Ingersoll v. Black
Editor’s Note: Since Ingersoll wrote no books nor any comprehensive single statement of his case against Christianity, the next best thing might be found in his written debates — the best kind since there is no room for acting; or excuse for careless words or forgotten points.
He had several of these with leading figures of the day, including former British Prime Minister William E. Gladstone; Cardinal Manning, Archbishop of Westminster; Rev Dr Henry M. Field; and many others. Direct links to all of these can be found in the Indexes here.
(It is worth knowing what his longtime secretary and friend, I. Newton Baker, had to say about his method of composing — even such serious pieces as these:
Mr. Ingersoll’s method in the composition of his written and spoken words was singularly spontaneous and unmechanical. He was not a phrase-tinker or word-carpenter. His pictures flashed from his brain as finished products. They were fixed on the canvas without correcting touches of form or color, completed as created.
What his artist-soul saw and felt he instantly communicated as visible and audible images to others’ eyes and ears. No matter what the theme, his tongue responded to his thought in instant and perfect epigram, illustration, simile, or metaphor.
Excepting social letters, and memoranda found on scattered scraps of paper, he wrote little with his own hand. Nearly everything he gave for publication was dictated. His legal briefs and papers, his magazine and review articles, editorials, press interviews, monographs, speeches, lectures, – everything he wished to say – were delivered in faultless form through the portals of his facile lips.
Wherever he happened to be, – in his office, at his home, on the boat, in the train, in the cab rattling through noisy streets, sitting, standing, reclining – he spoke the splendid words that the stenographer’s art caught and reproduced for him.)
Ingersoll was invited by The North American Review to lead off with his view of the Christian religion (The Christian Religion) on the promise that they would find someone to answer and that Ingersoll could respond to that answer. They found Black, a surprise to Ingersoll as he expected a theologian.
Black makes a powerful, lawyerly indictment against Ingersoll (Jeremiah Black Responds) which surely must have thrilled thousands. It is well worth reading to get a feel for the state of the case as it was thought of some 134 years ago; and to relish his words and style.
But it could be skipped since in his answer (Ingersoll Answers Black), Ingersoll recaps Black’s points as he addresses them.
Immediately following is his entire debate with Jeremiah Black.