"Why I Am an Agnostic" by Robert G. Ingersoll

by leavingwt 4 Replies latest jw friends

  • leavingwt

    For those who aren't familiar with this essay from the year 1896, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

    Why I Am an Agnostic


  • bohm

    Very powerfull stuff:

    The ministers, who preached at these revivals, were in earnest. They were zealous and sincere. They were not philosophers. To them science was the name of a vague dread -- a dangerous enemy. They did not know much, but they believed a great deal. To them hell was a burning reality -- they could see the smoke and flames. The Devil was no myth. He was an actual person, a rival of God, an enemy of mankind. They thought that the important business of this life was to save your soul -- that all should resist and scorn the pleasures of sense, and keep their eyes steadily fixed on the golden gate of the New Jerusalem. They were unbalanced, emotional, hysterical, bigoted, hateful, loving, and insane. They really believed the Bible to be the actual word of God -- a book without mistake or contradiction. They called its cruelties, justice -- its absurdities, mysteries -- its miracles, facts, and the idiotic passages were regarded as profoundly spiritual. They dwelt on the pangs, the regrets, the infinite agonies of the lost, and showed how easily they could be avoided, and how cheaply heaven could be obtained. They told their hearers to believe, to have faith, to give their hearts to God, their sins to Christ, who would bear their burdens and make their souls as white as snow.

    All this the ministers really believed. They were absolutely certain. In their minds the Devil had tried in vain to sow the seeds of doubt.

    I heard hundreds of these evangelical sermons -- heard hundreds of the most fearful and vivid descriptions of the tortures inflicted in hell, of the horrible state of the lost. I supposed that what I heard was true and yet I did not believe it. I said: "It is," and then I thought: "It cannot be."

    These sermons made but faint impressions on my mind. I was not convinced.

    I had no desire to be "converted," did not want a "new heart" and had no wish to be "born again."

    But I heard one sermon that touched my heart, that left its mark, like a scar, on my brain.

    One Sunday I went with my brother to hear a Free Will Baptist preacher. He was a large man, dressed like a farmer, but he was an orator. He could paint a picture with words.

    He took for his text the parable of "the rich man and Lazarus." He described Dives, the rich man -- his manner of life, the excesses in which he indulged, his extravagance, his riotous nights, his purple and fine linen, his feasts, his wines, and his beautiful women.

    Then he described Lazarus, his poverty, his rags and wretchedness, his poor body eaten by disease, the crusts and crumbs he devoured, the dogs that pitied him. He pictured his lonely life, his friendless death.

    Then, changing his tone of pity to one of triumph -- leaping from tears to the heights of exultation -- from defeat to victory -- he described the glorious company of angels, who with white and outspread wings carried the soul of the despised pauper to Paradise -- to the bosom of Abraham.

    Then, changing his voice to one of scorn and loathing, he told of the rich man's death. He was in his palace, on his costly couch, the air heavy with perfume, the room filled with servants and physicians. His gold was worthless then. He could not buy another breath. He died, and in hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torment.

    Then, assuming a dramatic attitude, putting his right hand to his ear, he whispered, "Hark! I hear the rich man's voice. What does he say? Hark! 'Father Abraham! Father Abraham! I pray thee send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my parched tongue, for I am tormented in this flame.'"

    "Oh, my hearers, he has been making that request for more than eighteen hundred years. And millions of ages hence that wail will cross the gulf that lies between the saved and lost and still will be heard the cry: 'Father Abraham! Father Abraham! I pray thee send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my parched tongue, for I am tormented in this flame.'"

    For the first time I understood the dogma of eternal pain -- appreciated "the glad tidings of great joy." For the first time my imagination grasped the height and depth of the Christian horror. Then I said: "It is a lie, and I hate your religion. If it is true, I hate your God."

    From that day I have had no fear, no doubt. For me, on that day, the flames of hell were quenched. From that day I have passionately hated every orthodox creed. That Sermon did some good.

  • bohm

    " I would rather appear at the "Judgment Seat" drunk, and be able to say that I was the author of "A man's a man for 'a that," than to be perfectly sober and admit that I had lived and died a Scotch Presbyterian."

  • freeflyingfaerie

    That was wonderful!!! Thank you for sharing!

    That was written in 1896?.....wow...how did CT Russell continue and become 'successful', and I'm just now reading this brilliant and beautiful piece of work? For that matter, how did any of the many and varied religions through the ages come to exist and even prosper? Surely religion doesn't pass the logic test with the passing of time and with ample research. Maybe the want for a sense of belonging and security(and of course to save yourself at the point of a sword) is a reason many sell-out and are willing to exchange their freedom for some form of religion. All these controlling belief systems causing so much hurt and confusion. My consolation is~ I am free now...

    I love how honest he was. He really took the time to learn about it all, with no agenda other than seeking truth.

  • leavingwt


    Very powerfull stuff:

    Yes, that was my conclusion, as well. It's hard to believe that this was written before my grandparents were born, but I didn't read it until about three years ago. A former co-worker of mine, who is an ex-Fundamentalist and an agnostic, shared it with me.


    That was wonderful!!! Thank you for sharing!

    That was written in 1896?

    I know, right? It sounds as if it could have been written last week, because the ideas/thoughts/questions are relevant, today, IMHO.

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