The Great Agnostic

August 11th, 1833 Robert G. Ingersoll was born. If you are unfamiliar with this iconic orator it is not that surprising. He was best known for his voice, which is sadly lost to history. Fortunately some of his lectures survive, and most are available for free online due to the passage of time. has a few of his books, and on itunes there is an excellent reading of his book by Ted Delorme as part of LibriVox found here.

“The hands that help are better far than lips that pray.”
Robert G. Ingersoll, The Works of Robert G. Ingersoll, Vol. IV

Col. Ingersoll was a lawyer, abolotionist and a colonel of a cavalry division in the civil war. He served as Illinois Attorney General. He so clearly demolishes the apologetics of his day, and even some of his responses to critics are recorded. Arguments that are still used in defense of faith today, were shown false 150 years ago. In fact the New Atheists (Dawkins, Hitchens) more closely resemble the old atheist of the late 19th century. Col. Ingersoll promoted humanism.


“This is my doctrine: Give every other human being every right you claim for yourself.”
Robert G. Ingersoll, The Liberty of Man, Woman and Child

Robert drew large crowds wherever he went, and should be a reminder that freethought and humanism are lasting ideas. The 20th century may have been a dark time for the freethought movement, but we can change that this century.

“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 of all to prevent the few from governing the many and the many from persecuting and destroying the few.”
Robert G. Ingersoll, Individuality From ‘The Gods and Other Lectures’


David Grim

Leave a Reply