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Robert Green Ingersoll
8 page printout. Reproducible Electronic Publishing can defeat censorship. **** **** This file, its printout, or copies of either are to be copied and given away, but NOT sold. Bank of Wisdom, Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 **** **** The Works of ROBERT G. INGERSOLL **** **** DIDEROT. DOUBT IS THE FIRST STEP TOWARD TRUTH. Diderot was born in 1713. His parents were in what may be called the humbler walks of life. Like Voltaire he was educated by the Jesuits. He had in him something of the vagabond, and was for several years almost a beggar in Paris. He was endeavoring to live by his pen. In that day and generation, a man without a patron, endeavoring to live by literature, was necessarily almost a beggar. He nearly starved -- frequently going for days without food. Afterward, when he had something himself, he was as generous as the air. No man ever was more willing to give, and no man less willing to receive, than Diderot. He wrote upon all conceivable subjects, that he might have bread. He even wrote sermons, and regretted it all his life. He and D'Alembert were the life and soul of the Encyclopedia. With infinite enthusiasm he helped to gather the knowledge of the world for the use of each and all. He harvested the fields of thought, separated the grain from the straw and chaff, and endeavored to throw away the seeds and fruit of superstition. His motto was, "Incredulity is the first step towards philosophy." He had the vices of most Christians -- was nearly as immoral as the majority of priests. His vices he shared in common, his virtues were his own. All who knew him united in saying that he had the pity of a woman, the generosity of a prince, the self-denial of an anchorite, the courage of Caesar, and the enthusiasm of a poet. He attacked with every power of his mind the superstition of his day. He said what he thought. The priests hated him. He was in favor of universal education -- the church despised it. He wished to put the knowledge of the whole world within reach of the poorest. He wished to drive from the gate of the Garden of Eden the cherubim of superstition, so that the child of Adam might return to eat once more the fruit of the tree of knowledge. Every Catholic was his enemy. His poor little desk was ransacked by the police searching for manuscripts in which something might be found that would justify the imprisonment of such a dangerous man. Whoever, in 1750, wished to increase the knowledge of mankind was regarded as the enemy of social order. Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 1 DIDEROT. The intellectual superstructure of France rests upon the Encyclopedia. The knowledge. given to the people was the impulse, the commencement, of the revolution that left the church without an altar and the king without a throne. Diderot thought for himself, and bravely gave his thoughts to others. For this reason he was regarded as a criminal. He did not expect his reward in another world. He did not do what he did to please some imaginary God. He labored for mankind. He wished to lighten the burdens of those who should live after him. Hear these noble words: "The more man ascends through the past, and the more he launches into the future, the greater he will be, and all these philosophers and ministers and truth-telling men who have fallen victims to the stupidity of nations, the atrocities of priests, the fury of tyrants, what consolation was left for them in death? This: That prejudice would pass, and that posterity would pour out the vial of ignominy upon their enemies. O Posterity! Holy and sacred stay of the unhappy and the oppressed; thou who art just, thou who art incorruptible, thou who findest the good man, who unmaskest the hypocrite, who breakest down the tyrant, may thy sure faith, thy consoling faith never, never abandon me!" Posterity is for the philosopher what the other world is for the devotee. Diderot took the ground that, if orthodox religion be true Christ was guilty of suicide. Having the power to defend himself he should have used it. Of course it would not do for the church to allow a man to die in peace who had added to the intellectual wealth of the world. The moment Diderot was dead, Catholic priests began painting and recounting the horrors of his expiring moments. They described him as overcome with remorse, as insane with fear; and these falsehoods have been repeated by the Protestant world, and will probably be repeated by thousands of ministers after we are dead. The truth is, he had passed his three-score years and ten. He had lived for seventy-one years. He had eaten his supper. He had been conversing with his wife. He was reclining in his easy chair. His mind was at perfect rest. He had entered, without knowing it, the twilight of his last day. Above the horizon was the evening star, telling of sleep. The room grew still and the stillness was lulled by the murmur of the street. There were a few moments of perfect peace. The wife said, "He is asleep." She enjoyed his repose, and breathed softly that he might not be disturbed. The moments wore on, and still he slept. Lovingly, softly, at last she touched him. Yes, he was asleep. He had become a part of the eternal silence. The worst religion of the world was the Presbyterianism of Scotland as it existed in the beginning of the eighteenth century. The Kirk had all the faults of the Church of Rome without a redeeming feature. The Kirk hated music, painting, statuary, and architecture. Anything touched with humanity -- with the dimples of joy -- was detested and accursed. God was to be feared -- not loved. Life was a long battle with the Devil. Every desire was of Satan. Happiness was a snare, and human love was wicked, weak and vain. The Presbyterian priest of Scotland was as cruel, bigoted and heartless as the familiar of the Inquisition. Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 2 DIDEROT. One case will tell it all; In the beginning of this, the nineteenth century, a boy seventeen years of age, Thomas Aikenhead, was indicted and tried at Edinburgh for blasphemy. He had denied the inspiration of the Bible. He had on several occasions, when cold, jocularly wished himself in hell that he might get warm. The poor, frightened boy recanted -- begged for mercy; but he was found guilty, hanged, thrown in a hole at the foot of the scaffold, and his weeping mother vainly begged that his bruised and bleeding body might be given to her. This one case, multiplied again and again, gives you the condition of Scotland when, on the 26th of April, 1711, David Hume was born. David Hume was one of the few Scotchmen of his day who were not owned by the church. He had the manliness to examine historical and religious questions for himself, and the courage to give his conclusions to the world. He was singularly capable of governing himself, He was a philosopher, and lived a calm and cheerful life, unstained by an unjust act, free from all excess, and devoted in a reasonable degree to benefiting his fellow-men. After examining the Bible he became convinced that it was not true. For failing to suppress his real opinion, for failing to tell a deliberate falsehood, he brought upon himself the hatred of the church. Intellectual honesty is the sin against the Holy Ghost, and whether God will forgive this sin or not his church has not, and never will. Hume took the ground that a miracle could not be used as evidence until the fact that it had happened was established. But how can a miracle be established? Take any miracle recorded in the Bible, and how could it be established now? You may say: Upon the testimony of those who wrote the account. Who were they? No one knows. How, could you prove the resurrection of Lazarus? Or of the widow's son? How could you substantiate, today, the ascension of Jesus Christ? In what way could you prove that the river Jordan was divided upon being struck by the coat of a prophet? How is it possible now to establish the fact that the fires. of a furnace refused to burn three men? Where are the witnesses? Who, upon the whole earth, has the slightest knowledge upon this subject? He insisted that at the bottom of all good was the useful; that human happiness was an end worth working and living for; that origin and destiny were alike unknown; that the best religion was to live temperately and to deal justly with our fellowmen; that the dogma of inspiration was absurd, and that an honest man had nothing to fear. Of course the Kirk hated him. He laughed at the creed. To the lot of Hume fell ease, respect, success, and honor. While many disciples of God were the sport and prey of misfortune, he kept steadily advancing. Envious Christians bided their time. They waited as patiently as possible for the horrors of death to fall upon the heart and brain of David Hume. They knew that all the furies would be there, and that God would get his revenge. Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 3 DIDEROT. Adam Smith, author of the "Wealth of Nations," speaking of Hume in his last sickness, says that in the presence of death "his cheerfulness was so great, and his conversation and amusements ran so much in the usual strain, that, notwithstanding all his bad symptoms, many people could not believe he was dying. A few days before his death Hume said: 'I am dying as fast as my enemies -- if I have any, could wish, and as easily and tranquilly as my best friends could desire.'" Col. Edmondstoune shortly afterward wrote Hume a letter, of which the following is an extract: "My heart is full. could not see you this morning. I thought it was better for us both. You cannot die -- you must live in the memory of your friends and acquaintances; and your works will render you immortal. I cannot conceive that it was possible for any one to dislike you, or hate you. He must be more than savage who could be an enemy to a man with the best head and heart and the most amiable manners. Adam Smith happened to go into his room while he was reading the above letter, which he immediately showed him. Smith said to Hume that he was sensible of how much he was weakening, and that appearances were in many respects bad; yet, that his cheerfulness was so great and the spirit of life still seemed to be so strong in him, that he could not keep from, entertaining some hopes. Hume answered, "When I lie down in the evening I feel myself weaker than when I arose in the morning; and when I rise in the morning, weaker than when I lay down in the evening. I am sensible, besides, that some of my vital parts are affected so that I must soon die." "Well." said Mr. Smith, "if it must be so, you have at least the satisfaction of leaving all your friends, and the members of your brother's family in particular, in great prosperity." He replied that he was so sensible of his situation that when he was reading Lucian's Dialogues of the Dead, among all the excuses which are alleged to Charon for not entering readily into his boat, he could not find one that fitted him. He had no house to finish; he had no daughter to provide for; he had no enemies upon whom he wished to revenge himself; "and I could not well," said he, "imagine what excuse I could make to Charon in order to obtain a little delay. I have done everything of consequence which I ever meant to do, and I could, at no time expect to leave my relations and friends in a better situation than that in which I am now likely to leave them; and I have, therefore, every reason to die contented." "Upon further consideration," said he, "I thought I might say to him, 'Good Charon, I have been correcting my works for a new edition. Allow me a little time that I may see how the public receives the alterations.' 