Robert G. Ingersoll quotes

Robert G. Ingersoll photo
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Robert G. Ingersoll

Birthdate: 11. August 1833
Date of death: 21. July 1899
Other names: Роберт Ингерсолл, رابرت اینقرسول, 羅伯特·格林·英格索爾, 罗伯特·格林·英格索尔

Robert Green "Bob" Ingersoll was an American lawyer, a Civil War veteran, politician, and orator of the United States during the Golden Age of Free Thought, noted for his broad range of culture and his defense of agnosticism. He was nicknamed "The Great Agnostic".

„The greatest test of courage on earth is to bear defeat without losing heart.“

—  Robert G. Ingersoll

Variant: The greatest test of courage is to bear defeat without losing heart.

„One can hardly imagine how perfect a constitution it took a few years ago to stand the assault of a doctor.“

—  Robert G. Ingersoll

Orthodoxy (1884)
Context: You can remember, so can I, when the old allopathists, the bleeders and blisterers, reigned supreme. If there was anything the matter with a man they let out his blood. Called to the bedside, they took him on the point of a lancet to the edge of eternity, and then practiced all their art to bring him back. One can hardly imagine how perfect a constitution it took a few years ago to stand the assault of a doctor.

„There is this peculiarity in our country—the only men who can be trusted with human liberty are the ones who are not to be angels hereafter.“

—  Robert G. Ingersoll

"To the Indianapolis Clergy." The Iconoclast (Indianapolis, IN) (1883)
Context: I account in part for the civilization of America by the fact that our fathers were wise enough, and jealous of each other enough, to absolutely divorce church and state. They regarded the church as a dangerous mistress—one not fit to govern a president. This divorce was obtained because men like Jefferson and Paine were at that time prominent in the councils of the people. There is this peculiarity in our country—the only men who can be trusted with human liberty are the ones who are not to be angels hereafter. Liberty is safe so long as the sinners have an opportunity to be heard.

„But it can all be summed up in this: The average man regards the common as natural, the uncommon as supernatural. The educated man—and by that I mean the developed man—is satisfied that all phenomena are natural, and that the supernatural does not and can not exist.“

—  Robert G. Ingersoll

Rome, or Reason? A Reply to Cardinal Manning. Part I. The North American Review (1888)
Context: It is probably safe to say that at one time, or during one phase of the development of man, everything was miraculous. After a time, the mind slowly developing, certain phenomena, always happening under like conditions, were called “natural,” and none suspected any special interference. The domain of the miraculous grew less and less—the domain of the natural larger; that is to say, the common became the natural, but the uncommon was still regarded as the miraculous. The rising and setting of the sun ceased to excite the wonder of mankind—there was no miracle about that; but an eclipse of the sun was miraculous. Men did not then know that eclipses are periodical, that they happen with the same certainty that the sun rises. It took many observations through many generations to arrive at this conclusion. Ordinary rains became “natural,” floods remained “miraculous.” But it can all be summed up in this: The average man regards the common as natural, the uncommon as supernatural. The educated man—and by that I mean the developed man—is satisfied that all phenomena are natural, and that the supernatural does not and can not exist.

„Love is the only bow on Life's dark cloud. It is the morning and the evening star. It shines upon the babe, and sheds its radiance on the quiet tomb. It is the mother of art, inspirer of poet, patriot and philosopher. It is the air and light of every heart — builder of every home, kindler of every fire on every hearth.“

—  Robert G. Ingersoll

Orthodoxy (1884).
Context: Love is the only bow on Life's dark cloud. It is the morning and the evening star. It shines upon the babe, and sheds its radiance on the quiet tomb. It is the mother of art, inspirer of poet, patriot and philosopher. It is the air and light of every heart — builder of every home, kindler of every fire on every hearth. It was the first to dream of immortality. It fills the world with melody — for music is the voice of love. Love is the magician, the enchanter, that changes worthless things to Joy, and makes royal kings and queens of common clay. It is the perfume of that wondrous flower, the heart, and without that sacred passion, that divine swoon, we are less than beasts; but with it, earth is heaven, and we are gods.

