Robert G Ingersoll

Fondly known as the great Agnostic.

It is possible there are Americans and others who visit this blog who have never had the opportunity to either read or listen to this great agnostic.

I am here to address this ignorance and at the same time to introduce you to a tradition of freethought.

compare these two stories

Friends, you will have to excuse the length of this post but I think those who will read it to the end will enjoy it and may find it useful sometime in future. It is a transcript from a longer lecture by Col Robert Ingersoll titled skulls. He writes

In this book I have read about God’s making the world and one man. That is all he intended to make. The making of woman was a second thought, though I am willing to admit that, as a rule, second thought are best. This God made a man and put him in a public park. (Laughter.) In a little while he noticed that the man got lonesome; then He found He had made a mistake, and that He would have to make somebody to keep him company. But having used up all the nothing He originally used in making the world and one man, He had to take part of a man to start a woman with. So He causes sleep to fall on this man–now, understand me, I do not say this story is true. After the sleep had fallen on this man the Supreme Being took a rib, or, as the French would call it, a cutlet, out of him,and from that He made a woman; and I am willing to swear, taking into account the amount and quality of the raw material used, this was the most magnificent job ever accomplished in this world. (Uproarious laughter and applause.) Well, after he got the woman done, she was brought to the man, not to see how she liked him but to see how he liked her. He liked her, and they started housekeeping; and they were told of certain things they might do, and one thing they could not do–and of course they did it. I would have done it in fifteen minutes, and I know it. There wouldn’t have been an apple on that tree half an hour from date, and the limbs could have been full of clubs. And then they were turned out of the park and extra policemen were put on to keep them from getting back. And then trouble commenced, and we have been at it ever since.

 

Nearly all of the religions of this world account for the existence of evil by such a story as that! Well, I read in another book what appeared to be an account of the same transaction. It was written about four thousand years before the other. All commentators agree that the one that was written last was the original, and that the one that was written first was copied from the one that was written last. (Laughter.) But I would advise you all not to allow your creed to be disturbed by a little matter of four or five thousand years. It is a great deal better to be mistaken in dates than go to the devil.

 

In this other account the Supreme Brahma made up his mind to make the world and a man and a woman. He made the world, and he made the man and then the woman, and put them on the island of Ceylon. According to the account, it was the most beautiful island of which man can conceive. Such birds, such songs, such flowers and such verdure! And the branches of the trees were so arranged that when the wind swept through from every tree was a thousand Æolian harps. Brahma, when he put them there, said: “Let them have a period of courtship, for it is my desire and will that true love should forever precede marriage.” When I read that, it was so much more beautiful and lofty than the other, that I said to myself: “If either one of these stories ever turns out to be true, I hope it will be this one.” Then they had their courtship, with the nightingale singing and the stars shining and flowers blooming; and they fell in love. Imagine that courtship! No prospective fathers or mother-in-law; no prying and gossiping neighbors; nobody to say, “Young man, how do you expect to support her?”Nothing of that kind–nothing but the nightingale singing its song of joy and pain, as though the thorn already touched its heart. They were married by supreme Brahma, and he said to them: “Remain here; you must never leave this island.” Well, after a little while the man–and his name was Adami, and the woman’s name was Heva–said to Heva: “I believe I’ll look about a little.” He wanted to go west. He went to the western extremity of the island, where there was a narrow neck of land connecting it with the mainland; and the devil, who is always playing pranks with us, produced a mirage, and when Adami looked over to the mainland, such hills and vales, such dells and dales, such mountains crowned with snow, such cataracts clad in bows of glory did he see there, that he went back and told Heva: “The country over there is a thousand times better than this; let us migrate.” She, like every other woman that ever live, said “Let well enough alone; we have all we want; let us stay here.” But he said: “No, let us go.” So she followed him; and when they came to this narrow neck of land he took her on his back like a gentleman and carried her over. But the moment they got over they heard a crash, and looking back they discovered that this narrow neck of land had fallen into the sea. The mirage had disappeared and there was naught but rocks and sand; and then the Supreme Brahma cursed them both to the lowest hell. Then it was that the man spoke–and I have liked him ever since for it: “Curse me, but curse not her; it was not her fault, it was mine.” That’s the kind of a man to start a world with. (Applause.) The Supreme Brahma said: “I will save her, but not thee.” And then spoke out of her fullness of love, out of a heart in which there was love enough to make all her daughters rich in holy affection, and said: “If thou wilt not spare him, spare neither me; I do not wish to live without him, I love him.” Then the Supreme Brahma said–and I have liked him ever since I read it: “I will spare you both, and watch over you and your children forever.” Honor bright, is that not the better and grander story? And in that same book I find this: “Man is strength; woman is love. When one man loves the one woman, and the woman loves the one man, the very angels leave heaven and come and sit in that house and sing with joy.” In the same book this: “Blessed is that man and beloved of all the gods who is afraid of no man and of whom no man is afraid.” Magnificent character! A missionary certainly ought to talk to that man. And I find this: “Never will I accept private individual salvation, but rather will I say and work and strive and suffer until every soul from every star has been brought home to God.” Compare that with the Christian that expects to go to heaven while the world is rolling over Niagara to an eternal and unending hell. So I say that religion lays all the crime and troubles of this world at the beautiful feet of woman. And then the church has the impudence to say that it has exalted woman. I believe that marriage is the perfect partnership; that woman has every right that man has–and one more–the right to be protected. Above all men in the world, I hate a stingy man–a man that will make his wife beg for money.