'But,' Charon would answer, 'when you have seen the effect of this, you will be for making other alterations. There will be no end to such excuses; so, my honest friend, please step into the boat.' 'But,' I might still urge, 'have a little patience, good Charon; I have been endeavoring to Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 4 DIDEROT. open the eyes of the public; if I live a few years longer, I may have the satisfaction of seeing the downfall of some of the prevailing systems of superstition.' And Charon would then lose all temper and decency, and would cry out, 'You loitering rogue, that will not happen these many hundred years. Do you fancy I will grant you a lease for so long a time? Get into the boat this instant.'" To the Comtesse de Boufflers, the dying man, with the perfect serenity that springs from an honest and loving life, writes: "I see death approach gradually without any anxiety or regret. * * * I salute you with great affection and regard, for the last time." On the 25th of August, 1776, the philosopher, the historian, the infidel, the honest man, and a benefactor of his race, in the composure born of a noble life, passed quietly and panglessly away. Dr Black wrote the following account of his death; "Monday, 26 August, 1776. "Dear Sir: Yesterday, about four o'clock in the afternoon, Mr. Hume expired. The near approach of his death became evident on the evening between Thursday and Friday, when his disease became exhaustive, and soon weakened him so much that he could no longer rise from his bed. He continued to the last perfectly sensible, and free from much pain or feeling of distress. He never dropped the smallest expression of impatience; but when he had occasion to speak to the people about him, always did it with all affection and tenderness. * * * When he became very weak, it cost him an effort to speak, and he died in such happy composure of mind that nothing could exceed it." Dr. Cullen writes Dr. Hunter on the 17th of September, 1776, from which the following extracts are made: "You desire an account of Mr. Hume's last days, and I give it to you with great pleasure. * * * It was truly an example des grands hommes qui sont morts en plaisantant; and to me, who have been so often shocked with the horrors of superstition, the reflection on such a death is truly agreeable. For many weeks before his death he was very sensible of his gradual decay; and his answer to inquiries after his health was, several times, that he was going as fast as his enemies could wish, and as easily as his friends could desire. He passed most of the time in his drawing-room, admitting the visits of his friends, and with his usual spirit conversed with them upon literature and politics and whatever else was started. In conversation he seemed to be perfectly at ease; and to the last abounded with that pleasantry and those curious and entertaining anecdotes which ever distinguished him. * * * His senses and judgment did not fail him to the last hour of his life. He constantly discovered a strong sensibility of the attention and care of his friends; and midst great uneasiness and languor never betrayed any peevishness or impatience." (Here follows the conversation with Charon.) "These are a few particulars which may, perhaps, appear trivial; but to Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 5 DIDEROT. me, no particulars seem trivial which relate to so great a man. It is perhaps from trifles that we can best distinguish the tranquilness and cheerfulness of the philosopher at a time when the most part of mankind are under disquiet, and sometimes even horror. I consider the sacrifice of the cock as a more certain evidence of the tranquillity of Socrates than his discourse on immortality." The Christians took it for granted that this serene and placid man died filled with remorse for having given his real opinions, and proceeded to describe, with every incident and detail of horror, the terrors of his last moments. Brainless clergymen, incapable of understanding what Hume had written, knowing only in a general way that he had held their creeds in contempt, answered his arguments by maligning his character. Christians took it for granted that he died in horror and recounted the terrible scenes. When the facts of his death became generally known to intelligent men, the ministers redoubled their efforts to maintain the old calumnies, and most of them are in this employment even unto this day. Finding it impossible to tell enough falsehoods to hide the truth, a few of the more intelligent among the priests admitted that Hume not only died without showing any particular fear, but was guilty of unbecoming levity. The first charge was that he died like a coward; the next that he did not care enough, and went through the shadowy doors of the dread unknown with a smile upon his lips. The dying smile of David Hume scandalized the believers in a God of love. They felt shocked to see a man dying without fear who denied the miracles of the Bible; who had spent a life investigating the opinions of men; in endeavoring to prove to the world that the right way is the best way; that happiness is a real and substantial good, and that virtue is not a termagant with sunken cheeks and hollow eyes. Christians hated to admit that a philosopher had died