(Photos by Author)
No rational person would say we are not living in fearful times. In fact, many irrational people believe we are too! What we perhaps need the most is for someone, anyone, to address our fears with a steady and sensible voice. Once again, Ingersoll steps up and stands out.
Otherworldly beliefs build their shaky foundation on fearfulness and promise heavenly rewards or hellish punishments. Supernaturalism goes hand in hand with superstition—so we might beware of the dangerous distractions of the “supers.”
A few years ago a courageous voice in India was silenced. After 30 years confronting pseudoscience, miracle-workers and superstitious practices through writings and lectures, 68-year old Dr. Narendra Dabholkar was assassinated on a morning walk in 2013. Rational legislation he had supported was passed just days following his murder.
The organization he founded—sharply named the Blind Faith Eradication Committee— was filled with grief and a sense of helplessness, but the statement they released ended with these words: “Those were tears silently reassuring each other not to give up but to keep on fighting for the freedom of thought, freedom to criticize exploitative religious practices, freedom to eradicate atrocious [practices] and superstition and freedom to usher in a new era of reason, of scientific temper and of overall human progress” (see antisuperstition.org).
Were he still alive, no doubt RGI would have stood with Dr. Dabholkar in defense of freethought; side by side these secular saints would hold firm against ignorance and hypocrisy, calling us to eradicate our greatest terrorizing threat: fear.
“The whole world has been filled with fear.
Ignorance has been the refuge of the soul. For thousands of years the intellectual ocean was ravaged by the buccaneers of reason. Pious souls clung to the shore and looked at the lighthouse . . .
Fear is the dungeon of the mind, and superstition is a dagger with which hypocrisy assassinates the soul. Courage is liberty. I am in favor of absolute freedom of thought . . .
Let us, if possible, banish all fear from the mind. Do not imagine that there is some being in the infinite expanse who is not willing that every man and woman should think for himself and herself. Do not imagine that there is any being who would give to his children the holy torch of reason, and then damn them for following that sacred light. Let us have courage . . .
You need not fear the anger of a god that you cannot injure. Rather fear to injure your fellow-men . . .
As long as we harbor such opinions of infinity [that we could somehow injure a god]; as long as we imagine the heavens to be filled with such tyranny, just so long the sons of men will be cringing, intellectual cowards. Let us think, and let us honestly express our thought.”
From “What Must We Do to be Saved?” (Part I), Washington, D.C., 1880