Which is the better story?

what happened to the US of A

I have finished reading a book by Robert Green Ingersoll, The Complete works of R.G Ingersoll Vol 8, a very interesting collection of different interviews on different subjects that he gave spanning quite a long period of time. Some of his thoughts have already been  mentioned in different posts on this blog, especially thoughts on religion, superstition, rights of man and ghosts.

Before I go ahead to give a brief overview of this collection, I need help in understanding what happened to the Americans? Is it possible that they couldn’t produce more Ingersolls, Beecham, Lincolns, Jeffersons, Paines and all other great men whose lives and work were towards the betterment of our race? America now produces Pat Robertson and Hovind and other crazy nutheads. Before you lynch me, am not saying there are no longer great men and women, I read works of and watch videos of Lawrence Strauss a marvelous physicist, Jerry Coyne a brilliant biologist, the good guys at NASA and other great men and women but I don’t think they have filled the giant shoes worn by Lincoln, Luther King, JFK, Jefferson, Paine, Ingersoll and other giants and it is time this country that claims to be the world super power shone bright again. They can’t have as many jails as they have schools, they can’t have people in jail for smoking weed [I mean they should arrest the earth for letting it grow], they should no longer have death penalty in their statute books [it debases the society], they should divest their defense budget to humanitarian purposes. Time must come when right is might and not the other way. They can’t continue to spread democracy or whatever policy through the use of drones and call the death of civilians or anyone for that matter collateral. It is time the generals learnt, if they haven’t as yet, that these acts just like punishing a criminal does not make the world better. The first killing justifies the second one and we end up with a world where the strong rule by might. Lastly can all sensible Americans support the democratic government’s legislation aimed at controlling gun ownership among the general populace.

It is ridiculous that a people who think themselves most advanced and exceptional in the world would behave like savage man exception being that for his weapon and plaything he has a deadly killing machine. What madness is this? Are they so rich that they are insecure or are they so poor that they are insecure or the society so dysfunctional that the majority think to be safe they must own a gun or are they just stupid? My friends from the big continent please help me here!

In the time of Robert Ingersoll it is interesting to note that it is the Republican Party that stood with the people. Most liberal thinkers were republican, they supported the working men, they wanted better pay for the women and Ingersoll himself in many speeches and interviews campaigned for the women to be granted the same rights[right to vote, to equal pay & so on] as men were granted. In the last election it appeared to me, I could be wrong, that the Republican Party represented everything but progress. To an observer, like me , it appeared elitist, didn’t care for the working men, for the least in the society and some of their senators said very derogatory statements about women whether this is party policy or not I can’t comment on.

