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G W Foote
Atheists are often charged with blasphemy, but it is a crime they cannot commit...
Refer me to one Atheist who denies the existence of God.... Etymologically, as well as philosophically, an ATheist is one without God. That is all the "A" before "Theist" really
Proclaim a theology of divine righteousness which demands justice,
respect, tolerance, compassion, inclusiveness, trust in the ultimate efficacy of divine zeal, and the rigorous pursuit of peace in the midst of competing interests and faith claims.
E M [Edward Morgan] Forster (1879-1970)
Faith, to my mind, is a stiffening process, a sort of mental starch, which ought to be applied as
sparingly as possible.... I do not believe in it for its own sake at all.
Sudden conversion ... is particularly attractive to the half-baked mind.
So Two Cheers for Democracy: one because it admits variety and two because it permits criticism.
There lies at the back of every creed something terrible and hard for which the worshipper may one day be required to suffer.
If human nature does alter it will be because individuals manage to look at themselves in a new way. Here and there people - a very few people, but a few novelists are among them - are trying to do
this. Every institution and vested interest in against such a search: organized religion, the State, the family in its economic aspect, have nothing to gain, and it is only when outward prohibitions weaken that it can proceed: history conditions it to
Most of life is so dull that there is nothing to be said about it and the books and talk that would describe it as interesting are obliged to exaggerate, in the hope of justifying their own existence.
Inside its cocoon of work or social obligation, the human spirit slumbers for the most part, registering the distinction between pleasure and pain, but not nearly as alert as we pretend.
The fact that all our
ape cousins -- chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans -- can acquire signs -- is powerful evidence that our hominid ancestors' first language was gestural and that the vocal version of language was a relatively recent development. My own guess is that vocal
language began emerging about 200,000 years ago.
The chimps love holidays -- in fact Tatu actually anticipates them and asks about them.
Chimpanzee intelligence is an adaptation for their ecological niche. In other words it is an intelligence that suits their survival very well. Chimpanzees are geniuses at reading nonverbal communication.
They can spot a sucker a mile off and exploit him to great advantage. This kind of social intelligence make a great deal of sense if you are the type of critter that is born into a small and relatively closed community and may spend 60 years living with
the same people. You are going to get to know each other very well, and you had better if you are going to survive. Our own intelligence has this to a degree as well, but we have moved toward an intelligence that I would characterize as causal, logical
-- in other words, the ability to solve problems in our heads. Chimps can do this as well, but not to the degree that we do it. On the other hand we can't read nonverbal behavior as well as a chimpanzee can. So we have grown out of touch with our bodies,
and have tried to exist primarily in our minds, whereas the chimpanzees use both of these well.
[chimpanzees] have all the same emotions that we do. This is not surprising since our emotions arise from our limbic system and that is the oldest part of our brain--sometimes called the "reptilian brain". I have
seen them express joy, sadness and compassion. Eighteen years ago I watched Washoe mourn the loss of her baby; she was so depressed we thought she would grieve herself to death. Which by the way did happen to a wild chimpanzee named Flint who Jane Goodall
studied. When Flint's mother, Flo, died he mourned himself to death. Perhaps the most important emotion chimpanzees share with us is suffering when they are isolated and separated from their friends and family. One day we will appreciate this and then
we will stop locking them up in tiny cages for decades at a time.
Proper science is done by carefully designing your experiment and making sure there are no confounds in the design. That has nothing to do with loving and respecting your subject. Some scientists --
perhaps too many scientists -- think they must objectify their research subject. So this means that they must not feel sympathy, or empathy, animals. In my view they are dissociating themselves intentionally from their own feelings. When that happens
unintentionally outside of science we call it psychosis. But scientists are rewarded for denying emotions and viewing animals as they would a machine.... That doesn't seem very scientific to me or even in touch with reality. I believe scientists should
be in touch with their feelings of compassion. We should not be training our school children to suppress emotion in the name of science.
The "need" argument is a very dangerous one. If we justify everything we did on the basis of need, then would I be justified in cutting out my neighbor's heart if I needed it to save my daughter's
life. This type of justification is used in the case of chimpanzees because they are a different species from us--in other words they are genetically different. But biologically speaking there are no distinct lines between species; they are just fuzzy
Growing up on a farm taught me a reverence
for all forms of life. We were a large and poor farm family, so that meant that we had to kill and eat our animal friends. When you do that you are aware of the sacrifice that someone is making so that you may live. My mother always made sure
we were thankful for those precious gifts.
