Thursday, December 02, 2004

Book Review: Why I Am an Agnostic by Robert G. Ingersoll

This is not a well-researched, dry discourse that attempts to refute the religion of christianity. In its infinite logic and simplicity it demonstrates why that in fact is not necessary. In this brief and precise volume, the author, Robert Ingersoll simply points out the all-encompassing absurdity of every facet of the religion and the traits of the intractable moron who is the average christ lover.

The ridiculous fairy-tales. The unanswered criticism. Above all the stunning contradiction of hatred, revenge and promises of eternal damnation that thrill so many righteous scum while blithely claiming that theirs is a religion of peace and love.

There are multi-layered, complex attempts by highly intelligent individuals to provide well-articulated theses on the supposed truth of christianity. Pedantic tomes that require mental gymnastics to give them any sort of credence. There are just as many equally weighty responses. Aside from the potential entertainment value, Ingersoll demonstrates why they are not necessary. There is absolutely nothing in the bible or as preached by the religious fools that in any way jibes with the reality around us.

The most basic of questions directed at these intolerant bigots cannot be answered, only met with dodges and weaves. Anyone who provides a succinct and memorable demolition of the absurdities is not given a rebuttal, for one cannot be provided, but instead has their reputation shredded.

Religion appeals to scared individuals for whom logic is alien and it perpetuates that mindset. In their thinking, no moronic attempt to respond to the overwhelming evidence that obscures their antiquated fairy tale is beyond the pale. The presence of fossils that obliterate the ridiculous timeline proposed by the book these shitheads worship? Simple...they were put there by their supernatural vengeful deity so as to test their faith.

Ingersoll provides a personal recounting of his religious upbringing highlighted against his ongoing realization at how unbelievable the teachings of christianity were when questioned. Those who seemed most obsessive about the cult and became preachers seemed to be of a type. They all used the promise of eternal pain and suffering as the central aspect of their beliefs and attacked anyone who dared to question them. Get caught up in the morass of circular reasoning and fear-induced belief and all one has to do is open their eyes. This is exactly what Ingersoll did and he points to this as another factor in helping to eliminate any doubt he had that christianity was anything but undiluted horseshit. His studies and research in science, astronomy and the humanities provided him with the enemy of all religions...knowledge and the desire to question.

Ingersoll introduces an absurdity and then effectively piles on observation after contradiction to demonstrate what tripe it all is. Short sentences, staccato-like rhythm and repetition are all tools that he uses to drive home his point. In fact, Ingersoll almost seems to ape the mantra-like style that many down home preachers of his day likely used, and this would be in line with his clever approach throughout that is laced with mocking wit and irony. Far from adhering to a respectful tone, Ingersoll implements the only kind of language that can be used to counter such patent absurdity that has nonetheless convinced so many ignoramuses through the ages. A common conclusion that Ingersoll arrives at when trying to understand the thinking of those who preach, defend and worship christianity is that of insanity. Even regarding the asshole who helped to get the fucked-up ball rolling:

"We know, if we know anything, that devils do not exist-that Christ never cast them out, and that if he pretended to, he was either ignorant, dishonest or insane."

Together with the obsessive reverence many seem to show christianity because of the outlet it provides for their own sadistic feelings, another theme that runs throughout Ingersoll's piece is the almost universal condemnation by theses wackos of all that is most pleasurable in life.

Not only does the puritanical, controlling, shrew-like mindset of christ lovers demonstrate their warped view but it also seems to inhibit those artistic tendencies which result in the other-worldly rendering by the most skilled of writers.

Though a small sample, he highlights some of the writers who most affected him with their ability to deal with human nature, love and the beauty of women against the paucity of similar examples from the puritans as another demonstration of the skewed, self-punishing, just plain anti-all-that-makes-life-wonderful outlook, as another reason to dismiss these fraudulent control freaks and their load of shit. (One that Ingersoll cites is Shakespeare...a fair number of interesting articles on whether he was in fact atheist/agnostic.)

Though eviscerating the non-logic behind christianity, Ingersoll also touches on the utter lack of originality in its holy book, pointing out that the same basic foundations can be found throughout all religions:

"I concluded that all religions had the same foundation-a belief in the supernatural-a power above nature that man could influence by worship-by sacrifice and prayer. I found that all religions rested on a mistaken conception of nature- that the religion of a people was the science of that people, that is to say, their explanation of the world-of life and death-of origin and destiny. I concluded that all religions had substantially the same origin, and that in fact there has never been but one religion in the world. The twigs and leaves may differ, but the trunk is the same."

Though hardly an original thought, the simple articulation is indicative of what makes the entire book so enjoyable to read. In that simple telling a light is shone on the limits of man's mind, as incredible as it is in many ways. The vastness of time can never be truly grasped by us, all tears that are shed are ultimately of the self-pitying variety, all actions are selfish and all concepts of god in the end are only a deification of ourselves. The righteous scum who latch onto the vengeful image of god are of course ecstatic that their own feelings have been given legitimacy. When they invoke the name of god they are referring to themselves though they are so short-sighted and foolish as to not embrace the simplicity of that fact.

Ingersoll ultimately strikes a hopeful and positive note and never once, as the "agnostic" in the book's title refers to, claims to know the answers, only that those who do propose simplistic solutions are fools. That the fundamental questions of existence remain unknowable drives many into the arms of the dispensers of fairy tales with the caveat that they must also accept a degradation of all else in life that potentially holds wonder or the key to a worldly plane of pleasure that might never be fully quantified or understood.

However, more than one hundred years after the book was published and as we look forward to this new century that is certain to be mankind's bloodiest, Ingersoll may have been too optimistic:

"Nothing gives me greater joy than to know that this belief in eternal pain is growing weaker every day-that thousands of ministers are ashamed of it. It gives me joy to know that Christians are becoming merciful, so merciful that the fires of hell are burning low-flickering, choked with ashes, destined in a few years to die out forever."

That they can punish themselves during their one eternal existence is their own damn loss but the danger these clods present to others is reason to continually stand up to them and prevent them from further insinuating themselves into the governments of the world.

To obtain a free e-book version (in PDF format), e-mail me at: