Sunday, March 10, 2013

Reviving Robert Ingersoll

‘The Great Agnostic,’ by Susan Jacoby -

Robert Ingersoll, image via

... Jacoby adds her suspicion that Ingersoll might have fared better had a rise in secularism, which he helped bring about, proved to be permanent. But it is wrong, she notes, to allow his stature to diminish as a result of the resurgence of religion that occurred after his death. “Intellectual history is a relay race, not a 100-yard dash,” Jacoby writes, in a nice turn of phrase. Reporting on the irreligion of many of the country’s founding figures, Ingersoll kept the ideals of secularism alive during his own era and passed them on to us. In particular, he championed the memory of Thomas Paine, whose rejection of religion had led to his being forgotten in Ingersoll’s time, despite the considerable role Paine played in turning the American colonies toward revolution. It may be hoped that Jacoby’s book does as much for Ingersoll as Ingersoll did for Paine.
Ashamed to say that if you'd mentioned Ingersoll to me before I'd read this article, I would've drawn a blank. Knowing now in what high regard he was held by the likes of Clemens and Whitman, and having read a little of his work since stumbling across this article, I'm intrigued and ready to read more ...

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