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This is a sad book for any thinking person, because Robert Ingersoll was a clear thinker and great American patriot whose ideas were better accepted in the late 1800s than they would be nowadays. He proclaimed with great clarity and humor ideas that are only presented nowadays, or rejected, with strident meanness. His views are wholly modern more than a century after he spoke them, and yet he is forgotten. That proves Jim Collins‘s assertion that it is more important to have an organization of dedicated people working for a common cause than it is to have a great idea well presented. In these days of position-driven shouting TV personalities, to be reasonable is to be ignored. Today the news motto is, “If it bleeds, it leads.” That should be followed with, “If it’s only bruised it’s filler. If it is sensible it is ignored, and if it’s positively helpful it’s to be condemned.” The Great Agnostic: Robert Ingersoll and American Freethought won’t revive the ideas of this great speaker, because times have changed, but they do provide shoulders for a clear thinking and passionate speaker to stand upon.

Some quotations from Robert Ingersoll

The man who does not do his own thinking is a slave, and is a traitor to himself and to his fellow-men.

Churches are becoming political organizations…. It probably will not be long until the churches will divide as sharply upon political, as upon theological questions; and when that day comes, if there are not liberals enough to hold the balance of power, this Government will be destroyed.

An infinite God ought to be able to protect himself, without going in partnership with State Legislatures. Certainly he ought not so to act that laws become necessary to keep him from being laughed at. No one thinks of protecting Shakespeare from ridicule, by the threat of fine and imprisonment.

Who can over estimate the progress of the world if all the money wasted in superstition could be used to enlighten, elevate and civilize mankind?

I cannot see why we should expect an infinite God to do better in another world (heaven) than he does in this.

These blessings (of modern civilization) did not fall from the skies. These benefits did not drop from the outstretched hands of priests. They were not found in cathedrals or behind altars — neither were they searched for with holy candles. They were not discovered by the closed eyes of prayer, nor did they come in answer to superstitious supplication. They are the children of freedom, the gifts of reason, observation and experience — and for them all, man is indebted to man.

Strange but true: those who have loved God most have loved men least.

The notion that faith in Christ is to be rewarded by an eternity of bliss, while a dependence upon reason, observation and experience merits everlasting pain, is too absurd for refutation, and can be relieved only by that unhappy mixture of insanity and ignorance, called “faith.”

Every religion has for its foundation a miracle — that is to say, a violation of nature — that is to say, a falsehood.

Labor is the only prayer that Nature answers; it is the only prayer that deserves an answer — good, honest, noble work.

No man with a sense of humor ever founded a religion.

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.