You dispute, you quarrel, you fight for that which is uncertain, that of which you doubt. O men! Is this not folly? . . . We must trace a line of distinction between those that are capable of verification, and those that are not, and separate by an inviolable barrier the world of fantastical beings from the world of realities; that is to say, all civil effect must be taken away from theological and religious opinions.
- John Stuart Mill
The development of science... requires freedom of the spirit which consists in the independence of thought from the restrictions of authoritiarian and social prejudices.
- Albert Einstein, "Ideas and Opinions"
We are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error so long as reason is left free to combat it.
- Thomas Jefferson
It is our doubts that unite us; it is only our certainties that keep us apart.
- Peter Ustinov
A wise man proportions his belief to the evidence.
- David Hume
It is bad enough that so many people believe things without any evidence. What is worse is that some people have no conception of evidence and regard facts as just someone else’s opinion.
- Thomas Sowell
"Whatever doubt or doctrinal Atheism you
and your friends may have, don't fall into moral atheism. Don't forget
the Eternal Goodness, whatever you call it. I call it God."
- Charles Kingsley, Victorian novelist
"They find that now they have got rid of
an interfering God — a master-magician, as I call it — they have to choose
between the absolute empire of accident, and a living, immanent, ever-working
- Charles Kingsley, Victorian novelist
Believers in the supernatural claim to have special wisdom about the world. But real wisdom means knowing truth from falsehood, knowing the difference between evidence and wishful thinking. Yes, the real world is mysterious and sometimes frightening. But would the supernatural make it better? The real world has beauty, poetry, love and the joy of honest discovery. Isn't that enough?
- TH Huxley
There's really no clear-cut, definitive reason why I am a humanist except that I am an enormous reader and student and humanism seems to be the logical outcome of all that reading and study.
- Gene Roddenberry, in an interview with "The Humanist" in 1991
"The mind rules the body with the sceptre of reason."
- Dr. Tarrant, in "The Bostonians" by Henry James
De omnibus dubitandum. All is to be doubted.
The fact that a believer may be happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunk is happier than a sober man.
- Umberto Eco
Scientisms are clusters
of scientific ideas which come together and almost surprise themselves
into creeds of belief, scientific mythologies which fill the very void
left by the divorce of science and religion in our time. They evoke the
same response as did the religions which they seek to supplant. They share
with religions many of their most obvious characteristics: a rational splendor
that explains everything, a charismatic leader who is highly visible and
beyond criticism, canonical texts which are somehow outside the usual arena
of scientific criticism, and a requirement of total commitment. In return
the adherent receives what the religions had once given him: a world view,
a hierarchy of importances, in short, a total explanation of man.
Marxism was one of the first such scientisms. Its central superstition is that of the class struggle, a kind of divination which gives a total explanation of the past and predecides what to do in every office and alarm of life - even though ethnicism, nationalism and unionism, those collective identity markers of modern man, long ago showed the mythical character of that struggle.
In the medical sciences the most prominent scientism has been psychoanalysis. Its central superstition is repressed childhood sexuality. The handful of early cases of hysteria which could be so interpreted became the metaphiers by which to understand all personality and art, all civilization and discontents.
Of course these scentisms about man begin with something that is true. Applied to the world as representative of all the world, though, facts become superstitions. A superstition is after all a metaphier grown wild to serve a need to know - so we may read out the past and future of man, and hear the answers that can authorize our actions.
- Julian Jaynes, "The Origin of Consciousness"
It is precisely because it is fashionable for Americans to know no science, even though they may be well educated otherwise, that they so easily fall prey to nonsense. They thus become part of the armies of the night, the purveyors of nitwittery, the retailers of intellectual junk food, the feeders on mental cardboard, for their ignorance keeps them from distinguishing nectar from sewage.
- Isaac Asimov, "The Armies of the Night"
to investigate the Unconscious. The Unconscious by definition is what you
are not conscious of. But the Analysts already know what's in it - they
should, because they put it all in beforehand.