Washoe [the chimpanzee (and friend for over 30 years)] has taught me that we are both a part of the natural world we share with all our fellow animals. She has taught me that
personhood is something we share, and that personhood goes beyond species classifications. She has taught me that human arrogance is very lethal to our fellow beings on this planet, especially when it is combined with human ignorance. She has taught methat
the most profound scientific discoveries are often based on the most humble approach. She has taught me that compassion is one of our dearest traits, and that we should value it above all others, including intelligence. She helped me to realize that if
we humans do not embrace and respect our fellow species on this planet, then we stand a good chance of destroying the whole thing.
Being an atheist is a matter not of moral choice, but
of human obligation.
To die for an idea is to
set a rather high price upon conjecture.
A country dominated by televangelism would be unrecognizable to the Founding Fathers, who envisioned religion as personal and spiritual, not social and political. No particular variety of religion was
intended to control the political agenda, to set the community's moral tone or to judge who are the true believers and members of our society. But this is precisely the objective of the electric church.
tolerant does not mean that I share another ones belief. But it does mean that I acknowledge another ones right to believe, and obey, his own conscience.
When a religion is good, I conceive it will support itself; and when it does not support itself,
and God does not take care to support it so that its professors are obliged to call for help of the civil power, 'tis a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one.
The way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason: The Morning Daylight appears plainer when you put out your Candle.
I have found Christian dogma unintelligible. Early in life I absented myself from Christian assemblies.
Many a long dispute among divines may be thus abridged: It is so; It is not so. It is so; it is not so.
If we look back into history for the character of the present sects in Christianity, we shall find few that have not in their turns been persecutors, and complainers of persecution. The primitive Christians
thought persecution extremely wrong in the pagans, but practiced it on one another. The first Protestants of the Church of England blamed persecution in the Romish Church, but practiced it upon the Puritans. These found it wrong in the bishops, but fell
into the same practice themselves both here and in New England.
Lighthouses are more helpful than churches.
He [the Rev Mr. Whitefield] used, indeed, sometimes to pray for my conversion, but never had the satisfaction of believing that his prayers were heard.
Indeed, when religious people quarrel about religion, or hungry people quarrel about victuals, it looks as if they had not much of either among them.
In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.
They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither
liberty nor safety.
Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech.
Be civil to all; sociable to many; familiar with few; friend to one; enemy to none.
We must hang together, gentlemen ... else, we shall most assuredly hang separately.
Sir James George Frazer (1854-1941)
Some of the old laws of Israel
are clearly savage taboos of a familiar type thinly disguised as commands of the Deity.
In this sacred grove there grew a certain tree round which at any time of the day, and probably far into the night, a grim figure might be seen to prowl. In his hand he carried a drawn sword, and he
kept peering warily about him as if at every instant he expected to be set upon by an enemy. He was a priest and a murderer; and the man for whom he looked was sooner or later to murder him and hold the priesthood in his stead. Such was the rule of the
Much which we are wont to regard as solid rests on the sands of superstition rather than on the rock of nature. It is indeed a melancholy and in some respects thankless task to strike at the foundations
of beliefs in which, as in a strong tower, the hopes and aspirations of humanity through long ages have sought refuge from the storm and stress of life. Yet sooner or later it is inevitable that the battery of the comparative method should breach these
venerable walls, mantled over with the ivy and moss and wild flowers of a thousand tender and sacred associations. At present we are only dragging the guns into position; they have hardly yet begun to speak. The task of building up into fairier and more
enduring forms the old structures so rudely shattered is reserved for other hands, perhaps for other and happier ages. We cannot foresee, we can hardly even guess, the new forms into which thought and society will run in the future. Yet this uncertainty
ought not to induce us, from any consideration of expediency or regard for antiquity, to spare the ancient moulds, however beautiful, when these are proven to be outworn. Whatever comes of it, wherever it leads, we must follow the truth alone. It is our
The awe and dread with which the untutored savage contemplates his mother-in-law are amongst the most familiar facts of anthropology.
Frederick II [Frederick the Great] (1740-1786)
Theologians are all alike, of whatever religion or country they may be; their
aim is always to wield despotic authority over men's consciences; they therefore persecute all of us who have the temerity to tell the truth.
Religion is the idol of the mob: it adores everything it does not understand.
All religions must be tolerated ... every man must go to heaven in his own way. [Die Religionen müssen alle toleriert werden ... denn hier muss ein jeder nach seiner Fasson selig werden.]
The truth is always the strongest argument. Sophocles Truth is a thing immortal and perpetual, and it gives to us a beauty that fades not away in time.
