In Preparation for Thanksgiving (Robert Green Ingersoll)

Whom, what, should we thank?

Should we thank the church?

What has the church done?

It gave us predestination, foreordination and just enough “free will” to go to hell.

It taught that the insane were inhabited by devils. Insanity was not a disease. It was produced by demons. It could be cured by prayers — gifts, amulets and charms. All these had to be paid for. This enriched the church. These ideas were honestly entertained by Protestants as well as Catholics — by Luther, Calvin, Knox and Wesley.

It taught the awful doctrine of witchcraft. It filled the darkness with demons — the air with devils, and the world with grief and shame. It charged men, women and children with being in league with Satan to injure their fellows. Old women were convicted for causing storms at sea — for preventing rain and for bringing frost. Girls were convicted for having changed themselves into wolves, snakes and toads. These witches were burned for causing diseases — for selling their souls and for souring beer. All these things were done with the aid of the Devil who sought to persecute the faithful, the lambs of God. Satan sought in many ways to scandalize the church. He sometimes assumed the appearance of a priest and committed crimes.

It founded schools where facts were denied, where science was denounced and philosophy despised. Schools, where priests were made — where they were taught to hate reason and to look upon doubts as the suggestions of the Devil. Schools where the heart was hardened and the brain shriveled. Schools in which lies were sacred and truths profane. Schools for the more general diffusion of ignorance — schools to prevent thought — to suppress knowledge. Schools for the purpose of enslaving the world. Schools in which teachers knew less than pupils.

It made the wife a slave — the property of the husband, and it placed the husband as much above the wife as Christ was above the husband. It taught that a nun is purer, nobler than a mother. It induced millions of pure and conscientious girls to renounce the joys of life — to take the veil woven of night and death, to wear the habiliments of the dead — made them believe that they were the brides of Christ.

For my part, I would as soon be a widow as the bride of a man who had been dead for eighteen hundred years.

. . .

Did Christ or any of his apostles add to the sum of useful knowledge? Did they say one word in favor of any science, of any art? . . . Did they explain any of the phenomena of nature? any of the facts that affect the life of man?

Can any farmer, mechanic, or scientist find in the New Testament one useful fact? Is there anything in the sacred book that can help the geologist, the astronomer, the biologist, the physician, the inventor — the manufacturer of any useful thing?

Instead of this they discovered that a peasant girl who lived in Palestine, was the mother of God. …They told us that bread, by making certain motions and mumbling certain prayers, could be changed into the flesh of God, and that in the same way wine could be changed to his blood.

. . .

What have the worldly done?

They have investigated the phenomena of nature. They have invented ways to use the forces of the world . . They have changed water to steam, invented engines — the tireless giants that work for man. They have made lightning a messenger and slave. They invented movable type, taught us the art of printing and made it possible to save and transmit the intellectual wealth of the world. They connected continents with cables, cities and towns with the telegraph — brought the world into one family — made intelligence independent of distance. They taught us how to build homes, to obtain food, to weave cloth. They covered the seas with iron ships and the land with roads and steeds of steel. They gave us the tools of all the trades — the implements of labor. They have found the cause of and the cure for many maladies that afflict the flesh and minds of men. They have given us the instruments of music and the great composers and performers have changed the common air to tones and harmonies that intoxicate, exalt and purify the soul.

They have rescued us from the prisons of fear, and snatched our souls from the fangs and claws of superstition’s loathsome, crawling, flying beasts. They have given us the liberty to think and the courage to express our thoughts. They have changed the frightened, the enslaved, the kneeling, the prostrate into men and women — clothed them in their right minds and made them truly free. They have uncrowned the phantoms, wrested the scepters from the ghosts and given this world to the children of men. They have driven from the heart the fiends of fear and extinguished the flames of hell.

They have read a few leaves of the great volume — deciphered some of the records written on stone by the tireless hands of time in the dim past. They have told us something of what has been done by wind and wave, by fire and frost, by life and death, the ceaseless workers, the pauseless forces of the world.

They have enlarged the horizon of the known, changed the glittering specks that shine above us to wheeling worlds, and filled all space with countless suns.

All this has been done by the worldly — by those who were not “called” or filled with the Holy Ghost or had the slightest claim to “apostolic succession.” The men and women who accomplished these things were not “inspired.” They had no revelation — no supernatural aid. They were not clad in sacred vestments, and tiaras were not upon their brows. They were not even ordained. They used their senses, observed and recorded facts.

They had confidence in reason.

From Robert Green Ingersoll, the important 19th century freethinker whom no one has ever heard of..
(Thanks to D.J. Grothe of The Center for Inquiry and Thanks to Jefferson Seaver of the Center for Inquiry in Michigan for the reminder)

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