Twice in the 1890s, a world-famous speaker came to Galveston giving lectures (and drawing huge crowds) at The Grand 1894 Opera House. He spoke in 1896 on agnosticism, then in 1898 on liberty.

He stayed at the Tremont Hotel and The Hotel Grand as they existed before the 1900 hurricane destroyed so much of the island.

This man was a major leader of the 19th-century Republican Party, close friend of several U.S. presidents (and lived on Lafayette Park, neighbor of the White House, for several years) and ally of Frederick Douglass. He knew Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses Grant, but the presidents he was closest to were Rutherford B. Hayes, Chester A. Arthur, and, especially, James A. Garfield (he saw Garfield just before and again just after Garfield was shot in July 1881; Garfield died weeks later).

He was offered — and turned down — the equivalent (in today’s dollars) of $1 million-plus expenses if he’d go to Australia for a speaking tour. He gave talks across America in major cities like Galveston, Chicago, San Francisco and in hundreds of smaller ones. A town near Texarkana was named after him (but later changed its name to the current Redwater, Texas). A mountain in Washington state is named after him.

Preachers all across the United States led prayers for him, including by thousands of Christians on Thanksgiving Day, 1895. The prayers were focused on this Illinois attorney general, giver of the then most famous nominating speech at a national political convention, and man reputed to be among the nation’s most generous and kindly.

He steadfastly championed civil rights, voting rights for women and for citizens of the District of Columbia, and denounced slavery even before he led a regiment of Union soldiers at the Battle of Shiloh.

He memorized all of Shakespeare (one of his popular lecture subjects) and was an extremely successful attorney. His power to speak, in the days before radio, microphones, television and movies, made him the biggest entertainment draw in the land, reportedly being seen and heard in person by more people than any other American.

Walt Whitman declared that, “I see in Bob the noblest specimen — American-flavored — pure out of the soil, spreading, giving, demanding light.” And Mark Twain wrote, “I doubt if America has ever seen anything quite equal to it; I am well satisfied I shall not live to see its equal again. How pale those speeches are in print, but how radiant, how full of color, how blinding they were in the delivery! Bob Ingersoll’s music will sing through my memory always as the divinest that ever enchanted my ears.”

He was born Aug. 11, 1833, (you can visit his birthplace in Dresden, New York, on the Finger Lakes) and died in 1899.

In his day, he was widely known as “The Great Agnostic.” Today, he would more likely be called “The Great Secular Humanist.”

I invite you all to think “Happy Birthday” on Aug. 11 for Robert Green Ingersoll — now that you’ve heard of him.

Ed Buckner is a native of League City who now lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

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(14) comments


I was intorduced to Ingersol by a college friend and by Menchen. I think him the greatest American prose stylist ever, the heir of Paine and the progenerator of Hemmingway. Ironically, his prose owes a debt to the Bible. Still, I have never been able to read him for more than 10 minutes without boredom.

Ed Buckner

The headline to my column is a touch misleading. Robert Green Ingersoll was quite well known--famous, in fact--in his day. It is only that he is not well remembered today, despite his being so well known in his lifetime, and that is what is interesting.

David Hardee

I was going to submit as a Guest column rebuttal but public interest was so slight i'm just commenting,

Another Illusion from Progressive Liberals, Secular Humanism religion.

Couched in Mr. Buckner’s July 13,Another name-dropping article chronicling the huckster “America’s most famous forgotten atheist” Ingersoll was enticing the reader to find acceptance for an irregular religion, Secular Humanism.

Secular Humanism delves into the supernatural and metaphysical and impacts on communal belief systems, religion(s). Specifically presented here will be a critique of the assertion made in Ed Buckner’s article that recommends Secular Humanism to destroy and replace all the images of a Deity/God by religions currently practiced. Secular religion -meaning - “is a communal belief system that often rejects or neglects the metaphysical aspects of the supernatural, commonly associated with traditional religion, instead placing typical religious qualities in earthly entities.” -

Along with all the progressive liberal illusion, It was inevitable that during our extremely traumatic society, shattered by China pandemic, a cadre of depressed minorities perceive they are victims of vicious white Systemic racism, and a federal government filled with animosities that erupt in battles for self aggrandizing and power, that a prophet for an irregular religion would appear. Mr. Buckner advocates Secular Humanism as did his mentor the Great Huckster Ingersoll.

