Robert Ingersoll was a master of political oratory and an opponent of slavery, women’s subjugation, and religion.
Robert Ingersoll, born in 1833, was the son of a preacher. He served in the Civil War, and later became active in the Republican party. He was a master of political oratory, and one of his most frequent topics was his critical view of religion. Despite this, and despite the times, he still maintained a great level of popularity.
Robert Ingersoll Quotes on God
Ingersoll did not view God as a real entity, but rather an imaginary tyrant created by man. His views on God were as confrontational as they come, and included both attacks on God’s existence and God’s morality.
If there be an infinite Being, he does not need our help – we need not waste our energies in his defense.
Strange but true: those who have loved God most have loved men least.
As long as every question is answered by the word “God,” scientific inquiry is simply impossible.
We are satisfied that there can be but little liberty on earth while men worship a tyrant in heaven.
I cannot see why we should expect an infinite God to do better in another world than he does in this.
Robert Ingersoll Quotes on Religion
Ingersoll did not view religion as as good force for humanity. Instead, he attacked religion as one of the fundamental sources of man’s problems and castigated the clergy in particular as immoral.
In all ages hypocrites, called priests, have put crowns on the heads of thieves, called kings.
The inspiration of the Bible depends upon the ignorance of the gentleman who reads it.
Ministers say that they teach charity. This is natural. They live on alms. All beggars teach that others should give.
Robert Ingersoll Quotes on Hell
Ingersoll was particularly vehement about his dislike of the idea of Hell. He viewed it as immoral, unjust, and by itself reason enough to discard Christianity as cruel and untrue. It is likely that harsher words about Hell had never before been spoken, and perhaps since.
If there is a God who will damn his children forever, I would rather go to hell than to go to heaven and keep the society of such an infamous tyrant…This doctrine never should be preached again. What right have you, sir, Mr. clergyman, you, minister of the gospel to stand at the portals of the tomb, at the vestibule of eternity, and fill the future with horror and with fear? I do not believe this doctrine, neither do you. If you did, you could not sleep one moment. Any man who believes it, and has within his breast a decent, throbbing heart, will go insane. A man who believes that doctrine and does not go insane has the heart of a snake and the conscience of a hyena.
The doctrine of eternal punishment is in perfect harmony with the savagery of the men who made the orthodox creeds. It is in harmony with torture, with flaying alive, and with burnings. The men who burned their fellow-men for a moment, believed that God would burn his enemies forever.
The notion that faith in Christ is to be rewarded by an eternity of bliss, while a dependence upon reason, observation and experience merits everlasting pain, is too absurd for refutation, and can be relieved only by that unhappy mixture of insanity and ignorance, called “faith.”
Robert Ingersoll quotes on love
The man who has really won the love of one good woman in this world, I do not care if he dies in the ditch a beggar – his life has been a success.
Good nature is the cheapest commodity in the world, and love is the only thing that will pay ten percent, to borrower and lender both.
Fear, prejudice, malice, and the love of approbation bribe a thousand men where gold bribes one.
In spite of my surroundings, of my education, I had no love for God.
What light is to the eyes – what air is to the lungs – what love is to the heart, liberty is to the soul of man.
I regard the rights of men and women equal. In Love’s fair realm, husband and wife are king and queen, sceptered and crowned alike, and seated on the self-same throne.
Whoever labors for the happiness of those he loves elevates himself, no matter whether he works in the dreary shop or the perfumed field.
The grandest ambition that any man can possibly have is to so live and so improve himself in heart and brain as to be worthy of the love of some splendid woman; and the grandest ambition of any girl is to make herself worthy of the love and adoration of some magnificent man.
I would rather live and love where death is king than have eternal life where love is not.
Taste and love are not the servants of the will. Love is and must be free. It rises from the heart like perfume from a flower.
All the punishment in the world will not reform a man, unless he knows that he who inflicts it upon him does it for the sake of reformation, and really and truly loves him, and has his good at heart. Punishment inflicted for gratifying the appetite makes man afraid but debases him.
When men are prosperous, they are in love with life. Nature grows beautiful, the arts begin to flourish, there is work for painter and sculptor, the poet is born, the stage is erected – and this life with which men are in love is represented in a thousand forms.
Robert Ingersoll quotes on death
We need men with moral courage to speak and write their real thoughts, and to stand by their convictions, even to the very death.
When the will defies fear, when duty throws the gauntlet down to fate, when honor scorns to compromise with death – that is heroism.
I say that no man can be greater than the man who bravely and heroically sacrifices his life for the good of others. No man can be greater than the one who meets death face to face, and yet will not shrink from what he believes to be his highest duty.
Robert Ingersoll’s quotes, while shocking to many today, were far more shocking in the 19th century when religion had far more influence and unbelief had a much greater stigma in the United States. Ingersoll’s words, it must be remembered, were spoken just 200 years after people were executed in America for witchcraft.