„Standing in the presence of the Unknown, all have the same right to think, and all are equally interested in the great questions of origin and destiny. All I claim, all I plead for, is liberty of thought and expression. That is all. I do not pretend to tell what is absolutely true, but what I think is true. I do not pretend to tell all the truth.“

—  Robert G. Ingersoll

The Liberty of Man, Woman and Child (1877)
Context: Standing in the presence of the Unknown, all have the same right to think, and all are equally interested in the great questions of origin and destiny. All I claim, all I plead for, is liberty of thought and expression. That is all. I do not pretend to tell what is absolutely true, but what I think is true. I do not pretend to tell all the truth.
I do not claim that I have floated level with the heights of thought, or that I have descended to the very depths of things. I simply claim that what ideas I have, I have a right to express; and that any man who denies that right to me is an intellectual thief and robber. That is all.

„The king said that mankind must not work for themselves. The priest said that mankind must not think for themselves. One forged chains for the hands, the other for the soul.“

—  Robert G. Ingersoll

The Liberty of Man, Woman and Child (1877)
Context: Nothing has been left undone by the enemies of freedom. Every art and artifice, every cruelty and outrage has been practiced and perpetrated to destroy the rights of man. In this great struggle every crime has been rewarded and every virtue has been punished. Reading, writing, thinking and investigating have all been crimes.
Every science has been an outcast.
All the altars and all the thrones united to arrest the forward march of the human race. The king said that mankind must not work for themselves. The priest said that mankind must not think for themselves. One forged chains for the hands, the other for the soul.

„Any God that would damn one of his children for the expression of his honest thought wouldn't make a decent thief. When I read a book and don't believe it, I ought to say so. I will do so and take the consequences like a man.“

—  Robert G. Ingersoll

Speech on Religious Intolerance as presented at the Pittsburgh Opera House (14 October 1879).
Context: They say the religion of your fathers is good enough. Why should a father object to your inventing a better plow than he had? They say to me, do you know more than all the theologians dead? Being a perfectly modest man I say I think I do. Now we have come to the conclusion that every man has a right to think. Would God give a bird wings and make it a crime to fly? Would he give me brains and make it a crime to think? Any God that would damn one of his children for the expression of his honest thought wouldn't make a decent thief. When I read a book and don't believe it, I ought to say so. I will do so and take the consequences like a man.

„The theologian says that what we call evil is for our benefit—that we are placed in this world of sin and sorrow to develop character. If this is true I ask why the infant dies?“

—  Robert G. Ingersoll

Why I Am an Agnostic (1896)
Context: The theologian says that what we call evil is for our benefit—that we are placed in this world of sin and sorrow to develop character. If this is true I ask why the infant dies? Millions and millions draw a few breaths and fade away in the arms of their mothers. They are not allowed to develop character.

„They did not regard men as slaves to be ruled by torture, by lash and chain, nor as children to be cheated with illusions, rocked in the cradle of an idiot creed and soothed by a lullaby of lies.“

—  Robert G. Ingersoll

A Thanksgiving Sermon (1897)
Context: I thank the great scientists—those who have reached the foundation, the bed-rock—who have built upon facts—the great scientists, in whose presence theologians look silly and feel malicious. The scientists never persecuted, never imprisoned their fellow-men. They forged no chains, built no dungeons, erected no scaffolds—tore no flesh with red hot pincers—dislocated no joints on racks—crushed no bones in iron boots—extinguished no eyes—tore out no tongues and lighted no fagots. They did not pretend to be inspired—did not claim to be prophets or saints or to have been born again. They were only intelligent and honest men. They did not appeal to force or fear. They did not regard men as slaves to be ruled by torture, by lash and chain, nor as children to be cheated with illusions, rocked in the cradle of an idiot creed and soothed by a lullaby of lies. They did not wound—they healed. They did not kill—they lengthened life. They did not enslave—they broke the chains and made men free. They sowed the seeds of knowledge, and many millions have reaped, are reaping, and will reap the harvest of joy.