If nothing once, you nothing lose,
Neither in my private life nor in my writings, have I ever made a secret of being
an out-and-out unbeliever.
Our knowledge of the historical worth of certain religious doctrines increases our respect for them, but does not invalidate our proposal that they should cease to be put forward as the reasons for
the precepts of civilization. On the contrary! Those historical residues have helped us to view religious teachings, as it were, as neurotic relics, and we may now argue that the time has probably come, as it does in an analytic treatment, for replacing
the effects of repression by the results of the rational operation of the intellect.
The psychoanalysis of individual human beings, however, teaches us with quite
special insistence that the god of each of them is formed in the likeness of his father, that his personal relation to God depends on his relation to his father in the flesh and oscillates and changes along with that relation, and that at bottom God is
nothing other than an exalted father.
Most people do not really want freedom, because freedom involves responsibility, and most people are frightened of responsibility.
The true believer is in a high degree protected against the danger of certain neurotic afflictions; by accepting the universal neurosis he is spared the task of forming a personal neurosis.
In the long run nothing can withstand reason and experience, and the contradiction religion offers to both is only too palpable.
The rest of our enquiry is made easy because this God-Creator is openly called
Father. Psycho-analysis concludes that he really is the father, clothed in the grandeur in which he once appeared to the small child.
Religion is an illusion ... it derives its strength from the fact that it falls in with our intellectual desires.
"Religion is comparable to a childhood neurosis."
[Counterfeit tolerance includes] the opportunism of one who seeks, or accepts, tolerance for himself, as a minority, but who would deny it to others if ever he should be in a position to grant it.
If faith cannot be reconciled with rational thinking, it has to be eliminated as an anachronistic remnant
of earlier stages of culture and replaced by science dealing with facts and theories which are intelligible and can be validated.
There is perhaps no phenomenon which contains so much destructive feeling as "moral indignation," which permits envy or hate to be acted out under the guise of virtue.
I found a dimpled spider, fat and white,
Anything more than the truth would be too much.
Forgive, O Lord, my little jokes on Thee
James Anthony Froude (1818-1894)
I have long been convinced that the Christian Eucharist is but a continuation of the Eleusinian mysteries. St Paul, in using the word teleiois, almost confirms this.
Culture's essential service to a religion is to destroy intellectual idolatry, the recurrent
tendency in religion to replace the object of its worship with its present understanding and forms of approach to that object.
Between religion's "this is" and poetry's "but suppose this is," there must always be some kind of tension, until the possible and the actual meet at infinity.
A reader who quarrels with postulates, who dislikes Hamlet because he does not believe that there are ghosts or that people speak in pentameters, clearly has no business in literature. He cannot
distinguish fiction from fact, and belongs in the same category as the people who send cheques to radio stations for the relief of suffering heroines in soap operas.
The metaphor of the king as the shepherd of his people goes back to ancient Egypt. Perhaps the use of this particular convention is due to the fact that, being stupid, affectionate, gregarious, and
easily stampeded, the societies formed by sheep are most like human ones.
The Bible should be taught so early and so thoroughly that it sinks straight to the bottom of the mind where everything that comes along can settle on it.
J William Fulbright (1905-1995)
It is a curiosity of human nature that lack of self-assurance seems to breed
an exaggerated sense of power and mission.
I think we Americans tend to put too high a price on unanimity ... as if there were something dangerous and illegitimate about honest differences of opinion honestly expressed by honest men.
In a democracy dissent is an act of faith. Like medicine, the test of its value is not in its taste, but its effects.
We must learn to welcome and not to fear the voices of dissent. We must dare to think about "unthinkable things" because when things become unthinkable, thinking stops and action becomes mindless.
If America has a service to perform in the world -- and I believe it has -- it is in large part the service of its own example. In our excessive involvement in the affairs of other countries, we are
not only living off our assets and denying our own people the proper enjoyment of their resources; we are also denying the world the example of a free society enjoying its freedom to the fullest. This is regrettable indeed for a nation that aspires to
teach democracy to other nations, because, as Burke said: "Example is the school of mankind, and they will learn at no other."
You see how wide the gulf that separates me from the Christian church.
Sometimes I think we're alone. Sometimes I think we're not. In either case, the thought
is quite staggering.
Here is God's purpose --
Faith is much better than belief. Belief is when someone else does the thinking.
The past history of the Christian Church should be a solemn warning to us never to permit an alliance to be formed between the priesthood and the civil magistracy -- between Church and State powers.
The Subtle Fulmination of the Encircled Sea
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