- Saul Bellow
a poor track record when it comes to distinguishing psychosomatic complaints
from ones with less mysterious causes. In the 1890s, for example, a young
woman named Emma Eckstein, who had recently undergone nasal surgery which
her doctors, Freud among them, believed would cure her of the urge to masturbate,
suffered from profuse bleeding. Freud eventually discovered that the surgeon
had left half a metre of gauze in her nasal cavity, but after the crisis
had been resolved, he decided that her bleeding nose had in fact been a
symptom of hysteria. This tragi-farcical episode became a seminal moment
in the history of analysis: a dream he had about poor Emma became a centrepiece
of his theories.
- Christopher Tayler, "The Telegraph"
If everyone is thinking alike then somebody isn't thinking.
"I do not say that science knows everything, but I most certainly say that religion knows nothing."
- Richards Dawkins
"Invisible Pink Unicorns are beings of awesome mystical power. We know this because they manage to be invisible and pink at the same time. Like all religions, the Faith of the Invisible Pink Unicorns is based upon both logic and faith. We have faith that they are pink; we logically know that they are invisible because we can't see them."
Religion is a matter
of the survival of the fittest cult. And the fittest cults are those which
have equipped themselves with the bulkiest apparatus of irreason - creation
myth, miracles, incantations, liturgical quirks, eschatological fictions,
sartorial disfigurements, silly hairdos, omniscient others, genital mutilations,
dietary proscriptions, and populist iconography. The shabby ineffectuality
of Anglicanism derives from having not demanded all that much belief of
its congregation, thus containing the germ of its own secularisation.
- Jonathan Meades, "The Guardian"
"Men never do evil
so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction."
- Blaise Pascal, "Pensees" (1670)
"Today, everybody remembers
Galileo. How many can name the bishops and professors who refused to look
through his telescope?"
- James Hogan
"If god wanted people
to believe in him, why'd he invent logic then?"
- David Feherty, PGA Tour golfer
"Having beliefs isn't
"I think it's better to have ideas. You can change an idea. Changing a belief is trickier... A belief's a dangerous thing, Bethany. People die for it. People kill for it."
- Bethany & Rufus, "Dogma"
"Blind faith is powerful
enough to immunize people against all appeals to pity, to forgiveness,
to decent human feelings. It even immunizes them against fear, if they
honestly believe that a martyr's death will send them straight to heaven.
What a weapon! Religious faith deserves a chapter to itself in the annals
of war technology, on an even footing with the longbow, the warhorse, the
tank, and the hydrogen bomb.
Blind faith can justify anything. If a man believes in a different god, or even if he uses a different ritual for worshipping the same god, blind faith can decree that he should die - on the cross, at the stake, skewered on a Crusader's sword, shot in a Beirut street, or blown up in a bar in Belfast. Memes for blind faith have their own ruthless ways of propagating themselves. This is true of patriotic and political as well as religious blind faith."
- Alan Lightman, "The Origin of the Universe"
"History does not record anywhere at any time a religion that has any rational basis. Religion is a crutch for people not strong enough to stand up to the unknown without help."
- Clarence Darrow, in court defending the teaching of evolution (1925)
You never see animals going through the absurd and often horrible fooleries of magic and religion... Only man behaves with such gratuitous folly. It is the price he has to pay for being intelligent but not, as yet, quite intelligent enough.
- Aldous Huxley
Nothing defines humans better than their willingness to do irrational things in the pursuit of phenomenally unlikely payoffs. This is the principle behind lotteries, dating, and religion. The psychological explanation for this phenomenon is that life sucks and we'd all rather fantasize about being someplace else.
"Muhammad married 11
women, kept two others as concubines and recommended wife-beating (but
only as a last resort!). His third wife was 6 years old when he married
her and 9 when he consummated the marriage. To say that Muhammad was a
demon-possessed paedophile is not an attack. It's a fact."