The Secular Humanists’ do not want to be categorized as a religion since traditional religions recognize a God/Prime Mover. Humanist have concluded, is a fabrication from the dementied psyche of society, created by a populous searching for the meaning of life. The fact that humans are searching for their meaning/purpose/living in the scheme of life is why every society has eventually collectively created an image revered as the God to be honored and the model of a likeness to emulate/become.

Secular Humanism is a religion but it is irregular to all other religions because Secular Humanists revere the logic of the human psyche as the deity to emulate. Indisputable is the fact the psyche of human(s) are inconsistent and by nature irrational/illogical. A simple definition of a human is a unique living body which is the vehicle that is transporting a psyche as it is developing a self/person. It is an undeniable/proven fact that everybody/vehicle is unique and every self/person is also unique. Note - even identical twins are only identical genetically at the instant of birth and immediately they become different with unique fingerprints and their psyches will never be identical.

Every psychological and sociological evaluation, by observation and experimentation concluded, -” in the 1970s, two psychologists proved, once and for all, that humans are not rational creatures. Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky discovered “cognitive biases,” showing that humans systematically make choices that defy clear logic.“ - a diverse society of humans cannot in attitude, belief, or position be consistent. Secular Humanism will never obtain a consistent rational model for humanity to use as a communal belief system.

HOPEFULLY, society will shake off apathy with a resurgence of active combat against these destroyers of the Best Hope of Humanity, and MAGA.

Ed, This article was so ludicrous the response is one acknowledgement that Ingersoll was a oratory gifted huckster. Pick your mentors more carefully.

Ed Buckner

David Hardee, my apologies for--ever so briefly--considering a wise or reasonable opponent. Your profound ignorance is on full display with this nonsense--too much misinformation from too misguided a source to bother rebutting. Enjoy your bubble.

David Hardee

You have supposed you know my sources you refer to as "Misguided." My revealed sources were Jesus's life example, and an image of a Prime Mover with attribute proven to be a model that would elevate society to a better humanity.

I don't have to make suppositions on your mentors and their prophesies because you have revealed you wallow in:

- CRT you stated, "MLK would support using CRT" and "if you want a better grasp of what CRT is really all about, here's an excellent blog post about it"

- The Rude which you say, "be advised, though, that "the Rude Pundit" uses colorful vulgarity)--" ,

- "free inquiry" ,and the huckster Ingersoll's Secular Humanism.

All these assault the morns that have guided the USA on a positive trajectory over the past 250 years,

Your considering me wise and reasonable was based on the dialogue you swallowed during our tete-a-tete. Now you change you impression about me. If you were so gullible it reinforces that any mentors tutelage you accept is highly probable to be illogical. You will definitely rationalize out of the dilemma I present for your deliberation. That is what you do to tolerate a skewed psyche. Wisdom - "the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgment; the quality of being wise.", is not easily obtained. Try it.

Ed Buckner

Mr. Hardee, you--falsely, as it turned out--declared that dialogue between us was pointless, and I agreed that haranguing each other made no sense. But then you launched a bizarrely irrational attack on my guest column. You don't know what a religion is, you don't grasp secular humanism at all, you have never struck me as wise--just as, in limited ways, reasonable. I'm an admirer of MLK and of RGI, I'm amused by the Rude Pundit, I support free inquiry and Free Inquiry. The fact that you *have* ill-advised and unreasonable opinions does not count as evidence for those opinions. I'd happily debate you before an audience who could decide for themselves who has the best arguments, but disputing with you one on one about matters on which you are grossly misinformed on seems pointless. If you want to try, explain, please, what constitutes an "irregular" religion and how you are competent to judge such. If it amuses you to hold forth, why then let's go at it. But I'll quit having any respect for you if you continue to bloviate and insult.

