"What's God Got to Do With It?" by Robert Ingersoll; edited by Tim Page

IngersollWhat'sGodI’ve heard Ingersoll’s name for many years, of course; one could hardly miss it in my philosophy and free thought circles. And I know I have read some of his words, because one of his biggest fans has seen fit to pay for full-page advertisements in Free Inquiry Magazine [See www.theingersolltimes.com] But really about all I knew of him was a mere scratch of the surface. This book is a deeper, more thoughtful scratch, and gets rather below the surface.

First we have his Centennial Oration in Peoria, Illinois on July 4, 1876. It is his contemplation of the Declaration of Independence as “the grandest, the bravest, and the profoundest political document that was ever signed by the representatives of a people. It is the embodiment of physical and moral courage and of political wisdom.” This is specifically because it founded the first “the first secular government that was ever founded in this world.”

The second chapter, “God in the Constitution,” not only makes the point that the founding fathers did not put the word “God” in there anywhere, but that it would have been fatal to the Constitution if they had. As mentioned before, we were founded with a secular government, one that is entirely separate from religion by design. Since I have no argument with this point, the main value is a collection of useful quotes, with the sad realization that more than a century has passed and they are still necessary.

In fact, it is amazing just how much of this book is at least as significant today as it was when it was written. I know that we have come a long way in many respects in the intervening century, but it is valuable to remember that we still have a long way to go.

The last chapter is called “A Fable.” and presents a devout clergyman who uses a crane to put forth his version of intelligent design. The crane, he argues, is perfectly designed for fishiing. The boy recognizes this but points out “But after all, father, don’t you think the arrangement a little tough on the fish?”

Read this book repeatedly.

Statements in this review do not necessarily express the thoughts or opinions of the Ethical Society of St. Louis or its leadership.