Great Throughts Treasury

This site is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Alan William Smolowe who gave birth to the creation of this database.

Robert Ingersoll, fully Robert Green "Bob" Ingersoll

Civil War Veteran, American Political Leader and Orator

"Courage without conscience is a wild beast."

"An honest God is the noblest work of man."

"Anger blows out the lamp of the mind. In the examination of a great and important question, every one should be serene, slow-pulsed, and calm."

"By physical liberty I mean the right to do anything which does not interfere with the happiness of another. By intellectual liberty I mean the right to think wrong."

"Happiness is not a reward - it is a consequence. Suffering is not a punishment - it is a result."

"Happiness is the only good, reason the only torch, justice the only worship, humanity the only religion, and love the only priest."

"Few rich men own their own property. The property owns them."

"Kindness is the sunshine in which virtue grows."

"Justice is the only worship. Love is the only priest. Ignorance is the only slavery. Happiness is the only good. The time to be happy is now, the place to be happy is here, the way to be happy is to make others so."

"My creed is that: Happiness is the only good. The place to be happy is here. The time to be happy is now. The way to be happy is to make others so."

"I am the inferior of any man whose rights I trample under foot. Men are not superior by reason of the accidents of race or color. They are superior who have the best heart - the best brain. The superior man is the providence of the inferior. He is the eyes for the blind, strength for the weak, and a shield for the defenseless. He stands erect by bending above the fallen. He rises by lifting others."

"In the republic of mediocrity genius is dangerous."

"There is no slavery but ignorance.Liberty is the child of intelligence... the object of the Freethinker is to ascertain the truth - the conditions of well-being - to the end that his life will be made of value."

"Logic is not satisfied with assertion. It cares nothing for the opinions of the great - nothing for the prejudices of the many, and least of all for the superstitions of the dead."

"No man with any sense of humor ever founded a religion."

"Life is a barren vale between the cold and eternal peaks of two eternities."

"Our hope of immortality does not come from any religions, but nearly all religions come from that hope."

"One laugh of a child will make the holiest day more sacred still."

"The greatest superstition now entertained by public men is that hypocrisy is the royal road to success."

"The history of intellectual progress is written in the lives of infidels."

"The more liberty you give away the more you will have."

"The triumph of justice is the only peace."

"There is the same difference between talent and genius that there is between a stone mason and a sculptor."

"What light is to the eyes – what air is to the lungs – what love is to the heart, liberty is to the soul of man. Without liberty, the brain is a dungeon, where the chained thoughts die with their pinions pressed against the hingeless doors."

"He who endeavors to control the mind by force is a tyrant, and he who submits is a slave."

"Happiness is the only good. The place to be happy is here. The time to be happy is now. The way to be happy is to make other so."

"Heresy is what the minority believe; it is the name given by the powerful to the doctrine of the weak."

"Nothing discloses real character like the use of power. It is easy for the weak to be gentle, most people can bear adversity. Bit if you wish to know what a man really is, give him power. This is the supreme test. It is the glory of Lincoln that, having almost absolute power, he never abused it, except under the side of mercy."

"In nature there are neither rewards nor punishments – there are consequences."

"The greatest test of courage is to bear defeat without losing heart."

"No day can be so sacred but that the laugh of a little child will make it holier still."

"In the presence of eternity, the mountains are as transient as the clouds."

"To plow is to pray; to plant is to prophesy; and the harvest answers and fulfills."

"This crime called blasphemy was invented by priests for the purpose of defending doctrines not able to take care of themselves."

"Anger is a wind which blows out the lamp of the mind."

"For the most part, colleges are places where pebbles are polished and diamonds are dimmed."

"It is a blessed thing that in every age someone has had the individuality enough and courage enough to stand by his own convictions."

"What is blasphemy? I will give you a definition; I will give you my thought upon this subject. What is real blasphemy? To live on the unpaid labor of other men — that is blasphemy. To enslave your fellow-man, to put chains upon his body — that is blasphemy. To enslave the minds of men, to put manacles upon the brain, padlocks upon the lips — that is blasphemy. To deny what you believe to be true, to admit to be true what you believe to be a lie — that is blasphemy. To strike the weak and unprotected, in order that you may gain the applause of the ignorant and superstitious mob — that is blasphemy. To persecute the intelligent few, at the command of the ignorant many — that is blasphemy. To forge chains, to build dungeons, for your honest fellow-men — that is blasphemy. To pollute the souls of children with the dogma of eternal pain — that is blasphemy. To violate your conscience — that is blasphemy. The jury that gives an unjust verdict, and the judge who pronounces an unjust sentence, are blasphemers. The man who bows to public opinion against his better judgment and against his honest conviction, is a blasphemer. Why should we fear our fellow-men? Why should not each human being have the right, so far as thought and its expression are concerned, of all the world? What harm can come from an honest interchange of thought? "

