Robert Green "Bob" Ingersoll
(August 11, 1833 – July 21, 1899) was a Civil War veteran, American political leader, and orator during the Golden Age of Freethought, noted for his broad range of culture and his defense of agnosticism. He was nicknamed "The Great Agnostic."
His father, John Ingersoll, was an abolitionist-leaning Presbyterian preacher, whose radical views were a source of constant trouble between him and his narrow-minded parishioners and forced his family to move frequently. These views also made him the defendant in several church trials. It was the unjust and bigoted treatment his father received which made Robert Ingersoll the enemy, first of Calvinism, and later of Christianity in its other forms.
Ingersoll was most noted as an orator, the most popular of the age, when oratory was public entertainment. He spoke on every subject, from Shakespeare to Reconstruction, but his most popular subjects were agnosticism and the sanctity and refuge of the family. He committed his speeches to memory although they were sometimes more than three hours long. His audiences were said never to be restless.
Many of Ingersoll's speeches advocated freethought and humanism, and often poked fun at religious belief. For this the press often attacked him, but neither his views nor the negative press could stop his rising popularity. At the height of Ingersoll's fame, audiences would pay $1 or more to hear him speak, a giant sum for his day.
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