Never pass up a chance to sit down or relieve yourself. -old Apache saying

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Robert Ingersoll

Today, the day before the Winter Solstice (12/22/11), is a good day to celebrate the words and wisdom of one of my personal heroes, Robert Green Ingersoll.  In the passages below, he speaks of Christmas. 

As an atheist myself, I have been occasionally struggled with celebrating Christmas while divorcing it from "Christ."  Ingersoll reminds us that the Winter Solstice and Christmas is a perfectly natural cause for celebration, without the trappings of religion.

I urge everyone to read any of the books and writings published by Ingersoll.  If you know of someone who is unhappy and dissatisfied with modern-day religion, have them read some Ingersoll.  It will help them to shed that religious straightjacket and come into the light of day.

Chances are good your public library has a collection of Ingersoll's work.  Or, click here for an online version of the collected works.  I have found no modern-day equivalent to Robert Ingersoll's beautiful and simple command of the English language.

The good part of Christmas is not always Christian--it is generally Pagan; that is to say, human, natural.

Christianity did not come with tidings of great joy, but with a message of eternal grief. It came with the threat of everlasting torture on its lips. It meant war on earth and perdition hereafter.

It taught some good things--the beauty of love and kindness in man. But as a torch-bearer, as a bringer of joy, it has been a failure. It has given infinite consequences to the acts of finite beings, crushing the soul with a responsibility too great for mortals to bear. It has filled the future with fear and flame, and made God the keeper of an eternal penitentiary, destined to be the home of nearly all the sons of men. Not satisfied with that, it has deprived God of the pardoning power.

And yet it may have done some good by borrowing from the Pagan world the old festival called Christmas.

Long before Christ was born the Sun-God triumphed over the powers of Darkness. About the time that we call Christmas the days begin perceptibly to lengthen. Our barbarian ancestors were worshippers of the sun, and they celebrated his victory over the hosts of night. Such a festival was natural and beautiful. The most natural of all religions is the worship of the sun. Christianity adopted this festival. It borrowed from the Pagans the best it has.

I believe in Christmas and in every day that has been set apart for joy. We in America have too much work and not enough play. We are too much like the English.

I think it was Heinrich Heine who said that he thought a blaspheming Frenchman was a more pleasant object to God than a praying Englishman. We take our joys too sadly. I am in favor of all the good days--the more the better.

Christmas is a good day to forgive and forget--a good day to throw away prejudices and hatreds--a good day to fill your heart and your house, and the hearts and houses of others, with sunshine.”

— "The Great Agnostic" Robert G. Ingersoll (1833-1899), "A Christmas Sermon," Evening Telegram, Dec. 19, 1891

No comments: