“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 world—not even infinite space.
I was free. Free to think, to express my thoughts. Free to live 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 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 claims for my limbs, no lashes for my back, no fires for my flesh, 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 by fire consumed, to all the wise, the good, the brave of every land, whose thoughts and deeds have given freedom to the sons and daughters of men and women. And then I vowed to grasp the torch that they have held, and hold it high, that light may conquer darkness still.”
—Robert Green Ingersoll (1833–1899)