David Hardee

What good is a guest column - that simulate one response - and that response calls Ingersoll a gifted orator with a subject matter so ridiculous even the simple minded that were tantalized some relegate Ingersoll and his weird philosophy and irregular religion into oblivion. The politicians always allow audience to these popular flash in the pan hucksters an audience hoping to pander the weak minded vote. This Blowing Smoke always lingers in the periphery waiting for an advocate that will resurrect it for another Blowing of Smoke charade. Congratulation, Ed.

Ed Buckner

David Hardee asks, "What good is a guest column - that simulate one response - and that response calls Ingersoll a gifted orator with a subject matter so ridiculous even the simple minded that were tantalized some relegate Ingersoll and his weird philosophy and irregular religion into oblivion. The politicians always allow audience to these popular flash in the pan hucksters an audience hoping to pander the weak minded vote. This Blowing Smoke always lingers in the periphery waiting for an advocate that will resurrect it for another Blowing of Smoke charade. Congratulation, Ed." While it is true that Hardee's comment is inarticulate and close to incomprehensible, at least he has bulked up the # of comments on my column--something most of the 20,000 or 30,000 other readers of that column didn't do. Now if only Hardee would actually argue something--say how he can declare a philosophy a religion on no grounds whatever. Or why he thinks he is qualified to make judgements on the morality of gay marriage or slavery or ....[whistling]

David Hardee

Ed, you interpreted my comment(s) precisely. So obviously your claim that it is “inarticulate and incomprehensible” is very incomprehensible. The guest column you wrote was very good at building an intriguing progression and curiosity. But once the curiosity was satisfied and the subject matter was exposed those 20 or 30 thousand readers recognized the Blowing Smoke and just like Ingersoll’s audience put it away as Blown Smoke.

I will gladly bump up you comment #s by repudiating the absurdities you advocate. The attempts to rationalize your positions is purely Blowing Smoke.

Ed, in this thread of comments on your column I have concentrated on the context of your article. I’ve expressed no personal philosophy nor have I offered a personal position on religion.or recommended a religion. I concentrated on the Irregular Secular Humanism that you did advocate.

At no time did the discussion in this thread raise the issue of slavery, which FYI does not exist today, nor was the issue of gay marriage mentioned. Previous threads which did involve gay marriage and the irregular religion Secular Humanism critique must be what you are referring to.

In your previous comment you associated MLK with RGI. My search with Google returned that Dr. M.L. King had no actual affiliation with or spoke of RGI. But there is at UCDavis a Law School named in his honor and a Lisa C. Ikemoto teaches bioethics, health care law, public health law, reproductive rights, law & policy, and marital property - at that school. Lisa’s is apparently involved with the multiple research areas including reproductive and genetic technology .../RGI. This field, RGI, is working on manipulation of an embryo and Lisa the ACTIVIST has published "The Social Transmission of Racism" . also is working on the field of “preimplantation genetic testing (PGT). “We have performed PGT for thousands of families worldwide.” they say. Thanks for the heads up, Ed. Embryo Genetic Manipulation ”EGM” might be the solution. Imagine a population of clones and a few managers, UTOPIA of slaves.

Ed Buckner

I'm not sure who you're trying to impress, David Hardee. If it's me, you're failing spectacularly. Though you apparently missed my sarcasm, I'm pretty sure no one is reading what we say to each other except us'n. We aren't likely to change each other's minds, but we can possibly entertain ourselves via argument, so long as we're both prepared to do so in a way that suits us both. Enough with the mindless pretense that, for example, I had meant anything other than Robert Green Ingersoll by "RGI" or that I was implying MLK and RGI had ought to do with one another. Also clear, to anyone with a fourth grade reading comprehension level, was my point about slavery, gay marriage, and secular humanism--namely, that we could discuss any *one* of those that suited you. (You have broadly hinted that the life of Jesus Christ matters to you and he, if indeed he even existed, never condemned as immoral the practice of human beings pretending to own other human beings, so who knows whether you follow him in this moral understanding or not.) You also flatly refused to answer straightforward logical objections to your apparent views on same-sex marriage. We could discuss slavery or same-sex marriage, but I was suggesting that we start, at least, by discussing the logical contradiction in your twin claims that secular humanism IS a religion despite championing no god-beliefs AND that secular humanism is a bad ("irregular") religion because it champions no god-beliefs. You can explain why this is illogically contradictory. Or you can bloviate. I wait with bated breath.