- Ann Coulter
"In 1963, when a benefactor
offered to fund a chapel and Crick’s fellow Fellows voted to accept the
money, he refused to accept the argument that many at the college would
appreciate a place of worship and that those who didn’t were not obliged
to enter it. He offered to fund a brothel on the same basis, and, when
that was rejected, he resigned."
- from Mark Steyn's obituary for Francis Crick, co-discoverer of DNA, "The Atlantic Monthly"
"I'm all for teaching
creation and allowing prayers in schools, as soon as scholars begin teaching
Darwinism and geometry in church."
- J. Michael Straczynski
Here's an idea for
religious people: give up something for Lent. Like religion. That would
make the world a safer and better place.
- J Malone, with a letter to Dublin's "Evening Herald"
Going to church doesn’t
make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.
However, even committed pedestrians should know a little about the workings
of the internal combustion engine, if only to acquaint themselves with
the dangers they pose.
This is why it’s so worrying to discover that, last week, members of the youth parliament "Dail na nOg" overwhelmingly supported a motion calling for religion to be removed as a subject from the school curriculum. In an era when holy war is in vogue and secular science isn’t, familiarity with the supernatural faiths has never been more essential, especially for young non-believers. Religion is too important to be left to the religious.
- Liam Fay, in Ireland's "Sunday Times"
It can sometimes look
shrill and defensive to try to refute religion point by point. I tend to
turn it around and just say, "Tell me why I should believe in the Bible,
a book of poetry which we know was put together by committee in the third
Sentient beings have a certain meaning and that lies in interpreting the observable world. And for me that is purpose enough. We have a partial understanding at least of how it all works. We are not the pinnacle of creation but neither are we completely insignificant either.
- Paul Davies, interviewed in "The Observer"
Atheists have always
had the best of the match against religion. They choose the pitch, they
make the rules and, best of all, they have no goal to defend.
- AA Gill, reviewing "The Trouble with Atheism"
"There’s no conclusive
science. My choice has no practical relevance to my life, I choose
the outcome I find more comforting."
"You find it more comforting to believe that this is it?"
"I find it more comforting to believe that this simply isn’t a test."
- A discussion on life after death from TV's "House MD"
"Why do you have to
believe in the divinity of Jesus to know that robbing a bank is wrong?"
- Matt, on "Studio 60"
Jewish babies exposed
to herpes in New York, thousands of American children injured for life
after the rape and torture they suffered at the hands of a compliant Catholic
priesthood, prelates and mullahs outbidding each other in denial of AIDS
… it's not just your mental health that is challenged by faith... What
a pity that there is no hell.
- Christopher Hitchens, on the repercussions of religious belief, "MSN Slate"
One of the most powerful
passages in "God is not Great" purports to prove that "religion poisons
everything" just by sticking to the letter 'B': Belfast, Beirut, Bethlehem,
Bombay, Belgrade and Baghdad, where Hitchens, as a reporter, has witnessed
religiously inspired cruelty in each case.
- Max McGuinness, commenting on Christopher Hitchens, "The Irish Independent"
"The four horsemen
of the counter-apocalypse: Me, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett and Sam
- Christopher Hitchens, on his fellow famous athiests, interviewed in "The Irish Independent"
Those who believe in
a benign creator soon run into trouble when they are asked to explain an
animal food-chain based on murder: at the most simple level, anyone who
has seen a caterpillar writhe in utter agony as it is consumed from within
by the offspring of an ichneumon fly, must doubt the decency of the divine
author of such gratuitous torment; and this is before we contemplate such
charming human conditions as rabies, multiple sclerosis, poliomyelitis
and the bewitching tribe of tumours that kill so painfully, yet so inefficiently.
For torment is the global norm, a pyramid of suffering which is congruent
with the entire animal kingdom. If we could hear the ultra-sound of the
final screams of the millions of animal prey killed every day, merely that
their tormenters might stave off the terrible death that will anyway one
day consume them, we would probably be convinced that the god responsible
for all this was a very evil creator indeed.
