— Robert G. Ingersoll Union United States Army officer 1833 - 1899
Context: Gentlemen, you can never make me believe — no statute can ever convince me, that there is any infinite Being in this universe who hates an honest man. It is impossible to satisfy me that there is any God, or can be any God, who holds in abhorrence a soul that has the courage to express his thought. Neither can the whole world convince me that any man should be punished, either in this world or in the next, for being candid with his fellow-men. If you send men to the penitentiary for speaking their thoughts, for endeavoring to enlighten their fellows, then the penitentiary will become a place of honor, and the victim will step from it — not stained, not disgraced, but clad in robes of glory.
Let us take one more step.
What is holy, what is sacred? I reply that human happiness is holy, human rights are holy. The body and soul of man — these are sacred. The liberty of man is of far more importance than any book; the rights of man, more sacred than any religion — than any Scriptures, whether inspired or not.
What we want is the truth, and does any one suppose that all of the truth is confined in one book — that the mysteries of the whole world are explained by one volume?
All that is — all that conveys information to man — all that has been produced by the past — all that now exists — should be considered by an intelligent man. All the known truths of this world — all the philosophy, all the poems, all the pictures, all the statues, all the entrancing music — the prattle of babes, the lullaby of mothers, the words of honest men, the trumpet calls to duty — all these make up the bible of the world — everything that is noble and true and free, you will find in this great book.
If we wish to be true to ourselves, — if we wish to benefit our fellow-men — if we wish to live honorable lives — we will give to every other human being every right that we claim for ourselves.