Thursday, August 11, 2011

Happy Birthday, Bob

only known image of Ingersoll speaking
Today in 1833, in Dresden, New York, Robert Green "Bob" Ingersoll was born.

Ingersoll was most noted as an orator, the most popular of his age, when oratory was public entertainment. He was stunningly popular as a speaker, given that his most popular subject was agnosticism; many attacked him as a blasphemer, but crowds paid the then-huge sum of a dollar to hear him advocate free thought and attack organized religion.

Ingersoll enjoyed a friendship with the poet Walt Whitman, who considered Ingersoll the greatest orator of his time. "It should not be surprising that I am drawn to Ingersoll, for he is Leaves of Grass... He lives, embodies, the individuality, I preach. I see in Bob the noblest specimen--American-flavored--pure out of the soil, spreading, giving, demanding light." At the poet's death, Ingersoll delivered one of the great panegyrics.

Ambrose Bierce's satiric Decalogue contained this Second Commandment: "No images nor idols make/for Robert Ingersoll to break."

His obituary said
Ingersoll was one of the most eloquent public men of the present day. He was a lawyer of pronounced supremacy and was held in the highest esteem in the courts of his country. There was no office in the gift of his people that he could not have obtained but for his pronounced antagonism to orthodox Christianity. A man of unimpeachable morality and uprightness, honest in all his dealings, overflowing with generous impulses, Ingersoll set his face against the teachings of revelation and, as his spare moments permitted, conducted an energetic warfare against the Church of Christ.
And he said, among other things:
You can't be bad enough to cause an earthquake, neither can you be good enough to stop one.

You can find more about him here.

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