The Pink Triangle Trust

Introducing the Humanist Tradition

Leaflet number 1: Robert G. Ingersoll said...

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899)

Born near New York, USA, he became a school teacher but was sacked for making a joke in answer to a question about baptism.

In the American Civil War he was a colonel in the 11th Illinois Cavalry, and afterwards became a famous lawyer. Because he refused to compromise his principles of non-belief, he was not nominated to run as Governor of the State of Illinois.

A contemporary wrote “The tales of his generosity had gone far and wide, and every morning there was a pile of letters on his desk from poor clerks starving in garrets, and young women who could find no means of support. To such appeals he responded so bountifully that they came faster and faster. His friends warned him against the impositions that were practised upon him, and told him he ought to have a bureau of enquiry; but he answered that he would rather be cheated a dozen times than leave one poor girl to suffer, and perhaps die”.


“There are two ways – the natural and the supernatural.

“One way is to live for the world we are in, to develop the brain by study and investigation, to take, by invention, advantage of the forces of nature, to the end that we may have good houses, raiment, and food – to the end that the hunger of the mind may be fed through art and science.

“The other way is to live for another world that we expect, to sacrifice this life that we have for another that we know not of, to obtain by prayer and ceremony the assistance, the protection, of some phantom above the clouds.

“One way is to think – to investigate, to observe, and follow the light of reason. The other way is to believe, to accept, to follow, to deny the authority of your own senses, your own reason, and bow down to those who are impudent enough to declare that they know.

“One way is to live for the benefit of your fellow men – for your wife and children – to make those you love happy, and to shield them from the sorrows of life.

“The other way is to live for ghosts, goblins, phantoms, and gods, with the hope that they will reward you in another world.

“One way is to enthrone reason and rely on facts, the other to crown credulity and live on faith.”


“If we could live for ever here we would care nothing for each other. The fact that we must die, the fact that the feast must end, brings our souls together ... It may be were it not for death there would be no love, and without love life would be a curse.”


“Millions of people are directly interested in the false. They live by lying. To deceive is the business of their lives. Truth is a cripple; lies have wings.”


“The time to be happy is now, the place to be happy is here, and the way to be happy is to make others happy.”


“We are not endeavouring to chain the future, but to free the present. We are not forging fetters for our children, but we are breaking those our fathers made for us.

“We are the advocates of inquiry, of investigation and thought. This of itself is an admission that we are not perfectly satisfied with all our conclusions. Philosophy has not the egotism of faith. While superstition builds walls and creates obstructions, science opens all the highways of thought.

“We do not pretend to have circumnavigated everything, and to have solved all difficulties, but we do believe that it is better to love men than to fear gods; that it is grander and nobler to think and investigate for yourself than to repeat a creed.

“We are satisfied that there can be but little liberty on earth while men worship a tyrant in heaven.

“We do not expect to accomplish everything in our day; but we do want to do what good we can, and to render all the service possible in the holy cause of human progress.

“We know that doing away with gods and supernatural persons and powers is not an end. It is a means to an end – the real end being the happiness of man...”

More information:

On the Gods, and other Essays
by Robert G. Ingersoll (270 pages)
Prometheus Books, New York, USA.
ISBN 0-87975-361-7

Robert G. Ingersoll Birthplace Museum,
Dresden, New York, United States.

For information write to:
PO Box 664, Amherst, NY 14226, USA.
URI of this page :
Created : Sunday, 1998-01-18 / Last updated : Wednesday, 2007-12-12
Brett Humphreys :