Positive Atheism's Big List of Quotations

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Louis-Ferdinand Céline (1894-1961)
French author

With two thousand years of Christianity behind him ... a man can't see a regiment of soldiers march past without going off the deep end. It starts off far too many ideas in his head.
-- Louis-Ferdinand Céline: Ferdinand Bardamu, in Journey to the End of the Night (1932; 1934; 1966, p. 123)

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Aulus Cornelius Celsus (CE First Century)
Roman writer who wrote an encyclopædia on the subjects of medicine, rhetoric, history, philosophy, warfare, and agriculture

CelsusBefore accepting any belief one ought to follow reason as a guide, for credulity without enquiry is a sure way to deceive oneself.
-- Celsus (ca. CE 170), quoted from Antony Flew, Atheistic Humanism, p. 17

This is one of their [the Christians'] rules. Let no man that is learned, wise, or prudent come among us: but if they be unlearned, or a child, or an idiot, let him freely come. So they openly declare that none but the ignorant, and those devoid of understanding, slaves, women, and children, are fit disciples for the God they worship.
-- Celsus, quoted from John E Remsberg, The Christ, p. 325

CelsusYou may see weavers, tailors, fullers, and the most illiterate of rustic fellows, who dare not speak a word before wise men, when they can get a company of children and silly women together, set up to teach strange paradoxes among them.
-- Celsus, quoted from John E Remsberg, The Christ, p. 325

Jesus hired himself out as a servant in Egypt on account of his poverty, and having there acquired some miraculous powers, in which the Egyptians greatly pride themselves, returned to his own country, highly elated on account of them, and by means of these proclaimed himself a God.
-- Celsus, in Origen's work, Contra Celsus, quoted from Paul Kurtz, The Transcendental Temptation

More and more the myths put about by these Christians are better known than the doctrines of the philosophers. Who has not heard the fable of Jesus' birth from a virgin or the stories of his crucifixion and resurrection? ... But the point is this, and the Christians would do well to heed it: One ought first to follow reason as a guide before accepting any since anyone who believes without testing a doctrine is certain to be deceived.... Just as the charlatans of the cults take advantage of the simpleton's lack of education to lead him around by the nose, so too with the Christian teachers: they do not want to give or receive reasons for what they believe. Their favorite expressions are "Do not ask questions, just believe!" and: "Your faith will save you!" "The wisdom of the world," they say, "is evil; to be simple is to be good." If only they would undertake to answer my question -- which I do not ask as one who is trying to understand their beliefs (there being little to understand!). But they refuse to answer, and indeed discourage asking questions of any sort.
-- Celsus, on the True Doctrine: A Discourse Against the Christians, translated by R Joseph Hoffmann (1987), p. 54, quoted from George H Smith, Why Atheism? (2000)

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Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (1547-1616)
Spanish writer best known for his classic satirical novel Don Quixote (1605-1615)

Miguel de CervantesMan appoints, and God disappoints.
-- Miguel de Cervantes: Sancho Panza, in Don Quixote, pt. 2, bk. 6, ch. 22

I have always heard, Sancho, that doing good to base fellows is like throwing water into the sea.
-- Miguel de Cervantes: Don Quixote, in Don Quixote, pt. 1, ch. 23

Miguel de CervantesDeath eats up all things, both the young lamb and old sheep; and I have heard our parson say, death values a prince no more than a clown; all's fish that comes to his net; he throws at all, and sweeps stakes; he's no mower that takes a nap at noon-day, but drives on, fair weather or foul, and cuts down the green grass as well as the ripe corn: he's neither squeamish nor queesy-stomach'd, for he swallows without chewing, and crams down all things into his ungracious maw; and tho' you can see no belly he has, he has a confounded dropsy, and thirsts after men's lives, which he guggles down like mother's milk.
-- Miguel de Cervantes: Sancho Panza, in Don Quixote, pt. 2, bk. 5, ch. 20

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Rev John W Chadwick
Well-known Unitarian minister, of Brooklyn, NY

Paul's witness to the resurrection is the ruin of the argument.
-- John Chadwick, quoted from John E Remsberg, The Christ, p. 231.

