Colonel Robert G. Ingersoll is fast becoming one of my personal heroes with regard to style and whit. I now must classify him in the same league of extraordinary gentlemen as Mark Twain, Bertrand Russell, and Kurt Vonnegut when it comes to witty rebuttals and savvy critical commentary of religion.
In 1878, the revivalist, old Mrs. Van Cott accused Colonel Ingersol of being “a poor barking dog.”
When asked if he knew her personally, Colonel Ingersol replied, “I have never met or seen her.”
The Colonel’s interviewer asked him, “Do you know the reason she applied the epithet?”
Ingersoll’s reply was thus:
“I suppose it to be the natural result of what is called vital piety; that is to say, universal love breeds individual hatred.”
The Express, a New York newspaper published out of Buffalo, asked Ingersoll whether he wished to respond to old Mrs. Van Cott’s crude accusations. Of course, he had already taken the liberty of doing so in the form of a personal letter, and he allowed The Express a copy to republish with his persmission.
His reply is one of the wittiest, and genuinely charming, rebuttals I have ever read with regard to addressing a dogmatically entrenched theist who believes simply because you disagree with them you are in league with the devil and amount to nothing more than a poor barking dog, in their righteous estimation. I republish the rebuttal in full for your enjoyment. I think you’ll fin it short, sweet, and to the point.
Buffalo, Feb. 24th, 1878. Mrs. Van Cott:
My dear Madam–Where you constrained by the love of Christ to call a man who has never injured you “a poor barking dog?” Did you make this remark as a Christian, or as a lady? Did you say these words to illustrate in some faint degree the refining influence upon women of the religion you preach?
What would you think of me if I should retort, using your language, changing only the sex of the last word?
I have the honor to remain,
Touché Mrs. Van Cott.
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