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Robert Green Ingersoll, REAL Wellness Pioneer
Robert Green Ingersoll (1833 – 1899) is often called the most remarkable American that most people have never heard of. However, he is hailed as the leading orator and political orator of post-Civil War America … a lawyer and philosopher who criss-crossed the nation after the war lecturing from memory to packed houses for hours – before the advent of reinforcement – and did so during 30 years.
Two excellent books on Ingersoll are “Robert Green Ingersoll: A Life” by Frank Smith (Prometheus, 1990) and “American Infidel: Robert G. Ingersoll” by Orvin Larson (The Citadel Press, 1962). In many important respects, Ingersoll was as TRUE a welfare promoter as any before, during, or since his time. He is credited with 1500 speeches, almost always to SRO audiences, most lasting more than two hours – to sold-out houses and SRO crowds. He spoke without notes (or a teleprompter, not that there’s anything wrong with that). In Chicago in 1876, he addressed a crowd of 50,000. Researchers at the Ingersoll Birthplace Museum believe he was seen and heard by more of his fellow citizens than any other American before the advent of radio and television.
The philosophy of Ingersoll focused on reason, exuberance and freedom with a repertoire that included Shakespeare, Robert Burns, Thomas Paine, the nature of science, science, religion, superstition and much more. In an era when public lectures were the dominant form of public entertainment, Ingersoll was the undisputed royal orator. Among his best known speeches were “The Gods”, “Ghosts”, “The Bible”, “Humboldt”, “Shakespeare” and “What Must We Do To Be Saved?”
Ingersoll was a friend of presidents (Hayes, Garfield, Arthur and Grant), literary giants (including Mark Twain), captains of industry (Thomas Edison, Andrew Carnegie) and leading figures in the arts (Walt Whitman). He was a confidant of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, the preacher Henry Ward Beecher, Clarence Darrow, Eugene Debs, Robert La Follette and all the reformers of his day. Many Americans, however, were shocked by his religious skepticism. However, when he died in 1899, even most of those whose beliefs he espoused were lavish in tributes. The Reverend JT Sunderland, wrote that Ingersoll … hurt the hearts not only of the ignorant and the narrow-minded, but of many of the most intelligent and broad-minded … he also set tens of thousands to think for themselves on religious subjects. He pricked the bladders of many ecclesiastical and theological deceptions, hypocrisies, pretenses, believers… he was partly responsible for the new awakening of thought and inquiry… which involved the testing of theological premises, a re-examination. of the Bible and the refinement of concepts of God.
In remarks at the unveiling of the Robert Green Ingersoll bust in the birthplace museum on July 6, 2001, the founder of the Council for Secular Humanism, Paul Kurtz, described Ingersoll as an agnostic and a free thinker. But more than that, he was a secularist. And I think that for the twenty-first century, the great battle in the world is secularism – separation of church and state and the recognition that you can lead the good life here and now without needing an afterlife…
Ingersoll said that happiness is the only good, reason the only torch, justice the only worship, humanity the only religion and love the only priest.
A recommended way to appreciate this remarkable man and judge for yourself if he warrants enshrinement as an honorary wellness pioneer is to read his books and speeches. Here’s a sample (various sources):
* If there is an infinite Being, he does not need our help — we need not waste our energies in his defense. God in the Constitution (1870)
* We need people with moral courage to speak and write their true thoughts, and to stand by their convictions, even unto death. Thomas Paine (1870)
* The man who does not do his own thinking is a slave, and is a traitor to himself and to his fellow men. The Freedom of Man, Woman and Child
* The doctrine of eternal punishment is in perfect harmony with the savagery of the people who made the orthodox beliefs. It is in harmony with torture, with being counted alive, and with burning. The men who burned their fellow men for a moment believed that God would burn their enemies forever. Collapsing Beliefs
* Who can overestimate the progress of the world, if all the money wasted in superstition could be used to enlighten, elevate and civilize mankind? Some Mistakes of Moses
* (Compare) the advantages of theology and science. When the theologian ruled the world, it was covered with huts and cabinets for many, palaces and cathedrals for few. To almost all human beings, reading and writing were unknown arts. The poor were clothed in rags and skins — they devoured scabs, and gnawed bones. The day of science has dawned, and the luxuries of a century ago are the necessities of today. Men in the middle ranks of life have more conveniences and elegances than the princes and kings of the theological times. But above all this, there is the development of mind. There is more value in the brain of an ordinary man of today — of a master mechanic, of a chemist, of a naturalist, of an inventor, than there was in the brain of the world four hundred years ago.
* These blessings did not fall from heaven. These profits did not fall from the outstretched hands of priests. They were not found in cathedrals or behind altars — nor were they searched for with holy candles. They were not discovered by the closed eyes of prayer, nor did they come in response to superstitious supplication. They are the children of freedom, the gifts of reason, observation and experience — and for them all, man owes man. God In The Constitution
* Infinite God should be able to protect himself, without going into partnership with State Legislatures. Surely he should not act in such a way that laws become necessary to prevent him from being laughed at. No one thinks of protecting Shakespeare from ridicule, by the threat of fines and imprisonment. Some Mistakes of Moses
* Churches become political organizations… It will probably not take long until the churches divide as sharply on political as on theological questions; and when that day comes, if there are not enough liberals to hold the balance of power, this Government will be destroyed. Man’s freedom is not safe in the hands of any church. Wherever the Bible and sword are in partnership, man is a slave.
* Only a few years ago there was no person too ignorant to successfully answer Charles Darwin; and the more ignorant he was the more cheerfully he undertook the task. Orthodoxy (1884)
* Only the very ignorant are perfectly satisfied that they know. To the common man the big problems are easy. He has no problem in accounting for the universe. He can tell you the origin and destiny of man and the whys and wherefores of things. Freedom in Literature (1890)
* But honest people do not pretend to know; they are sincere and sincere; they love the truth; they confess their ignorance, and they say: We do not know.
* Work is the only prayer that Nature answers; it is the only prayer that deserves an answer — good, honest, noble work. Closing arguments, The Trial of CB Reynolds (for blasphemy)
* No man with a sense of humor ever founded a religion. Jonathon Green, The Cassell Dictionary of Insult Quotations
* Is there an intelligent man or woman in the world now who believes in the story of the Garden of Eden? If you find any man who believes it, strike his forehead and you will hear an echo. Something is available for rent. Orthodoxy (1884)
* I cannot see why we should expect an infinite God to do better in another world than he does in this. Answer To The Indianapolis Clergy, The Iconoclast, Indianapolis, Indiana (1882)
* The doctrine that future happiness depends on faith is monstrous. It is the infamy of infamies. The notion that faith in Christ is rewarded with an eternity of happiness, while dependence on reason, observation, and experience merits eternal pain, is too absurd for refutation, and can only be appeased by that unhappy mixture of madness and ignorance, called. faith The Gods
Believe it or not, a town in Texas was named in honor of Robert Ingersoll. In the official website of what is now Redwater, Texas, these two contributions are among the chronology of watersheds in the history of the city:
* 1875 – Town of Ingersoll established as a sawmill community and named Ingersoll after a famous atheist at the time, Robert Ingersoll.
December 13, 1894 – The town name of Ingersoll was officially changed to Redwater as a result of a revival. They chose the name because almost all springs and shallow wells in the area had a reddish color.
Well, there you have it – a library of material on reason, gaiety and freedom. To consider happiness, meaning, goals, ethical living, the common good, and all manner of REAL well-being, read Ingersoll.
“American Infidel” by Orvin Larson contains more than 300 pages, almost all of them with memorable examples of Ingersoll’s eloquence and brilliance. Among my favorites were remarks delivered on March 30, 1892 at Harleigh Cemetery in Camden, New Jersey at Walt Whitman’s funeral. Ingersoll was the last speaker to address 3,000 mourners that afternoon. Larson described the scene:
There was an intense silence when Colonel Ingersoll arose, and in those brilliant periods for which he is world famous, scattered flowers of speech on the ashes of his friend. These were the closing words of Ingersoll’s speech: ‘Today we give back to Mother Nature, to her clutch and kiss, one of the bravest, sweetest souls that ever lived in human clay… He lived, he died , and death. is less terrifying than before. Thousands and millions will go down into the dark valley of the shadow holding Walt Whitman by the hand. Long after we are dead, the brave words he spoke will sound like trumpets to the dying.’
Ingersoll once said that while I oppose all orthodox creeds, I myself have a belief: That happiness is the only good, that the place to be happy is here, that the time to be happy is now and that the way to be happy is. to make others so. He added that help is for the living, hope is for the dead. He said that this faith is a little short, but it is long enough for this life, strong enough for this world. If there is another world, when we get there, we can make another belief. But this faith will certainly be useful for this life.
For more on Ingersoll, a TRUE wellness pioneer, look up the Robert Green Ingersoll Birthplace Museum. A great introduction is the 18 minute video that can be played at the Birthplace. enjoy
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