Of the six men who have done most to make America the wonder and the joy she is to all of us, not one could be the citizen of a government so constituted; for Washington and Franklin and Jefferson, certainly the three mightiest leaders in our early history, were heretics in their day, Deists, as men called them; and Garrison and Lincoln and Sumner, certainly the three mightiest in these later times, would all be disfranchised by the proposed amendment. Lincoln could not have taken the oath of office had such a clause been in the Constitution.
-- John Chadwick, address delivered in Tremout Temple, Boston, May 30, 1872, denouncing the proposed "Christian Amendment" to the Constitution, recognizing the Bible, God, and making Christianity the state religion, from John E Remsberg, Six Historic Americans, chapter xiii, quoted from Franklin Steiner, The Religious Beliefs of Our Presidents, p. 141

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Thomas Chalmers
British theologian

Judging from the tendency and effect of his arguments, an atheist does not appear positively to refuse that a God may be. ...His verdict on the doctrine of God is only that it is not proven. It is not that it is disproven. He is but an atheist. He is not an anti-theist.
-- Thomas Chalmers, Natural Theology, quoted from Austin Cline, "Defining Atheism: Early Atheists"

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John Chancellor (1927-1996)
American reporter, news anchor, and commentator for NBC

John ChancellorI've been an agnostic for as long as I can remember ... so I don't know where we go. But if it turns out that the lights are just turned off and nothing happens, well, that's okay.
-- John Chancellor, after being asked whether he feared death ("not as much as I would have thought") as well as being asked what he thought would happen to him after death, in Jack Thomas, "Appreciation: Chancellor, the wise man with ready wit," Boston Globe

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Sir Charles Spencer "Charlie" Chaplin (1889-1977)
British born actor, director, and produce
r

Charlie ChaplinBy simple common sense I don't believe in God, in none.
-- Charlie Chaplin, quoted in Manual of a Perfect Atheist

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Ilka Chase (1905-1978)
American actress, writer

Ilka Chase (portrait: Famous Record Co. picture disc ca. 1936: stiff paper with applied sound sheet over the picture side with clear protective layer over the back).tifIt is usually when men are at their most religious that they behave with the least sense and the greatest cruelty.
-- Ilka Chase, quoted from Jonathon Green, The Cassell Dictionary of Cynical Quotations

When he said we were trying to make a fool of him, I could only murmur that the Creator had beat us to it.
-- Ilka Chase, Violets and Vinegar, in Jilly Cooper and Tom Hartman, Mrs. Crankhurst (1980)

Democracy is not an easy form of government, because it is never final; it is a living, changing organism, with a continuous shifting and adjusting of balance between individual freedom and general order.
-- Ilka Chase, Past Imperfect

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Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936)
English author, conservative (reactionary) in his thinking; later in life (1922), a champion of Roman Catholicism

     • Check G K Chesterton's Scary Side

The act of defending any of the cardinal virtues has today all the exhilaration of a vice.
-- G K Chesterton, A Defense of Humilities, The Defendant (1901)

A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it.
-- G K Chesterton, Everlasting Man (1925)

Fallacies do not cease to be fallacies because they become fashions.
-- G K Chesterton, Illustrated London News (April 19, 1930)

The Universe is the most extraordinary masterpiece ever constructed by nobody.
-- G K Chesterton, quoted in J Q Kansil, Conversations with Opa: Sharing Wisdom about the Universe and Lesser Things (Amhurst: Prometheus; Copyright ©2011)

The reformer is always right about what is wrong. He is generally wrong about what is right.
-- Gilbert Keith Chesterton, Illustrated London News (October 28, 1922)

There are two kinds of people in the world: the conscious and the unconscious dogmatists. I have always found that the unconscious dogmatists were by far the most dogmatic.
-- Gilbert Keith Chesterton, Generally Speaking (1928), thanks to Laird Wilcox, ed, "The Degeneration of Belief"

The person who is really in revolt is the optimist, who generally lives and dies.
-- Gilbert Keith Chesterton, Introduction to The Defendant, quoted from The American Chesterton Society

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Lydia Maria Child (1802-1880)
Abolitionist, Author

Even if nothing worse than wasted mental effort could be laid to the charge of theology, that alone ought to be sufficient to banish it from the earth, as one of the worst enemies of mankind.
-- Lydia Maria Child, The Progress of Ideas Through Successive Ages, quoted from Annie Laurie Gaylor, editor, Women Without Superstition

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William Chillingworth (1602-1644)
Anglican theologian and friend of John Locke, an Arminian opponent of intolerance who attacked the Catholics on one side and the Puritans and Calvinists on the other

