The Great Agnostic: Robert Ingersoll and American Freethought (Grand Rapids)

Wednesday, March 27, 2013, 7:00 pm – 8:30 pm
Women's City Club, 254 E. Fulton St., Grand Rapids, MI, View Map

Presented by Susan Jacoby, Author, Program Director

Description

Join us for "The Great Agnostic: Robert Ingersoll and American Freethought" by Susan Jacoby!

Synopsis: During the Gilded Age, which saw the dawn of America’s enduring culture wars, Robert Green Ingersoll was known as “the Great Agnostic.” The nation’s most famous orator, he raised his voice on behalf of Enlightenment reason, secularism, and the separation of church and state with a vigor unmatched since America’s revolutionary generation. When he died in 1899, even his religious enemies acknowledged that he might have aspired to the U.S. presidency had he been willing to mask his opposition to religion. To the question that retains its controversial power today—was the United States founded as a Christian nation?—Ingersoll answered an emphatic no.

In this provocative biography, Susan Jacoby, the author of Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism, restores Ingersoll to his rightful place in an American intellectual tradition extending from Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine to the current generation of “new atheists.” Jacoby illuminates the ways in which America’s often-denigrated and forgotten secular history encompasses issues, ranging from women’s rights to evolution, as potent and divisive today as they were in Ingersoll’s time. Ingersoll emerges in this portrait as one of the indispensable public figures who keep an alternative version of history alive. He devoted his life to that greatest secular idea of all—liberty of conscience belonging to the religious and nonreligious alike. –From Amazon.com.

About the Speaker

Susan Jacoby is the author of ten books, including New York Times bestsellers: The Age of American Unreason (2008) and Alger Hiss and The Battle for History (2009). Her most recent book is entitled The Great Agnostic: Robert Ingersoll and American Freethought (2012).

Jacoby is an independent scholar whose work focuses on American intellectual history. She has been a contributor for more than 25 years, on topics including law, religion, medicine, aging, women’s rights, political dissent in the Soviet Union, and Russian literature—topics published in a wide range of periodicals and newspapers. Her articles and essays have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Washington Post Book World, Los Angeles Times Book Review, Newsday, Harper’s, The Nation, Vogue, The American Prospect, Mother Jones, and the AARP Magazine, among others.

Susan has also been the recipient of many grants and awards, from the Guggenheim, Rockefeller, and Ford Foundations, as well as the National Endowment for the Humanities. In 2001-2002, she was named a fellow at the Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library.

Additional Details

Meetings are open to the Public

After the meeting, join us at Vitale's Restaurant, 834 Leonard NE, Grand Rapids, MI to socialize. View Map

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Contact: Jennifer Beahan, , 616-698-2342