Daily Dose of Ingersoll

All that is good in our civilization is the result of commerce, climate, soil, geographical position, industry, invention, discovery, art, and science. The church has been the enemy of progress, for the reason that it has endeavored to prevent man thinking for himself. To prevent thought is to prevent all advancement except in the direction of faith.

Robert Green Ingersoll – “Individuality” (1873)


  1. Religion deserves some credit for fostering the conditions (i.e., social and cultural stability) that allowed for the growth and development of civilization. If it weren’t for religion, it’s doubtful we’d be as advanced as we are today.

    Granted, religion accomplished this largely through manipulation (intellectual and otherwise), which is reprehensible. But you gotta give credit where credit is due. You have the luxury of being able to criticize religion today in no small part because of religion.

  2. @Will

    But you gotta give credit where credit is due. You have the luxury of being able to criticize religion today in no small part because of religion.

    *pulls up a seat* This one I gotta hear. Explain please.

  3. Well, I already did explain, and it’s not a terribly controversial argument. Religion (especially pre-Christian religion) helped create cohesion between individuals, and groups of individuals, which led to tribal and national entities. From there, religion fostered the sort of social and cultural stability that allowed tribes and nations to develop and grow — economically, technologically, artistically, scientifically, etc.

    Our highly advanced human civilization would probably not be as highly advanced if it weren’t for the stabilizing force of religion, and the security that came along with it. All of the things we take for granted today (the internet, freedom of speech) came about in part because religion paved the way for societies to develop to the point that they were able to create those things.

    Of course, it’s impossible to know what civilization would look like without religion, because religion was the status quo for almost all of human history, from the caves on. Atheism is a relatively new phenomenon.

    Just so we’re clear, I’m not defending religion here. Much of the stability that religion provided came by way of manipulation, fear, and outright aggression. I’m also not implying that religion hasn’t had plenty of destabilizing effects as well. But as for Ingersoll’s claim that religion deserves no credit for any of the good things about civilization, he’s wrong.

    Religion isn’t a purely good or purely bad thing.

  4. I think early religion didn’t create groups/communities so much as evolution did. It seems that groups can survive better than loners, so the community-minded thrived where loners did not. Religion seems like an unnecessary byproduct of our group longing mixed with out imaginations.

    I do agree that churches have done some good things (food closets, soup kitchens, etc.), but you could also say that Pol Pot did a lot to alleviate overpopulation. That is to say I think the bad outweighs the good.

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