Quote of the day: Robert G. Ingersoll #6

This quote, also taken from Ingersoll’s “The Gods” (1872) is an appropriate way to finish my series of excerpts, for it deals with the battle between science and faith (and yes, it is a battle despite accommodationists’ assurance otherwise). This week we’ll be featuring quotes by Walter Kaufmann in a fantastic book I’ve nearly finished, Critique of Philosophy and Religion (read it!). But first the final bit of Ingersoll:

In every age some thinker, some doubter, some investigator, some hater of hypocrisy, some despiser of sham, some brave lover of the right, has gladly, proudly and heroically braved the ignorant fury of superstition for the sake of man and truth. These divine men were generally torn in pieces by the worshipers of the gods. Socrates was poisoned because he lacked reverence for some of the deities. Christ was crucified by a religious rabble for the crime of blasphemy. Nothing is more gratifying to a religionist than to destroy his enemies at the command of God. Religious persecution springs from a due admixture of love towards God and hatred towards man.

. . .For ages, a deadly conflict has been waged between a few brave men and women of thought and genius upon the one side, and the great ignorant religious mass on the other. This is the war between Science and Faith. The few have appealed to reason, to honor, to law, to freedom, to the known, and to happiness here in this world. The many have appealed to prejudice, to fear, to miracle, to slavery, to the unknown, and to misery hereafter. The few have said, “Think!” The many have said, “Believe!”

The first doubt was the womb and cradle of progress, and from the first doubt, man has continued to advance. Men began to investigate, and the church began to oppose. The astronomer scanned the heavens, while the church branded his grand forehead with the word, “Infidel,” and now not a glittering star in all the vast expanse bears a Christian name. In spite of all religion, the geologist penetrated the earth, read her history in books of stone, and found, hidden within her bosom, souvenirs of all the ages. Old ideas perished in the retort of the chemist, and useful truths took their places. One by one religious conceptions have been placed in the crucible of science, and thus far, nothing but dross has been found. A new world has been discovered by the microscope; everywhere has been found the infinite; in every direction man has investigated and explored and nowhere, in earth or stars, has been found the footstep of any being superior to or independent of nature. Nowhere has been discovered the slightest evidence of any interference from without.

These are the sublime truths that enabled man to throw off the yoke of superstition. These are the splendid facts that snatched the scepter of authority from the hands of priests.

Ingersoll could write, and you should read Susan Jacoby’s new biography of him.

17 Comments

  1. gbjames
    Posted January 14, 2013 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    I’m halfway through Jacoby’s biography of Ingersoll. Quite a good read.

  2. DrBrydon
    Posted January 14, 2013 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    This week we’ll be featuring quotes by Walter Kaufmann in a fantastic book I’ve nearly finished, Critique of Philosophy and Religion (read it!).

    D’oh! “Usually ships in 1 to 3 months” from Amazon. Time to head over to Abebooks!

  3. Posted January 14, 2013 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

    the man truly could write and attack the church with courage only few people can muster!

  4. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted January 14, 2013 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

    whew, glad I looked up “dross” last week.

  5. wilzardthespy
    Posted January 14, 2013 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    “The astronomer scanned the heavens, while the church branded his grand forehead with the word, “Infidel,” and now not a glittering star in all the vast expanse bears a Christian name.”

    Delicious!

  6. krzysztof1
    Posted January 14, 2013 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    Those are wonderful quotes! Thank you for taking the time to post them. I’m looking forward to reading Jacoby’s bio of him. I’m especially interested to know how he was received in his time–my impression was that lots of people took him seriously, which if true already shows us what different times we live in now. But maybe not! Look how many persons have bought books by Dawkins et al. (and by you!) The times they are a-changin’, just not quite fast enough to suit me.

  7. Jaime Ospina
    Posted January 14, 2013 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    Reading Ingersoll I dream of a society in which his reasoning was the norm. 140 years have passed. Will it ever come about?

  8. Posted January 14, 2013 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

    This:

    in every direction man has investigated and explored and nowhere, in earth or stars, has been found the footstep of any being superior to or independent of nature.

    /@

    • Jeff Johnson
      Posted January 14, 2013 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

      That was my favorite too. That and “not a glittering star in all the vast expanse bears a Christian name”. How lovely that is.

  9. Mateus
    Posted January 14, 2013 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for making those posts about “The Gods” Jerry, it was a great read.

  10. JohnJay
    Posted January 14, 2013 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

    Before we leave Ingersoll, I just wanted to post one of my favorite passages, which is always bookmarked in my volume of his speeches and writings. I hope it isn’t too long for here. It is beautifully poetic. It is from “Myth and Miracles (1885):
    ——————————-
    Our fathers thought that everything had been made for man, and that demons and gods gave their entire attention to this world. The people believed that they were the sport and prey, the favorites or victims, of these phantoms. And they also believed that the Creator, the God, could be influenced by sacrifice, by prayers and ceremonies.

    This has been the mistake of the world. All the temples have been reared, all the altars erected, all the sacrifices offered, all the prayers uttered in vain. No god has interfered, no prayer has been answered, no help received from heaven. Nothing was created, nothing has happened for, or with reference to man. If not a human being lived, — if all were in their graves, the sun would continue to shine, the wheeling world would still pursue its flight, violets would spread their velvet bosoms to the day, the spendthrift roses give their perfume to the air, the climbing vines would hide with leaf and flower the fallen and the dead, the changing seasons would come and go, time would repeat the poem of the year, storms would wreck and whispering rains repair, Spring with deft and unseen hands would weave her robes of green, life with countless lips would seek fair Summer’s swelling breasts, Autumn would reap the wealth of leaf and fruit and seed, Winter, the artist, would etch in frost the pines and ferns, while Wind and Wave and Fire, old architects, with ceaseless toil would still destroy and build, still wreck and change, and from the dust of death produce again the throb and breath of life.

    • gbjames
      Posted January 14, 2013 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

      Wow, could that guy write!

    • Posted January 14, 2013 at 11:24 pm | Permalink

      And there are those who claim beauty is evidence of the divine.

      Honestly, Ingersoll’s writing belongs in anthologies.

    • HaggisForBrains
      Posted January 15, 2013 at 4:35 am | Permalink

      Thank you, JJ, that is beautiful.

  11. Ms. Claiborne
    Posted January 14, 2013 at 8:17 pm | Permalink

    He sounds like Hitchins. Now isn’t that a wonderful thought, that there could be more than one like him?

  12. Mark Joseph
    Posted January 14, 2013 at 9:20 pm | Permalink

    For ages, a deadly conflict has been waged between a few brave men and women of thought and genius upon the one side, and the great ignorant religious mass on the other. This is the war between Science and Faith. The few have appealed to reason, to honor, to law, to freedom, to the known, and to happiness here in this world. The many have appealed to prejudice, to fear, to miracle, to slavery, to the unknown, and to misery hereafter. The few have said, “Think!” The many have said, “Believe!”

    Un-freaking-believably awesome. That decides it for me. I’m almost done with the librivox book I’m listening to during my lunch break at work (Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle”), and next will be the Ingersoll that is available there.

  13. Ken Kukec
    Posted January 16, 2013 at 1:33 am | Permalink

    “Nothing is more gratifying to a religionist than to destroy his enemies at the command of God.”

    There is a fitting epigraph for every chapter of recorded history.


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