Positive Atheism's Big List of Quotations

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Louis Aragon (1897-1982)
French novelist, poet, and essayist; leader, Dada and surrealist movements

Louis AragonOf all possible sexual perversions, religion is the only one to have ever been scientifically systematized.
-- Louis Aragon, Treatise on Style, pt. 1, "The Pen" (1928), quoted from The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations

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Glenn L Archer (b. 1929)
Unites States federal jurist

The church must never become a government factory, carrying on a nationalized industry of religion with the people as the bolts and nuts; with God reduced to the role of cramped advocate of current national policy. Surely the pages of history are replete and the examples in many a foreign country convincing that this kind of church-state union -- whatever the original motives, or however noble the original purposes -- winds up with a state that is less than stable and a church that is less than sanctified, and with the poor still hungry.
-- Glenn L Archer, address, Kansas City, August 1956, quoted from Menendez and Doerr, The Great Quotations on Religious Freedom

We must work harder than ever to preserve freedom of religion here in this blessed land. We must not capitulate. Our resolve must not waiver. Much mischief and grief will come from any alliances, holy or otherwise, between organized religious groups and the state.
-- Glenn L Archer, from Robert Luce, The Dream Lives On (1982) p. 247, quoted from Menendez and Doerr, The Great Quotations on Religious Freedom

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William Archer (1856-1924)
Scottish playwright and drama critic

William Archer"Theocracy" has always been the synonym for a bleak and narrow, if not a fierce and blood-stained, tyranny.
-- WIlliam Archer, from Ira D Cardiff, What Great Men Think of Religion, quoted from James A Haught, ed, 2000 Years of Disbelief

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Hannah Arendt (1906-1975)
German-American political scientist

Hannah ArendtThe sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil.
-- Hannah Arendt, quoted by Dr. Paul Gorski, "Multicultural Pavilion: Quotations and Proverbs"

There are no dangerous thoughts; thinking itself is dangerous.
-- Hannah Arendt, quoted from about.com, "Women's Voices: Quotations from Women"

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Aristophanes (ca. 448-380 BCE)
Athenian comic poet

AristophanesOpen your mouth and shut your eyes and see what Zeus will send you.
-- Aristophanes, from Ira D Cardiff, What Great Men Think of Religion, quoted from James A Haught, ed, 2000 Years of Disbelief

Shrines! Shrines! Surely you don't believe in the gods. What's your argument? Where's your proof?
-- Aristophanes, from Rufus K Noyes, Views of Religion, quoted from James A Haught, ed, 2000 Years of Disbelief

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Aristotle (ca. 384-322 BCE)
Greek philosopher


AristotlePrayers and sacrifices are of no avail.
-- Aristotle, from Ira D Cardiff, What Great Men Think of Religion, quoted from James A Haught, ed, 2000 Years of Disbelief

Men create gods after their own image, not only with regard to their form but with regard to their mode of life.
-- Aristotle, from Rufus K Noyes, Views of Religion, quoted from James A Haught, ed, 2000 Years of Disbelief

A tyrant must put on the appearance of uncommon devotion to religion. Subjects are less apprehensive of illegal treatment from a ruler whom they consider god-fearing and pious. On the other hand, they do less easily move against him, believing that he has the gods on his side.
-- Aristotle, Politics, from James A Haught, ed, 2000 Years of Disbelief

We may assume the superiority ceteris paribus [other things remaining equal] of the demonstration which derives from fewer postulates or hypotheses -- in short, from fewer premises.
-- Aristotle, anticipating Occam's Razor, in Posterior Analytics, trans. G R G Mure, Great Books of the Western World, vol. 8 (Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica, 1952), p. 118, quoted from George H Smith, Why Atheism? (2000), chapter 2

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.
-- Aristotle, quoted from Pete Boghossian

If the hammer and the shuttle could move themselves, slavery would be unnecessary.
-- Aristotle, quoted in W E H Lecky, Rationalism in Europe (rev. 1878), vol. ii. p. 201

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Bishop James Armstrong
United Methodist Church

In a pluralistic society, no group, no matter how numerous or powerful, has a right to prescribe a set of beliefs or a code of ethics for all.
-- James Armstrong, United Methodist Church, Address, Phoenix, Arizona February 4, 1975, from Menendez and Doerr, The Great Quotations on Religious Freedom

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Karen Armstrong
Historian of theology and religious belief

Karen ArmstrongA God who kept tinkering with the universe was absurd; a God who interfered with human freedom and creativity was tyrant. If God is seen as a self in a world of his own, an ego that relates to a thought, a cause separate from its effect, "he" becomes a being, not Being itself. An omnipotent, all-knowing tyrant is not so different from earthly dictators who make everything and everybody mere cogs in the machine which they controlled. An atheism that rejects such a God is amply justified.
-- Karen Armstrong, A History of God, pg. 383, speaking about theologian Paul Tillich

