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A Miscellany 382
New Ingersoll Biography

by: JT

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A new biography of Robert Ingersoll written by noted author, Susan Jacoby, has just been published. The following is from the author's website and is republished with permission.

Robert Ingersoll: "The Great Agnostic and American Freethought"

If you were a fan of "Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism," you will not want to miss this long-overdue biography of Ingersoll from Yale's American Icons Series. In this provocative portrait, Jacoby explores the career of the foremost spokesman for secularism and the separation of church and state during America's Gilded Age. When Ingersoll died in 1899, it was widely acknowledge that he might well have become president of the United States had it not been for his openly expressed antireligious views. To the question that retains its divisive power--was the United States founded as a Christian nation?--Ingersoll answered an emphatic no.

This erudite and entertaining account restores Ingersoll to his rightful place in an American intellectual tradition extending from Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine to the current generation of "new atheists." Jacoby illuminates the ways in which America's often-denigrated and forgotten secular history encompasses issues, including women's rights, immigration, and evolution, that are as potent and divisive now as they were in Ingersoll's time. The Great Agnostic emerges as one of the indispensable public figures who keep an alternative version of history alive. He devoted his life to the greatest secular idea of all--liberty of conscience belonging to the religious and non-religious alike. For further information, visit www.yale.edu

Advance praise for Ingersoll Biography

"Robert Ingersoll used his wit to blast the absurdities of religion, while his warmth kept him close to his audiences. He has found his perfect biographer in Susan Jacoby, who uses his story to provide deep insights not only into Ingersoll's century but out own." 

--Rebecca Mewberger Goldstein, author of "36 Arguments for the Existence of God: A Work of Fiction" 

 "As someone who did brave battle with narrow-minded fundamentalists in his own day, Robert Ingersoll would surely be appalled at the political influence of their heirs today. But their very rise makes Susan Jacoby's fine, compact and judicious account of Ingersoll's  life and ideas all the more important. She has given us a splendid intellectual portrait of an American who deserves to be better known."

--Adam Hochschild, author of "To End All Wars" and "Bury the Chains"

The book is available (and quite reasonably priced) at: