It’s Ingersoll Day, celebrating “The Great Agnostic” (actually an atheist) born on this day in 1833.
By all accounts a fine man and an unparalleled speaker, the Christopher Hitchens of his time. Ingersoll was one of the most popular orators of his age, when oratory was public entertainment. He spoke on every subject, from Shakespeare to Reconstruction, but his most popular subjects were agnosticism and the sanctity and refuge of the family. He committed his speeches to memory although they were sometimes more than three hours long.
Many of Ingersoll’s speeches advocated freethought and humanism, and often ridiculed religious belief. For this the press often attacked him, but neither his opinions nor the negative press could stop his increasing popularity. During Ingersoll’s greatest fame, audiences would pay $1 or more to hear him speak, a considerable sum for that time.
Here’s a quotation on his belief of the harmony, or lack of, between religion and science which of course is still a contentious debate:
“There is no harmony between religion and science. When science was a child, religion sought to strangle it in the cradle. Now that science has attained its youth, and superstition is in its dotage, the trembling, palsied wreck says to the athlete: “Let us be friends.” It reminds me of the bargain the cock wished to make with the horse: “Let us agree not to step on each other’s feet.”
~ Robert G. Ingersoll, American Soldier, Lawyer, Orator and Politician