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Ingersoll Day

August 11th

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899)

"When I became convinced that the universe is natural, that all the ghosts and gods are myths, there entered into my brain, into my soul, into every drop of my blood the sense, the feeling, the joy of freedom. The walls of my prison crumbled and fell. The dungeon was flooded with light and all the bolts and bars and manacles became dust. I was no longer a servant, a serf, or a slave. There was for me no master in all the wide world, not even in infinite space. I was free -- free to think, to express my thoughts -- free to live my own ideal, free to live for myself and those I loved, free to use all my faculties, all my senses, free to spread imagination's wings, free to investigate, to guess and dream and hope, free to judge and determine for myself . . . I was free! I stood erect and fearlessly, joyously faced all worlds."

-- Robert Green Ingersoll, "Why I Am An Agnostic"

Ingersoll Day is an annual celebration on or around August 11th, the birthday of Robert Green Ingersoll, to celebrate the life and works of one of the most popular freethinkers in US history. Heard by more Americans than any human being before the advent of motion pictures and radio, Robert Ingersoll was the most successful orator in nineteenth century America. A leading political figure, he campaigned against slavery and for the rights of women and minorities. Known as the "Great Agnostic," he attracted huge crowds to lectures that criticized religion and promoted freethought.

Activity Suggestions

Visit Dresden, NY:

The Robert Green Ingersoll Birthplace Museum showcases Ingersoll's originality, his wit, his power as a persuader, and his role in history - in the Finger Lakes home where he was born. Historical artifacts, displays, and a specially-produced video presentation bring Ingersoll and his times to life. On display are Ingersoll's walking stick; his Masonic sword; a complete manuscript of his most famous speech, "Ghosts"; and a great variety of period artifacts. Explanatory signage tells the whole story of Ingersoll's life, lavishly illustrated with photos, drawings, and period mementos. The upstairs room where Ingersoll was born has been restored with authentic period furniture.

Read & Present the Works of Ingersoll:

" We have already compared the benefits of theology and science. When the theologian governed the world, it was covered with huts and hovels for the many, palaces and cathedrals for the few. To nearly all the children of men, reading and writing were unknown arts. The poor were clad in rags and skins -- they devoured crusts, and gnawed bones. The day of Science dawned, and the luxuries of a century ago are the necessities of to-day. Men in the middle ranks of life have more of the conveniences and elegancies than the princes and kings of the theological times. But above and over all this, is the development of mind. There is more of value in the brain of an average man of today -- of a master-mechanic, of a chemist, of a naturalist, of an inventor, than there was in the brain of the world four hundred years ago. These blessings did not fall from the skies. These benefits did not drop from the outstretched hands of priests. They were not found in cathedrals or behind altars -- neither were they searched for with holy candles. They were not discovered by the closed eyes of prayer, nor did they come in answer to superstitious supplication. They are the children of freedom, the gifts of reason, observation and experience -- and for them all, man is indebted to man. "

-- Robert Green Ingersoll, "God in The Constitution"

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