wherever the Bible and sword are
in partnership, man is a slave.
The founder of a religion must be able to turn water into wine cure with a word the blind and lame, and raise with a simple touch the dead to life. It was necessary for him to demonstrate to the satisfaction of his barbarian disciple, that he was superior to nature. In times of ignorance this was easy to do. The credulity of the savage was almost boundless. To him the marvelous was the beautiful, the mysterious was the sublime. Consequently, every religion has for its foundation a miracle -- that is to say, a violation of nature -- that is to say, a falsehood.
No one, in the world's whole history, ever attempted to substantiate a truth by a miracle. Truth scorns the assistance of a miracle. Nothing but falsehood ever attested itself by signs and wonders. No miracle ever was performed, and no sane man ever thought he had performed one, and until one is performed, there can be no evidence of the existence of any power superior to, and independent of, nature."
A few years ago the Deists denied the inspiration of the Bible on account of its cruelty. At the same time they worshiped what they were pleased to call the God of Nature. Now we are convinced that Nature is as cruel as the Bible; so that, if the God of Nature did not write the Bible, this God at least has caused earthquakes and pestilence and famine, and this God has allowed millions of his children to destroy one another. So that now we have arrived at the question -- not as to whether the Bible is inspired and not as to whether Jehovah is the real God, but whether there is a God or not.
If, with all the time at my disposal, with all the wealth of the resources of this vast universe, to do with as I will, I could not produce a better scheme of life than now prevails, I would be ashamed of my efforts and consider my work a humiliating failure.
Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) agnostic, lawyer and orator
Ingersoll came from a family active in the slavery abolition movement. He raised and commanded the 11th Illinois Cavalry Regiment. The regiment fought in the Battle of Shiloh. After the war, Ingersoll served as Illinois Attorney General. He was most noted as an orator, the most popular of the age, when oratory was public entertainment. He spoke on every subject, from Shakespeare to Reconstruction, but his most popular subject was atheism. Many of his speeches advocated freethought and humanism, and often poked fun at religious belief. Thousands crowded to hear him speak.