But here is the paradox. Rulers who believed in a Divine Creator have tended to create gentler societies than have atheists. The twentieth century was the first in which various avowedly godless states came into existence: and robbed of the inhibitions caused by a belief in the afterlife, the most astonishingly lawless regimes in world history emerged. The Aztec society which removed a heart each dawn from a teenage ribcage to lure the sun-god from his couch, the Dahomey chieftain who daily dispatched a child to the afterlife to enquire after the health of his ancestors. Why, these were positively vegan compared to the godless butchers of the 20th century, the fine fellows who variously supervised human affairs from the Rhineland to Vladivostok, and from the Kamchatka Peninsula to the South China Sea. Their victims can be measured, not in the modest hundreds but in the hundreds of millions. The world has never, ever seen anything like the evil triumphs of the totalitarian secular states of the 20th century. Which is not an argument in favour of the existence of god, merely one in favour of the belief in one: it is the social utility of a theistic faith which is appealing, not the fictions which lie at its heart.
Since we are an irrational, violent species, is it so very terrible that many of us are deluded into behaving more peacefully than we might otherwise, by an unwarranted belief in a vigilant god who will posthumously reward virtue and punish vice?
- Kevin Myers, "Irrational belief in a God may be the lesser of two evils", "Irish Independent"
In a very considered
in National Review, Michael Novak summarises what he sees as the different
types of atheists:
(1) Those rationalists who believe in science, rationality, and truth, and who abhor relativism and nihilism, and who have very firm moral principles grounded in reason itself — but who see no evidence for the existence of God.
(2) Those relativists and nihilists who do believe, as Nietzsche warned, that the "death of God" has also meant the death of trust in reason and science and objective rules of morality. Such atheists, therefore, may for arbitrary reasons choose to live for their own pleasure, or for the joy of exercising brute power and will.
(3) Those who do not believe in the personal God who heeds prayers, and is concerned about the moral lives of individual human beings — the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Jesus. Instead, some who call themselves atheists actually do recognize a principle of intelligent order and even awe-inspiring beauty in the natural world... They are at about the same stage in thinking about morality and metaphysics as the ancient Greeks.
(4) The “Methodist atheists” — those who maintain all the qualities of niceness and good moral habits and gentle feelings associated with the followers of Wesley down the generations, but do so without believing in God. In other words, they remain indebted to inherited Christian moral sentiments, even while they seldom or never darken church doors. They have come to think that believing in God is a little like believing in Santa Claus. They have outgrown the metaphysics, but not the ethics.
(5) The merely practical atheists — that is, those who by habit remain members of a religious faith, and who share a certain pietas regarding their family gods, and continue going to church according to the old routines, but whose daily behavior and speech show that they actually live as if God does not exist.
(6) Those like Friedrich von Hayek, who wished he could be religious but confessed that he seemed to have no 'ear' for it, just as some people have no ear for music. He felt he was an atheist by defect.
# ROBERT G. INGERSOLL
An honest God is the
noblest work of man.
- Robert G Ingersoll, rephrasing Alexander Pope in "The Gods"
It is a blessed thing
that in every age some one has had individuality enough and courage enough
to stand by his own convictions, some one who had the grandeur to say his
say. I believe it was Magellan who said, "The church says the earth is
flat; but I have seen its shadow on the moon, and I have more confidence
even in a shadow than in the church." On the prow of his ship were disobedience,
defiance, scorn, and success.
- Robert G. Ingersoll, "Individuality"
While utterly discarding
all creeds, and denying the truth of all religions, there is neither in
my heart nor upon my lips a sneer for the hopeful, loving and tender souls
who believe that from all this discord will result a perfect harmony; that
every evil will in some mysterious way become a good, and that above and
over all there is a being who, in some way, will reclaim and glorify every
one of the children of men; but for those who heartlessly try to prove
that salvation is almost impossible; that damnation is almost certain;
that the highway of the universe leads to hell; who fill life with fear
and death with horror; who curse the cradle and mock the tomb, it is impossible
to entertain other than feelings of pity, contempt and scorn.