If men do their best endeavours to free themselves from all errors, and yet fail of it through human frailty, so well I am persuaded of the goodness of God, that if in me alone should meet a confluence of all such errors of all the Protestants in the world that were thus qualified, I should not be so much afraid of them all, as I should be to ask pardon for them.
-- William Chillingworth, quoted by Lecky, Rationalism in Europe (rev. 1878) vol. ii., pp. 77-78

Short Graphic Rule

Father James Broderick

"A Jesuit had cast aspersions on the learning of Anglican divines, which rankled with William because he was of that fraternity himself, though somewhat shaky on the point of Sabbatical worship. He retorted scornfully that men might be learned even though they 'dispute not eternally ... whether a million of angels may not sit upon a needle's point.' ... It was the same ingenious propagandists who succeeded in converting the venerated name of Duns Scotus, 'of reality the rarest-veined unraveller,' into a synonym for a blockhead."
-- Father James Broderick, from Father James Broderick, SJ, in "The Tablet" of October 10th, 1942

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Avram Noam Chomsky (b. 1928)
American linguist, social commentator

Noam ChomskyIf we don't believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don't believe in it at all.
-- Noam Chomsky (attributed: source unknown)

In the early [19]50s in the US, there was what was called McCarthyism and the only reason it succeeded was that there was no resistance to it. When they tried the same thing in the [19]60s it instantly collapsed because people simply laughed at it so they couldn't do it. Even a dictatorship can't do everything it wants. It's got to have some degree of popular support.
-- Noam Chomsky, in Noam Chomsky, "Interview With Chomsky" (December 28, 2002),

For those who stubbornly seek freedom, there can be no more urgent task than to come to understand the mechanisms and practices of indoctrination. These are easy to perceive in the totalitarian societies, much less so in the system of "brainwashing under freedom" to which we are subjected and which all too often we sere as willing or unwitting instruments.
-- Noam Chomsky (attributed: source unknown)

Religious fundamentalists alone are a huge popular grouping in the United States, which resembles pre-industrial societies in that regard. This is a culture in which three-fourths of the population believe in religious miracles, half believe in the devil, 83 percent believe that the Bible is the "actual" or the inspired word of God, 39 percent believe in the Biblical prediction of Armageddon and "accept it with a certain fatalism," a mere 9 percent accept Darwinian evolution while 44 percent believe that "God created man pretty much in his present form at one time within the last 10,000 years," and so on. The "God and Country rally" that opened the national Republican convention is one remarkable illustration, which aroused no little amazement in conservative circles in Europe.
-- Noam Chomsky, speech to the Library Information Technology Association June 1992, San Francisco, quoted from: "'Mandate for Change,' or Business as Usual," Z Magazine, February 1993, pp. 32-33

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Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)
British statesman

Winston ChurchillEveryone is in favor of free speech. Hardly a day passes without its being extolled, but some people's idea of it is that they are free to say what they like, but if anyone else says anything back, that is an outrage.
-- Winston Churchill, quoted from Floyd College, Rome, Georgia, "Banned Books -- Quotes"

If you will not fight for the right when you can easily win without bloodshed; if you will not fight when your victory will be sure and not too costly; you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all the odds against you and only a small chance of survival. There may even be a worse case: you may have to fight when there is no hope of victory, because it is better to perish than to live as slaves.
-- Winston Churchill (attributed: source unknown)

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Cicero [Marcus Tullius] (ca. 106-43 BCE)
Roman orator, philosopher

In this subject of the nature of the gods the first question is: do the gods exist or do they not? It is difficult, you will say, to deny that they exist. I would agree, if we were arguing the matter in a public assembly, but in a private discussion of this kind it is perfectly easy to do so.
-- Cicero, advocating discretion when publicly questioning the existence of gods, The Nature of the Gods, Horace McGregor, tr. (1972), p. 94, quoted from George H Smith, Why Atheism? (2000), p. 177

In a discussion of this kind our interest should be centered not on the weight of the authority but on the weight of the argument. Indeed the authority of those who set out to teach is often an impediment to those who wish to learn. They cease to use their own judgment and regard as gospel whatever is put forward by their chosen teacher.
-- Cicero, advocating reason even when discussing the existence of gods, The Nature of the Gods, Horace McGregor, tr. (1972), p. 73, quoted from George H Smith, Why Atheism? (2000), p. 177

