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John Stuart Mill
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John Stuart Mill (1806-1873)
God is a word to express, not our ideas, but the want of them.
The world would be astonished if it new how great a proportion of its brightest ornaments, of those most distinguished even in popular estimation for wisdom and virtue, are complete skeptics in religion.
It can do truth no service to blind the fact, known to all who have the most ordinary acquaintance with literary history, that a large portion of the noblest and most valuable moral teaching has been the work not only of men who did not know, but of men who knew and rejected the Christian faith.
Truth gains more even by errors of one who, with due study and preparation, thinks for himself than by the true opinions of those who only hold them because they do not suffer themselves to think.
It is historically true that a large proportion of infidels in all ages have been persons of distinguished integrity and honor.
The majority, being satisfied with the ways of mankind as they now are (for it is they who make them what they are), cannot comprehend why those ways should not be good enough for everybody; and what is more, spontaneity forms no part of the ideal of the majority of moral and social reformers, but is rather looked on with jealousy, as a troublesome and perhaps rebellious obstruction to the general acceptance of what these reformers, in their own judgment, think would be best for mankind.
What little recognition the idea of obligation to the public obtains in modern morality is derived from Greek and Roman
sources, not from Christian; as, even in the morality of private life, whatever exists of magnanimity, high-mindeness,
personal dignity, even the sense of honor, is derived from the purely human, not the religious part of our education, and
never could have grown out of a standard of ethics in which the only worth, professedly recognized, is that of obedience.
There is always need of persons not only to discover new truths, and point out when what were once truths are true no longer, but also to commence new practices, and set the example of more enlightened conduct, and better taste and sense in human life.
On religion in particular, the time appears to me to have come, when it is a duty of all who, being qualified in point of knowledge, have, on mature consideration, satisfied themselves that the current opinions are not only false, but hurtful, to make their dissent known.
Christian morality (so called) has all the characters of a reaction; it is, in great part, a protest against Paganism. Its ideal is negative rather than positive; passive rather than action; innocence rather than Nobleness; Abstinence from Evil, rather than energetic Pursuit of Good: in its precepts (as has been well said) "thou shalt not" predominates unduly over "thou shalt."
Christian morality (so called) has all the characters of a reaction.... In its horror of sensuality, it made an idol of asceticism, which has been gradually compromised away into one of legality. It holds out the hope of heaven and the threat of hell, as the appointed and appropriate motives to a virtuous life -- in this falling far below the best of the ancients, and doing what lies in it to give to human morality an essentially selfish character.... It is essentially a doctrine of passive obedience; it inculcates submission to all authorities found established.
The principle itself of dogmatic religion, dogmatic morality, dogmatic philosophy, is what requires to be booted out; not any particular manifestation of that principle.
The ne plus ultra of wickedness is embodied in what is commonly presented to mankind as the creed of Christianity.
Is there any moral enormity which might not be justified by imitation of such a Deity?
I will call no being good who is not what I mean when I apply that epithet to my fellow creatures; and if such a creature can sentence me to hell for not so calling him, to hell I will go.
A being who can create a race of men devoid of real freedom and inevitably foredoomed to be sinners, and then punish them for being what he has made them, may be omnipotent and various other things, but he is not what the English language has always intended by the adjective holy.
Miracles have no claim whatever to the character of historical facts and are wholly invalid as evidence of any revelation.
My father taught me that the question "Who made me?" cannot be answered, since it immediately suggests the further question, "Who made God?
The beliefs which we have most warrant for, have no safeguard to rest on, but a standing invitation to the whole world to prove them unfounded.
Every established fact which is too bad to admit of any other defence is always presented to us as an injunction of religion.
Belief, thus, in the supernatural, great as are the services which it rendered in the early stages of human development, cannot be considered to be any longer required, either for enabling us to know what is right and wrong in social morality, or for supplying us with motives to do right and to abstain from wrong.
Whatever crushes individuality is despotism, whether it professes to be enforcing the will of God or the injunctions of men.
Silencing the expression of an opinion is ... robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.
A State which dwarfs its men, in order that they may be more docile instruments in its hands even for beneficial purposes -- will find that with small men no great thing can really be accomplished; and that the perfection of machinery to which it has sacrificed everything, will in the end avail it nothing, for want of the vital power which, in order that the machine might work more smoothly, it has preferred to banish.
He must be able to hear them [the counter arguments] from persons who actually believe them; who defend them in earnest, and do their very utmost for them. He must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form; he must feel the whole force of the difficulty which the true view of the subject has to encounter and dispose of; else he will never really possess himself of the portion of truth which meets and removes that difficulty.
Let us suppose ... that the government is entirely at one with the people, and never thinks of exerting any power of coercion
unless in agreement with what it conceives to be their voice. But I deny the right of the people to exercise such coercion,
either by themselves or by their government. The power itself is illegitimate. The best government has no more title to it
than the worst. It is as noxious, or more noxious, when exerted in accordance with public opinion, than when in opposition
to it. If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be
no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind.
The Subtle Fulmination of the Encircled Sea
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