Positive Atheism's Big List of Quotations

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Hamilton James Eckenrode
American historian (state of Virginia)

Separation of church and state in Virginia, instead of weakening Christianity, as the conservatives of the Revolution had feared, really aided it in securing a power over men far greater than it had known in the past.
-- H J Eckenrode, Separation of Church and State in Virginia, quoted from Gene Garman, "Church and State Separation"

The union of church and state put the church under a political control.... The church was thoroughly subordinated to the state.
-- H J Eckenrode, Separation of Church and State in Virginia, quoted from Gene Garman, "Founding Principles Rejected: Colonial Virginia"

The most popular argument in all these papers was the assertion ... that Christianity had grown and prospered in spite of the opposition of the State.
-- H J Eckenrode, Separation of Church and State in Virginia, quoted from Gene Garman, "Founding Principles Rejected: Colonial Virginia"

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Umberto Eco (born, 1932)
Italian semiologist, novelist

Umberto EcoA dream is a scripture, and many scriptures are nothing but dreams.
-- Umberto Eco: Brother William, in The Name of the Rose, "Sixth Day: After Terce" (1980; tr. 1983), quoted from The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations

Fear prophets ... and those prepared to die for the truth, as a rule make many others die with them, often before them, and at times instead of them.
-- Umberto Eco: Brother William, in The Name of the Rose, "Seventh Day: Night (2)" (1980; tr. 1983), quoted from The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations

If two things don't fit, but you believe both of them, thinking that somewhere, hidden, there must be a third thing that connects them, that's credulity.
-- Umberto Eco (attributed: source unknown)

Umberto EcoThere is only one thing that arouses animals more than pleasure, and that is pain. Under torture you are as if under the dominion of those grasses that produce visions. Everything you have heard told, everything you have read returns to your mind, as if you were being transported, not toward heaven, but toward hell. Under torture you say not only what the inquisitor wants, but also what you imagine might please him, because a bond (this, truly, diabolical) is established between you and him.
-- Umberto Eco: Brother William, in The Name of the Rose, "First Day: Sext" (1980; tr. 1983), quoted from The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations

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Sir Arthur Eddington (1882–1944)
British astronomer and physicist

Sir Arthur EddingtonWe are bits of stellar matter that got cold by accident, bits of a star gone wrong.
-- Sir Arthur Eddington, perhaps suggesting that there was a purpose, of some sort, but that a deviation from that purpose occurred (or perhaps simply failing to think conclusively about his chosen word-picture), in New York Times Magazine (October 9, 1932), quoted from Woolsey Teller, The Atheism of Astronomy: A Refutation of the Theory that the Universe is Governed by Intelligence (1938)

If someone points out to you that your pet theory of the universe is in disagreement with Maxwell's equations -- then so much the worse for Maxwell's equations. If it is found to be contradicted by observation -- well, these experimentalists do bungle things sometimes. But if your theory is found to be against the second law of thermodynamics I can give you no hope; there is nothing for it but to collapse in deepest humiliation.
-- Sir Arthur Eddington, quoted from Richard Dawkins, "Science, Delusion and the Appetite for Wonder" (12 November 1996) Richard Dimbleby Lecture

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Dr Dean Edell
American radio personality; former medical doctor

Sixty-nine percent think it's against God's will to clone human beings. Well, if it were against God's will, wouldn't he just kill all the cloners? Wouldn't he just stop it on his own? I don't quite understand that. Isn't this country wonderful because you get the right to believe what you want to? But where we all get into trouble is when some people feel they have the right to inflict their beliefs on others.
-- Dr. Dean Edell, citing a February, 2001, Time/CNN poll on cloning, "Send In The Clones" (March 02, 2001)

I can’t believe it. Maybe there is a God after all. Herbal supplement sales only grew 1 percent last year. The years before, it was 17 percent, 12 percent, 18 percent.
-- Dr. Dean Edell, discussing an analysis done by the Nutrition Business Journal and Nutrition Industry Newsletter, in his report of May 9, 2001

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Thomas Alva Edison (1847–1931)
America's beloved inventor, who patented more than a thousand inventions

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Thomas EdisonThere is no expedient to which a man will not go to avoid the real labor of thinking.
-- Thomas Edison, the placard in all of Edison's works, according to Joseph Lewis in "A Visit With Thomas Alva Edison."