Religion is not a nice thing. It is potentially a very dangerous thing because it involves a heady complex of emotions, desires, yearnings and fears.
-- Karen Armstrong, in an interview in The San Francisco Chronicle's offices, quoted in (Chronicle Religion Writer) Don Lattin, "Televangelist, Fundamentalists believe their strict morality is the only answer" (September 23, 2001)

Whatever conclusions we reach about the reality of God, the history of this idea must tell us something important about the human mind and the nature of our aspiration.
-- Karen Armstrong, A History of God

A mode of knowledge rooted in silence and intuitive insight which gives meaning to life but which cannot be explained in rational terms.
-- Karen Armstrong, defining myth from which mystery and mysticism derive, in The Battle for God, (New York: Ballentine Books, 2000), p. xv., quoted from Victor J Stenger, Has Science Found God? (2001)

Myth was regarded as primary; it was concerned with what was thought to be timeless and constant in our existence. Myth looked back to the origins of life, to the foundations of culture, and to the deepest levels of the human mind. Myth was not concerned with practical matters, but with meaning. Unless we find some significance in our lives, we mortal men and women fall very easily into despair. The mythos of a society provided people with a context that made sense of their day-to-day lives; it directed their attention to the eternal and the universal.
-- Karen Armstrong, The Battle for God, (New York: Ballentine Books, 2000), p. xv., quoted from Victor J Stenger, Has Science Found God? (2001)

The human idea of God has a history, since it has always meant something slightly different to each group of people who have used it at various points of time. The idea of God formed in one generation by one set of humn beings could be meaningless in another. Indeed, the statement "I believe in God" has no objective meaning, as such, but like any other statement only means something in context, when proclaimed by a particular community. Consequently, there is no one unchanging idea contained in the word "God"; instead, the word contains a whole spectrum of meanings, some of which are contradictory or even mutally exclusive. Had the notion of God not had this flexibility, it would not have survived to become one of the great human ideas. When one conception of God has ceased to have meaning or relevance, it has been quietly discarded and replaced by a new theology. A fundamentalist would deny this, since fundamentalism is antihistorical: it believes that Abraham, Moses and the later prophets all experienced their God in exactly the same way as people do today. Yet if we look at our [three] religions, it becomes clear that there is no objective view of "God": each generation has to create the image of God that works for it.
-- Karen Armstrong, A History of God

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Matthew Arnold (1822-1888)
English poet, whose work is representative of Victorian intellectual concerns and who was the foremost literary critic of his age

Matthew ArnoldMiracles are doomed; they will drop out like fairies and witchcraft, from among the matter which serious people believe.
-- Matthew Arnold, Literature and Dogma, quoted from John E Remsberg, The Christ (1909) p. 16 (1994 reprint)

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Raymond Aron (1905-1983)
French political philosopher who wrote against totalitarianism

Raymond Aron by Marco DolcettaThe intellectual who no longer feels attached to anything is not satisfied with opinion merely; he wants certainty, he wants a system. The revolution provides him with his opium.
-- Raymond Aron, The Great Debate, 1965, thanks to Laird Wilcox, ed, "The Degeneration of Belief"

Intellectuals cannot tolerate the chance event, the unintelligible: they have a nostalgia for the absolute, for a universally comprehensive scheme.
-- Raymond Aron, The Great Debate, 1965, thanks to Laird Wilcox, ed, "The Degeneration of Belief"

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Isaac Asimov (1920-1992)
Russian-born American scientist and prolific writer

Isaac AsimovProperly read, the Bible is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived.
-- Isaac Asimov (attributed: source unknown)

To surrender to ignorance and call it God has always been premature, and it remains premature today.
--Isaac Asimov, "On Religiosity," Free Inquiry

When people thought the earth was flat, they were wrong. When people thought the earth was spherical, they were wrong. But if you think that thinking the earth is spherical is just as wrong as thinking the earth is flat, then your view is wronger than both of them put together.
-- Isaac Asimov, "The Relativity of Wrong" (1989)

Creationists make it sound as though a "theory" is something you dreamt up after being drunk all night.
-- Isaac Asimov (attributed: source unknown)

Imagine the people who believe such things and who are not ashamed to ignore, totally, all the patient findings of thinking minds through all the centures since the Bible was written. And it is these ignorant people, the most uneducated, the most unimaginative, the most unthinking among us, who would make themselves the guides and leaders of us all; who would force their feeble and childish beliefs on us; who would invade our schools and libraries and homes. I personally resent it bitterly.
-- Isaac Asimov, Canadian Atheists Newsletter, 1994

