It is inconceivable that any form of intelligence would waste so much time and effort to make such an inferior piece of life—with all the 'ills that flesh is heir to,' and with all the misery and suffering that is so essential a part of living.If man is a 'fallen angel,' by the commission of a 'sin,' then disease and sorrow are part of God's inscrutable plan as a penalty imposed upon him for his 'disobedience,' and man's entire life is devoted to the expiation of that sin so as to soften the indictment before the 'Throne of God.'Man's atonement consists in making himself as miserable as possible by praying, fasting, masochism, flagellations and other forms of torture. This sadistic delusion causes him to insist that others—under pain of punishment—be as miserable as himself, for fear that if others fail to do as he does, it will provoke the wrath of his tyrant God to a more severe chastisement.The inevitable result is that Man devotes his life, not to the essentials of living and the making of a happy home, but to the building of temples and churches where he can 'lift his voice to God' in a frenzy of fanaticism, and eventually he becomes a victim of hysteria.His time and energy are wasted to cleanse his 'soul,' which he does not possess, and to save himself from a future punishment in hell which exists only in his imagination.
Could I but acquaint the world with Robert G. Ingersoll's humanity, with his ideas and his sentiments of love, patience and understanding, a renascence would automatically take place that would give life and living on this little earth of ours some semblance of what we call paradise.And this great and wonderful man had to die!I do not know the purpose of life, nor do I understand why death should come to all that is; but this I do know -- that when Robert G. Ingersoll died, on July 21, 1899, then you and I, and the whole world, suffered a mortal blow.When the mighty heart, of his mighty body, that supplied the blood to his mighty brain, burst, never again was there to fall from his eloquent lips the pearls of thought that had been so wondrously formed in his brain.The mightiest voice in all the world was silenced, forever. No wonder the people wept when they heard that Ingersoll was dead.He was the greatest of the Great -- the Mightiest of the Mighty. He was 'as constant as the Northern Star whose true fixed and resting quality there is no fellow in the firmament.' He was the indistinguishable star whose brilliance never dimmed.When Robert G. Ingersoll died, his death was 'the ruins of the noblest man that ever lived in the tide of time ... When shall we ever see another?'When Robert G. Ingersoll died, the sky should have been rent asunder, and Nature should have gone into mourning.When this man died, Nature's masterpiece was destroyed, and hot tears of grief should have fallen from the heavens.Robert G. Ingersoll no longer belongs to his family;He no longer belongs to his friends;He no longer belongs to his country;Robert G. Ingersoll now belongs to all the world -- the whole universe --He is immortal and eternal.Among the galaxies of Nature's masterpieces, none shine with a greater brilliance than the babe who was born in this house 121 years ago today, and named Robert Green Ingersoll.
I remember on one of my many visits with Thomas A. Edison, I brought up the question of Ingersoll. I asked this great genius what he thought of him, and he replied, 'He was grand.' I told Mr. Edison that I had been invited to deliver a radio address on Ingersoll, and would he be kind enough to write me a short appreciation of him. This he did, and a photostat of that letter is now a part of this house. In it you will read what Mr. Edison wrote. He said: 'I think that Ingersoll had all the attributes of a perfect man, and, in my opinion, no finer personality ever existed....'I mention this as an indication of the tremendous influence Ingersoll had upon the intellectual life of his time. To what extent did Ingersoll influence Edison?It was Thomas A. Edison's freedom from the narrow boundaries of theological dogma, and his thorough emancipation from the degrading and stultifying creed of Christianity, that made it possible for him to wrest from nature her most cherished secrets, and bequeath to the human race the richest of legacies.Mr. Edison told me that when Ingersoll visited his laboratories, he made a record of his voice, but stated that the reproductive devices of that time were not as good as those later developed, and, therefore, his magnificent voice was lost to posterity.
The Biblical writers not only had no knowledge of these things, but they had a perverted concept of life and the universe. Their concept was that man was a victim of blood pollution and his only salvation was by a blood atonement.I remember once seeing a small pamphlet entitled, 'What the Bible Teaches about Morality.' On opening the little booklet, it was discovered to be nothing but blank pages! Another such pamphlet might very appropriately be published entitled, 'What the Bible Reveals about Disease, Medicine and Health,' and blank pages should be used for all the Bible contains about these vital subjects.On the contrary, these benefits have been denounced by the believers in the Bible, and by the representatives of the Bible's deity as being contrary to 'God's Plan.' Does not the Bible plainly state that only by the sweat of his brow is man to labor for the bread he eats? Here is the exact Biblical quotation: 'In the sweat of thy face thou shalt eat bread...' and why? Only because he sought knowledge.And does not the Bible God place a curse upon man for the knowledge that has been such a solace and benefit to him? Here is another exact Biblical quotation: '... cursed be the ground for thy sake; in pain thou shalt eat of it all the days of thy life.'The Bible is a lie.It is a fake and a fraud.I denounce this book and its God. I hold it in utter detestation.Every man and woman who has contributed to the relief of the pain and suffering of humanity has been an infidel to the Bible God! Every new invention, every new discovery for the benefit of man violates these Biblical edicts!I say, seek knowledge—defy this tyrant God—it is your only salvation.
If priests—of all clans—were free of disease and immune to death, then there might be some basis for the claim of the religionists. But these "men of God" are victims of the natural course of life, "even as you and I." They enjoy no exemptions. They suffer the same ills; they feel the same sensations; they are subject to the same passions of the body, the same frailties of the mind, are victims of circumstances and misfortune, and they meet inevitable death just as every other person. They commit the same kind of crimes as other mortals, and especially, because of their "calling," many are notoriously involved in the embezzlement of church funds. Nor does their calling protect them from the "passions of the flesh." The scandalous conduct of many "men of the cloth," in the realm of moral turpitude, often ends in murder. That is why there are so many "men of God" in our jails, and why so many have paid the supreme penalty in the death chair.They are not free from a single rule of life; what others must endure, they likewise must experience. They cannot protect themselves from the forces of nature, and the laws of life, any more than you can. What they can do, you can do, too. Their claims of being "anointed" and "vicars of God" on earth are false and hypocritical.If they cannot fulfill their promises while you are alive, how can they accomplish them when you are dead? If they are impotent Here, where they could demonstrate their powers, how ridiculous are their promises to accomplish them in the "Hereafter," the mythical abode which exists only in their dishonest or deluded imagination?
When I visited George Bernard Shaw, in 1948, at his home in Aylot, a suburb of London, he was extremely anxious for me to tell him all that I knew about Ingersoll. During the course of the conversation, he told me that Ingersoll had made a tremendous impression upon him, and had exercised an influence upon him probably greater than that of any other man. He seemed particularly anxious to impress me with the importance of Ingersoll's influence upon his intellectual endeavors and accomplishments.In view of this admission, what percentage of the greatness of Shaw belongs to Ingersoll? If Ingersoll's influence upon so great an intellect as George Bernard Shaw was that extensive, what must have been his influence upon others?What seed of wisdom did he plant into the minds of others, and what accomplishments of theirs should be attributed to him? The world will never know.What about the countless thousands from whom he lifted the clouds of darkness and fear, and who were emancipated from the demoralizing dogmas and creeds of ignorance and superstition?What will be Ingersoll's influence upon the minds of future generations, who will come under the spell of his magic words, and who will be guided into the channels of human betterment by the unparalleled example of his courageous life?The debt the world owes Robert G. Ingersoll can never be paid.
To list all the great discoveries in the field of science and medicine during the past century, such as aspirin, insulin, penicillin, and the streptomycin drugs would require the undivided attention of a medical historian and a veritable encyclopedia to record them.And yet, there are still many diseases that plague man of which he has no knowledge. They eat and ravage his mind and body with excruciating pain and torture, and he is utterly helpless against them. He not only does not know their origin, but has not the slightest inkling of their nature or how to fortify himself against their attacks. He must sit, like a condemned criminal, in agonizing torture, waiting for blessed death.If man, and the other forms of life upon this earth, are a mere by-product of an 'over-all plan' of a 'supreme intelligence,' then I denounce such a scheme as tyrannical and barbaric. Why should we be made to suffer such excruciating pains and penalties of life to satisfy that from which we derive no benefit, and where death negates all of our efforts; and which makes the purpose of life, our hopes and desires, our ambitions and aspirations, a cruel mockery?O prayer, thy name is failure!O God, thou art a cruel myth!You will not find a single mention of these great humanitarian achievements in the so-called 'Book of Books'; not a single reference about the nature and cure of disease; not a word regarding those inventions that have so mercifully lifted the burden of toil from the backs of labor.