To those seaching for truth -- not the truth of dogma and darkness but the truth brought by reason, search, examination, and inquiry, discipline is required. For faith, as well intentioned as it may be, must be built on facts, not fiction -- faith in fiction is a damnable false hope.
-- Thomas Edison (attributed: source unknown)

Thomas EdisonI do not believe that any type of religion should ever be introduced into the public schools of the United States.
-- Thomas Edison, "Do We Live Again?" contributed by Tamara

The great trouble is that the preachers get the children from six to seven years of age and then it is almost impossible to do anything with them.
-- Thomas Edison, quoted by Joseph Lewis from a personal conversation: see "A Visit With Thomas Alva Edison," from his book Atheism and other Essays, exclusively in Positive Atheism's Biography Index; or under Joseph Lewis; Freethought Heroes

Thomas EdisonWhat fools.
-- Thomas Edison, commenting on the spectacle of hundreds of thousands making a pilgrimage to the grave of an obscure priest in Massachusetts, in the hope of effecting "miraculous cures" -- quoted by Joseph Lewis from a personal conversation, in "A Visit With Thomas Alva Edison"

Incurably religious, that is the best way to describe the mental condition of so many people.
-- Thomas Edison, quoted by Joseph Lewis from a personal conversation, in "A Visit With Thomas Alva Edison"

Thomas EdisonMy mind is incapable of conceiving such a thing as a soul. I may be in error, and man may have a soul; but I simply do not believe it.
-- Thomas Edison, "Do We Live Again?" contributed by Tamara

I have never seen the slightest scientific proof of the religious theories of heaven and hell, of future life for individuals, or of a personal God.
-- Thomas Edison, Columbian Magazine, contributed by Tamara

I cannot believe in the immortality of the soul.... No, all this talk of an existence for us, as individuals, beyond the grave is wrong. It is born of our tenacity of life -- our desire to go on living -- our dread of coming to an end.
-- Thomas Edison, interview in The New York Times (October 2, 1910) front of Magazine Section, by Edward Marshall, quoted from James A Haught, "Breaking the Last Taboo" (1996)

I do not believe in the God of the theologians; but that there is a Supreme Intelligence I do not doubt.
-- Thomas Edison, quoted from Thomas S Vernon, "Thomas Alva Edison"

Thomas EdisonIt is the best book ever written on the subject. There is nothing like it!
-- Thomas Edison, on Thomas Paine's The Age of Reason, quoted by Joseph Lewis from a personal conversation, in "A Visit With Thomas Alva Edison"

I think that Ingersoll had all the attributes of a perfect man, and, in my opinion, no finer personality ever existed. Judging from the past, I cannot help thinking that the intention of the Supreme Intelligence that rules the world is to ultimately make such a type of man universal.
-- Thomas Edison, Front Matter to Ingersoll's Greatest Lectures, compiled by Joseph Lewis

Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.
-- Thomas Edison (attributed: source unknown)

I am proud of the fact that I never invented weapons to kill.
-- Thomas Edison, quoted from Thomas S Vernon, "Thomas Alva Edison"

Short Graphic Rule

Wyn Wachhorst: Edison Rejected the Tenets of Christianity

Edison rejected three fundamental tenets of Christianity: the divinity of Christ, a personal God, and immortality.
-- Wyn Wachhorst, quoted from Thomas S Vernon, "Thomas Alva Edison"
 

Arthur Sullivan: Astonished and Terrified

I am astonished and somewhat terrified at the results of this evening's experiments -- astonished at the wonderful power you have developed, and terrified at the thought that so much hideous and bad music may be put on record forever!
-- Arthur Sullivan, in a message engraved during an early demonstration of the phonograph at Menlo Park, quoted from Thomas S Vernon, "Thomas Alva Edison"

 

Joseph Lewis: Grandest of All Men

What sort of "design" can there be in life when this grandest of all men is cut down unceremoniously by the Grim Reaper's scythe while idiots and imbeciles live on?
-- Joseph Lewis, on hearing of Edison's demise, quoted in Lewis' "A Visit With Thomas Alva Edison"
 

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Don Edwards
US Congressman from California

Having lost the prayer amendment in the Senate -- and lost badly -- its proponents are attempting to come in through the back door, using the soothing, ostensibly neutral language of equal access.
-- Don Edwards, remarks, US House of Representatives, May 15, 1984, quoted from Albert J Menendez and Edd Doerr, The Great Quotations on Religious Freedom

John Edwards
Former US Senator from North Carolina; John Kerry's running mate in 2004

John EdwardsI do believe in the separation of church and state. But I don't think separation of church and state means you have to be free from your faith. My faith informs everything I think and do. It's part of my value system. And to suggest that I can somehow separate and divorce that from the rest of me is not possible. I would not, under any circumstances, try to impose my personal faith and belief on the rest of the country. I don't think that's right. I don't think that's appropriate. But freedom of religion doesn't mean freedom from religion. And I think that anything we can do to promote the idea that people should express their faith is a good thing.
-- John Edwards, responding to the question, "John Kerry said that he wouldn't let his faith affect his decision making. Does it affect yours?" to which he replied, "Yes, it does." in the Beliefnet interview, "John Edwards: 'My Faith Came Roaring Back'"