- from "The Gods" (1876)
I do not say, and I
do not believe, that Christians are as bad as their creeds. In spite of
church and dogma, there have been millions and millions of men and women
true to the loftiest and most generous promptings of the human heart. They
have been true to their convictions, and, with a self-denial and fortitude
excelled by none, have labored and suffered for the salvation of men. Imbued
with the spirit of self-sacrifice, believing that by personal effort they
could rescue at least a few souls from the infinite shadow of hell, they
have cheerfully endured every hardship and scorned every danger.
- from "Heretics and Heresies" (1874)
There are in nature
neither rewards nor punishments — there are only consequences. The life
of Christ is worth its example, its moral force, its heroism of benevolence.
- from "The Christian Religion" (1881)
The life and death
of Christ do not constitute an atonement... in so far as the life of Christ
produces emulation in the direction of goodness, it has been of value to
- from "Some Reasons Why" (1895)
I cannot believe that there is any being in this universe who has created a human soul for eternal pain. I would rather that every god would destroy himself; I would rather that we all should go to eternal chaos, to black and starless night, than that just one soul should suffer eternal agony.
All the martyrs in
the history of the world are not sufficient to establish the correctness
of an opinion. Martyrdom, as a rule, establishes the sincerity of the martyr,
— never the correctness of his thought. Things are true or false in themselves.
Truth cannot be affected by opinions; it cannot be changed, established,
or affected by martyrdom. An error cannot be believed sincerely enough
to make it a truth.
- from "The Great Infidels" (1881)
The night of the Middle
Ages lasted for a thousand years. The first star that enriched the horizon
of this universal gloom was Giordano Bruno. He was the herald of the dawn.
- from "The Great Infidels" (1881)
It seems to me that
if there is some infinite being who wants us to think alike he would have
made us alike.
- from "Trial of C.B. Reynolds for Blasphemy" (1887)
I know of no crime that has not been defended by the church, in one form or other.
Call me infidel, call me atheist, call me what you will, I intend so to treat my children, that they can come to my grave and truthfully say: "He who sleeps here never gave us a moment of pain. From his lips, now dust, never came to us an unkind word."
The Declaration of
Independence is the grandest, the bravest, and the profoundest political
document that was ever signed by the representatives of a people. It is
the embodiment of physical and moral courage and of political wisdom.
- speaking in 1876
The good men, the good
women, are tired of the whip and lash in the realm of thought. They remember
the chain and fagot with a shudder. They are free, and they give liberty
to others; whoever claims any right that he is unwilling to accord to his
fellow-men is dishonest and infamous.
- from "The Liberty of Man, Woman and Child" (1877)
The time to be happy is now, and the way to be happy is to make others so.
Few rich men own their own property. The property owns them.
The present is the necessary product of all the past, the necessary cause of all the future.
A fact never went into partnership with a miracle. Truth scorns the assistance of wonders. A fact will fit every other fact in the universe, and that is how you can tell whether it is or is not a fact. A lie will not fit anything except another lie.
Facts need no pedigree; logic has no heraldry, and the living should not be awed by the mistakes of the dead.
Happiness is not a reward — it is a consequence. Suffering is not a punishment — it is a result.
All the forces of civilization are in favor of morality and temperance. Little can be accomplished by law, because law, for the most part, about such things, is a destruction of personal liberty. Liberty cannot be sacrificed for the sake of temperance, for the sake of morality, or for the sake of anything. It is of more value than everything else. Yet some people would destroy the sun to prevent the growth of weeds.
My liberty ends where yours begin.
That which must be, has the right to be.
I am simply in favor of intellectual hospitality — that is all. You come to me with a new idea. I invite you into the house. Let us see what you have. Let us talk it over. If I do not like your thought, I will bid it a polite "good day." If I do like it, I will say: "Sit down; stay with me, and become a part of the intellectual wealth of my world." That is all.
Love is natural. Back of all ceremony burns and will forever burn the sacred flame. There has been no time in the world's history when that torch was extinguished. In all ages, in all climes, among all people, there has been true, pure, and unselfish love.
