Quotes of Robert G. Ingersoll

Robert Ingersoll

Robert G. Ingersoll

Robert Ingersoll was an American politician and orator best known as “the great agnostic” who popularized criticism of the Bible during the Golden Age of Freethought. Ingersoll was a lawyer before he served in the American Civil War, turning to politics in 1867 as Illinois attorney general. 

Robert Ingersoll’s books and writings are in the public domain and can be downloaded for free at Gutenberg.org in epub, Kindle, HTML and plain text format.  To view the available catalogue, please follow this link: Robert Ingersoll Books

Below is a list of popular Robert Ingersoll quotes:

“The hands that help are better far than the lips that pray.” [Robert G. Ingersoll]

“Ministers say that they teach charity. That is natural. They live on hand-outs. All beggars teach that others should give.” [Robert G. Ingersoll]

“The doctrine that future happiness depends upon belief is monstrous. It is the infamy of infamies. 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.” What man, who ever thinks, can believe that blood can appease God? And yet, our entire system of religion is based upon that believe. The Jews pacified Jehovah with the blood of animals, and according to the Christian system, the blood of Jesus softened the heart of God a little, and rendered possible the salvation of a fortunate few. It is hard to conceive how the human mind can give assent to such terrible ideas, or how any sane man can read the Bible and still believe in the doctrine of inspiration.”

[Robert G. Ingersoll, “The Gods”, 1872] “In nature there are neither rewards nor punishments; there are consequences.”

[Robert Ingersoll] “If Christ, in fact, said “I came not to bring peace but a sword,” it is the only prophecy in the New Testament that has been literally fulfilled.”

[Robert G. Ingersoll] “The book, called the Bible, is filled with passages equally horrible, unjust and atrocious. This is the book to be read in schools in order to make our children loving, kind and gentle! This is the book they wish to be recognized in our Constitution as the source of all authority and justice!”

[Robert G. Ingersoll, “The Gods”, 1872] “The civilization of man has increased just to the same extent that religious power has decreased. The intellectual advancement of man depends upon how often he can exchange an old superstition for a new truth. The church never enabled a human being to make even one of these exchanges; on the contrary, all her power has been used to prevent them. In spite, however, of the church, man found that some of his religious conceptions were wrong. By reading his Bible, he found that the ideas of his God were more cruel and brutal than those of the most depraved savage. He also discovered that this holy book was filled with ignorance, and that it must have been written by persons wholly unacquainted with the nature of the phenomena by which we are surrounded; and now and then, some man had the goodness and courage to speak his honest thoughts. In every age some thinker, some doubter, some investigator, some hater of hypocrisy, some despiser of sham, some brave lover of the right, has gladly, proudly and heroically braved the ignorant fury of superstition for the sake of man and truth. These divine men were generally torn in pieces by the worshipers of the gods. Socrates was poisoned because he lacked reverence for some of the deities. Christ was crucified by a religious rabble for the crime of blasphemy. Nothing is more gratifying to a religionist than to destroy his enemies at the command of God. Religious persecution springs from a due admixture of love towards God and hatred towards man.”

[Robert G. Ingersoll, “The Gods”, 1872] “The terrible religious wars that inundated the world with blood tended at least to bring all religion into disgrace and hatred. Thoughtful people began to question the divine origin of a religion that made its believers hold the rights of others in absolute contempt. A few began to compare Christianity with the religions of heathen people, and were forced to admit that the difference was hardly worth dying for. They also found that other nations were even happier and more prosperous than their own. They began to suspect that their religion, after all, was not of much real value.”

[Robert G. Ingersoll, “The Gods”, 1872] “A very pious friend of mine, having heard that I had said the world was full of imperfections, asked me if the report was true. Upon being informed that it was, he expressed great surprise that any one could be guilty of such presumption. He said that, in his judgement, it was impossible to point out an imperfection “Be kind enough,” said he, “to name even one improvement that you could make, if you had the power.” “Well,” said I, “I would make good health catching, instead of disease.” The truth is, it is impossible to harmonize all the ills, and pains, and agonies of this world with the idea that we were created by, and are watched over and protected by an infinitely wise, powerful and beneficent God, who is superior to and independent of nature.”

[Robert G. Ingersoll, “The Gods”, 1872] “When the people failed to worship one of these gods, or failed to feed and clothe his priests, (which was much the same thing,) he generally visited them with pestilence and famine. Sometimes he allowed some other nation to drag them into slavery — to sell their wives and children; but generally he glutted his vengeance by murdering their firstborn. The priests always did their whole duty, not only in predicting these calamities, but in proving, when they did happen, that they were brought upon the people because they had not given quite enough to them.”

[Robert G. Ingersoll, “The Gods”, 1872] “If abuses are destroyed, man must destroy them. If slaves are freed, man must free them. If new truths are discovered, man must discover them. If the naked are clothed; if the hungry are fed; if justice is done; if labor is rewarded; if superstition is driven from the mind; if the defenseless are protected and if the right finally triumphs, all must be the work of man. The grand victories of the future must be won by man, and by man alone.”

[Robert G. Ingersoll, “The Gods”, 1872] “Infidelity is liberty; all religion is slavery.”

[Robert G. Ingersoll] “As long as woman regards the Bible as the charter of her rights, she will be the slave of man. The bible was not written by a woman. Within its leaves there is nothing but humiliation and shame for her.”

[Robert G. Ingersoll] “That church [Catholic] teaches us that we can make God happy by being miserable ourselves…”

[Ingersoll’s Works, Vol. 1, p. 492] “If priests had not been fond of mutton, lambs never would have been sacrified to god. Nothing was ever carried to the temple that the priest could not use, and it always happened that god wanted what his agents liked.”

[Robert G. Ingersoll] “It is a blessed thing that in every age some one has had individuality enough and courage enough to stand by his own convictions. I believe it was Magellan who said, “The church says the earth is flat; but I have seen its shadow on the moon, and I have more confidence even in a shadow than in the Church.” On the prow of his ship were disobedience, defiance, scorn, and success.”

[Robert G. Ingersoll, quoted in _The Great Quotations_] “Reason, Observation and Experience — the Holy Trinity of Science — have taught us that happiness is the only good; that the time to be happy is now, and the way to be happy is to make others so. This is enough for us. In this belief we are content to live and die. If by any possibility the existence of a power superior to, and independent of, nature shall be demonstrated, there will then be time enough to kneel. Until then, let us stand erect.”

[Robert G. Ingersoll, “The Gods”, 1872] “Our ignorance is God; what we know is science.”

[Robert G. Ingersoll] “A crime against god is a demonstrated impossibility.”

[Robert G. Ingersoll] “If a man would follow, today, the teachings of the Old Testament, he would be a criminal. If he would follow strictly the teachings of the New, he would be insane.”

[Robert G. Ingersoll] “The intellectual advancement of man depends on how often he can exchange an old superstition for a new truth.”

[Robert G. Ingersoll] “For many centuries the sword and cross were allies. Together they attacked the rights of man. They defended each other.”

[Robert G. Ingersoll] “These gods did not even know the shape of the worlds they had created, but supposed them perfectly flat. Some thought the day could be lengthened by stopping the sun, that the blowing of horns could throw down the walls of a city, and all knew so little of the real nature of the people they had created, that they commanded the people to love them. Some were so ignorant as to suppose that man could believe just as he might desire, or as they might command, and that to be governed by observation, reason, and experience was a most foul and damning sin. None of these gods could give a true account of the creation of this little earth. All were woefully deficient in geology and astronomy. As a rule, they were most miserable legislators, and as executives, they were far inferior to the average of American presidents.”

[Robert G. Ingersoll, “The Gods”, 1872] “Religion supports nobody. It has to be supported. It produces no wheat, no corn; it ploughs no land; it fells no forests. It is a perpetual mendicant. It lives on the labors of others, and then has the arrogance to pretend that it supports the giver.”

[Robert G. Ingersoll] “We have heard talk enough. We have listened to all the drowsy, idealess, vapid sermons that we wish to hear. We have read your Bible and the works of your best minds. We have heard your prayers, your solemn groans and your reverential amens. All these amount to less than nothing. We want one fact. We beg at the doors of your churches for just one little fact. We pass our hats along your pews and under your pulpits and implore you for just one fact. We know all about your mouldy wonders and your stale miracles. We want a ‘this year’s fact’. We ask only one. Give us one fact for charity. Your miracles are too ancient. The witnesses have been dead for nearly two thousand years. Their reputation for ‘truth and veracity’ in the neighborhood where they resided is wholly unknown to us. Give us a new miracle, and substantiate it by witnesses who still have the cheerful habit of living this world. Do not send us to Jericho to hear the winding horns, nor put us in the fire with Shadrach, Meshech and Abednego. Do not compel us to navigate the sea with Captain Jonah, nor dine with Mr. Ezekiel. There is no sort of use in sending us fox-hunting with Samson. We have positively lost all interest in that little speech so eloquently delivered by Balaam’s inspired donkey. It is worse than useless to show us fishes with money in their mouths, and call our attention to vast multitudes stuffing themselves with five crackers and two sardines. We demand a new miracle, and we demand it now. Let the church furnish at least one, or forever hold her peace.”

[Robert G. Ingersoll] “If all the historic books of the Bible were blotted from the memory of mankind, nothing of value would be lost…I do not see how it is possible for an intelligent human being to conclude that the Song of Solomon is the work of God, and that the tragedy of Lear was the work of an uninspired man.”


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