Book Discussion: The Great Agnostic, by Susan Jacoby

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.

Join or login to comment.

  • Peter Sokaris

    very good. thank you.

    February 23, 2013

  • Brian Alexander

    Peter, Thx! Received message too late. Hopefully some one recorded the event. Maybe she'll be WAMC, WRPI.

    February 23, 2013

  • Aaron Israel

    sorry bad cold here see you next time

    February 23, 2013

  • peter

    Brian, we'll be driving by Colonie this afternoon and can give you a ride. We are on the waiting list for the book discussion but going to Albany anyway. Is 2 pm ok? Peter

    February 23, 2013

  • Brian Alexander

    I need a ride. I live near Colonie Ctr. I'm on FB - Brian Alexander. Plz leave message if you can help. Thx. B

    February 23, 2013

  • peter

    My family and I are looking forward to meeting you all.
    Peter, Daniela and Luc

    February 22, 2013

  • Dorothy

    Sorry, I cannot attend.

    February 22, 2013

  • Rick Martin

    Event is now officially full, but early wait listers will probably get in.

    February 1, 2013

  • Peter Sokaris

    I bought a copy of the book and am finding it fascinating.
    I am looking forward to being with you on February 23.
    Peter Sokaris

    January 31, 2013

  • Rick Martin

    Cool! Check out these Edison recordings of Ingersoll speechifying.­

    January 30, 2013

  • Murali B.

    With a busy new projrct realized I'll not have enough time to get thru the book. But Susan's Freethinkers is a fantastastic and was looking forward to this book.

    January 27, 2013

  • Deb

    Sorry that I will have to miss this...Date is bad for me. I am sure that I will read the book, regardless!

    January 26, 2013

  • Peter Sokaris

    I will be there/
    Can you provide me with a date? Peter Sokaris

    January 25, 2013

11 went

People in this
Meetup are also in:

Find your People

Starting a Meetup Group is the perfect way to share your interests and spark new friendships

Log in

Not registered with us yet?

Sign up

Meetup members, Log in

By clicking "Sign up" or "Sign up using Facebook", you confirm that you accept our Terms of Service & Privacy Policy