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Robert Ingersoll What Infidels Have Done

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What Infidels Have Done

Robert Green Ingersoll

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Contents of this file                       page

WHAT INFIDELS HAVE DONE.                           1
UNITARIAN CLUB DINNER.                             4
THIRTEEN CLUB DINNER.                             13
SPIRITUALITY.                                     15

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ONE HUNDRED years after Christ had died suppose some one had
asked a Christian, What hospitals have you built? What asylums have
you founded? They would have said "None." Suppose three hundred
years after the death of Christ the same questions had been asked
the Christian, he would have said "None, not one." Two hundred
years more and the answer would have been the same. And at that
time the Christian could have told the questioner that the
Mohammedans had built asylums before the Christians. He could also
have told him that there had been orphan asylums in China for
hundreds and hundreds of years, hospitals in India, and hospitals
for the sick at Athens.

Here it may be well enough to say that all hospitals and
asylums are not built for charity. They are built because people do
not want to be annoyed by the sick and the insane. If a sick man
should come down the street and sit upon your doorstep, what would
you do with him? You would have to take him into your house or
leave him to suffer. Private families do not wish to take the
burden of the sick. Consequently, in self-defence, hospitals are
built so that any wanderer coming to a house, dying, or suffering
from any disease, may immediately be packed off to a hospital and
not become a burden upon private charity. The fact that many
diseases are contagious rendered hospitals necessary for the
preservation of the lives of the citizens. The same thing is true
of the asylums. People do not, as a rule, want to take into their
families, all the children who happen to have no fathers and
mothers. So they endow and build an asylum where those children can
be sent -- and where they can be whipped according to law, Nobody
wants an insane stranger in his house. The consequence is, that the
community, to get rid of these people, to get rid of the trouble,
build public institutions and send them there.

Now, then, to come to the point, to answer the interrogatory
often flung at us from the pulpit, What institutions have Infidels
built? In the first place, there have not been many Infidels for
many years and, as a rule, a known Infidel cannot get very rich,

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for the reason, that the Christians are so forgiving and loving
they boycott him. If the average Infidel, freely stating his
opinion, could get through the world himself, for the last several
hundred years, he has been in good luck. But as a matter of fact
there have been some Infidels who have done some good, even from a
Christian standpoint. The greatest charity ever established in the
United States by a man -- not by a community to get rid of a
nuisance, but by a man who wished to do good and wished that good
to last after his death -- is the Girard College in the city of
Philadelphia. Girard was an Infidel. He gained his first publicity
by going like a common person into the hospitals and taking care of
those suffering from contagious diseases -- from cholera and
smallpox. So there is a man by the name of James Lick, an Infidel,
who has given the finest observatory ever given to the world. And
it is a good thing for an Infidel to increase the sight of men. The
reason people are theologians is because they cannot see. Mr. Lick
has increased human vision, and I can say right here that nothing
has been seen through the telescope calculated to prove the
astronomy of Joshua. Neither can you see with that telescope a star
that bears a Christian name. The reason is that Christianity was
opposed to astronomy. so astronomers took their revenge, and now
there is not one star that glitters in all the vast firmament of
the boundless heavens that has a Christian name. Mr. Carnegie has
been what they call a public-spirited man. He has given millions of
dollars for libraries and other institutions, and he certainly is
not an orthodox Christian.

Infidels, however, have done much better even than that. They
have increased the sum of human knowledge. John W. Draper, in his
work on "The Intellectual Development of Europe," has done more
good to the American people and to the civilized world than all the
priests in it. He was an Infidel. Buckle is another who has added
to the sum of human knowledge. Thomas Paine, an Infidel, did more
for this country than any other man who ever lived in it.

Most of the colleges in this country have, I admit, been
founded by Christians, and the money for their support has been
donated by Christians, but most of the colleges of this country
have simply classified ignorance, and I think the United States
would be more learned than it is to-day if there never had been a
Christian college in it. But whether Christians gave or Infidels
gave has nothing to do with the probability of the jonah story or
with the probability that the mark on the dial went back ten
degrees to prove that a little Jewish king was not going to die of
a boil. And if the Infidels are all stingy and the Christians are
all generous it does not even tend to prove that three men were in
a fiery furnace heated seven times hotter than was its wont without
even scorching their clothes.

The best college in this country -- or, at least, for a long
time the best -- was the institution founded by Ezra Cornell. That
is a school where people try to teach what they know instead of
what they guess. Yet Cornell University was attacked by every
orthodox college in the United States at the time it was founded,
because they said it was without religion.

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Everybody knows that Christianity does not tend to
generosity.Christianity says: "Save your own soul, whether anybody
else saves his or not." Christianity says: "Let the great ship go
down. You get into the little life-boat of the gospel and paddle
ashore, no matter what becomes of the rest." Christianity says you
must love God, or something in the sky, better than you love your
wife and children. And the Christian, even when giving, expects to
get a very large compound interest in another world. The Infidel
who gives, asks no return except the joy that comes from relieving
the wants of another.

Again the Christians, although they have built colleges, have
built them for the purpose of spreading their superstitions, and
have poisoned the minds of the world, while the Infidel teachers
have filled the world with light. Darwin did more for mankind than
if he had built a thousand hospitals. Voltaire did more than if he
had built a thousand asylums for the insane. He will prevent
thousands from going insane that otherwise might be driven into
insanity by the "glad tidings of great joy." Haeckel is filling the
world with light.

I am perfectly willing that the results of the labors of
Christians and the labors of Infidels should be compared. Then let
it be understood that Infidels have been in this world but a very
short time. A few years ago there were hardly any. I can remember
when I was the only Infidel in the town where I lived. Give us time
and we will build colleges in which something will be taught that
is of use. We hope to build temples that will be dedicated to
reason and common sense, and where every effort will be made to
reform mankind and make them better and better in this world.

I am saying nothing against the charity of Christians; nothing
against any kindness or goodness. But I say the Christians, in my
judgment, have done more harm than they have done good. They may
talk of the asylums they have built, but they have not built
asylums enough to hold the people who have been driven insane by
their teachings. Orthodox religion has opposed liberty. It has
opposed investigation and free-thought. If all the churches in
Europe had been observatories, if the cathedrals had been
universities where facts were taught and where nature was studied,
if all the priests had been real teachers, this world would have
been far, far beyond what it is to-day.

There is an idea that Christianity is positive, and Infidelity
is negative. If this be so, then falsehood is positive and truth is
negative. What I contend is that Infidelity is a positive religion;
that Christianity is a negative religion. Christianity denies and
Infidelity admits. Infidelity stands by facts; it demonstrates by
the conclusions of the reason. Infidelity does all it can to
develop the brain and the heart of man. That is positive. Religion
asks man to give up this world for one he knows nothing about, That
is negative. I stand by the religion of reason. I stand by the
dogmas of demonstration.

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