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Robert Green Ingersoll wrote the following Christmas wish list more than a century ago.

If I had the power to produce exactly what I want for next Christmas, I would have all the kings and emperors resign and allow the people to govern themselves.

I would have all the nobility crop their titles and give their lands back to the people. I would have the Pope throw away his tiara, take off his sacred vestments, and admit that he is not acting for God — is not infallible — but is just an ordinary Italian. I would have all the cardinals, archbishops, bishops, priests and clergymen admit that they know nothing about theology, nothing about hell or heaven, nothing about the destiny of the human race, nothing about devils or ghosts, gods or angels. I would have them tell all their "flocks" to think for themselves, to be manly men and womanly women, and to do all in their power to increase the sum of human happiness.

I would have all the professors in colleges, all the teachers in schools of every kind, including those in Sunday schools, agree that they would teach only what they know, that they would not palm off guesses as demonstrated truths.

I would like to see all the politicians changed to statesmen, — to men who long to make their country great and free, — to men who care more for public good than private gain — men who long to be of use.

I would like to see all the editors of papers and magazines agree to print the truth and nothing but the truth, to avoid all slander and misrepresentation, and to let the private affairs of the people alone.

I would like to see drunkenness and prohibition both abolished.

I would like to see corporal punishment done away with in every home, in every school, in every asylum, reformatory, and prison. Cruelty hardens and degrades, kindness reforms and ennobles.

I would like to see the millionaires unite and form a trust for the public good.

I would like to see a fair division of profits between capital and labor, so that the toiler could save enough to mingle a little June with the December of his life.

I would like to see an international court established in which to settle disputes between nations, so that armies could be disbanded and the great navies allowed to rust and rot in perfect peace.

I would like to see the whole world free — free from injustice — free from superstition.

This will do for next Christmas. The following Christmas, I may want more.

Robert Green Ingersoll – "What I Want For Christmas" (1897)

How far have we really come? How much more work is left?

Originally posted to goodboyCerberus on Thu Oct 29, 2009 at 08:09 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Admirable thoughts, goodboyCerberus, but (6+ / 0-)

    we've got a long way to go.  Funny how both good and bad ideas hang around for centuries.

  •  isn't that what "heaven" is supposed to be? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    historys mysteries, greengemini

    Thanks for the diary.  Always hope, and work toward it.

  •  Bob: learn to live with disappointment (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    p gorden lippy

    I mean there's a real world out there

    Happy just to be alive

    by exlrrp on Thu Oct 29, 2009 at 08:20:08 AM PDT

  •  John Lennon said the same thing (4+ / 0-)

    Except he did it with one word.

    "Settle down there, Kossacks. If you're not careful you could break AHIP"

    by Detroit Mark on Thu Oct 29, 2009 at 08:20:41 AM PDT

  •  Well... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RethinkEverything, MaikeH

    The Pope isn't Italian.

    You are never going to get KO to basically call for the end of religion - at least not any time soon.

    "In fact, [the Republicans] understand that if Barack Obama has a BLT sandwich tomorrow for lunch, they will try to ban bacon." - Congressman Alan Grayson

    by RichM on Thu Oct 29, 2009 at 08:24:21 AM PDT

  •  Wow (6+ / 0-)

    Looked him up on Wikipedia. What a guy, way ahead of his time, and perhaps ours.

  •  Well, KO blogs here, (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    historys mysteries, Newzie, Neon Mama

    so asking might be a place to start.

    What Ingersoll wrote is what many of us want as well.  How beautiful to see it all written out in such detail.

    "Ancora Imparo." ("I am still learning.") - Michelangelo, Age 87

    by Dreaming of Better Days on Thu Oct 29, 2009 at 08:39:20 AM PDT

  •  I've long thought the first big step is to get (4+ / 0-)

    teachers to change their "theme" for December.

    December 10 is anniversary of UN signed International Human Rights Declaration. No better way to be INCLUSIVE of all peoples' right to basic freedoms which would lead to real "Peace on Earth" and "goodwill towards" mankind.

    Don't rail against the divisiveness of focusing on separate religious holy days that fall near the equinox -- that just lets haters label it war on xmas.

    Instead, just substitute focus on human diginity -- it's history, heroic players, and goals. Great materials online from UN and others -- all ready for folks unable to create their own.

    Tis the season for real goodwill, not phony myths or narrow ideologies.  IMHO, it even allows room, when needed, to include examples from MANY religious & ethnic traditions which express desire to help others thru holy days in this season.