Robert G Ingersoll, as far as someone can deduce from the works, didn’t want any public office. He says he was contented with his law practice and the public speeches he gave and couldn’t understand why people want such burden of public office, but he was a Republican at heart. He delivered 3 speeches at different conventions. His political convictions are clear and consistent throughout as far as one can tell given the duration covered by the interviews.

He believed in American exceptionalism. He talks very highly of American actors, workingmen, companies and in most times says there is no greater country like America. I can’t begrudge him. It is also interesting the things one learns from these essays about the economies of France, Britain and Germany at the time he was writing. The French were prosperous, Germany wasn’t doing as well as it is doing now, Britain wasn’t that exceptional though he believed that Britain and America were great countries. It is, however, important to say here he thought Shakespeare the greatest poet and dramatist to have graced the earth, Wagner the greatest musician and Dickens the greatest novelist[ he mentions A Tale of two Cities, a great book by any standard though I think The Brothers Karamazov is a greater novel ever written or translated to the English language]

He believed in expanding American territory not through brute force but through negotiation.He wanted the Philipine Islands, Cuba, Canada and I can’t remember what else to be part of the United States of A.

He believed, as I do, that punishment debases man. That to punish a man for a criminal offence is like punishing a man for having the consumption. A man acts as he will and can’t be punished for his nature. It is the duty of society to protect itself but not by punishing offenders but by endeavoring to rehabilitate them and if this fails to isolate them from society so that they do not do harm. He proposed a situation where these people could be kept in prison till the end of their lives or to be kept away from society with no possibility of having offspring. He is right in saying that society reaps what it sows and to redeem the criminal, society which is the soil should be such that it favors the growth of good men. He was opposed, as all rational people are, to the death penalty. He proposed that those who work at the penitentiaries must be the best men in society, that the prisoner should be helped to be better. Punishment debases the person who punishes. And I can’t agree more with him. Anyone who objects to this should show me cause why they should be believed. He also proposed that the state guest should at the end of serving time should be shown accounts of what it cost to take care of him and what his labour amounted and to be given the difference to start a new life. He was opposed to state guests working for free, he argued correctly that this did not make them better men but brewed resentment in their hearts. They felt ostracized by society, abused by the system and robbed of their honest labour and would when released get their revenge. I want to know anyone who objects to this?

On matters divorce he defended the right of everyone to get a divorce if they no longer could live together. He also said gods and supernatural should be done away with in weddings and marriage matters unless the gods themselves would from time to time come to resolve the marital problems. Barring that, no one should claim that marriage was instituted in the Garden of Eden[who knows where it is?], that there is no word in the bible in favour of marriage, that Jesus if he existed did not believe in marriage, the apostles as far as we can tell if they existed were not married. So the priests/ministers/immams/pastors and whatever religious title, I hope you are listening. Unless your god is going to come to resolve marital issues, keep as far away as possible your superstitions from people’s lives.

On the question of labour, in as much he supported the rights of the workingmen to demand better working conditions, he disagreed with any means that resorted to brute force. Here is a man who believed fully in reason and lived by this ideal. I find his statement that every man should be his priest, his king to be very agreeable. Every man should think for himself, use his reason to weigh the beliefs or positions he hold and to believe according to his reason.

He defended separation of church and state.

He asked for churches to not be exempted from tax.

He wanted better schools, more libraries and theatres.

He said, and I agree with him, that no day can be sacred to the extent that man can’t be happy. He said farther that Sunday as a day of rest shouldn’t be spent in church listening to priests telling you how 99% of humanity is going to be damned. That is no rest.

He believed in protecting American companies and better pay for her workers.

He threw the matter of inspiration of the bible through the window. He said nobody ever met a man who met a man who had a met man who claimed to have met any writer of any passages in the bible. He already had come to the conclusion that the Pentateuch was not written by Moses, that no one knows who wrote the gospels, that Paul[or whoever wrote his epistles] did not read the gospels, that John was written much later, that Isaiah was written by at least two or more people, that Ecclesiastes was not written by a believer, that Job is not a Jewish book.

As I conclude, he said he wanted it written down in gods’ books[if any existed] that he defended them against cruelty. That no loving god could have created man just to damn him eternally.

Lastly that the universe is an efficient cause. There can never have been a time when matter was not. It is not possible to have anything existing before the universe came into existence[ a logical absurdity]. The universe is natural and there is no room for the unnatural, superstitious and miracles if by miracles anyone means anything that requires the suspension of Natural Laws.

I have not covered everything in the book here, but I do hope I have presented as precisely as I could his views on many subjects that are of interest to us today and for those who have 27 hours in their days, they could read the book and in case this is not possible, I hope I have done some justice to his views and made known to you the thoughts of a great statesman, a true friend of man and a citizen of the world.

Robert G Ingersoll on the Deist God

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 whether the bible is inspired and not as to whether Jehovah is the real God but whether there is a god or not. The intelligence of christendom today does not believe in an inspired art or an inspired literature. If there be an infinite god, inspiration in some particular regard would be a patch-it would be the puttying of a crack, the hiding of a defect, in other words, it would show that the general plan was defective.

Robert Green Ingersoll

I want to start the year by paying tribute to one great American statesman whose books have been reading in the past month or so

Col. Robert G. Ingersoll

. This gentleman graced the earth between 1833 and 1899 when he was laid to rest. I don’t want to talk about his life, just a review of the books.

He attacked religion with all he had, satire and superior wit. His lectures are a good read for anyone who is interested in free thought, human rights and other social issues of his time that are relevant to us now.

In Ghosts, he sets to show us that, the first explanation man came up with concerning his environment was supernatural. We can’t blame the savage for believing in good and bad ghosts, he didn’t know better. To the savage, good ghosts brought good tidings and bad ghosts brought pestilence and disease. We have moved far maybe we have not from this explanation.

In the mistakes of Moses, he for the sake argument assumes that Moses wrote the first five books of the OT. He then goes out to point out the mistakes Moses made in the name of a deity and he insists a god couldn’t command such atrocities. To top it up, he asks god to write it down in his book he refused to accept that was the work of a deity.

In Why am an Agnostic, he gives reasons why he can’t believe in god. He says in it he studied the other religions and so that christianity didn’t look any different from the other religions except in its insistence on being the only true religion. He says so many men, women and children were killed in service of this god. No god would command such a thing. He says he read Paine, Voltaire, Humboldt and other great men of the 18th and 19th century and their critiques of the bible and of the christian religion and is convinced they were right. That they valued man more than gods.

In the Lectures of R.G Ingersoll vol 1 and 2, we have a collection of lectures he gave on several issues. In the lectures he pays tribute to the great men such as Paine, Voltaire, Humboldt, Hume,  Darwin; he talks about the Declaration of Independence of the US of A,  pays tribute to Abraham Lincoln and responds to his critics from the religious side. He in many instances show that the bible wasn’t believed when it was written and it can’t be believed now. He further shows that truth does not require a miracle only falsehood does.

In About the Holy Bible, he attacks almost every tenet written in that book. He shows us why the book could not have been inspired by any deity. He seeks to say the truth about the bible because the pastors dare not. The professors in colleges dare not, but for him he has no fear so he will speak for them all and he surely does speak for everyone who has a doubt about the bible and for one reason or another can’t say it.

In Men, Women and Gods and other lectures, he visits the themes I have mentioned above and more. He says consistently that we can’t help the gods, we can’t injure them and that it is our duty to help fellow-man. He then talks about the rights of children, the measure of greatness and responds to his critics in the same manner. He attacks the doctrine of atonement.

In Chinese Exclusion he attacks congress for coming up with laws to exclude the Chinese which is a friendly state. I don’t know how far the US of A has come from the fear of the Chinese.