Badpuppy Gay Today

Monday, 17 November 1997


Culled from the Oratory of Robert G. Ingersoll



In Walt Whitman: A Gay Life, literary historian Gary Schmidgall tells how the Poet of Democracy admired America's greatest orator, his infamous contemporary, Robert G. Ingersoll. Ingersoll was later to deliver a memorable eulogy on the occasion of the Poet's funeral, but not before Whitman had also spoken well of the Silver-Tongued Infidel. To Horace Traubel Whitman had remarked of Ingersoll:

The noble Bob! Oh! What I would not give to be able to show him how deep he has entered into my respect—my nature: taken hold of the last fibre. And humor: Bob has humor--that last quality—not fun, not jollity, which too much narrows its meaning—but humor, in the sense of lubrication—has it richly, superbly.


=Happiness is the only good; reason the only torch; justice the only worship; humanity the only religion; and love the only priest. The place to be happy is here. The time to be happy is now. The way to be happy is to help make others so.

=I belong to the great church that holds the world within its starlit aisles; that claims the great and good of every race and clime; that finds with joy the grain of gold in every creed, and floods with light and love the germs of good in every soul.

=I combat those only who, knowing nothing of the future, prophesy an eternity of pain--those only who sow the seeds of fear in the hearts of men--those only who poison all the springs of life, and seat a skeleton at every feast.

=Argument cannot be answered with insult.

=Kindness is strength.

=Good-nature is often mistaken for virtue, and good health sometimes passes for genius.

=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.

=Intelligence is not the foundation of arrogance.

=Insolence is not logic.

=Epithets are the arguments of malice.

=Candor is the courage of the soul.

=The hands that help are better than lips that pray.

=Good deeds are never childless. A noble life is never lost. A virtuous action does not die.

=I would rather live and love where death is king than have eternal life where love is not.

=Let us banish the shriveled hags of superstition; let us welcome the beautiful daughters of truth and joy.

=He who commends the brutalities of the past, sows the seeds of future crimes.

=Of all passions that can take the possession of the heart or brain jealousy is the worst. For many generations the chemists sought for the secret by which all metals could be changed to gold, and through which the basest could become the best. Jealousy seeks exactly the opposite. It endeavors to transmute the very gold of love into the dross of shame and crime.

=The destroyer of weeds, thistles and thorns is a benefactor, whether he soweth grain or not.

=Justice should remove the bandage from her eyes long enough to distinguish between the vicious and the unfortunate.

=The greatest test of courage on earth is to bear defeat without losing heart.

=Nothing is grander than to break the chains from the bodies of man --nothing nobler than to destroy the phantoms of the soul.

=It is not necessary to be rich or to be great, or to be powerful, to be happy. The happy man is the successful man.

=Happiness is the legal tender of the soul. Joy is wealth.

=An honest god is the noblest Work of Man.

=A lie will not fit a fact.

=An objection remains young until it has been answered.

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

=Sincerity is the true and perfect mirror of the mind.

=The greatest possible charity is the greatest possible justice.

=We must remember that revenge is always in haste, and that justice can always afford to wait until the evidence is actually heard.

=Vice lives either before Love is born, or after Love is dead.

=Intellectual freedom is only the right to be honest.

=I believe that finally man will go through the phase of religion before birth.

=Orthodoxy is the refuge of mediocrity.

=The ocean is the womb of all that will be, the tomb of all that has been.

=Jealousy never knows the value of a fact.

=Envy cannot reason, malice cannot prophesy.

=Love has a kind of second sight.

=I have never given to any one a sketch of my life. According to my idea a life should not be written until it has been lived.

=A brazen falsehood and a timid truth are the parents of compromise.

=Gratitude is the fairest flower that sheds its perfume in the heart.

=He who enslaves another cannot be free.

=He who attacks the right, assaults himself.

=When the will defies fear, when the heart applauds the brain, when duty throws the gauntlet down to fate, when honor scorns to compromise with death,--this is heroism.

=The bravest men are those who have the greatest fear of doing wrong.

=Courage without a conscience is a wild beast.

=What is morality? It is the best thing to do under the circumstances.

=A crime against god is a demonstrated impossibility.

=I would rather look at the Venus de Milo than to read the Presbyterian creed.

=A man cannot cheat himself in a game of solitaire and really believe that he has won the game.

=Orthodoxy cannot afford to put out the fires of hell.

=How the snake of superstition writhes when he finds that his fangs have lost their poison!

=Will honest men stop taking off their hats to successful fraud?

=As lonely as a dollar in a poor man's pocket.

=It is incredible that only idiots are absolutely sure of salvation.

=The love of parents and the reverence for ancestors have unconsciously bribed the reason and put out, or rendered exceedingly dim? the eyes of the mind.

=If we should put god in the Constitution there would be no room left for man.

=Of course, every man in jail is in favor of liberty, as a prejudice,--but it takes a far grander man who is not in jail, to fight and suffer for a man who is.

=He knew no fear except the fear of doing wrong.

=Neither the diseases nor the deformities of the mind or body should be perpetuated. Life at the fountain should not be polluted.

=Every pulpit is a pillory, in which stands a hired culprit, defending the justice of his own imprisonment.

=If priests had not been fond of mutton, lambs never would have been sacrificed to god.

Nothing was ever carried to the temple that the priest could not use, and it always happened that god wanted what his agents liked.

=As long as people want popes, plenty of hypocrites will be found to take the place.

=If the people were a little more ignorant, astrology would flourish—if a little more enlightened, religion would perish!

=It is easy to get yourself into difficulty, but not to get out.

=It is no more wonderful that people live in families, tribes, communities and nations, than that birds, ants and bees live in flocks and swarms.

=Religion is like a palm tree--it grows at the top. The dead leaves are all orthodox, while the new ones and the buds are all heretics.

=Memory is the miser of the mind; forgetfulness the spendthrift.

=The cares of the next world sustain the same relation to churches that those in this world sustain to insurance companies.

=Whoever fights for the right, or whoever fights for what he believes to be right, does not demoralize himself.

=It is a fault common to all good men--except the clergy, of course-- this habit of attacking motives. And whenever we see a man do something which is great and praiseworthy, let us talk about the act itself and not go into a speculation or an attack upon the motive which prompted the act. Attack what a man actually does.

=Now and then there arises a man who on peril's edge draws from the scabbard of despair the sword of victory.

=The falling leaf that tells of autumn's death is, in a subtler sense, a prophecy of spring.

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