    De fund + de bunk = de EXIT--->>>>>

    by Neon Mama on Thu Oct 29, 2009 at 08:41:20 AM PDT

  •  Well slap my ass and call me Charlie (0+ / 0-)

    Sure puts my Christmas wish list to shame

    Thank you for flying Church of England... Cake or Death?

    by cjinca on Thu Oct 29, 2009 at 08:43:26 AM PDT

  •  The easiest way to get Olbermann to quote you... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ticket punch, RethinkEverything to be Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck or Michelle Bachman.

    Otherwise, I'd say you could try to get on his show, but unless your name is Richard Wolffe, Jonathan Alter or Craig Crawford, you're chances of getting on are the same that KO will go a month without missing a show.

    Not any of these people? Good luck then.

    I am that gadfly which God has attached to the state, and all day long and in all places...arousing and persuading and reproaching you.-Socrates

    by The Navigator on Thu Oct 29, 2009 at 08:48:11 AM PDT

  •  Though Ingersoll would not have guess we would (0+ / 0-)

    have a person of mixed race in the White House, too bad his dreams for politicians say "men" and not people.  What's worse, women are still under represented in politics.  Will that ever change?

    Does this go viral on the internet?

    The next right wing one I get, will get this nice reply.

  •  One way to get Olbermann to quote it, (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dvd Avins, ticket punch

    recite it while driving your car into a diner or holding up a convenience store naked.

    Songs at da web site! The Singularity = Nerd Rapture

    by Crashing Vor on Thu Oct 29, 2009 at 09:00:36 AM PDT

  •  "... manly men and womanly women ..."? (0+ / 0-)

    Whatever those are ;-)

    iuris praecepta sunt haec: honeste vivere, alterum non laedere, suum cuique tribuere. - ulpian, digestae 1, 3

    by fritzrth on Thu Oct 29, 2009 at 09:22:42 AM PDT

  •  Better: Get the "Glee" kids to put it to music, (0+ / 0-)

    because they draw a much bigger audience than "Countdown with Keith Olbermann."

    As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly.

    by ticket punch on Thu Oct 29, 2009 at 09:43:34 AM PDT

  •  Thanks folks (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    nancelot, Neon Mama

    Thank you for your positive responses, it really means a lot.

    Right now I am struggling with an almost hopeless, burning desire for a better world. Naïve, I know. Most times, when I remind myself of all the ways this world is broken, all I can do is facepalm at my desk.

    I don’t think that religion is the worst offender, but it is one of the largest causes of suffering. I think there is a root cause -- ignorance, in all its forms willful and innocent -- which manifests as dogmatisms and other, more universal things.

    I’ll go back to Ingersoll one more time. If you read anything else from him, I recommend foremost his long essay titled "Why I Am An Agnostic", here: (thank you for the link Newzie).

    Part X

    ...We are told that it is our duty to love this God. Can we love the unknown, the inconceivable? Can it be our duty to love anybody? It is our duty to act justly, honestly, but it cannot be our duty to love. We cannot be under obligation to admire a painting -- to be charmed with a poem -- or thrilled with music. Admiration cannot be controlled. Taste and love are not the servants of the will. Love is, and must be free. It rises from the heart like perfume from a flower.

    For thousands of ages men and women have been trying to love the gods -- trying to soften their hearts -- trying to get their aid.

    I see them all. The panorama passes before me. I see them with outstretched hands -- with reverently closed eyes -- worshiping the sun. I see them bowing, in their fear and need, to meteoric stones -- imploring serpents, beasts and sacred trees -- praying to idols wrought of wood and stone. I see them building altars to the unseen powers, staining them with blood of child and beast. I see the countless priests and hear their solemn chants. I see the dying victims, the smoking altars, the swinging censers, and the rising clouds. I see the half-god men -- the mournful Christs, in many lands. I see the common things of life change to miracles as they speed from mouth to mouth. I see the insane prophets reading the secret book of fate by signs and dreams. I see them all – the Assyrians chanting the praises of Asshur and Ishtar -- the Hindus worshiping Brahma, Vishnu and Draupadi, the whitearmed – the Chaldeans sacrificing to Bel and Hea -- the Egyptians bowing to Ptah and Fta, Osiris and Isis -- the Medes placating the storm, worshiping the fire -- the Babylonians supplicating Bel and Murodach -- I see them all by the Euphrates, the Tigris, the Ganges and the Nile. I see the Greeks building temples for Zeus, Neptune and Venus. I see the Romans kneeling to a hundred gods. I see others spurning idols and pouring out their hopes and fears to a
    vague image in the mind. I see the multitudes, with open mouths, receive as truths the myths and fables of the vanished years. I see them give their toil, their wealth to robe the priests, to build the vaulted roofs, the spacious aisles, the glittering domes. I see them clad in rags, huddled in dens and huts, devouring crusts and scraps, that they may give the more to ghosts and gods. I see them make their cruel creeds and fill the world with hatred, war, and death. I see them with their faces in the dust in the dark days of plague and sudden death, when cheeks are wan and lips are white for lack of bread. I hear their prayers, their sighs, their sobs. I see them kiss the unconscious lips as their hot tears fall on the pallid faces of the dead. I see the nations as they fade and fail. I see them captured and enslaved. I see their altars mingle with the common earth, their temples crumble slowly back to dust. I see their gods grow old and weak, infirm and faint. I see them fall from vague and misty thrones, helpless and dead. The worshipers receive no help. Injustice triumphs. Toilers are paid with the lash, -- babes are sold, -- the innocent stand on scaffolds, and the heroic perish in flames. I see the earthquakes devour, the volcanoes overwhelm, the cyclones wreck, the floods destroy, and the lightnings kill.

