Improved Man (1890)
Robert Green Ingersoll
THE Improved Man will be in favor of universal liberty — that is to say, he will be opposed to all kings and nobles, to all privileged classes. He will give to all others the rights he claims for himself. He will neither bow nor cringe, nor accept bowing and cringing from others. He will be neither master nor slave, neither prince nor peasant — simply man.
He will be the enemy of all caste, no matter whether its foundation be wealth, title or power, and of him it will be said: “Blessed is that man who is afraid of no man and of whom no man is afraid.”
The Improved Man will be in favor of universal education. He will believe it the duty of every person to shed all the light he can, to the end that no child may be reared in darkness. By education he will mean the gaining of useful knowledge, the development of the mind along the natural paths that lead to human happiness.
He will not waste his time in ascertaining the foolish theories of extinct peoples or in studying the dead languages for the sake of understanding the theologies of ignorance and fear, but he will turn his attention to the affairs of life, and will do his utmost to see to it that every child has an opportunity to learn the demonstrated facts of science, the true history of the world, the great principles of right and wrong applicable to human conduct — the things necessary to the preservation of the individual and of the state, and such arts and industries as are essential to the preservation of all.
He will also endeavor to develop the mind in the direction of the beautiful — of the highest art — so that the palace in which the mind dwells may be enriched and rendered beautiful, to the end that these stones, called facts, may be changed into statues.
The Improved Man will believe only in the religion of this world. He will have nothing to do with the miraculous and supernatural. He will find that there is no room in the universe for these things. He will know that happiness is the only good, and that everything that tends to the happiness of sentient beings is good, and that to do the things — and no other — that add to the happiness of man is to practice the highest possible religion. His motto will be: “Sufficient unto each world is the evil thereof.” He will know that each man should be his own priest, and that the brain is the real cathedral. He will know that in the realm of maid there is no authority — that majorities in this mental world can settle nothing — that each soul is the sovereign of its own world, and that it cannot abdicate without degrading itself. He will not bow to numbers or force; to antiquity or custom. He, standing under the flag of nature, under the blue and stars, will decide for himself. He will not endeavor by prayers and supplication, by fastings and genuflections, to change the mind of the “Infinite” or alter the course of nature, neither will he employ others to do those things in his place. He will have no confidence in the religion of idleness, and will give no part of what he earns to support parson or priest, archbishop or pope. He will know that honest labor is the highest form of prayer. He will spend no time in ringing bells of swinging sensers, or in chanting the litanies of barbarism, but he will appreciate all that is artistic — that is beautiful — that tends to refine and ennoble the human race. He will not live a life of fear. He will stand in awe neither of man nor ghosts. He will enjoy not only the sunshine of life, but will bear with fortitude the darkest days. He will have no fear of death. About the grave, there will be no terrors, and his life will end as serenely as the sun rises.
The Improved Man will be satisfied that the supernatural does not exist — that behind every fact, every thought and dream is an efficient cause. He will know that every human action is a necessary product, and he will also know that men cannot be reformed by punishment, by degradation or by revenge. He will regard those who violate the laws of nature and the laws of States as victims of conditions, of circumstances, and he will do what he can for the well-being of his fellow-men.
The Improved Man will not give his life to the accumulation of wealth. He will find no happiness in exciting the envy of his neighbors. He will not care to live in a palace while others who are good, industrious and kind are compelled to huddle in huts and dens. He will know that great wealth is a great burden, and that to accumulate beyond the actual needs of a reasonable human being is to increase not wealth, but responsibility and trouble.
The Improved Man will find his greatest joy in the happiness of others and he will know that the home is the real temple. He will believe in the democracy of the fire-side, and will reap his greatest reward in being loved by those whose lives he has enriched.
The Improved Man will be self-poised, independent, candid and free. He will be a scientist. He will observe, investigate, experiment and demonstrate. He will use his sense and his senses. He will keep his mind open as the day to the hints and suggestions of nature. He will always be a student, a learner and a listener — a believer in intellectual hospitality. In the world of his brain there will be continuous summer, perpetual seed-time and harvest. Facts will be the foundation of his faith. In one hand he will carry the torch of truth, and with the other raise the fallen. —
The World, New York, February 23, 1890.