Ingersoll’s Voice, Adler’s Vision: What’s This Blog About?

In a sense this blog is about all the personal and professional interests I outlined in yesterday’s introduction. But it does have a more focused purpose: I’m trying to promote Humanism, and to create a more Humanistic world. I see this project as having two primary aspects, inspired by two of the greatest freethinkers of all time: Robert Green Ingersoll and Felix Adler, two prominent 19th Century freethinkers who articulated their developing vision of a better world through evocative imagery and powerful metaphor. Ingersoll, primarily an orator, did so from the podium, speaking all across the USA to huge crowds. Adler, a philosopher and community organizer, realized his proto-Humanist ideals by building values-based communities for those who didn’t believe in God, founding the Ethical Culture Society.

The name of this blog – Temple of the Future – is a reference a quote from both Ingersoll and Adler. They saw the human project as an attempt to build a grand “temple of the future” in which reason, grounded in compassion for all people, rules human affairs. It’s that vision which this blog intends to conjure. Adler spoke of building the “Temple of the Future [with] Justice its foundation, Peace and Goodwill its columns.” Ingersoll put it this way:

‘We are laying the foundations of the grand temple of the future–not the temple of all the gods, but of all the people–wherein, with appropriate rites, will be celebrated the religion of Humanity. We are doing what little we can to hasten the coming of the day when society shall cease producing millionaires and mendicants–gorged indolence and famished industry–truth in rags, and superstition robed and crowned. We are looking for the time when the useful shall be the honorable; and when REASON, throned upon the world’s brain, shall be the Kind of Kings, and God of Gods.’”

Further, I explicitly recall the figures of Adler and Ingersoll to link my work to a legacy of freethinking. Part of my purpose here is to inform and remind readers that Humanism is a tradition, with great thinkers and a development of ideas rich enough to rival that of any religion. Much of the history of freethought is forgotten even by today’s secular activists, and I want to link us back to our roots. Expect to see posts on great Humanist thinkers here, quotes from their texts, reconsiderations of their ideas, their spirits haunting the blog.

I believe if today’s Humanists can learn how to communicate effectively from people like Ingersoll – learn to speak in Ingersoll’s voice – and how to organize in communities effectively as Adler did – to revive Adler’s vision – then we would have a shot at changing US culture for the better. Look out for more on both the voice and the vision later today.

Related Posts

Getting Acquainted – An Introduction to Me!

Ingersoll’s Voice: A Persuasive ‘Evangelical’ Humanism

Adler’s Vision: Reimagining Values-Based Community for Godless People

  • Jim Farmelant

    As James well knows, both Ingersoll and Adler were covered in a piece that I coauthored with Mark Lindley, “Six Prominent American Freethinkers” (http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/2008/fl161208.html). Adler was very much a neo-Kantian thinker who (after having been trained as a Reform Jewish rabbi) came to believe in the necessity of a new humanistic religion which would preserve the moral teachings of the older theistic religions (i.e. Judaism and Christianity), but without requiring belief in the existence of a God.

    Ingersoll, unlike Adler, drew mostly upon contemporary positivist and materialist thinkers like Charles Darwin, August Comte, Ernst Haeckel, and Herbert Spencer. He was famously agnostic about the existence of God and of an afterlife. Like Adler, he had a strong moral vision, and as a political figure within the Republican Party was a strong supporter of many progressive causes.

    Both Adler and Ingersoll had the greatest respect for each other.

    • James Croft

      Jim’s piece here is a real great one – Jim, could I post a link to it on my blog recommending it to people?