Robert Green Ingersoll
25 page printout Reproducible Electronic Publishing can defeat censorship. Contents of this file page SUICIDE OF JUDGE NORMILE. 1 IS SUICIDE A SIN? 1894 6 COL. INGERSOLL'S REPLY TO HIS CRITICS. 11 SUICIDE A SIN. an interview 20 SUICIDE AND SANITY. 24 **** **** 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 **** **** A reply to the Western Watchman, published in the St. Louis Globe Democrat, Sept. 1 1892. SUICIDE OF JUDGE NORMILE. QUESTION: Have you read an article in the Western Watchman. entitled "Suicide of Judge Normile"? If so, what is your opinion of it? ANSWER: I have read the article, and I think the spirit in which it is written is in exact accord with the creed, with the belief, that prompted it. In this article the writer speaks not only of Judge Normile, but of Henry D'Arcy, and begins by saying that a Catholic community had been shocked, but that as a matter of fact the Catholics had no right "to feel special concern in the life or death of either," for the reason, "that both had ceased to be Catholics, and had lived as infidels and scoffers." According to the Catholic creed all infidels and scoffers are on the direct road to eternal pain; and yet, if the Watchman is to be believed, Catholics have no right to have special concern for the fate of such people, even after their death. The church has always proclaimed that it was seeking the lost -- that it was trying in every way to convert the infidels and save the scoffers -- that it cared less for the ninety-nine sheep safe in the fold than for the one that had strayed. We have been told that God so loved infidels and scoffers, that he came to this poor world and gave his life that they might be saved. But now we are told by the Western Watchman that the church, said to have been founded by Christ, has no right to feel any special concern about the fate of infidels and scoffers. Possibly the Watchman only refers to the infidels and scoffers who were once Catholics. If the New Testament is true, St. Peter was at one time a Christian; that is to say, a good Catholic, and yet he fell from grace and not only denied his Master, but went to the extent of swearing that he did not know him; that he never had made his acquaintance. And yet, this same Peter was taken back and became the rock on which the Catholic Church is supposed to rest. 1 SUICIDE OF JUDGE NORMILE. Are the Catholics of St. Louis following the example of Christ, when they publicly declare that they care nothing for the fate of one who left the church and who died in his sins? The Watchman, in order to show that it was simply doing its duty, and was not actuated by hatred or malice, assures us as follows: "A warm personal friendship existed between D'Arcy and Normile and the managers of this paper." What would the Watchman have said if these men had been the personal enemies of the managers of that paper? Two warm personal friends, once Catholics, had gone to hell; but the managers of the Watchman, "warm personal friends" of the dead, had no right to feel any special concern about these friends in the flames of perdition. One would think that pity had changed to piety. Another wonderful statement is that "both of these men determined to go to hell, if there was a hell, and to forego the joys of heaven, if there was a heaven." Admitting that heaven and hell exist, that heaven is a good place, and that hell, to say the least, is, and eternally will be, unpleasant, why should any sane man unalterably determine to go to hell? It is hard to think of any reason, unless he was afraid of meeting those Catholics in heaven who had been his "warm personal friends" in this world. The truth is that no one wishes to be unhappy in this or any other country. The truth is that Henry D'Arcy and Judge Normile both became convinced that the Catholic Church is of human origin, that its creed is not true, that it is the enemy of progress, and the foe of freedom. It may be that they were in part led to these conclusions by the conduct of their "warm Personal friends." It is claimed that these men, Henry D'Arcy and Judge Normile "studied" to convince themselves "that there was no God;" that "they went back to Paganism and lived among the ancients," and that they soon revelled "in the grossness of Paganism." If they went back to Paganism, they certainly found plenty of gods. The Pagans filled heaven and earth with deities. The Catholics have only three, while the Pagans had hundreds. And yet there were some very good Pagans. By associating with Socrates and Plato one would not necessarily become a groveling wretch. Zeno was not altogether abominable. He would compare favorably, at least, with the average pope. Aristotle was not entirely despicable, although wrong, it may be, in many things. Epicurus was temperate, frugal and serene. He perceived the beauty of use, and celebrated the marriage of virtue and joy. He did not teach his disciples to revel in grossness, although his malingers have made this charge. Cicero was a Pagan, and yet he uttered some very sublime and generous sentiments. Among other things, he said this: "When we say that we should love Romans, but not foreigners, we destroy the bond of universal brotherhood and drive from our hearts charity and justice." Suppose a Pagan had written about "two warm personal friends" of his, who had joined the Catholic Church, and