Edit Liberal Paper (1887)
Robert Green Ingersoll
A LIBERAL paper should be edited by a Liberal man. And by the word Liberal I mean, not only free, not only one who thinks for himself, not only one who has escaped from the prisons of customs and creed, but one who is candid, intelligent and kind -- that is to say, Liberal toward others.
This Liberal editor should not forever play upon one string, no matter how wonderful the music. He should not have his attention forever fixed upon one question -- that is to say, he should not look through a reversed telescope and narrow his horizon to that degree that he sees only one thing.
To know that the Bible is the literature of a barbarous people, to know that it is uninspired, to be certain that the supernatural does not and cannot exist -- all this is but the beginning of wisdom. This only lays the foundation for unprejudiced observation. To kill weeds, to fell forests, to drove away or exterminate wild beasts -- this is preparatory to doing something of greater value. Of course the weeds must be killed, the forests must be felled. and the beasts must be destroyed before the building of homes and the cultivation of fields.
A Liberal paper should not discuss theological questions alone. Intelligent people everywhere have given up most of the old superstitions. They have pretty well made up their minds what is false, and they want to know something that is true. For this reason, a Liberal paper should keep abreast of the discoveries of the human mind. No science should be neglected; no fact should be overlooked. Inventions should be described and understood. And not only this, but the beautiful in thought, in form and color, should be preserved. The paper should be filled with things calculated to interest thoughtful, intelligent and serious people. There should be a column for children as well as for men and women.
Above all, it should be perfectly kind and candid. In discussion there is no place for hatred, no opportunity for slander. A personality is always out of place. An angry man can neither reason himself, nor perceive the reason of what another says. The orthodox world has always dealt in personalities. Every minister can answer the argument of an opponent by attacking the character of the opponent. This example should never be followed by a Liberal man. Nobody can be bad enough to prove that the Bible is uninspired, and nobody can be good enough to prove that it is the word of God. These facts have no relation. They neither stand nor fall together.
Nothing should be asserted that is not known. Nothing should be denied, the falsity of which has not been, or cannot be, demonstrated. Opinions are simply given for what they are worth. They are guesses, and one guesser should give to another guesser all the right of guessing that he claims for himself. Upon the great questions of origin, of destiny, of immortality, of punishment and reward in other worlds, every honest man must say, "I do not know." Upon these questions, this is the creed of intelligence. Nothing is harder to bear than the egotism of ignorance and the arrogance of superstition. The man who has some knowledge of the difficulties surrounding these subjects, who knows something of the limitations of the human mind, must, of necessity, be mentally modest. And this condition of mental modesty is the only one consistent with individual progress.
Above all, and over all, a Liberal paper should teach the absolute freedom of the mind, the utter independence of the individual, the perfect liberty of speech. We should remember that .the world is as it must be; that the present is the necessary offspring of the past; that the future must be what the present makes it, and that the real work of the reformer, of the philanthropist, is to change the conditions of the present, to the end that the future may be better. --
Secular Thought, Toronto, January 8, 1887.
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