Archive for March 10th, 2023

Ingersoll’s Creed

GC Myers-  End O' Day sm

End O’ Day — At the West End Gallery

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.”
–Robert G. Ingersoll, Words To Live By

I wrote about Robert Ingersoll a few years back, noting that the now somewhat overlooked orator of the 19th century was once one of the most celebrated men in the world. He spoke to huge crowds, sometimes 50,000 or more, at a time without microphones and loudspeakers. He was praised and idolized by the great men of the time– Walt Whitman, Thomas Edison, Oscar Wilde, Mark Twain, Frederick Douglass and so on. Whitman called him the living epitome of the American ideal of his Leaves of Grass and Fredrick Douglass proclaimed that “of all the great men of his personal acquaintance, there had been only two in whose presence he could be without feeling that he was regarded as inferior to them — Abraham Lincoln and Robert Ingersoll.

One might think that someone with such influence in that era might have been a religious or political figure. Ingersoll was neither. Far from it. He championed rationalism and free thought, railing against the slavery of the mind that he believed organized religion fostered and the corruption of character brought on by political power.

His words often ring as true today as they did 125 years ago. I came across the words above yesterday when it was pointed out that the great American writer and film director Garson Kanin kept this creed from Ingersoll on his desk at all times.

Reading these words made me realize why Ingersoll achieved such popularity. They were inspirational words, describing positive traits and a rational way of thinking that was independent of the shaming and oppressiveness of organized religion.

A way of living that anyone could live. An honest life of decency and generosity without being told how to live. Goodness for the sake of goodness alone.

A way of being that satisfies the brain and heart.

Ingersoll also wrote another form of this creed:

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.

Either of his creeds are mighty fine words to keep on any desk. Or better yet, to live by.



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