"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 night
-free from devils, ghosts, and gods
For the first time I was free. There were no prohibited places in all
the realms of my 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 I vowed to grasp the torch that they had held, and hold it high,
that light might conquer darkness still."
[Robert G. Ingersoll (1833-1899), "Why Am I An Agnostic?", 1896]