Ingersoll, a powerful orator, toured the country for several years, commanding thousands of dollars in speaking fees all without the aid of any amplification, and he packed houses from coast to coast. Oh, to have a high-profile, well-spoken agnostic/atheist these days. Back then, writers predicted the end of Christianity, as freethought was sweeping the country.
Alas, another religious revival was in the works, and America slumped back in the darkness and lethargy of magical thinking. We are still struggling to escape those mental bonds even today.
Here is Ingersoll's short "A Christmas Sermon" and if you follow the link here, you can read some of the back-and-forth that was created from the publishing of that text. Ingersoll was rarely at a loss for words, and his use of language was commanding and exceptional. I only wish I had such a command of the English language.
This is the famous Christmas Sermon written by Colonel Ingersoll and printed in the Evening Telegram, on December 19, 1891.
In answer to this "Christmas Sermon" the Rev. Dr. J.M. Buckley, editor of the Christian Advocate, the recognized organ of the Methodist Church, wrote an article, calling upon the public to boycott the Evening Telegram for publishing such a "sermon."
This attack was headed "Lies That Are Mountainous." The Telegram promptly accepted the issue raised by Dr. Buckley and dared him to do his utmost. On the very same day it published an answer from Colonel Ingersoll that echoed throughout America.
A CHRISTMAS SERMON. 1891
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 worshipers 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 pleasing object to God than a praying Englishman. We take our joys too sadly. I am in favor of all the good free 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.
Robert G. Ingersoll.