Nature ordains that a man should wish the good of every man, whoever he may be, for this very reason that he is a man.
-- Cicero, voicing the Stoic doctrine, from W E H Lecky, History of European Morals (Vol I p. 101); quoted from Joseph Lewis The Ten Commandments (p. 571)

I prefer tongue-tied knowledge to ignorant loquacity.
-- Cicero, De Oratore, bk. 3, sct. 142

Justice consists in doing no injury to men; decency in giving them no offence.
-- Cicero, De Officiis, bk. 1, ch. 28, sct. 99

To reduce man to the duties of his own city, and to disengage him from duties to the members of other cities, is to break the universal society of the human race.
-- Cicero, quoted in W E H Lecky, History of European Morals (Vol I p. 101); quoted from Joseph Lewis The Ten Commandments (p. 571-2)

There are many things in philosophy, my dear Brutus, which are not as yet fully explained to us and particularly (as you very well know) that most obscure and difficult question concerning the Nature of the Gods, so extremely necessary both towards a knowledge of the human mind, and the practice of true religion: concerning which the opinions of men are so various and so different from each other, as to lead strongly to the inference that ignorance is the cause or origin of philosophy; and that the Academic philosophers have been prudent in refusing their assent to things uncertain. For what is more unbecoming to a wise man than to judge rashly? Or what rashness is is so unworthy of the gravity and stability of a philosopher, as either to maintain false opinions, or without the least hesitation to support and defend what he has not thoroughly examined, and does not clearly comprehend.
     In the question now before us, the greater part of mankind have united to acknowledge that which is most probable, and which we are all by nature led to suppose, namely, that there are Gods. Protagoras doubted whether there were any. Diagoras the Melian and Theodorus of Cyrene entirely believed there were no such beings. But they who have affirmed that there are Gods, have expressed such a variety of sentiments on the subject, and the disagreement between them is so great, that it would be tiresome to enumerate their opinions; for they give many statements respecting the forms of the Gods, and their places of abode, and the employment of their lives. And these are matters on which the philosophers differ with the most exceeding earnestness. But the most considerable part of the dispute, is whether they are wholly inactive; totally unemployed, and free from all care and administration of affairs. Or, on the contrary, whether all things were made and constituted by them from the beginning; and whether they will continue to be actuated and governed by them to eternity. This is one of the greatest points in debate; and unless this is decided, mankind must necessarily remain in the greatest of errors, and ignorant of what is most important to be known.
-- Cicero, The Nature of the Gods, bk. 1, ch. 1

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Emil M Cioran (1911-1995)
Rumanian-born French philosopher

Emil CioranGod: a disease we imagine we are cured of because no one dies of it nowadays.
-- Emil Cioran, The Trouble with Being Born, ch. 10 (1973)

The fanatic is incorruptible: if he kills for an idea, he can just as well get himself killed for one; in either case, tyrant or martyr, he is a monster.
-- Emil Cioran, A Short History of Decay, ch. 1, "Genealogy of Fanaticism" (1949)

My mission is to see things as they are. Exactly contrary of a mission.
-- Emil Cioran, quoted from Famous Dead Non-theists

The Holy Ghost," Luther instructs us, "is not a skeptic." Not everyone can be, and that is really too bad.
-- Emil Cioran, quoted from Famous Dead Non-theists

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Russell G Clark
American Jurist, US District Court for the Western District of Missouri (Southern Division)

The portrayal of the fish impermissibly excludes other religious beliefs or nonbeliefs and -- intended or not -- depicts Christianity as the religion recognized and endorsed by the residents of Republic.The Republic city seal pervasively invades the daily lives of non-Christians and sends a message that they are outsiders. The Constitution forbids such a result.
-- Russell G Clark, Summary Judgement in Webb v. Town of Republic (Missouri), regarding its use of the Jesus Fish symbol on the town seal (ACLU Ozarks Chapter)

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Arthur C Clarke
British Science-Fiction writer

Arthur C. ClarkeA faith that cannot survive collision with the truth is not worth many regrets.
-- Arthur C Clarke, quoted from Ciaran Hanway, Omnipurpose Page

Finally, I would like to assure my many Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, and Muslim friends that I am sincerely happy that the religion which Chance has given you has contributed to your peace of mind (and often, as Western medical science now reluctantly admits, to your physical well-being). Perhaps it is better to be un-sane and happy, than sane and un-happy. But it is the best of all to be sane and happy. Whether our descendants can achieve that goal will be the greatest challenge of the future. Indeed, it may well decide whether we have any future.
-- Arthur C Clarke, 3001: A Space Odyssey, Acknowledgements, p.274, quoted from Ciaran Hanway, Omnipurpose Page

