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Robert Ingersoll, in his own words

(RNS) Atheists, humanists and agnostics say Robert Ingersoll's thoughts on civil rights and church-state separation are as relevant today as they were in the late 19th century.

Robert G. Ingersoll. Library of Congress description:
robert ingersoll

Robert G. Ingersoll. Library of Congress description: “Ingersoll, Robert (The Infidel)”. Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons Public Domain (

On reproductive rights:
“Science must make woman the owner, the mistress of herself. Science, the only possible savior of mankind, must put it in the power of woman to determine for herself whether she will or will not become a mother. This is the solution to the whole question. This frees woman. The babes that are born will be welcome. They will be clasped with glad hands to happy breasts. They will fill homes with light and joy.”

On separation of church and state:
“It probably will not be long until the churches will divide as sharply upon political, as upon theological, questions; and when that day comes, if there are not liberals enough to hold the balance of power, this government will be destroyed. The liberty of man is not safe in the hands of any church. Wherever the Bible and sword are in partnership, man is a slave.”

On civil rights:
“Liberty is not a social question. Civil equality is not social equality. We are equal only in rights. No two persons are of equal weight, or height. There are no two leaves in all the forests of the earth alike, no two blades of grass, no two grains of sand, no two hairs. No two any-things in the physical world are precisely alike. Neither mental nor physical equality can be created by law, but law recognizes the fact that all men have been clothed with equal rights by Nature, the mother of us all.”

On his own beliefs:
“While I am opposed to all orthodox creeds, I have a creed of my own and my creed is this: reason is the only torch; justice the only worship; humanity the only religion; love the only priest; happiness the only good. The time to be happy is now. The place to be happy is here. The way to be happy is to make others so.”