Love is the only bow
on Life's dark cloud. It is the morning and the evening star. It shines
upon the babe, and sheds its radiance on the quiet tomb. It is the mother
of art, inspirer of poet, patriot and philosopher. It is the air and light
of every heart — builder of every home, kindler of every fire on every
hearth. It was the first to dream of immortality. It fills the world with
melody — for music is the voice of love. Love is the magician, the enchanter,
that changes worthless things to Joy, and makes royal kings and queens
of common clay. It is the perfume of that wondrous flower, the heart, and
without that sacred passion, that divine swoon, we are less than beasts;
but with it, earth is heaven, and we are gods.
- Robert G Ingersoll, "Orthodoxy" (1884)
# OTHER FREE THOUGHT QUOTES PAGES
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# A THOUGHT EXPERIMENT
Can I prove that reindeers cannot fly? We'll conduct a thought experiment.
Let's select, by some randomizing process, a thousand reindeer. We'll number them and get them all together in a reindeer truck (I don't know what you put reindeer in) and take them to the top of the World Trade Center in New York. We are going to test whether or not reindeer can fly. You have your reindeer all lined up, a video-camera operator standing by, lots of pads of paper and pens at work. The time is now ten past ten in the morning. OK, first experiment. Number one reindeer, please, up to the edge. Camera going? Good. Push. Uhh, write down "no". Really NO! Number two. Push. I don't know what the result of the experiment will be; I suspect strongly what it will be, based upon my meagre knowledge of the aerodynamics of the average reindeer, though I'm not an expert on it. But based upon previous accounts of what reindeer can and cannot do, I think we are going to end up with a pile of very unhappy and broken reindeer at the foot of the World Trade Center. And probably a couple of policemen will be standing by a squad car saying, "I don't know, but here comes another one."
What have we proven with this experiment? Have we proven that reindeer cannot fly? No, of course not. We have only shown that on this occasion, under these conditions of atmospheric pressure, temperature, radiation, at this position geographically, at this season, that these 1000 reindeer either could not or chose not to fly. (If the second is the case, then we certainly know something of the intelligence of the average reindeer.) However, we have not, and can not, prove the negative that reindeer cannot fly, technically, rationally, and philosophically speaking. People will often look at this example and say, "Well, how many reindeer would you have to test?" I'm not going to get into the statistics of the argument; I will only tell you that you cannot prove a negative. The other folks who claim that something is so are required to prove it. It is what we call the burden of proof. In this case, if it's so it's very easy to prove. Just show me one flying reindeer.
"I've given more thought
to the creationists demand that evolution be stricken from public school
science classes, or that it be taught side-by-side with creationism because
'evolution is only a theory' and 'no one was there to witness the creation'
so we cannot say for sure what really happened.'
This morning we are going to talk about the creation of the universe and the origins of life on Earth. According to the Bible, Genesis 1:1-3: 'In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.' Now, it is important for us to understand that no one was actually present at the creation so we don't really know what happened. Genesis 1:1-3 is only a theory, and as such cannot be treated as fact.
And it is only fair that I share with you that there are other theories of the creation. For example, some Sumerians and Babylonians, Gilbert Islanders, Koreans, and Greeks believed that the world was created from the parts of a slain monster; and some Japanese, Samoan, Persian, Chinese, and Hindu have a theory that the world was generated from an egg.
And, of course, there is that dogma being foisted upon us by the liberal media and intelligentsia, the theory of evolution. But that's just a theory, and as we all know, theories are just wild guesses and should not be taken seriously."
Southern Baptists recently counted the number of people expected to go to hell from Alabama-a whopping 46.1%, or 1.86 million souls. The New York Times (1993) explained how: "The study took each county's population and subtracted from it the membership of all churches. After that, Baptist researchers used a secret formula to estimate how many people from different denominations and faiths were probably going to heaven." Newsday (1993) reported that based on this calculation "a higher percentage of Methodists are saved than are Roman Catholics" and that "virtually everyone not belonging to a church congregation was counted among the lost."
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