He was a noted 19th century infidel, though raised in a devoutly Christian home. Robert Ingersoll, an illustrous GOP orator during civil war days, turned against religion because of the harshly bigoted treatment of his abolitionist father. He first rejected austere Calvinism (who can blame him), but then jettisoned Christianity in general and became known as the Great Infidel. He was single-handedly responsible as a lawyer for the move to overturn the country’s blasphemy laws. Perhaps the greatest speaker of his time, he lectured for as long as three hours entirely from memory. He was famous for his disdain of Hell, and once said, “All the meanness, all the revenge, all the selfishness, all the cruelty, all the hatred, all the infamy of which the heart of man is capable, grew, blossomed, and bore fruit in this one word–Hell.” Whether or not he is there now is in God’s hands, but here is what’s interesting.

Ingersoll was also a staunch financial conservative, and it was a quote in this week’s Wall Street Journal (01/12/13 p. A13) that caught my eye: “The government does not support the people, the people support the government. The government is a perpetual pauper. It passes round the hat and solicits contributions. The government produces nothing. It does not plow land, it does not sow corn, and it does not grow trees. The government is a perpetual consumer. Now, the idea that the government can make money for you and me to live on—why, it is the same as though my hired man should issue certificates of my indebtedness to him for me to live on.” And this was said before the New Deal, the Great Society, and Obama’s unprecedented expansion of entitlements.

Strange that such economic wisdom should come from an unbeliever. The President who claims to be a Christian takes an entirely opposite view. Remember, “You didn’t build that?” It’s odd that more wisdom about personal, economic responsibility should come from an enemy of the faith than one who claims to embrace faith. Perhaps common sense knows no theological boundaries, and Satan can as easily blind the eyes of those who say they believe as those who believe not. The next time you hear a Senator or Congress person advocate more taxes and more government intrusion in our lives, remember the astuteness of an agnostic.