Isaac AsimovOne would suppose that the battle for religious liberty was won in the United States two hundred years ago. However, in the time since, and right now, powerful voices are always raised in favor of bigotry and thought control. It is useful, then, to have a compendium of the thoughts of great men and women of all faiths (and of none) on the subject, to convince us that we men and woman of freedom are not and never have been alone.
-- Isaac Asimov, from Albert J Menendez and Edd Doerr, The Great Quotations on Religious Freedom

[I]f I were not an atheist, I would believe in a God who would choose to save people on the basis of the totality of their lives and not the pattern of their words. I think he would prefer an honest and righteous atheist to a TV preacher whose every word is God, God, God, and whose every deed is foul, foul, foul.
-- Isaac Asimov, I Asimov: A Memoir

To rebel against a powerful political, economic, religious, or social establishment is very dangerous and very few people do it, except, perhaps, as part of a mob. To rebel against the "scientific" establishment, however, is the easiest thing in the world, and anyone can do it and feel enormously brave, without risking as much as a hangnail. Thus, the vast majority, who believe in astrology and think that the planets have nothing better to do than form a code that will tell them whether tomorrow is a good day to close a business deal or not, become all the more excited and enthusiastic about the bilge when a group of astronomers denounces it.
-- Isaac Asimov (attributed: source unknown)

Isaac AsimovI am an atheist, out and out. It took me a long time to say it. I've been an atheist for years and years, but somehow I felt it was intellectually unrespectable to say one was an atheist, because it assumed knowledge that one didn't have. Somehow it was better to say one was a humanist or an agnostic. I finally decided that I'm a creature of emotion as well as of reason. Emotionally I am an atheist. I don't have the evidence to prove that God doesn't exist, but I so strongly suspect he doesn't that I don't want to waste my time.
-- Isaac Asimov, in "Free Inquiry", Spring 1982, vol.2 no.2, p. 9

Humanity has the stars in its future, and that future is too important to be lost under the burden of juvenile folly and ignorant superstition.
-- Isaac Asimov (attributed: source unknown)

Why continue? Because we must. Because we have the call. Because it is nobler to fight for rationality without winning than to give up in the face of continued defeats. Because whatever true progress humanity makes is through the rationality of the occasional individual and because any one individual we may win for the cause may do more for humanity than a hundred thousand who hug their superstitions to their breast.
-- Isaac Asimov (attributed: source unknown)

Although the time of death is approaching me, I am not afraid of dying and going to Hell or (what would be considerably worse) going to the popularized version of Heaven. I expect death to be nothingness and, for removing me from all possible fears of death, I am thankful to atheism.
--Isaac Asimov, "On Religiosity," Free Inquiry

When I die I won't go to heaven or hell, there will just be nothingness.
-- Isaac Asimov, interviewed in Bill Moyers' television series "A World of Ideas"

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Saint Athanasius (ca. 293-373)
Bishop of Alexandria, leading defender of Christian orthodoxy against Arianism

Saint AthanasiusIt is not by the sword or the spear, by soldiers or by armed force that truth is to be promoted, but by counsel and gentle persuasion.
-- Athanasius, quoted in M Searle Bates, Religious Liberty An Inquiry (1945), quoted from Menendez and Doerr, The Great Quotations on Religious Freedom

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Justin Brooks Atkinson (1894-1984)
American journalist, drama critic

The humorous man recognizes that absolute purity, absolute justice, absolute logic and perfection are beyond human achievement and that men have been able to live happily for thousands of years in a state of genial frailty.
-- Brooks Atkinson, Once Around The Sun (1951) thanks to Laird Wilcox, ed, "The Degeneration of Belief"

People everywhere enjoy believing things that they know are not true. It spares them the ordeal of thinking for themselves and taking responsibility for what they know.
-- Brooks Atkinson, Once Around The Sun (1951)

The most fatal illusion is the settled point of view. Since life is growth and motion, a fixed point of view kills anybody who has one.
-- Brooks Atkinson, quoted by Dr. Paul Gorski, "Multicultural Pavilion: Quotations and Proverbs"

In every age "the good old days" were a myth. No one ever thought they were good at the time. For every age has consisted of crises that seemed intolerable to the people who lived through them.
-- Brooks Atkinson, Once Around The Sun (1951)

I have no objections to churches so long as they do not interfere with God's work.
-- Brooks Atkinson, quoted from The Ultimate Success Quotations Library (1997)