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„If you say six periods, instead of six days, what becomes of your Sabbath?“

—  Robert G. Ingersoll

My Reviewers Reviewed (lecture from June 27, 1877, San Francisco, CA)
Context: And the reason why they were to keep the Sabbath was because the Creator rested on the seventh day—not period. If you say six periods, instead of six days, what becomes of your Sabbath? The only reason given in the Bible for observing the Sabbath is that God observed it—that he rested from his work that day and was refreshed. Take this reason away and the sacredness of that day has no foundation in the Scriptures.

„There is a law higher than men can make. The facts as they exist in this poor world -- the absolute consequences of certain acts -- they are above all. And this higher law is the breath of progress, the very outstretched wings of civilization, under which we enjoy the freedom we have.“

—  Robert G. Ingersoll

The trial of Charles B. Reynolds for blasphemy (1887)
Context: There is a law higher than men can make. The facts as they exist in this poor world -- the absolute consequences of certain acts -- they are above all. And this higher law is the breath of progress, the very outstretched wings of civilization, under which we enjoy the freedom we have. Keep that in your minds. There never was a legislature great enough -- there never was a constitution sacred enough, to compel a civilized man to stand between a black man and his liberty. There never was a constitution great enough to make me stand between any human being and his right to express his honest thoughts. Such a constitution is an insult to the human soul, and I would care no more for it than I would for the growl of a wild beast.

„What is holy, what is sacred? I reply that human happiness is holy, human rights are holy. The body and soul of man — these are sacred. The liberty of man is of far more importance than any book; the rights of man, more sacred than any religion — than any Scriptures, whether inspired or not.“

—  Robert G. Ingersoll

The trial of Charles B. Reynolds for blasphemy (1887)
Context: Gentlemen, you can never make me believe — no statute can ever convince me, that there is any infinite Being in this universe who hates an honest man. It is impossible to satisfy me that there is any God, or can be any God, who holds in abhorrence a soul that has the courage to express his thought. Neither can the whole world convince me that any man should be punished, either in this world or in the next, for being candid with his fellow-men. If you send men to the penitentiary for speaking their thoughts, for endeavoring to enlighten their fellows, then the penitentiary will become a place of honor, and the victim will step from it — not stained, not disgraced, but clad in robes of glory.
Let us take one more step.
What is holy, what is sacred? I reply that human happiness is holy, human rights are holy. The body and soul of man — these are sacred. The liberty of man is of far more importance than any book; the rights of man, more sacred than any religion — than any Scriptures, whether inspired or not.
What we want is the truth, and does any one suppose that all of the truth is confined in one book — that the mysteries of the whole world are explained by one volume?
All that is — all that conveys information to man — all that has been produced by the past — all that now exists — should be considered by an intelligent man. All the known truths of this world — all the philosophy, all the poems, all the pictures, all the statues, all the entrancing music — the prattle of babes, the lullaby of mothers, the words of honest men, the trumpet calls to duty — all these make up the bible of the world — everything that is noble and true and free, you will find in this great book.
If we wish to be true to ourselves, — if we wish to benefit our fellow-men — if we wish to live honorable lives — we will give to every other human being every right that we claim for ourselves.

„These things are the foes of morality. They subvert all natural conceptions of virtue.“

—  Robert G. Ingersoll

What Would You Substitute for the Bible as a Moral Guide? (1900)
Context: These religions teach the slave virtues. They make inanimate things holy, and falsehoods sacred. They create artificial crimes. To eat meat on Friday, to enjoy yourself on Sunday, to eat on fast-days, to be happy in Lent, to dispute a priest, to ask for evidence, to deny a creed, to express your sincere thought, all these acts are sins, crimes against some god, To give your honest opinion about Jehovah, Mohammed or Christ, is far worse than to maliciously slander your neighbor. To question or doubt miracles. is far worse than to deny known facts. Only the obedient, the credulous, the cringers, the kneelers, the meek, the unquestioning, the true believers, are regarded as moral, as virtuous. It is not enough to be honest, generous and useful; not enough to be governed by evidence, by facts. In addition to this, you must believe. These things are the foes of morality. They subvert all natural conceptions of virtue.