David Hardee

Super idea, Ed. Let us concentrate on your Guest Column where I intended to isolate. We deviated only because you brought in the other persons and matters as distractions - like MLK - RGI - CRT - etc.

One issue at a time is normally the debate monitor rule - let try that rule.

Can we isolate on your article - which - was a chronicle of Ingersoll’s dates and association with those people of prominence. With the final thrust being the introduction of Secular Humanism. Your intent was to project Secular Humanism as, at minimum, respectful for consideration, right? Your chronicle of name dropping was to give credibility that those prominent people had given Secular Humanism the reason/interest for entertaining Ingersoll., right? Which, I spent effort poop-poop-ing with a claim that those prominent people were really using the popularity of Ingersoll with the public as usual to get notoriety for themselves. Right?

So, if my assertions are not Right will you tell me what your column was intended to do?


Ed Buckner

You have it largely but not entirely correct. I'm a fan of RGI *and* of secular humanism but I meant it when I wrote that he would *more likely* today be considered a secular humanist. Everything I know about him jives well with my understanding of secular humanism--but I don't think anyone ever called him that. They did call him an atheist and I think that label, as I'd define it, fits--but he never used that label, I'm reasonably sure. There are things I don't admire about RGI or agree with him on, but I do admire and respect him and find very interesting in general--and that's why I wrote about him. He really did have more than glancing connections to all those big names and Republican prezzes, and I don't know for sure why--probably because most if not all of them agreed with him about civil rights, secularism (not anti-religion), and other issues. Some may have shared his agnosticism; others certainly didn't. None of them used the term "secular humanism" as far as I know. His nominating speech for Blaine at the Republican convention was the biggest sensation of the day.

He was occasionally too sappy for me: "The time to be happy is now; the way to be happy is make others so." But I greatly admire his generosity, his affable attitude toward those who disagreed with him, his strong family values, and more.

The connection to "secular humanism" was certainly not my primary purpose nor anything I'm sure of except in a general way.

I am sure that secular humanism is not a religion, most particularly because secular humanists do not hold that there is any good reason to believe in or "follow" any gods--nor do they (we) worship or deify human reason, either. It's not an "irregular religion"--it's a philosophy, one that rejects religion, at least as valuable sets of beliefs for mankind. Neither you nor anyone else is obligated to agree with secular humanism, but being dishonest about what it even is constitutes obfuscation, not truth-seeking.

David Hardee

Thanks Ed, for clarification. Be assured that I have no desire to be critical of anyone's personal beliefs or life. When I have used the cliché, “to each his own”, it was with sincerity.

My reactions to published presentations that are intended to produce influence on the naïve and forming minds always draw my critique. Also pure Political articles quickly arouse my scrutiny. The freedom of publication by the 4th Estate, by true journalists, that report events, quotations, and facts are vanishing. Instead the 4th Estate has reverted to titillating readers with slanted presentations, shameful.

Editorials (not those with pure intent to stimulate emotions) with evidence and logic are permitted with less restrictions but still the journalistic standards apply. “ Editorial standards are essentially rules that help you establish and uphold your reputation as a trustworthy resource for your audience. ... They give you the freedom to be creative, or straight-up weird, as long as your content is built on a foundation that serves your audience.”

We are experiencing an corrupting expansion of what was intended as a 4th estate venue. The social media has put society's most guttural, least knowledgeable and biased people in the powerful position of publishing any convolution.

I am not referring to you or your publications, All of your recitations have proven you to be founded on knowledge and with hyperbole. The subject matter is your personal agenda expressed to entice and persuade issues contrary to traditions, and argumentative to nature. You and I will always be opponents in the public venue altho I expect in a private tete-a-tete the atmosphere would be accelerating, interesting and informative.

I have in the past, published, but my last offering was rejected as too critical of the media and the GDN editor took it personally. . I may be barred, When I submit again I’ll know definitely. Then you will have a rebuttal opportunity.


Ed Buckner

Thnx, Mr. Hardee. I look forward to another publication from you--and for that matter, if you want me to look backward, send your rejected column to my e-address (ed at

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