    The nations perished. The gods died. The toil and wealth were lost. The temples were built in vain, and all the prayers died unanswered in the heedless air.

    Then I asked myself the question: Is there a supernatural power -- an arbitrary mind -- an enthroned God -- a supreme will that sways the tides and currents of the world -- to which all causes bow?

    I do not deny. I do not know -- but I do not believe. I believe that the natural is supreme -- that from the infinite chain no link can be lost or broken -- that there is no supernatural power that can answer prayer -- no power that worship can persuade or change -- no power that cares for man.

    I believe that with infinite arms Nature embraces the all -- that there is no interference -- no chance -- that behind every event are the necessary and countless causes, and that beyond every event will be and must be the necessary and countless effects.

    Man must protect himself. He cannot depend upon the supernatural -- upon an imaginary father in the skies. He must protect himself by finding the facts in Nature, by developing his brain, to the end that he may overcome the obstructions and take advantage of the forces of Nature.

    Is there a God?

    I do not know.

    Is man immortal?

    I do not know.

    One thing I do know, and that is, that neither hope, nor fear, belief, nor denial, can change the fact. It is as it is, and it will be as it must be.

    We wait and hope.

    Here's my favorite part:

    Part XI

    When I became convinced that the Universe is natural – that all the ghosts and gods are myths, there entered into my brain, into my soul, into every drop of my blood, the sense, the feeling, the joy of freedom. The walls of my prison crumbled and fell, the dungeon was flooded with light and all the bolts, and bars, and manacles became dust. I was no longer a servant, a serf or a slave. There was for me no master in all the wide world -- not even in infinite space. I was free -- free to think, to express my thoughts -- free to live to my own ideal -- free to live for myself and those I loved -- free to use all my faculties, all my senses -- free to spread imagination's wings -- free to investigate, to guess and dream and hope -- free to judge and determine for myself -- free to reject all ignorant and cruel creeds, all the "inspired" books that savages have produced, and all the barbarous legends of the past -- free from popes and priests -- free from all the "called" and "set apart" -- free from sanctified mistakes and holy lies -- free from the fear of eternal pain -- free from the winged monsters of the night -- free from devils, ghosts and gods. For the first time I was free. There were no prohibited places in all the realms of thought -- no air, no space, where fancy could not spread her painted wings -- no chains for my limbs -- no lashes for my back -- no fires for my flesh -- no master's frown or threat – no following another's steps -- no need to bow, or cringe, or crawl, or utter lying words. I was free. I stood erect and fearlessly, joyously, faced all worlds.

    And then my heart was filled with gratitude, with thankfulness, and went out in love to all the heroes, the thinkers who gave their lives for the liberty of hand and brain -- for the freedom of labor and thought -- to those who fell on the fierce fields of war, to those who died in dungeons bound with chains -- to those who proudly mounted scaffold's stairs -- to those whose bones were crushed, whose flesh was scarred and torn -- to those by fire consumed -- to all the wise, the good, the brave of every land, whose thoughts and deeds have given freedom to the sons of men. And then I vowed to grasp the torch that they had held, and hold it high, that light might conquer darkness still.

    Let us be true to ourselves -- true to the facts we know, and let us, above all things, preserve the veracity of our souls.

    If there be gods we cannot help them, but we can assist our fellow-men. We cannot love the inconceivable, but we can love wife and child and friend.

    We can be as honest as we are ignorant. If we are, when asked what is beyond the horizon of the known, we must say that we do not know. We can tell the truth, and we can enjoy the blessed freedom that the brave have won. We can destroy the monsters of superstition, the hissing snakes of ignorance and fear. We can drive from our minds the frightful things that tear and wound with beak and fang. We can civilize our fellow-men. We can fill our lives with generous deeds, with loving words, with art and song, and all the ecstasies of love. We can flood our years with sunshine -- with the divine climate of kindness, and we can drain to the last drop the golden cup of joy.

    This is what Freethinking is all about.

    Thank you for your time.

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