Robert G. Ingersoll: Man for All Seasons (1998)
by John Patrick Michael Murphy
The ancient Greek heroes shook their fists at the gods of their day. They disagreed with the deities and noised it about. They were the freethinkers of the ancient world. This annoyed and threatened the priests and the politicians. The heroes usually were killed for their honesty. Socrates was handed hemlock for his disbelief. Over the centuries men and women in all lands, who were so cheeky as to share doubt and spread truth, were put down or set aflame.
Intelligence, however, would not succumb to superstition. The philosophers kept cornering the theologians. Times changed until political power could not protect the preachers from freethinkers. So it came to pass - a freethinker could actually die a natural death. In the last century, the most notable American freethinker was so successful he spoke to more people than any prelate, politician or president. Robert G. Ingersoll was known as the greatest orator our country ever produced. A hundred years ago, everyone knew of him. His death, in 1899, caused a collective sigh of relief by the clergy. Although he has remained in print since 1876, he seems forgotten by all except freethinkers and religious historians. Here is a sampling of Ingersoll's insightful prose:
"John Calvin was of a pallid, bloodless complexion, thin, sickly, irritable, gloomy, impatient, tyrannical, heartless, and infamous. He was a strange compound of revengeful morality, malicious forgiveness, ferocious charity, egotistic humility, and a kind of hellish justice. In other words, he was as near like the God of the Old Testament as his health permitted."In theology class, under Jesuit tutelage, my favorite question was, "How come?" It was never answered. If I had read Ingersoll earlier, I would have had the Jebbies tearing their gowns. Here he is on theology: "I will give my definition of metaphysics: Two fools get together; each admits what neither can prove, and there-upon both of them say, 'Hence we infer.' That is all there is of metaphysics."
"Robert G. Ingersoll: Man for All Seasons" is copyright © 1998 by John Patrick Michael Murphy.
|Top of Page|