serenely without the aid of superstition -- one who had taught that man could not make God happy by making himself miserable, and that a useful life, after all, was the best possible religion. They imagined that death would fill such a man with remorse and terror. He had never persecuted his fellowmen for the honor of God, and must needs die in despair. They were mistaken. He died as he had lived. Like a peaceful river with green and shaded banks he passed, without a murmur, into that waveless sea where life at last is rest. BENEDICT SPINOZA. One of the greatest thinkers was Benedict Spinoza, a Jew, born at Amsterdam, in 1632. He studied medicine and afterward theology. He endeavored to understand what he studied. In theology he necessarily failed. Theology is not intended to be understood, -- it is only to be believed. It is an act, not of reason, but of faith. Spinoza put to the rabbis so many questions, and so persistently asked for reasons, that he became the most troublesome of students. When the rabbis found it impossible to answer the Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 6 DIDEROT. questions, they concluded to silence the questioner. He was tried, found guilty, and excommunicated from the synagogue. By the terrible curse of the Jewish religion, he was made an outcast from every Jewish home. His father could not give him shelter. His mother could not give him bread -- could not speak to him, without becoming an outcast herself. All the cruelty of Jehovah, all the infamy of the Old Testament, was in this curse. In the darkness of the synagogue the rabbis lighted their torches, and while pronouncing the curse, extinguished them in blood, imploring God that in like manner the soul of Benedict Spinoza might be extinguished. Spinoza was but twenty-four years old when he found himself without kindred, without friends, surrounded only by enemies. He uttered no complaint. He earned his bread with willing hands, and eheerfully divided his crust with those still poorer than himself. He tried to solve the problem of existence. To him, the universe was One. The Infinite embraced the All. The All was God. According to his belief, the universe did not; commence to be. It is; from eternity it was; to eternity it will be. He was right. The universe is all there is, or was, or will be. It is both subject and object, contemplator and contemplated, creator and created, destroyer and destroyed, preserver and preserved, and hath within itself all causes, modes, motions and effects. In this there is hope. This is a foundation and a star. The Infinite is the All. Without the All, the Infinite cannot be. I am something. Without me, the Infinite cannot exist. Spinoza was a naturalist -- that is to say, a pantheist. He took the ground that the supernatural is, and forever will be, an infinite impossibility. His propositions are luminous as stars, and each of his demonstrations is a Gibraltar, behind which logic sits and smiles at all the sophistries of superstition. Spinoza has been hated because he has not been answered. He was a real republican. He regarded the people as the true and only source of political power. He put the state above the church, the people above the priest. He believed in the absolute liberty of worship, thought and speech. In every relation of life he was just, true, gentle, patient, modest and loving. He respected the rights of others, and endeavored to enjoy his own, and yet he brought upon himself the hatred of the Jewish and the Christian world. In his day, logic was blasphemy, and to think was the unpardonable sin. The priest hated the philosopher, revelation reviled reason, and faith was the sworn foe of every fact. Spinoza was a philosopher, a philanthropist. He lived in a world of his own. He avoided men. His life was an intellectual solitude. He was a mental hermit. Only in his own brain he found the liberty he loved. And yet the rabbis and the priests, the ignorant zealot and the cruel bigot, feeling that this quiet, thoughtful, modest man was in some way forging weapons to be used against the church, hated him with all their hearts. Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 7 DIDEROT. He did not retaliate. He found excuses for their acts. Their ignorance, their malice, their misguided and revengeful zeal excited only pity in his breast. He injured no man. He did not live on alms. He was poor -- and yet, with the wealth of his brain, he enriched the world. On Sunday, February 21, 1677, Spinoza, one of the greatest and subtlest of metaphysicians -- one of the noblest and purest of human beings, -- at the age of forty-four, passed tranquilly away; and notwithstanding the curse of the synagogue under which he had lived and most lovingly labored, death left upon his lips the smile of perfect peace. **** **** Reproducible Electronic Publishing can defeat censorship. The Bank of Wisdom Inc. is a collection of the most thoughtful, scholarly and factual books. These computer books are reprints of suppressed books and will cover American and world history; the Biographies and writings of famous persons, and especially of our nations Founding Fathers. They will include philosophy and religion. all these subjects, and more, will be made available to the public in electronic form, easily copied and distributed, so that America can again become what its Founders intended -- The Free Market-Place of Ideas. The Bank of Wisdom is always looking for more of these old, hidden, suppressed and forgotten books that contain needed facts and information for today. If you have such books please contact us, we need to give them back to America. **** **** Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 8