78 of 80 people found the following review helpful
on September 27, 1999
This biography is well researched and well written.It covers Robert Ingersoll's life and the progression of his beliefs from his Christian upbringing, through his role as America's preeminent freethinker / atheist.The book shows Ingersoll's brillance in causing others to think for themselves in matters of religion, and explaining his reasons for challenging the Bible and Judaic-Christian orthodoxy. Ingersoll is also shown to have been an outstanding lawyer,political strategist, husband, father, friend, patriot,benefactor, and citizen. He lived his beliefs.
The book shows how the theologians of the time attacked him personally, when they could not combat his ideas on the merits. He was a pioneer of atheistic apologetics, and he paved the way for subsequent like minded people to be able to exercise their rights of free speech on topics which, prior to his efforts, would have exposed them to imprisonment for blasphemy. This biography covers the nation's presidential politics from Lincoln through McKinley. I enjoyed the book and will read it again.
25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on August 22, 2005
What I realized from this book is that my ancestors, who where were life long Republicans, have no relationship to the Republicans of today. Ingersoll represents the party of Lincoln, Grant, and TR.
Ingersoll was the leading speaker and agnostic of that day. Although, agnostics of the day were not able to hold office, he was the confident of presidents, introduced by leading ministers, and well respected by the media. How sad that his vision of infidels being more and more accepted has not yet been realized.
He was a person of great integrity. A genuine Civil War Hero who turned down a Generalship to end the war with his troops. Who knowlingly lost a bid for Governor by speaking the truth about his beliefs.
Let me also recommend Grant, by Jean Edward Smith, which gives a flavor for the President who preserved the Union for and after Lincoln.
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on November 23, 2007
Having read extensively over several years every Ingersoll lecture, interview, essay, etc. that I could possibly find, it was truly wonderful to be able to go behind the scenes for a change and get an up close and personal glimpse of Colonel Ingersoll's life from his early childhood all the way to his very last moments at home with his family in New York.
His surprisingly close relationship with his reverend father, from whom Ingersoll obviously inherited much of his deeply held reverence and affection for the institution of family; his many political aspirations that never quite came to fruition (luckily for us!); his uncanny and almost comical ability to lose tens of thousands of dollars in whatever business venture he chose to invest his wealth; the author has filled the book with these and many other personal gems from Ingersoll's life that one cannot get from studying his lectures alone.
I am always overjoyed and at the same time deeply saddened each time I learn something new about this great American, one who did so much to advance the cause of liberty and freedom in our country and yet today garners little or no recognition at all. Do yourself a favor, and take the time to get acquainted with one of the great patriots, orators, freethinkers, and champions of human liberty and freedom!
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
"American Infidel: Robert G. Ingersoll," a biography by Orvin Larson (copyrighted by him in 1962) was reprinted as a second edition in 1993 by the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
The Foundation calls itself "a nonprophet nonprofit and nation's largest atheist/agnostic group, working to promote the separation of state and church." One of their public signs, erected very near a Christmas-time manger scene, as you might recall, said in part: "There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds."
Larson's biography follows Ingersoll as a lawyer, Union colonel in the Civil War, anti-slavery activist, beloved family man, sometime politician, and nationally popular speaker.
Ingersoll preceded by some 150 years a number of today's prominent unbelievers. Chiefly these are the so-called "Four Horsemen of New Atheism": Sam Harris "The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason," 2004), Richard Dawkins ("The God Delusion," 2006), Daniel Dennett, ("Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon," 2006), and the late Christopher Hitchens, ("god is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything," 2007).
Christopher Hitchens, who died in December 2011, was quite outspoken, seeming willing to debate all comers. He denied life after death, saying that death ends human existence, that we will feel no regret about dying, because we won't even know we are dead. We will simply be dead. After death there is no reward, no punishment.
Richard Dawkins contrasts the "Strong theist" (100% believer) and the "Strong atheist" ("I know there is no God."). For himself, Dawkins says, "I cannot know for certain but I think God is very improbable, and I live my life on the assumption that he is not there."
Daniel Dennett is reputedly a firm atheist. He would like people's belief in God to be examined with as much scrutiny as any other scientific subject.
Orvin Larson's writing, although straightforward and clear, is a bit professorial and dated, quite unlike Ingersoll's own writing and speeches, which are available from other sources. Many outstanding contemporaries praised Ingersoll repeatedly for his oratory, intelligence, and wit. Hundreds attended his lectures. Larson's descriptions remind me of today's rock star gatherings. Some, no doubt, probably considered his lectures entertainment.
If you are already familiar with the "Four Horsemen," you will appreciate Ingersoll's public persona continuing long after the Civil War, and I would encourage Googling for his lectures. Ingersoll devoted his life to freeing everyone from enslavement by governments, landowners, politicians, or clerics. He was an outstanding proponent of freedom of speech. We should all become as familiar with him as we are with Thomas Paine and "The Age of Reason."
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on February 1, 2009
As Americans have gotten more religious (65% report attending church today as opposed to 17% during the early days of this Republic), toleration for other opinions has decreased. From the last quarter of the 19th century to the 1st quarter of the 20th century has been called the Golden Age of Freethought, when the two most popular celebrities in America were Mark Twain and Robert G. Ingersoll, both agnostics. Despite the fact that the fastest growing belief system according to the PEW Foundation polls is no religious belief, the Christian right is so loud that one would never know this. The role of deists, agnostics, freethinkers, and atheists on the progress of freedom in this country has largely been ignored, as well as the fact that this is a secular state with a secular Constitution. How many Americans even know not only that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion" (First Amendment), but there is supposed to be no religious test for office (Article 6, section 3). How many Americans would grant an ear an agnostic or atheist who wants to run for office to hear his policies? Ingersoll's personal morality and family values as well as his fight for women and African-American (nor his eloquent speeches that were so popular and made him rich) should not be lost in the dustbins of history, but continually revived in the American historical consciousness. This book remains one of the few important records of this great man.
22 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on September 21, 1999
Robert Ingersoll stood up to the religious fanatasizm of the 19th century and turned his clear thinking eloquence into a sword. No one in this century has equaled his stand against the ignorance and intolerance of religious conservatism.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 9, 2013
Way back in the 70's I became familiar with Robert Green Ingersoll - quite by accident*. My husband and I had a graphic arts business and one day a couple walked in with all the typeset pages for a smallish, limited edition (college printed) book of short excerpts from the works of RGI. It was our task to paste it up in folio form for printing (something we always hated to do when our firm did not do the typesetting, in which case, if we had an accident we could print out a duplicate). It was not phototypesetting, but rather strike-on type from an IBM typesetting machine - smear-able among other problems. Boy, did it take a long time for me to paste-up that copy - since I found myself reading more than pasting. There was no internet then, so my husband and I went to a used bookstore and put out a search for the set of Ingersoll's complete works. We lucked into 2 sets of the first printing, one in excellent condition and one in a little less good condition. They are treasured possessions.
After reading that set of RGI complete works, we still had many questions about what factors in a person's life could lead someone to so radically turn away from the "norm" of beliefs for his time and then to speak of those beliefs with such vehemence and openness. The biographical information with the set of his works was helpful, but we still had unanswered questions. This book, American Infidel helped us to fill in many of those blanks. It is well researched. This book takes you on a "cradle to grave" trip though RGI's life. It is very fascinating, especially so if you are familiar with RGI's works, to learn what was happening in his life and in the United States when he formulated his speeches that eventually were printed in the 12 volume set. This book also takes you on a trip through American politics after the Civil War. As an adult, RGI was "from Illinois" (eventually moving to Washington D.C.), and since I grew up in Illinois it was especially interesting for me to read of all the "wheeling and dealing" there was in politics then. The more things change the more they stay the same!
I highly recommend this book to all lovers of Ingersoll. Even more so, I highly recommend it to persons who are not familiar with Ingersoll. Even if you do not agree with some of his beliefs, it is impossible to not see how dead on he was about the equality of all persons - regardless of race or gender. In many ways he was far ahead of his time. I believe that, if you know nothing of Ingersoll, and read this book, you'll be hungry for more than the small excerpts of his works that are quoted in the book. You are fortunate - in the 70's there were no reprints of his complete works as there are now - available in both printed and electronic copies. Sadly, none of us will be able to hear his rich voice delivering his thoughts and there seem to be no photos of him until he was well into adulthood. (My copy of this book is the original 1962 printing - I hope more photos are in the newer printing.)
*Throughout my schooling, whenever a mention was made of a great 19th century orator, the only name I heard was Lincoln. I find it very sad that, because of Ingersoll's beliefs, his existence was effectively expunged from history for so long.
on May 29, 2014
Quickly: How many people do you know who could identify R.G. Ingersoll? After reading this (relatively) short biography, it will become apparent that many others should read it. This man was an important part of our National conscience. He brought an important part of our being back into the public discussion. We were founded as a secular nation (for those doubting this - for whatever reason - read our treaty with Tripoli negotiated under Washington and signed under Adams 1797/1798) and keep being run over by Christians who are (mis) led by the fringe from the right. We need people like R.G. Ingersoll. We need to know what he did and we have to have the courage to speak out.
3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on August 25, 2011
ROBERT G INGERSOLL, IS PROPABLY ONE OF THE MOST INSPIRING PERSONS, HIS WRITINGS, ON LIFE, REALITY, ONE TO SPEAK OUT AGAINST THE ALL POWERFULL CHRUCH,
HIS KNOWLEDGE ON THE BIBLE, IS INFALLABLE, AND WAS INSPIRING, HE UNDERSTANDS REAL LIFE, LOVE, HIS BOOK, WHATS GOD HAVE TO DO WITH IT! WAS POWERFULL, I
HAVE READ THIS SEVERAL TIMES, THIS BOOK GIVES YOU AN IDEA OF HIS LIFE, IT SETS YOU UP TO READ ALL HIS OTHER BOOKS, I HAVE THEM ALL, WE REALLY NEED SOMEONE
LIKE HIM IN TODAYS POLITICS!
FREE AND HONEST TALK!
on July 22, 2015
Written several years ago but excellent to learn about the great Ingersoll