Quotes: Robert G. Ingersoll

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There has never been upon the earth a generation of free men and women. It is not yet time to write a creed. Wait until the chains are broken—until dungeons are not regarded as temples. Wait until solemnity is not mistaken for wisdom—until mental cowardice ceases to be known as reverence. Wait until the living are considered the equals of the dead—until the cradle takes precedence of the coffin. Wait until what we know can be spoken without regard to what others may believe. Wait until teachers take the place of preachers—until followers become investigators. Wait until the world is free before you write a creed.

In this creed there will be but one word—Liberty.

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When you go home you ought to go like a ray of light—so that it will, even in the night, burst out of the doors and windows and illuminate the darkness.

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The glory of science is, that it is freeing the soul -- breaking the mental manacles -- getting the brain out of bondage -- giving courage to thought -- filling the world with mercy, justice, and joy.

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If the Pentateuch is not inspired in its astronomy, geology, geography, history or philosophy, if it is not inspired concerning slavery, polygamy, war, law, religious or political liberty, or the rights of men, women and children, what is it inspired in, or about? The unity of God?—that was believed long before Moses was born. Special providence?—that has been the doctrine of ignorance in all ages. The rights of property?—theft was always a crime. The sacrifice of animals?—that was a custom thousands of years before a Jew existed. The sacredness of life?—there have always been laws against murder. The wickedness of perjury?—truthfulness has always been a virtue. The beauty of chastity?—the Pentateuch does not teach it. Thou shalt worship no other God?—that has been the burden of all religions.

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In my judgment, the woman is the equal of the man. She has all the rights I have and one more, and that is the right to be protected. That is my doctrine. You are married; try and make the woman you love happy. Whoever marries simply for himself will make a mistake; but whoever loves a woman so well that he says 'I will make her happy,' makes no mistake. And so with the woman who says, 'I will make him happy.' There is only one way to be happy, and that is to make somebody else so.

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It is contended by many that ours is a Christian government, founded upon the Bible, and that all who look upon the book as false or foolish are destroying the foundation of our country. The truth is, our government is not founded upon the rights of gods, but upon the rights of men. Our Constitution was framed, not to declare and uphold the deity of Christ, but the sacredness of humanity. Ours is the first government made by the people and for the people. It is the only nation with which the gods have had nothing to do. And yet there are some judges dishonest and cowardly enough to solemnly decide that this is a Christian country, and that our free institutions are based upon the infamous laws of Jehovah.

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The hands that help are better far than lips that pray.

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For many years I have regarded the Pentateuch simply as a record of a barbarous people, in which are found a great number of the ceremonies of savagery, many absurd and unjust laws, and thousands of ideas inconsistent with known and demonstrated facts. To me it seemed almost a crime to teach that this record was written by inspired men; that slavery, polygamy, wars of conquest and extermination were right, and that there was a time when men could win the approbation of infinite Intelligence, Justice, and Mercy, by violating maidens and by butchering babes.

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Let us account for all we see by the facts we know. If there are things for which we cannot account, let us wait for light. To account for anything by supernatural agencies is, in fact to say that we do not know. Theology is not what we know about God, but what we do not know about Nature.

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Justice is the only worship.
Love is the only priest.
Ignorance is the only slavery.
Happiness is the only good.
The time to be happy is now,
The place to be happy is here,
The way to be happy is to make others so.
Wisdom is the science of happiness.

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It has always been a mystery to me how Adam, Eve, and the serpent were taught the same language. Where did they get it? We know now, that it requires a great number of years to form a language; that it is of exceedingly slow growth. We also know that by language, man conveys to his fellows the impressions made upon him by what he sees, hears, smells and touches. We know that the language of the savage consists of a few sounds, capable of expressing only a few ideas or states of the mind, such as love, desire, fear, hatred, aversion and contempt. Many centuries are required to produce a language capable of expressing complex ideas. It does not seem to me that ideas can be manufactured by a deity and put in the brain of man. These ideas must be the result of observation and experience.

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Heresy is the eternal dawn, the morning star, the glittering herald of the day. Heresy is the last and best thought. It is the perpetual New World, the unknown sea, toward which the brave all sail. It is the eternal horizon of progress.
Heresy extends the hospitalities of the brain to a new thought.
Heresy is a cradle; orthodoxy, a coffin.

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Love is the only bow on Life’s dark cloud. It is the morning and the evening star. It shines upon the babe, and sheds its radiance on the quiet tomb. It is the mother of art, inspirer of poet, patriot and philosopher.

It is the air and light of every heart – builder of every home, kindler of every fire on every hearth. It was the first to dream of immortality. It fills the world with melody – for music is the voice of love.

Love is the magician, the enchanter, that changes worthless things to Joy, and makes royal kings and queens of common clay. It is the perfume of that wondrous flower, the heart, and without that sacred passion, that divine swoon, we are less than beasts; but with it, earth is heaven, and we are gods.

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Strike, with hand of fire, O weird musician, thy harp strung with Apollo's golden hair; fill the vast cathedral aisles with symphonies sweet and dim, deft toucher of the organ keys; blow, bugler, blow, until thy silver notes do touch and kiss the moonlit waves, and charm the lovers wandering 'mid the vine-clad hills. But know, your sweetest strains are discords all, compared with childhood's happy laugh—the laugh that fills the eyes with light and every heart with joy. O rippling river of laughter, thou art the blessed boundary line between the beasts and men; and every wayward wave of thine doth drown some fretful fiend of care. O Laughter, rose-lipped daughter of Joy, there are dimples enough in thy cheeks to catch and hold and glorify all the tears of grief.

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With every drop of my blood I hate and execrate every form of tyranny, every form of slavery. I hate dictation. I love liberty.

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Upon the shadowy shore of death the sea of trouble casts no wave. Eyes that have been curtained by the everlasting dark, will never know again the burning touch of tears. Lips touched by eternal silence will never speak again the broken words of grief. Hearts of dust do not break. The dead do not weep. Within the tomb no veiled and weeping sorrow sits, and in the rayless gloom is crouched no shuddering fear.

I think of those I have loved and lost as having returned to earth, as having become a part of the elemental wealth of the world – I think of them as unconscious dust, I dream of them as gurgling in the streams, floating in the clouds, bursting in the foam of light upon the shores of worlds...

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Not one of the learned gentlemen who pretend that the Mosaic laws are filled with justice and intelligence, would live, for a moment, in any country where such laws were in force.

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So, ministers say that they teach charity. This is natural. They live on alms. All beggars teach that others should give.

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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.

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What would have become of the people five hundred years ago if they had followed strictly the advice of the doctors? They would have all been dead. What would the people have been, if at any age of the world they had followed implicitly the direction of the church? They would have all been idiots. It is a splendid thing that there is always some grand man who will not mind, and who will think for himself. I believe in allowing the children to think for themselves.

I believe in the democracy of the family. If in this world there is anything splendid, it is a home where all are equals.