Happy Holidays!

There are lots of holidays stacked up at the end of the year and it’s more welcoming to everyone to just say Happy Holidays!  Focusing on Christmas, Hanukkah, New Years, etc. is a targeted greeting we should keep for the people we know well and know that they’re in the same “club” of beliefs. But since I don’t know who’s reading this then I agree with Penn Jillette and want to wish everyone a Happy Holidays! For me this sincerely includes well wishes to you for whatever it is you celebrate this time of year. Here’s hoping all of humanity has an even better year next year!!!

The Great Agnostic – Robert Ingersoll

The American Scholar has a great article titled A New Birth of Reason about Robert Ingersoll.  It’s a great little primer on this important historical figure for agnosticism so I highly recommend you click that link and read for yourself all of the great information surrounding Ingersoll.  I’m going to pull out select quotes of Ingersoll so you can see him speak for himself before you dig into the article.

In one of his most popular lectures, titled “Individuality,” Ingersoll said of Paine, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin:

They knew that to put God in the Constitution was to put man out. They knew that the recognition of a Deity would be seized upon by fanatics and zealots as a pretext for destroying the liberty of thought. They knew the terrible history of the church too well to place in her keeping, or in the keeping of her God, the sacred rights of man. They intended that all should have the right to worship, or not to worship; that our laws should make no distinction on account of creed. They intended to found and frame a government for man, and for man alone. They wished to preserve the individuality and liberty of all; to prevent the few from governing the many, and the many from persecuting and destroying the few.

On the United States as a secular government:

Recollect that, the first secular government; the first government that said every church has exactly the same rights and no more; every religion has the same rights, and no more. In other words, our fathers were the first men who had the sense, had the genius, to know that no church should be allowed to have a sword.

In his lecture “The Gods”:

We are not endeavoring to chain the future, but to free the present. We are not forging fetters for our children, but we are breaking those our fathers made for us. We are the advocates of inquiry, of investigation and thought. This of itself, is an admission that we are not perfectly satisfied with all our conclusions. Philosophy has not the egotism of faith.

On the subject of agnostics and atheists:

The Agnostic is an Atheist. The Atheist is an Agnostic. The Agnostic says: “I do not know, but I do not believe there is any god.” The Atheist says the same. The orthodox Christian says he knows there is a God, but we know that he does not know. The Atheist [too] cannot know that God does not exist.

Read the article for the rest of the story of A New Birth of Reason to learn a little from the freethinkers that came before us.  The article ends with this positive memorial editorial for Ingersoll’s legacy:

The death of Robert G. Ingersoll removed one of America’s greatest citizens. It is not popular to admire Ingersoll but his brilliancy, his integrity and patriotism cannot be doubted. Had not Ingersoll been frank enough to express his opinion on religion he would have been President of the United States. Hypocrisy in religion pays. There will come a time when public men may speak their honest convictions in religion without being maligned by the ignorant and superstitious, but not yet.

We must still look forward to the day that will come when public figures may speak their honest convictions about religion without being maligned by the ignorant and superstitious.  It’s unfortunate that those words from 1899 still ring true over 100 years later.