Ingersoll Day Date in the current year: August 11, 2024

Ingersoll Day Ingersoll Day is an unofficial holiday celebrating the life and legacy of Robert G. Ingersoll, a famous American lawyer, writer, and public speaker who was active during the Golden Age of Freethought.

Proponents of freethought believe that an individual’s beliefs should be formed by using logic, reason, and empirical observation rather than on the basis of authority, dogma, tradition, or revelation. The modern freethought movement started to develop in the 17th century and first became prominent in the United States in the early 19th century.

The late 1800s are regarded as the Golden Age of Freethought in the United States. The country’s dominant freethought organization dedicated to the freedom of religion and separation of church and state was the National Liberal League. Its second incarnation, the American Secular Union, was led by prominent freethinker and agnostic Robert Green Ingersoll.

Robert G. Ingersoll was born on August 11, 1833 in Dresden, New Work. His father, Rev. John Ingersoll, was a Congregationalist preacher with abolitionist views, and the mistreatment Rev. Ingersoll suffered due to his liberal opinions was one of the reasons why his son became a staunch agnostic.

Ingersoll started his career as a teacher. After marrying Eva Amelia Parker in 1862, he relocated to Marion, Illinois where he served as a clerk while studying law. After Ingersoll’s admission to the bar, he began to practice law with his older brother Ebon C. Ingersoll. During the American Civil War, Ingersoll raised the 11th Regiment Illinois Volunteer Cavalry of the Union Army and became its first colonel.

After the war, Ingersoll served as the Illinois attorney general and was a prominent member of the Republican Party. However, his agnosticism made it impossible for Ingersoll to have a successful political career. Ingersoll started giving lectures on agnosticism and freethought, and was labeled as “the Great Agnostic”. He is credited with reviving the ideas of the American freethinker Thomas Paine and reintroducing them to a new generation.

Ingersoll was a prominent officer of the National Liberal League that formed in 1876. In 1884, some of the League’s members reorganized it into the American Secular Union (ASU), and Ingersoll became its first president. Under his leadership, the ASU published a number of pamphlets focusing on separation of church and state.

Ingersoll was friends with many prominent people of his time, including the poet Walt Whitman, who regarded Ingersoll as the greatest public speaker of his time, author Mark Twain, and writer, women’s rights activist and fellow freethinker Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who gave a moving eulogy at his funeral.

It’s unclear who decided to celebrate Ingersoll’s birthday as Ingersoll Day, but there is no doubt that his outstanding orator deserves to be celebrated. You can observe Ingersoll Day by learning more about Ingersoll’s life and views, reading his works, visiting Robert Green Ingersoll Birthplace Museum in Dresden, New Work, and posting about the holiday on social media with the hashtag #IngersollDay.

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Ingersoll Day, observances in the US, unofficial holidays, Robert Ingersoll, freethought, agnosticism