Jacoby expands on the plaudits she accorded Robert Green Ingersoll in her earlier book, Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism, in this crisply reading (largish print, less than 40K words) biography from Yale University Press. Here we learn about a man who could have been President but for his integrity and intellectual honesty on the question of religion. A preacher's-son and self-educated, he "read the law" and became a renowned attorney and prominent late 19th century Republican political operative, though his outspoken non-belief largely prevented his achieving elective or high appointive office. In an age when public oratory was considered grand entertainment, Ingersoll was widely considered to be, by far, the best at the craft. Supremely affable and engaging, he left even his adversaries under his spell. An early advocate of Evolution, he avoided the pitfall of Social Darwinism that so many rationalists of his generation blithely embraced. He was the prototypical secular humanist and a vocal and effective champion of women's rights and birth control nearly a century before it was cool to be either. Jacoby seeks to resurrect Ingersoll in the popular imagination much as Ingersoll himself saved the reputation of Thomas Paine for the appreciation of future generations. I think she's succeeded admirably.
This is a fun book in the libraries and bookstores now, and also available as an E-book for about ten bucks. You just might want to have a copy of the hardbound to keep on your bookshelf next to Hitchens and Dawkins.
After the discussion we could take a short walk across "the point" to one of the pubs on Madison for a pop and a bite, or select another destination participants might favor.
The small room at Pine Hills has an official capacity of 12, so I'll have to limit the group to that number. Jump on this now if you're interested.