There's a lot of America that's Christian. I would not describe us, though, on the whole, as a Christian nation. I guess the word "Christian" is what bothers me, even though I'm a Christian. I think that America is a nation of faith. I do believe that. Certainly by way of heritage -- there's a powerful Christian thread through all of American history.
-- John Edwards, responding to the question, "Do you think that America is a Christian nation?" to which he replied, "That's a good question. I never thought of it quite that way," in the Beliefnet interview, "John Edwards: 'My Faith Came Roaring Back'"

What I'm not in favor of is for a teacher to go to the front of the classroom and lead the class in prayer. Because I think that by definition means that that teacher's faith is being imposed on children who will almost certainly come from different faith beliefs. Allowing time for children to pray for themselves, to themselves, I think is not only okay, I think it's a good thing.
-- John Edwards, responding to the question, "Would it be your hope that a John Edwards Supreme Court would allow public schools to encourage more prayer in schools?" in the Beliefnet interview, "John Edwards: 'My Faith Came Roaring Back'"

I guess I've been in courthouses where I've seen the Ten Commandments. I've never had a strong reaction to it. I do think that it's the same issue. How would Muslims feel if they went into that courthouse, and how would people of other faiths feel, Hindus, others feel, if they were in the same circumstance?
     So I'm sensitive to that. You know, of course it wouldn't offend me because I'm Christian. And I'm certainly not offended by the idea of expressing faith in that circumstance. But probably it causes more trouble than good.

-- John Edwards, responding to the question, "What do you think about Ten Commandments being displayed in local courthouses?" in the Beliefnet interview, "John Edwards: 'My Faith Came Roaring Back'"

I think is that in an Edwards presidency faith-based groups, I believe, could be used. But I think it is also tricky business. I think you have to be careful about how you implement it for all of the separation of church and state issues, because you don't want discrimination. You don't want federal money going to any organization, including a faith-based group, that's discriminating. So, you have to be very careful about that.
     And then secondly, I would just be concerned from what I've seen practically about the burden that comes with getting federal dollars -- you're going to have accountability, you're going to have audit systems, and you just need to be certain that the faith-based groups are prepared for that, because I think some are not. And that's not the way in which they're used to operating, and I think it could cause a lot of trouble and cause a lot of disenchantment.
     But, the bottom line is, if you can work through these problems, I think there is a great potential delivery system there.

-- John Edwards, responding to the question, "[Other recent candidates have spoken at length] about empowering faith-based organizations..... Yet, there's been a lot of hostility from the Democratic Party about the idea of using faith-based groups. Would an Edwards presidency see aid to faith-based groups expanded?" to which he replied by first giving an overview of his personal experience as a "foundation for what I believe,"in the Beliefnet interview, "John Edwards: 'My Faith Came Roaring Back'"

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Paul Edwards
Atheistic philosopher; editor of The Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Atheisim may be defined as the view that "God exists" is a false statement. But there is also a broader sense in which an atheist is someone who rejects belief in God, not necessarily because such belief is judged to be false. It may be rejected because it is incoherent or meaningless, because it is too vague to be of any explanatory value, or because, as LaPlace put it in his famous exchange with Napoleon, there is no need for this "hypothesis". Atheism in this broader sense remains distinct from agnosticism, which advocates suspense of judgement. It is surely possible to justify atheism in this broader sense without having to "examine every object in boundless space and eternal time."
-- Paul Edwards, "God and the Philosophers"

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Barbara Ehrenreich (born, 1941)
American author, columnist; well-known socialist, feminist, and social critic; describes herself as a fourth-generation atheist

Barbara EhrenreichSome of us still get all weepy when we think about the Gaia Hypothesis, the idea that earth is a big furry goddess-creature who resembles everybody's mom in that she knows what's best for us. But if you look at the historical record -- Krakatoa, Mt Vesuvius, Hurricane Charley, poison ivy, and so forth down the ages -- you have to ask yourself: Whose side is she on, anyway?
-- Barbara Ehrenreich, in her book, The Worst Years of Our Lives, "The Great Syringe Tide" (1991; first published in Mother Jones, 1988), quoted from The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations

If that's how it all started, then we might as well face the fact that what's left out there is a great deal of shrapnel and a whole bunch of cinders (one of which is, fortunately, still hot enough and close enough to be good for tanning).
-- Barbara Ehrenreich, in her book, The Worst Years of Our Lives, "Blocking the Gates to Heaven" (1991; first published 1986), referring to the Big Bang, quoted from The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations

Barbara Ehrenreich [Roman Catholicism]: a hundred million people bowing down before a flesh-hating, elderly celibate.
-- Barbara Ehrenreich, in an article for The Humanist (November, 1999)

[The Republican Party]: a few million gun-toting, Armageddon-ready Baptists.
-- Barbara Ehrenreich, in an article for The Humanist (November, 1999)

[Jesus]: a wine-guzzling vagrant and precocious socialist.
-- Barbara Ehrenreich, in her book, Nickel and Dimed  (2001)

If there is no God or no evidence of God and certainly no evidence of a very morally engaged god, then whatever has to be done has to be done by us.
-- Barbara Ehrenreich, in her book, Nickel and Dimed  (2001)

The word evil always makes me nervous. It's not just a more intense form of bad; it's usually a signal that we've stopped thinking.... The real challenge is to look at the terrible acts and try to work our way towards an understanding of how a human being might undertake them.