"Justice is the only worship. Love is the only priest. Ignorance is the only slavery. Happiness is the only good. The time to be happy is now, The place to be happy is here, The way to be happy is to make others so. Wisdom is the science of happiness. "

"I have made up my mind that if there is a God, he will be merciful to the merciful. Upon that rock I stand. That he will not torture the forgiving. Upon that rock I stand. That every man should be true to himself, and that there is no world, no star, in which honesty is a crime. Upon that rock I stand. The honest man, the good woman, the happy child, have nothing to fear, either in this world or the world to come. Upon that rock I stand. "

"Blasphemy is what an old mistake says of a newly discovered truth. Blasphemy is what a withered last year's leaf says to a this year's bud. Blasphemy is the bulwark of religious prejudice. Blasphemy is the breastplate of the heartless. And let me say now, that the crime of blasphemy, as set out in this statute, is impossible. No man can blaspheme a book. No man can commit blasphemy by telling his honest thought. No man can blaspheme a God, or a Holy Ghost, or a Son of God. The Infinite cannot be blasphemed. "

"I am here tonight for the purpose of defending your right to differ with me. I want to convince you that you are under no compulsion to accept my creed; that you are, so far as I am concerned, absolutely free to follow the torch of your reason according to your conscience; and I believe that you are civilized to that degree that you will extend to me the right that you claim for yourselves. I admit, at the very threshold, that every human being thinks as he must; and the first proposition really is whether man has the right to think. It will bear but little discussion, for the reason that no man can control his thought. If you think you can, what are you going to think tomorrow? What are you going to think next year? If you can absolutely control your thought, can you stop thinking? The question is, has the will any power over the thought? What is thought? It is the result of nature--of the outer world--first upon the senses--those impressions left upon the brain as pictures of things in the outward world, and these pictures are transformed into, or produce thought; and as long as the doors of the senses are open, thoughts will be produced. Whoever looks at anything in nature, thinks. Whoever hears any sound--or any symphony--no matter what--thinks. Whoever looks upon the sea, or on a star, or on a flower, or on the face of a fellow-man, thinks, and the result of that look is an absolute necessity. The thought produced will depend upon your brain, upon your experience, upon the history of your life. One who looks upon the sea, knowing that the one he loved the best has been devoured by its hungry waves, will have certain thoughts; and he who sees it for the first time will have different thoughts. In other words, no two brains are alike; no two lives have been, or are, or ever will be the same. Consequently, nature cannot produce the same effect upon any two brains, or upon any two hearts. The only reason why we wish to exchange thoughts is that we are different. If we were all the same, we would die dumb. No thought would be expressed after we found that our thoughts were precisely alike. We differ--our thoughts are different. Therefore the commerce that we call conversation."

"My creed: To love justice, to long for the right, to love mercy, to pity the suffering, to assist the weak, to forget wrongs and remember benefits, to love the truth, to be sincere, to utter honest words, to love liberty, to wage relentless war against slavery in all its forms, to love family and friend, to make a happy home, to love the beautiful in art, in nature, to cultivate the mind, to be familiar with the mighty thoughts that genius has expressed, the noble deeds of all the world; to cultivate courage and cheerfulness, to make others happy, to fill life with the splendor of generous acts, the warmth of loving words; to discard error, to destroy prejudice, to receive new truths with gladness, to cultivate hope, to see the calm beyond the storm, the dawn beyond the night, to do the best that can be done and then be resigned. This is the religion of reason, the creed of science. This satisfies the brain and the heart."

"Is there beyond the silent night An endless day? Is death a door that leads to light? We cannot say. "

"A believer is a bird in a cage, a freethinker is an eagle parting the clouds with tireless wing."

"Whether the Bible is true or false, is of no consequence in comparison with the mental freedom of the race"

"One good schoolmaster is worth a thousand priests."

"A crime against god is a demonstrated impossibility"

"A fact never went into partnership with a miracle. Truth scorns the assistance of wonders. A fact will fit every other fact in the universe, and that is how you can tell whether it is or is not a fact. A lie will not fit anything except another lie."

"A few years ago the Deists denied the inspiration of the Bible on account of its cruelty. At the same time they worshiped what they were pleased to call the God of Nature. Now we are convinced that Nature is as cruel as the Bible; so that, if the God of Nature did not write the Bible, this God at least has caused earthquakes and pestilence and famine, and this God has allowed millions of his children to destroy one another. So that now we have arrived at the question -- not as to whether the Bible is inspired and not as to whether Jehovah is the real God, but whether there is a God or not."