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Henry Clay (1777-1852)
American politician known as "the Great Compromiser" having pushed the Missouri Compromise through the House of Representatives (1820)

Henry ClayAll religions united with government are more or less inimical to liberty. All, separated from government, are compatible with liberty.
-- Henry Clay, address, U S House of Representatives, March 24, 1818, from Albert J Menendez and Edd Doerr, The Great Quotations on Religious Freedom

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Stephen Grover Cleveland (1837-1908)
The 22nd and 24th President of the United States (1885-1889 and 1893-1897)

United States Flag

Grover ClevelandI know that human prejudice -- especially that growing out of race and religion -- is cruelly inveterate and lasting.
-- Grover Cleveland, from Rufus K Noyes, Views of Religion, quoted from James A Haught, ed, 2000 Years of Disbelief

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William Kingdon Clifford (1845-1879)
English physicist who anticipated Einstein's Relativity; author of childrens' books (The Little People)

W. K. CliffordIf a man, holding a belief which he was taught in childhood or persuaded of afterwards, keeps down and pushes away any doubts which arise about it in his mind, purposely avoids the reading of books and the company of men that call in question or discuss it, and regards as impious those questions which cannot easily be asked without disturbing it -- the life of that man is one long sin against mankind.
     If this judgment seems harsh when applied to those simple souls who have never known better, who have been brought up from the cradle with a horror of doubt, and taught that their eternal welfare depends on what they believe, then it leads to the very serious question, Who hath made Israel to sin?
-- W K Clifford, The Ethics of Belief

It cannot be doubted that theistic belief is a comfort and a solace to those who hold it, and that the loss of it is a very painful loss. It cannot be doubted, at least, by many of us in this generation, who either profess it now, or received it in our childhood and have parted from it since with such searching trouble as only cradle-faiths can cause. We have seen the spring sun shine out of an empty heaven, to light up a soulless earth; we have felt with utter loneliness that the Great Companion is dead.
-- W K Clifford, "The Influence upon Morality of a Decline in Religious Belief," Nineteenth Century, no 2 (April, 1877) page 355; quoted from S T Joshi, God's Defenders (Prometheus: 2003) page 33

Thought is powerless, except it make something outside of itself: the thought which conquers the world is not contemplative but active.
-- W K Clifford, undergraduate address, quoted from J J O'Connor and E F Robertson, "William Kingdon Clifford," posted by the School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of St Andrews, Scotland

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William Jefferson "Bill" Clinton (b. 1946)
The 42nd President of the United States (1993-2001)

United States Flag

Bill ClintonWe have the most religious freedom of any country in the world, including the freedom not to believe.
-- Bill Clinton, at the 1996 presidential debate in San Diego, responding to opponent Bob Dole, who suggested that "a constitutional amendment for voluntary prayer in school might be a great idea," quoted by Cliff Walker

We don't need a constitutional amendment for kids to pray.
-- Bill Clinton, at the 1996 presidential debate in San Diego, responding to minister Ron Kite, who falsely spoke of "founding fathers who possessed very strong Christian beliefs and godly principles," quoted by Cliff Walker

Bill Clinton, long-time admirer of Ozzy OsbourneThe hard fact is that so long as Saddam remains in power, he threatens the well-being of his people, the peace of his region, the security of the world. The credible threat to use force, and when necessary the actual use of force, is the surest way to contain Saddam's weapons of mass destruction program [and] curtail his aggression.
-- Bill Clinton, anticipating G W Bush, quoted in Jonathan Rauch, "Ticket to Oblivion" (National Journal: March 1, 2003)

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DeWitt Clinton (1769-1828)
American politician, governor of New York

DeWitt ClintonIn this country there is no alliance between church and state, no established religion, no tolerated religion -- for toleration results from establishment -- but religious freedom guaranteed by the Constitution and consecrated by the social compact.
-- DeWitt Clinton, 1813, quoted from Albert J Menendez and Edd Doerr, The Great Quotations on Religious Freedom

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Richard Clopton

For every credibility gap, there is a gullibility fill.
-- Richard Clopton, from James A Haught, ed, 2000 Years of Disbelief

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