"We are satisfied that there can be but little liberty on earth while men worship a tyrant in heaven."
- Robert Green Ingersoll in "The Gods" (1872)
My own ideas on the quote:
Robert G. Ingersoll's terse sentence is still quite current today. This is true, even if during the last 150 years there has been the rise of a quite a new kind of Christianity. This new Christianity has been changed by the absorption of the secular humanistic ideas to an extent that it is, in fact, a brand new religion.
The current mainstream Protestant Christianity has finally abandoned the ethos of totalitarian feudal societies that was for nearly two thousand years at the very core of Christianity.
Judaism and its sibling Christianity were originally born in totalitarian feudal societies. Christianity was during its centuries in power fine-engineered into a tool for controlling population in totalitarian feudal societies.
Robert G. Ingersoll is in my mind referring to the basic structure of Christianity. There is an omnipotent totalitarian ruler that must be obeyed without questioning him in any way. This idea was naturally copied from the power structure of the totalitarian feudal societies.
However, a similar huge development as the one seen in the Protestant Christianity has not taken place in the old-fashioned Catholic or Orthodox versions of the Christian faith and most of all it is almost totally lacking in Islam. Also, most of the radically fundamentalist versions of Christianity (like Pentecostalism) are in the same category as Islam in this sense.
In the late 19th century and early part of the 20th century, the main governing principles of the western societies began to rely on the basic ideas of secular humanism and egalitarianism. This change was so profound that, in the end, even Christianity was forced to adopt these new ideas to stay in touch with the changing society
This process of change of Christianity was not instantaneous, but a long process. During it many of the old core dogmas were quietly dropped. Many other old dogmas were relegated to sidelines, when they did not fit in with the tremendous rise of scientific knowledge and the new rise of rational argumentation as a basis for real decision-making in society.
Of course, at the same time also the Roman Catholic Church was changing. However, in it the process has been left halfway. This is partly because the safeguarding the power structure of the church has been seen as its most import goal.
This state of affairs has led to a situation where the Catholic Church is already, in fact, quite out of touch with the real needs of modern western societies. More and more people are also awaking to this fact, as societies change. However, the adherence to old-fashioned dogma is keeping the Catholic Church at a status of no development. Similar fate has befallen Islam.
In fact, the difference between the core values of western democracies and even the mainstream Islamic thinking has been growing during the last decades. Western societies have become more and more tolerant and rationality-based, but in Islam there has been almost no ability to change with times.
(This piece was refurbished on 10th of October, 2012)
Robert G. Ingersoll is also in Facebook at:
"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."