During all these years it was claimed by the theologians that their God was governing the world, that he was infinitely powerful, wise and good — and that the “powers” of the earth were “ordained” by him. During all these years the church was the enemy of progress. It hated all physicians and told the people to rely on prayer, amulets and relics. It persecuted the astronomers and geologists, denounced them as infidels and atheists, as enemies of the human race. It poisoned the fountains of learning and insisted that teachers should distort the facts in nature to the end that they might harmonize with the “inspired” book. During all these years the church misdirected the energies of man, and when it reached the zenith of its power, darkness fell upon the world.
In all nations and in all ages, religion has failed. The gods have never interfered. Nature has produced and destroyed without mercy and without hatred. She has cared no more for man than for the leaves of the forest, no more for nations than for hills of ants, cared nothing for right or wrong, for life or death, for pain or joy.
Man through his intelligence must protect himself. He gets no help from any other world. The church has always claimed and still claims that it is the only reforming power, that it makes men honest, virtuous and merciful, that it prevents violence and war, and that without its influence the race would return to barbarism.
Nothing can exceed the absurdity of these claims. If we wish to improve the condition of mankind — if we wish for nobler men and women we must develop the brain, we must encourage thought and investigation. We must convince the world that credulity is a vice, — that there is no virtue in believing without, or against evidence, and that the really honest man is true to himself. We must fill the world with intellectual light. We must applaud mental courage. We must educate the children, rescue them from ignorance and crime. School-houses are the real temples, and teachers are the true priests. We must supply the wants of the mind, satisfy the hunger of the brain. The people should be familiar with the great poets, with the tragedies of AEschylus, the dramas of Shakespeare, with the poetry of Homer and Virgil. Shakespeare should be taught in every school, found in every house.
Robert Green Ingersoll – “Myth and Miracle”(1885)