Saturday, 5 November 2016

The ‘Old Atheists’

We hear a lot about the ‘New Atheists’—Dawkins, Hitchens, et al—but let’s not forget the previous thinkers who came to the same conclusion.

Through another blog I’ve recently discovered the writings of Robert Green Ingersoll, 19th century American lawyer and orator. Here are a few quotes:
Each nation has created a god, and the god has always resembled his creators. He hated and loved what they hated and loved, and he was invariably found on the side of those in power.
The doctrine that future happiness depends upon belief is monstrous. It is the infamy of infamies.
In nearly all the theologies, mythologies and religions, the devils have been much more humane and merciful than the gods. No devil ever gave one of his generals an order to kill children and to rip open the bodies of pregnant women. Such barbarities were always ordered by the good gods.
The facts and forces governing thought are as absolute as those governing the motions of the planets. A poem is produced by the forces of nature, and is as necessarily and naturally produced as mountains and seas. You will seek in vain for a thought in man's brain without its efficient cause. Every mental operation is the necessary result of certain facts and conditions. Mental phenomena are considered more complicated than those of matter, and consequently more mysterious. Being more mysterious, they are considered better evidence of the existence of a god. No one infers a god from the simple, from the known, from what is understood, but from the complex, from the unknown, and, incomprehensible. Our ignorance is God; what we know is science.
If these take your fancy, his full works can be read and downloaded for free at the Gutenberg Project.