No institution of learning of Ingersoll's day had courage enough to confer upon him an honorary degree; not only for his own intellectual accomplishments, but also for his influence upon the minds of the learned men and women of his time and generation.Robert G. Ingersoll never received a prize for literature. The same prejudice and bigotry which prevented his getting an honorary college degree, militated against his being recognized as 'the greatest writer of the English language on the face of the earth,' as Henry Ward Beecher characterized him. Aye, in all the history of literature, Robert G. Ingersoll has never been excelled -- except by only one man, and that man was -- William Shakespeare. And yet there are times when Ingersoll even surpassed the immortal Bard. Yes, there are times when Ingersoll excelled even Shakespeare, in expressing human emotions, and in the use of language to express a thought, or to paint a picture. I say this fully conscious of my own admiration for that 'intellectual ocean, whose waves touched all the shores of thought.'Ingersoll was perfection himself. Every word was properly used. Every sentence was perfectly formed. Every noun, every verb and every object was in its proper place. Every punctuation mark, every comma, every semicolon, and every period was expertly placed to separate and balance each sentence.To read Ingersoll, it seems that every idea came properly clothed from his brain. Something rare indeed in the history of man's use of language in the expression of his thoughts. Every thought came from his brain with all the beauty and perfection of the full blown rose, with the velvety petals delicately touching each other.Thoughts of diamonds and pearls, rubies and sapphires rolled off his tongue as if from an inexhaustible mine of precious stones.Just as the cut of the diamond reveals the splendor of its brilliance, so the words and construction of the sentences gave a charm and beauty and eloquence to Ingersoll's thoughts.Ingersoll had everything: The song of the skylark; the tenderness of the dove; the hiss of the snake; the bite of the tiger; the strength of the lion; and perhaps more significant was the fact that he used each of these qualities and attributes, in their proper place, and at their proper time. He knew when to embrace with the tenderness of affection, and to resist and denounce wickedness and tyranny with that power of denunciation which he, and he alone, knew how to express.
We not only do not believe that man is punished for his 'sins,' but emphatically state that there is no such thing as sin. There are wrongs and injustices, but no sin. Sin, like purgatory and hell, was invented by priests, first to frighten, and then to rob the living.We do not fear these myths and curses, and that is why we devote our time and energies to help our fellow man. That is why we build educational institutions and seek, by a slow and painful process, to teach man the true nature of the universe and a proper understanding of his place as a member in society. At the same time we try to fortify his mind with courage to withstand the rebuffs, the trials and tribulations of life. That it is a difficult and arduous task no one can deny because we cannot correct all of 'God's mistakes' in one life time.As Ingersoll so succinctly states: 'Nature cannot pardon.'Remember this: You are not a depraved human being.You have no sins to atone for.There is no need for fear.There are no ghosts—holy or otherwise.Stop making yourself miserable for 'the love of God.'Drive this monster of tyrannic fear from your mind, and enjoy the inestimable freedom of an emancipated human being.
If you do not want to stop the wheels of progress; if you do not want to go back to the Dark Ages; if you do not want to live again under tyranny, then you must guard your liberty, and you must not let the church get control of your government. If you do, you will lose the greatest legacy ever bequeathed to the human race—intellectual freedom.Now let me tell you another thing. If all the energy and wealth wasted upon religion—in all of its varied forms—had been spent to understand life and its problems, we would today be living under conditions that would seem almost like Utopia. Most of our social and domestic problems would have been solved, and equally as important, our understanding and relations with the other peoples of the world would have, by now, brought about universal peace.Man would have a better understanding of his motives and actions, and would have learned to curb his primitive instincts for revenge and retaliation. He would, by now, know that wars of hate, aggression, and aggrandizement are only productive of more hate and more human suffering.The enlightened and completely emancipated man from the fears of a God and the dogma of hate and revenge would make him a brother to his fellow man.He would devote his energies to discoveries and inventions, which theology previously condemned as a defiance of God, but which have proved so beneficial to him. He would no longer be a slave to a God and live in cringing fear!
The only duty you owe is to yourself and to your family.The duty you owe to yourself is to do the best you can, and the duty you owe to your family is to endeavor to make them happy.Emancipate yourself from these stultifying creeds, and protect your children from the contamination of religion. Get off your knees, stand erect, and look the whole world in the face.Get all the joy and happiness you can out of life. Enjoy the fruits of your labor and waste it not upon the myth of heaven; support not the parasites of God.Do not knowingly harm another human being; do not knowingly injure your fellow man. All forms of life have feeling, do not make them suffer. As Shakespeare says: 'The poor beetle, that we tread upon, In corporal sufferance finds a pang as great As when a giant dies.' Kindness is a magic solvent.While we know that sometimes 'ingratitude is more strong than traitor's arms,' we also know that 'mercy is twice blest; it blesses him that gives and him that takes,' and, it should be remembered that while Loyalty is the most important of the virtues, Patience is the most valuable.Become a courageous human being and do the best you can under any and all circumstances in this imperfect and troublesome world. Be brave enough to live and be brave enough to die, knowing that when the Grim Reaper comes, you did the best you could and that the world is better for your having lived.A God could do no more.I will stand between you and the hosts of heaven.I am not afraid.I will act as your attorney before the Bar of Judgment.I will assume all responsibility.My services are free.Put the blame on me.Break the chains of mental slavery to religious superstition.Arise and become a free and independent human being.Dignify yourself as a Man, and justify your living by being a Brother to All Mankind and a Citizen of the Universe.