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Rowan Atkinson
Creator of misanthropic 'Mr. Bean' character

     • Compare views of social critic Matthew Parris

Rowan AtkinsonHaving spent a substantial part of my career parodying religious figures from my own Christian background, I am aghast at the notion that it could, in effect, be made illegal to imply ridicule of a religion or to lampoon religious figures.
-- Rowan Atkinson, remarking on proposed legislation outlawing religious hate speech, in a letter to the Times of London, October 15, 2001

I have always believed that there should be no subject about which one cannot make jokes, religion included. Clearly, one is always constricted by contemporary mores and trends because, after all, what one seeks above all is an appreciative audience.
-- Rowan Atkinson, remarking on proposed legislation outlawing religious hate speech, in a letter to the Times of London, October 15, 2001

For telling a good and incisive religious joke, you should be praised. For telling a bad one, you should be ridiculed and reviled. The idea that you could be prosecuted for the telling of either is quite fantastic.
-- Rowan Atkinson, remarking on proposed legislation outlawing religious hate speech, in a letter to the Times of London, October 15, 2001

However, would a film like 'Monty Python's Life of Brian,' criticized at the time of its release for being anti-Christian, be judged under the proposed law? Or that excellent joke in 'Not the Nine O'Clock news' all those years ago, showing worshippers in a mosque simultaneously bowing to the ground with the voiceover: 'And the search goes on for the Ayatollah Khomeini's contact lens'? Not respectful, but comedy takes no prisoners. However, in period and in context it was extremely funny and I believe that it is the reaction of the audience that should decide the appropriateness of a joke, not the law of the land.
-- Rowan Atkinson, remarking on proposed legislation outlawing religious hate speech, in a letter to the Times of London, October 15, 2001

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Demetrius J Atsalis
State Representative in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for precincts in the towns of Barnstable and Yarmouth

Margaret AtwoodWe may not ever find out why this happened, but it is no secret that [child molesters] are considered the lowest of the low in prison. They are considered targets.
-- Demetrius J Atsalis, suggesting a sense of morality, even in a maximum-security prison, that could be seen as protective of children or, at minimum, of the helpless, commenting on the prison murder of convicted child molestor Fr. John J Geoghan, alleged to have molested nearly 150 children while serving as a priest in various Boston-area parishes, thereby bringing to the surface the Roman Catholic Church's cover up of this huge scandal and arrogant protection of priests who continued to molest children, quoted from Jonathan Finer, "Geoghan's Death Is Described: Fellow Inmate Jammed Cell Door During Attack" (The Washington Post: August 25, 2003)

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Margaret Atwood (b. 1939)
Canadian poet and author

Margaret AtwoodYou say, The sensed absence
of God and the sensed presence
amount to much the same thing,
only in reverse.
     -- Margaret Atwood, "In the secular night" from Morning in the Burned House (1995)

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W H Auden
English poet

W. H. AudenThe only reason the Protestants and Catholics have given up the idea of universal domination is because they've realised they can't get away with it.
-- W H Auden, in Alan Arisen, ed, The Table-Talk of W H Auden (1990), quoted from Jonathon Green, The Cassell Dictionary of Cynical Quotations

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St Augustine of Hippo (354-430)
Early Christian church father and philosopher

     • See Augustine's Scary Quotations

AugustineSuppress prostitution, and capricious lusts will overthrow society.
-- Augustine, from Dr. William W Sanger, The History of Prostitution (page 91), quoted from Joseph Lewis, The Ten Commandments (page 415)

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Sir Alfred Jules Ayer (1910-89)
British philosopher, who influenced the development of contemporary analytic philosophy

A. J. AyerIf the assertion that there is a god is nonsensical, then the atheist's assertion that there is no god is equally nonsensical, since it is only a significant proposition that can be significantly contradicted.
-- A J Ayer, Language, Truth, and Logic (1936), quoted from George H Smith, "Defining Atheism." Smith continues: "Unfortunately, Ayer's treatment lacks historical perspective on what atheists have argued for many years. In introducing noncognitivism as a supposed alternative to atheism, Ayer misled a generation of philosophers, for noncognitivism has always been an important weapon in the atheist's arsenal."

Theism is so confused and the sentences in which "God" appears so incoherent and so incapable of verifiability or falsifiability that to speak of belief or unbelief, faith or unfaith, is logically impossible.
-- A J Ayer, Language, Truth, and Logic (1936), quoted from Karen Armstrong, A History of God

I take it, therefore, to be a fact, that one's existence ends with death. I think it possible to show how this fact can be emotionally acceptable.
-- A J Ayer, The Humanist Outlook (1968), quoted from Famous Dead Non-theists

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