„The idea of hell was born of ignorance, brutality, fear, cowardice, and revenge.“

—  Robert G. Ingersoll

The Great Infidels (1881)
Context: The idea of hell was born of ignorance, brutality, fear, cowardice, and revenge. This idea testifies that our remote ancestors were the lowest beasts. Only from dens, lairs, and caves, only from mouths filled with cruel fangs, only from hearts of fear and hatred, only from the conscience of hunger and lust, only from the lowest and most debased could come this most cruel, heartless and bestial of all dogmas.

„This he has done in his sermon entitled “Ghosts against God or Ingersoll against Honesty.”“

—  Robert G. Ingersoll

My Reviewers Reviewed (lecture from June 27, 1877, San Francisco, CA)
Context: The next gentleman who has endeavored to answer what I have said, is the Rev. Samuel Robinson. This he has done in his sermon entitled “Ghosts against God or Ingersoll against Honesty.” I presume he imagines himself to be the defendant in both cases.

„Every sect is a certificate that God has not plainly revealed his will to man. To each reader the Bible conveys a different meaning.“

—  Robert G. Ingersoll

Some Mistakes of Moses (1879) http://www.gutenberg.org/files/38802/38802-h/38802-h.htm#link0002.
Context: Every sect is a certificate that God has not plainly revealed his will to man. To each reader the Bible conveys a different meaning. About the meaning of this book, called a revelation, there have been ages of war, and centuries of sword and flame. If written by an infinite God, he must have known that these results must follow; and thus knowing, he must be responsible for all.

„These heroes are dead. They died for liberty — they died for us.“

—  Robert G. Ingersoll

Memorial Day Vision. Reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
Attributed
Context: These heroes are dead. They died for liberty — they died for us. They are at rest. They sleep in the land they made free, under the flag they rendered stainless, under the solemn pines, the sad hemlocks, the tearful willows, the embracing vines. They sleep beneath the shadows of the clouds, careless alike of sunshine or storm, each in the windowless palace of rest. Earth may run red with other wars — they are at peace. In the midst of battles, in the roar of conflict, they found the serenity of death.

„Reason, Observation and Experience — the Holy Trinity of Science — have taught us that happiness is the only good; that the time to be happy is now, and the way to be happy is to make others so. This is enough for us.“

—  Robert G. Ingersoll

"The Gods" (1876) as published in The Gods and Other Lectures (1879); this was one of his earliest versions of what became known as his "Creed". Some variants:
Justice is the only worship.
Love is the only priest.
Ignorance is the only slavery.
Happiness is the only good.
The time to be happy is now,
The place to be happy is here,
The way to be happy is to make others so.
Wisdom is the science of happiness.
As quoted in Familiar Quotations (1937) edited by Christopher Morley, p. 603
Happiness is the only good.
The place to be happy is here.
The time to be happy is now.
The way to be happy is to make others so.
Variant, as it appears on a manuscript copy he jotted down for a fan (26 March 1897) <!-- I know I have seen an image of this, and might be able to find a copy somewhere... ~ Kalki 2007·08·11 -->
Context: Reason, Observation and Experience — the Holy Trinity of Science — have taught us that happiness is the only good; that the time to be happy is now, and the way to be happy is to make others so. This is enough for us. In this belief we are content to live and die. If by any possibility the existence of a power superior to, and independent of, nature shall be demonstrated, there will then be time enough to kneel. Until then, let us stand erect.

„They are all equally powerful and equally useless.“

—  Robert G. Ingersoll

Rome, or Reason? A Reply to Cardinal Manning. Part I. The North American Review (1888)
Context: I have no Protestant prejudices against Catholicism, and have no Catholic prejudices against Protestantism. I regard all religions either without prejudice or with the same prejudice. They were all, according to my belief, devised by men, and all have for a foundation ignorance of this world and fear of the next. All the Gods have been made by men. They are all equally powerful and equally useless.

„Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Etiam egestas wisi a erat. Morbi imperdiet, mauris ac auctor dictum.“

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