Last year I was not alone in thinking I gave one of the better speeches at the contest, but I did not win or even place. I had a great time, and as I said in my talk – it was a pleasure to blaspheme the lord of Christians in our nation’s capitol on such a beautiful day.
This year, the topic I chose was the same, but pulled from a different speech: “How The Gods Grow”. This talk by Ingersoll included a few lines that tied in well with the theme of the Tichenor book I just published through Underworld Amusements – that Satan is a better friend to man than God.
And if (the Bible) is true, ought we not after all to thank the devil? He was the first school master; he was the first to whisper liberty in our ears. He was the author of ambition and progress.
I will update this post once this years videos are made available on YouTube.
I am going to be doing a full podcast on Ingersoll that will include the audio below, so if you listen to the UAVH, you’ve been warned of redundancy.
I didn’t even realize a helicopter had flown over until later listening to the audio recording.
One of my favorite comments after the event was as follows:
“You looked like a Hasidic Jew, you sounded like a Baptist Preacher, but then we realized that you were a tattooed atheist! It was so confusing!”
Though I recieved many really wonderful and sincere compliments on my performance. The woman who came in fourth place, when we all lined up to get photos taken, asked me “So are you an actor?”, to which I responded “No, I’m just a ham.” I have done quite a bit of public speaking and performance over the years, and there’s even a photo printed in a school newspaper from when I was in 1st Grade singing a solo in front of the whole school assembled. From there I’ve MC’ed burlesque shows, performed “avant-garde industrial noise perfomance art” that included being entirely covered in blood or silver paint and burnt pages from a bible (sampling two performances), to givingÂ slightlyÂ serious talks and even performing a handful of wedding ceremonies (one Satanic and two secular). I’m terribly nervous EVERY time. This time, however, I ended up having to work the HL Mencken Club conference and had little time over the 48 hours prior to the Contest to fret (or memorize). It seemed to work out okay, obviously – I wasn’t nearly stressed as I normally am, and I knew the talk well enough to recite a majority by head (“heart” is just not correct, is it).
The text below is what I prepared for the contest, though I had to skip a few lines near the end because of time limitations:
Today I present a truncated but not Bowdlerized version of Ingersollâ€™s lecture titled â€œHow the Gods Growâ€.
Priests have invented a crime called blasphemy.
That crime is the trenches in which ignorance, superstition and hypocrisy have crouched for thousands of years to shoot their poisoned arrows at the pioneers of human thought. Priests tell us that there is a God somewhere in heaven who objects to a human being thinking and expressing his thought. We have been taught that it is dangerous to reason upon these subjectsâ€”extremely dangerousâ€”and that of all crimes in the world, the greatest is to deny the existence of that God.
Redden your hands in innocent blood; steal the bread of the orphan, deceive, ruin and desert the beautiful girl who has loved and trusted you, and for all this you may be forgiven; for all this you can have the clear writ of that bankrupt court of the gospel. But deny the existence of one of these gods, and the tearful face of mercy becomes lurid with eternal hate; the gates of heaven are shut against you, and you, with an infinite curse ringing in your ears, commence your wanderings as an immortal vagrant, as a deathless convict, as an eternal outcast. And we have been taught that the infinite has become enraged at the finite simply when the finite said: “I don’t know!”
The other day I read a sermon (you will hardly believe it, but I did); I had nothing else to to. I had read everything in that paper, including the advertisements; so I read the sermon. It was a sermon by Rev. Mr. Moody on prayer, in which he claimed our prayer should be â€œThy will be done;â€ and he seemed to believe that if we prayed that prayer often enough we could induce God to have his own way. He gives an instance of a woman in Illinois who had a sick child, and she prayed that God would not take from her arms that baby. She did not pray â€œThy will be done,â€ but she prayed, according to Mr. Moody, almost a prayer of rebellion, and said: â€œI cannot give up my baby.â€ God heard her prayer, and the child got well; and Mr. Moody says when it got well it was an idiot . For fifteen years that woman watched over and took care of that idiotic child; and Mr. Moody says how much better would it have been if she had allowed God to have had his own way. Think of a God who would punish a mother for speaking to Him from an agonizing heart and saying, â€œI cannot give up my baby,â€ and making the child an idiot. What would the devil have done under the same circumstances? That is the God we are expected to worship.
They say to me, God has written a book. I am glad he did, and it is by that book that I propose to judge them. I find in that book that it was a crime to eat of the tree of knowledge. I find that the church has always been the enemy of education, and I find that the church still carries the flaming sword of ignorance and bigotry.
And if that story is true, ought we not after all to thank the devil? He was the first school master; he was the first to whisper liberty in our ears. He was the author of ambition and progress. And as for me, give me the storm and tempest of thought and action rather than the dead calm of ignorance and faith. Punish me when and how you will, but first let me eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge. And there is one more thing I need to mention. While the world has made gods, it has also made devils; and as a rule the devils have been better friends to man than the gods. It was not a devil that drowned the world; it was not a devil that covered an infinite sea with the corpses of men, women and children. That was the good god. The devil never sent pestilence and famine; the devil never starved women and children; that was the good God.
You hate a God like that. I do; I despise him. And yet little children in Sunday-school are taught that infamous lie. Â And if you will just read the old testament with the bandage off your eyes and the cloud of fear from your heart, you will come to the conclusion that it was written not only by men, but by barbarians, by savages, and that it is totally unworthy of a civilized age.
In the vast cemetery, we call the past, are most of the religions of men… and there, too, are nearly all their gods.