The Republicans hardly need a party and the cumbersome cadre of low-level officials that form one; they have a bankroll as large as the Pentagon's budget, dozens of fatted PACs, and the well-advertised support of the Christian deity.
-- Barbara Ehrenreich, in her book, The Worst Years of Our Lives, "The Liberals' Disappearing Act" (1991; first published in Mother Jones, 1986), quoted from The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations

The one regret I have about my own abortions is that they cost money that might otherwise have been spent on something more pleasurable, like taking the kids to movies and theme parks.
-- Barbara Ehrenreich, in her book, The Worst Years of Our Lives, "Their Dilemma and Mine" (1991; first published 1989), quoted from The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations

Frankly, I adore your catchy slogan, "Adoption, not Abortion," although no one has been able to figure out, even with expert counseling, how to use adoption as a method of birth control, or at what time of the month it is most effective.
-- Barbara Ehrenreich, addressing President George H W Bush in her book, The Worst Years of Our Lives, from the chapter, "My Reply to George" (1991; first published 1989), quoted from The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations

A child is a temporarily disabled and stunted version of a larger person, whom you will someday know. Your job is to help them overcome the disabilities associated with their size and inexperience so that they get on with being that larger person.
-- Barbara Ehrenreich, in her book, The Worst Years of Our Lives, "Stop Ironing the Diapers" (1991; first published 1989), quoted from The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations

No matter that patriotism is too often the refuge of scoundrels. Dissent, rebellion, and all-around hell-raising remain the true duty of patriots.
-- Barbara Ehrenreich, in her book, The Worst Years of Our Lives, "Family Values" (1991), quoted from The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations

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Albert Einstein (1879–1955)
German-born American theoretical physicist whose special and general theories of relativity revolutionized modern thought on the nature of space and time

     • Check our Big List of Albert Einstein Quotations

Albert EinsteinIt was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it.
-- Albert Einstein, 1954, from Albert Einstein: The Human Side, edited by Helen Dukas and Banesh Hoffman, Princeton University Press

Scientific research is based on the idea that everything that takes place is determined by laws of nature, and therefore this holds for the action of people. For this reason, a research scientist will hardly be inclined to believe that events could be influenced by a prayer, ie by a wish addressed to a Supernatural Being.
-- Albert Einstein, 1936, responding to a child who wrote and asked if scientists pray. Source: Albert Einstein: The Human Side, Edited by Helen Dukas and Banesh Hoffmann

A man's ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties and needs; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death.
-- Albert Einstein, "Religion and Science", New York Times Magazine, 9 November 1930

I cannot conceive of a God who rewards and punishes his creatures, or has a will of the kind that we experience in ourselves. Neither can I nor would I want to conceive of an individual that survives his physical death; let feeble souls, from fear or absurd egoism, cherish such thoughts. I am satisfied with the mystery of the eternity of life and with the awareness and a glimpse of the marvelous structure of the existing world, together with the devoted striving to comprehend a portion, be it ever so tiny, of the Reason that manifests itself in nature.
-- Albert Einstein, The World as I See It

I cannot imagine a God who rewards and punishes the objects of his creation, whose purposes are modeled after our own -- a God, in short, who is but a reflection of human frailty. Neither can I believe that the individual survives the death of his body, although feeble souls harbor such thoughts through fear or ridiculous egotisms.
-- Albert Einstein, obituary in New York Times, 19 April 1955

I believe in Spinoza's God who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns himself with the fates and actions of human beings.
-- Albert Einstein, following his wife's advice in responding to Rabbi Herbert Goldstein of the International Synagogue in New York, who had sent Einstein a cablegram bluntly demanding "Do you believe in God?" Quoted from and citation notes derived from Victor J Stenger, Has Science Found God? (draft: 2001), chapter 3.

One strength of the Communist system ... is that it has some of the characteristics of a religion and inspires the emotions of a religion.
-- Albert Einstein, Out Of My Later Years (1950), thanks to Laird Wilcox, ed, "The Degeneration of Belief"

Short Graphic Rule

Stenger: To Einstein, 'God' is 'Nature'

"With pantheism, ... the deity is associated with the order of nature or the universe itself.... When modern scientists such as Einstein and Stephen Hawking mention 'God' in their writings, this is what they seem to mean: that God is Nature."
-- Victor J Stenger, Has Science Found God? (2001), chapter 3

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