1 Following


Currently reading

400 Years Of Freethought
Samuel Porter Putnam
Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power
Jon Meacham
Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm: A New English Version
Philip Pullman, Jacob Grimm
Doubt: A History: The Great Doubters and Their Legacy of Innovation from Socrates and Jesus to Thomas Jefferson and Emily Dickinson
Jennifer Michael Hecht
The Kingdom of Matthias: A Story of Sex and Salvation in 19th-Century America
Paul E. Johnson, Sean Wilentz

The Great Agnostic: Robert Ingersoll and American Freethought

The Great Agnostic: Robert Ingersoll and American Freethought - Susan Jacoby Susan Jacoby sets out to -- and in her afterword advises "new" atheists to work tenaciously to -- restore Robert Ingersoll to his rightful place in American history. In two hundred pages, she makes a compelling case. Ingersoll was not only a champion of freethinkers, he widened the field for religious moderates and everyone who prefers a secular government and public sphere. And he lived an interesting life in interesting times.My only criticism of this story is that American freethought during the end of the 19th century seems very isolated. Jacoby has called this period the Golden Age of American freethought (in Freethinkers as well as here); it was also the golden age of British freethought, and the two traditions were in regular contact with each other. One example would be contraception, which Ingersoll advocated on the basis of women's right to control their own bodies. It wouldn't detract from Ingersoll at all to acknowledge that freethinkers advocating birth control had a long and important history on both sides of the Atlantic when Ingersoll took up the issue. Of course you can't do everything in 200 pages, but in her letter to the new atheists, the author calls out to readers of some contemporary British atheists such as Dawkins and Hitchens. Perhaps there would be less need to re-establish these ties across the water if we knew more about the ongoing transatlantic interactions between people like Thomas Paine, Richard Carlile, Frances Wright, R. D. Owens, Charles Knowlton, Charles Bradlaugh, Abner Kneeland, Gilbert Vale, and Robert Ingersoll throughout the 19th century.But that's my own pet project...