suppose he had said this: "Although our two warm personal fiends have both died by their own hands, and although both have gone to the lowest hell, and are now suffering inconceivable agonies, we have no right to Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 2 SUICIDE OF JUDGE NORMILE. feel any special concern about them or about their sufferings; and, to speak frankly, we care nothing for their agonies, nothing for their tears, and we mention them only to keep other Pagans from joining that blasphemous and ignorant church. Both of our friends were raised as Pagans, both were educated in our holy religion, and both had read the works of our greatest and wisest authors, and yet they fell into apostasy, and studied day and night, in season and out of season, to convince themselves that a young carpenter of Palestine was in fact, Jupiter, whom we call Stator, the creator, the sustainer and governor of all." It is probable that the editor of the Watchman was perfectly conscientious in his attack on the dead. Nothing but a sense of religious duty could induce any man to attack the character of a "warm personal friend," and to say that although the friend was in hell, he felt no special concern as to his fate. The Watchman seems to think that it is hardly probable or possible that a sane Catholic should become an infidel. People of every religion feel substantially in this way. It is probable that the Mohammedan is of the opinion that no sane believer in the religion of Islam could possibly become a Catholic. Probably there are no sane Mohammedans. I do not know. Now, it seems to me, that when a sane Catholic reads the history of his church, of the Inquisition, of centuries of flame and sword, of philosophers and thinkers tortured, flayed and burned by the "Bride of God," and of all the cruelties of Christian years, he may reasonably come to the conclusion that the Church of Rome is not the best possible church in this, the best possible of all worlds. It would hardly impeach his sanity if after reading the history of superstition, he should denounce the Hierarchy, from priest to pope. The truth is, the real opinions of all men are perfectly honest no matter whether they are for or against the Catholic creed. All intelligent people are intellectually hospitable. Every man who knows something of the operations of his own mind is absolutely certain that his wish has not, to his knowledge, influenced his judgment. He may admit that his wish has influenced his speech, but he must certainly know that it has not affected his judgment. In other words, a man cannot cheat himself in a game of solitaire and really believe that he has won the game. No matter what the appearance of the cards may be, he knows whether the game was lost or won. So, men may say that their judgment is a certain way, and they may so affirm in accordance with their wish, but neither the wish, nor the declaration can affect the real judgment. So, a man must know whether he believes a certain creed or not, or, at least, what the real state of his mind is. When a man tells me that he believes in the supernatural, in the miraculous, and in the inspiration of the Scriptures, I take it for granted that he is telling the truth, although it seems impossible to me that the man could reach that conclusion. When another tells me that he does not know whether there is a Supreme Being or not, but that he does not Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 3 SUICIDE OF JUDGE NORMILE. believe in the supernatural, and is perfectly satisfied that the Scriptures are for the most part false and barbarous, I implicitly believe every word he says. I admit cheerfully that there are many millions of men and women who believe what to me seems impossible and infinitely absurd; and, undoubtedly, what I believe seems to them equally impossible. Let us give to others the liberty which we claim for ourselves. The Watchman seems to think that unbelief, especially when coupled with what they call "the sins of the flesh," is the lowest possible depth, and tells us that "robbers may be devout," "murderers penitent," and "drunkards reverential." In some of these statements the Watchman is probably correct. There have been "devout robbers." There have been gentlemen of the highway, agents of the road, who carried sacred images, who bowed at holy shrines for the purpose of securing success. For many centuries the devout Catholics robbed the Jews. The devout Ferdinand and Isabella were great robbers. A great many popes have indulged in this theological pastime, not to speak of the rank and file. Yes, the Watchman is right. There is nothing in robbery that necessarily interferes with devotion. There have been penitent murderers, and most murderers, unless impelled by a religious sense of duty to God, have been penitent. David, with dying breath, advised his son to murder the old friends of his father. He certainly was not penitent. Undoubtedly Torquemada murdered without remorse, and Calvin burned his "warm personal friend" to gain the applause of God. Philip the Second was a murderer, not penitent, because he deemed it his duty. The same may be said of the Duke of Alva, and of thousands of others. Robert Burns was not, according to his own account, strictly virtuous, and yet I like him better than I do those who planned and carried into bloody execution the massacre