Atheism / Culture / Freethought · January 6, 2006

Fear Believes – Courage Doubts

Colonel Robert G. Ingersoll was possibly the most widely respected, powerful American orator of the 19Th Century. I’ve recently been reading a lot of his speeches, (easily found free to enjoy online at Project Gutenberg or at the Internet Infidels web site) and I have to say that the points that Col. Ingersoll drove home over a hundred years ago still ring true. Many times while reading his words, I imagine him standing in front of the hushed crowd and get a shiver.

If you are a doubter, a truth-seeker, a freethinker, an Agnostic or Atheist, then you owe it to yourself to experience Col. Ingersoll’s words for yourself. Let me whet your appetite.

From the Lectures Of Col. R. G. Ingersoll (Volume 1) on Ghosts (downloaded from Project Gutenberg):

Let me say right here that the object of every religion ever made by man has been to get on the good side of supposed powers; has been to petition the gods to stop the earthquakes, to stop famine, to stop pestilence. It has always been something that man should do to prevent being punished by the powers of the air or to get from them some favors.

It has always been believed that these ghosts could in some way be appeased; that they could be bettered by sacrifices, by prayer, by fasting, by the building of temples and cathedrals, by shedding the blood of men and beasts, by forms, by ceremonies, by kneelings, by prostrations and flagellations, by living alone in the wild desert, by the practice of celibacy, by inventing instruments of torture, by destroying men, women and children, by covering the earth with dungeons, by burning unbelievers and by putting chains upon the thoughts and manacles upon the lips of men, by believing things without evidence, by believing things against evidence, by disbelieving and denying demonstrations, by despising facts, by hating reason, by discouraging investigation, by making an idiot of yourself–all these have been done to appease the winged monsters of the air.

As Pat Robertson and the rest of the religious right has been so careful to point out over the last few months, people who fail Christianity, who fail Islam, who fail God, can expect nothing better than Hurricanes, floods, and death. Failure to appease the “monster of the air” will result in the withdrawal of that monster’s protection. Your only chance of salvation is to chain your deeds, thoughts, and words to the dogma of religion. But it only works if you choose the RIGHT religion!

Further from Ghosts:

Progress is born of courage. Fear believes, courage doubts. Fear falls upon the earth and prays; courage stands erect and thinks. Fear retreats; courage advances. Fear is barbarism, courage is civilization. Fear believes in witchcraft; courage in science and in eternal law.

And this, in a nutshell, is the basic force that drives the meme of religion. Fear. Fear of Hell. Fear of an unpleasant afterlife. Or the ultimate fear – that after death there will be nothing at all. This fear of nothingness is something that, upon honest self-examination, all non-believers have confronted.

I wish you all courage to brave your fear.