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Suicide Normile

Robert Green Ingersoll

                        25 page printout

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          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
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          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.

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