Robert G. Ingersoll, known in his own time as “the Great Agnostic,” was the foremost orator of his time. His views on religion were quite unorthodox to say the least; he did not hesitate to point out the contradictions, errors, and immorality contained in the Bible and other religious texts. Although the idea of someone today running for office with such views is all but unthinkable, Ingersoll (1833-1899) had a wide following and many urged him to run for political office, including the presidency. He was so popular that he may even have been elected.
The following is a selection of his quotes on religion:
Ministers wonder how I can be wicked enough to attack the Bible. I will tell them.
This book, the Bible, has persecuted even unto death, the wisest and the best. This book stayed and stopped the onward movement of the human race. This book poisoned the fountains of learning and misdirected the energies of man.
This book is the enemy of freedom, the support of slavery. This book sowed the seeds of hatred in families and nations, fed the flames of war, and impoverished the world. This book is the breastwork of kings and tyrants—the enslaver of women and children. This book has corrupted parliaments and courts. This book has made colleges and universities the teachers of error and the haters of science. This book has filled Christendom with hateful, cruel, ignorant, and warring sects. This book taught men to kill their fellows for religion’s sake. This book founded the Inquisition, invented the instruments of torture, built the dungeons in which the good and loving languished,, forged the chains that rusted in their flesh, erected the scaffolds whereon they died. This book piled fagots under the feet of the just. This book drove reason from the minds of millions and filled the asylums with the insane.
This book has caused fathers and mothers to shed the blood of their babes. This book was the auction block on which the slave-mother stood when she was sold from her child. This book filled the sails of the slave-trader and made merchandise of human flesh. This book lighted the fires that burned “witches” and “wizards.” This book filled the darkness with ghouls and ghosts, and the bodies of men and women with devils. This book polluted the souls of men with the infamous dogma of eternal pain. This book made credulity the greatest of virtues, and investigation the greatest of crimes. This book filled nations with hermits, monks, and nuns—with the pious and the useless. This book placed the ignorant and unclean saint above the philosopher and philanthropist. This book taught man to despise the joys of this life, that he might be happy in another—to waste this world for the sake of the next.
I attack this book because it is the enemy of human liberty—the greatest obstruction across the highway of human progress.
Let me ask the ministers one question: How can you be wicked enough to defend this book?
Christ said nothing about the Western Hemisphere because he did not know it existed. He did not know the shape of the earth. He was not a scientist—never told anybody to investigate, to think. His idea was that this life should be spent in preparing for the next. For all of the evils of this life, and the next, faith was his remedy.
Who can account for the fact, if we are to be saved only by faith in Christ, that Matthew forgot it, that Luke said nothing about it, and that Mark never mentioned it except in two passages written by another person.
If Christ was good enough to die for me, he certainly will not be bad enough to damn me for honestly failing to believe in his divinity.
This frightful declaration “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be damned,” has filled the world with agony and crime. Every letter of this passage has been sword and fagot; every word has been dungeon and chain. That passage made the sword of persecution drip with the innocent blood through centuries of agony and crime. That passage made the horizon of a thousand years lurid with the fagot’s flames.
Is there an intelligent man or woman now in the world who believes in the Garden of Eden fable? If you find any man who believes it, strike his forehead and you will hear an echo. Something is for rent. Does any intelligent man now believe that god made man of dust, and woman of a rib, and put them in a garden, and put a tree in the midst of it? Was there not room outside of the garden to put his tree, if he did not want people to eat his apples?
If I did not want a man to eat my fruit, I would not put him in my orchard.
Does anybody now believe in the story of the serpent? I pity any man or woman who, in this nineteenth century, believes in that childish fable. Why did Adam and Eve disobey? Why, they were tempted. By whom? The devil. Who made the devil? God. What did God make him for? Why did he not tell Adam and Eve about this serpent? Why did he not watch the devil, instead of watching Adam and Eve? Instead of turning them out, why did he not keep him from getting in? Why did he not have his flood first, and drown the devil, before he made a man and woman.
This god, with all his power and wisdom, could not even convince a few wandering and wretched savages that he was more potent than the idols of Egypt. This god was not willing that the Jews should think and investigate for themselves. For heresy, the penalty was death. Where this god reigned, intellectual liberty was unknown. He appealed only to brute force; he collected taxes by threatening plagues; he demanded worship on pain of sword and fire; acting as spy, inquisitor, judge, ad executioner.
When we think of the poor Jews, destroyed, murdered, bitten by serpents, visited by plagues, decimated by famine, butchered by each other, swallowed by the earth, frightened, cursed, starved, deceived, robbed and outraged, how thankful we should be that we are not the chosen people of god.
They tell me that there never would have been any civilization if it had not been for the Bible. The Jews had a Bible; the Romans had not. Which had the greater and the grander government? Let us be honest. Which of those nations produced the greatest poets, the greatest soldiers, the greatest orators, the greatest statesmen, the greatest sculptors?
Our civilization is not Christian. It does not come from the skies. It is not a result of “inspiration.” It is the child of invention, of discovery, of applied knowledge—that is to say, of science. When man becomes great and grand enough to admit that all have equal rights; when thought is untrammeled; when worship shall consist in doing useful things; when religion means the discharge of obligations to our fellow-men; then, and not until then, will the world be civilized.
By: Jon Nelson