September 19, 1876 – While traveling by train to a Civil War reunion in Indianapolis, lawyer Robert Green Ingersoll invited fellow Union veteran Lew Wallace for a private conversation. Ingersoll, then one of the most famous men in America, dubbed “the Great Agnostic”Â for his electrifying freethoughtÂ lectures,Â greatly impressed Wallace with his energetic and encyclopedic arguments on religion. Wallace, a novelist, was embarrassed at his lack of knowledge regarding Christianity and its history, and resolved to correct his ignorance and to use his studies as research for a new story. Four years later he published Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ, one of the most popular American novels of all time. Ben Hur has been adapted for stage, radio and television, and at least five times for the silver screen. Wallace claimed to have become a Christian as a result of his studies: certainly not what Ingersoll intended.
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