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Reflections on Christmas by Robert Ingersoll, the "Great Infidel"

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Reflections on Christmas by Robert Ingersoll, the "Great Infidel"

By Michael Richardson

Robert Green Ingersoll, 1833-1899, was known in his day as the "Great Infidel" for his outstanding oratorical ability and unceasing advocacy of Freethought. Although denounced by many Christian clerics, the agnostic Ingersoll commented favorably on Christmas in the last decade of his life.

"My family and I regard Christmas as a holiday-that is to say, a day of rest and pleasure-a day to get acquainted with each other, a day to recall old memories, and for the cultivation of social amenities. The festival now called Christmas is far older than Christianity. It was known and celebrated for thousands of years before the establishment of what is known as our religion. It is a relic of sun-worship....For my part I am willing to have two or three a year-the more holidays the better." (December 1889)

"I believe in Christmas and in every day that has been set apart for joy. We in America have too much work and not enough play....Christmas is a good day to forgive and forget-a good day to throw away prejudices and hatreds-a good day to fill your heart and your house, and the hearts and houses of others, with sunshine." (December 1891)

"This is the festival of the sun-god, and as such let its observance be universal. This is the great day of the first religion, the mother of all religions-the worship of the sun. Sun worship is not only the first, but the most natural and reasonable of all. And not only the most natural and reasonable, but by far the most poetic, the most beautiful....This bright God knew no hatred, no malice, never sought revenge....And so I say again, this is the festival of Light." (December 1892)

"If I had the power to produce exactly what I want for next Christmas, I would have all the kings and emperors resign and allow the people to govern themselves."

"I would have all the professors in colleges, all the teachers in schools of every kind, including those in Sunday schools, agree that they would teach only what they know, that they would not palm off guesses as demonstrated truths."

"I would like to see all the politicians changed to statesmen-to men who long to make their country great and free-to men who care more for public good than private gain-men who long to be of use."

"I would like to see all the editors of papers and magazines agree to print the truth and nothing but the truth, to avoid all slander and misrepresentation, and to let the private affairs of people alone."
"I would like to see corporal punishment done away with in every home, in every school, in every asylum, reformatory, and prison. Cruelty hardens and degrades, kindness reforms and ennobles."

"I would like to see millionaires unite and form a trust for the public good."

"I would like to see a fair division of profits between capital and labor, so that the toiler could save enough to mingle a little June with the December of his life."

"I would like to see an international court established in which to settle disputes between nations, so that armies could be disbanded and the great navies allowed to rust and rot in perfect peace."

"I would like to see the whole world free-free from injustice-free from superstition."

"This will do for next Christmas. The following Christmas, I may want more." (December 1897)

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Michael Richardson is a freelance writer based in Boston. Richardson writes about politics, law, nutrition, ethics, and music. Richardson is also a political consultant.

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