of St. Bartholomew. Undoubtedly murderers have been penitent. A man in California cut the throat of a woman, although she begged for mercy, saying at the same time that she was not prepared to die. He cared nothing for her prayers. He was tried, convicted and sentenced to death. He made a motion for a new trial. This was denied. He appealed to the governor, but the executive refused to interfere. Then he became penitent and experienced religion. On the scaffold he remarked that he was going to heaven; that his only regret was that he would not meet the woman he had murdered, as she was not a Christian when she died. Undoubtedly murderers can be penitent. An old Spaniard was dying. He sent for a priest to administer the last sacraments of the church. The priest told him that he must forgive all his enemies. "I have no enemies," said the dying man, "I killed the last one three weeks ago." Undoubtedly murderers can be penitent. Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 4 SUICIDE OF JUDGE NORMILE. So, I admit that drunkards have been pious and reverential, and I might add, honest and generous. Some good Catholics and some good Protestants have enjoyed a hospitable glass, and there have been priests who used the blood of the grape for other than a sacramental purpose. Even Luther, a good Catholic in his day, a reformer, a Doctor of Divinity, gave to the world this couplet: "who loves not woman, wine and song, will live a fool his whole life long." The Watchman in effect, says that a devout robber is better than an infidel; that a penitent murderer is superior to a freethinker, in the sight of God. Another curious thing in this article is that after sending both men to hell, the Watchman says: "As to their moral habits we know nothing." It may then be taken for granted, if these "warn, personal friends" knew nothing against the dead, that their lives were, at least, what the church calls moral. We know, if we know anything, that there is no necessary connection between what is called religion and morality. Certainly there were millions of moral people, those who loved mercy and dealt honesty, before the Catholic Church existed. The virtues were well known, and practiced, before a triple crown surrounded the cunning brain of an Italian Vicar of God, and before the flames of the Auto da fe delighted the hearts of a Christian mob. Thousands of people died for the right, before the wrong organized the infallible church. But why should any man deem it his duty or feel it a pleasure to say harsh and cruel things of the dead? Why pierce the brow of death with the thorns of hatred? Suppose the editor of the Watch man had died, and Judge Normile had been the survivor, would the infidel and scoffer have attacked the unreplying dead? Henry D'Arcy I did not know; but Judge Normile was my friend and I was his. Although we met but a few times, he excited my admiration and respect. He impressed me as being an exceedingly intelligent man, well informed on many subjects, of varied reading, possessed of a clear and logical mind, a poetic temperament, enjoying the beautiful things in literature and art. and the noble things in life. He gave his opinions freely, but without the least arrogance, and seemed perfectly willing that others should enjoy the privilege of differing with him. He was, so far as I could perceive, a gentleman, tender of the feelings of others, free and manly in his bearing, "of most excellent fancy," and a most charming and agreeable companion. According, however, to the Watchman, such a man is far below a "devout robber" or a "penitent murderer." Is it possible that an assassin like Ravillac is far better than a philosopher like Voltaire; and that all the Catholic robbers and murderers who retain their faith, give greater delight to God than the Humboldts, Haeckels and Darwins who have filled the world with intellectual light? Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 5 SUICIDE OF JUDGE NORMILE. Possibly the Catholic Church is mistaken. Possibly the Watchman is in error, and possibly there may be for the erring, even in another world, some asylum besides hell. Judge Normile died by his own hand. Certainly he was not afraid of the future. He was not appalled by death. He died by his own hand. Can anything be more pitiful -- more terrible? How can a man in the flowing tide and noon of life destroy himself? What storms there must have been within the brain; what tempests must have raved and wrecked; what lightnings blinded and revealed; what hurrying clouds obscured and hid the stars; what monstrous shapes emerged from gloom; what darkness fell upon the day; what visions filled the night; how the light failed; how paths were lost; how highways disappeared; how chasms yawned; until one thought -- the thought of death -- swift, compassionate and endless -- became the insane monarch of the mind. Standing by the prostrate form of one who thus found death, it is far better to pity than to revile -- to kiss the clay than curse the man. The editor of the Watchman has done himself injustice. He has not injured the dead, but the living. I am an infidel -- an unbeliever -- and yet I hope that all the children of men may find peace and joy. No matter how they leave this world, from altar or from scaffold, crowned with virtue or stained with crime, I hope that good may come to all. Robert G. Ingersoll.