Positive Atheism's Big List of Quotations
No-Frames Quotes Index
Load This File With Frames Index
Home to Positive Atheism
There are occasions when silence no longer suffices, when it may pass as an avowal. Then one must not hesitate. Not only must one deny one's true opinion, but one is commanded to resort to all ruses in order to deceive one's adversary. One makes all the protestations of faith than can please him, one performs all the rites one recognizes to be the most vain, one falsifies one's own books, one exhausts all possible means of deceit.
William Godwin (1756-1836)
north country apostle, who, after Calvin had damned ninety-nine in a hundred of mankind, had contrived a scheme for damning ninety-nine in a hundred of the followers of Calvin.
Obey; this may be right; but beware of reverence.... Government is nothing but regulated force; force is its appropriate claim upon your attention. It is the business of individuals to persuade; the tendency of concentrated strength, is only to give consistency and permanence to an influence more compendious than persuasion.
Revolution is engendered by an indignation with tyranny, yet is itself pregnant with tyranny.... An attempt to scrutinize mens thoughts and punish their opinions is of all kinds of despotism the most odious: yet this is peculiarly character of a period of revolution.... There is no period more at war with the existence of liberty.
The real or supposed rights of man are of two kinds, active and passive; the right in certain cases to do as we list; and the right we possess to the forbearance or assistance of other men.
By right, as the word is employed in this subject, has always been understood discretion, that is, a full and complete power of either doing a thing or omitting it, without the person's becoming liable to animadversion or censure from another, that is, in other words, without his incurring any degree of turpitude or guilt. Now in this sense I affirm that man has no rights, no discretionary power whatever.
There is no sphere in which a human being can be supposed to act where one mode of reasoning will not, in every given instance, be more reasonable than any other mode. That mode the being is bound by every principle of justice to pursue.... There is not one of our avocations or amusements that does not, by its effects, render us more or less fit to contribute our quota to the general utility. If then every one of our actions fall within the province of morals, it follows that we have no rights to the selecting them. No one will maintain that we have a right to trespass upon the dictates of morality.
He has no right to his life when his duty calls him to resign it. Other men are bound ... to deprive him of life or liberty, if that should appear in any case to be indispensably necessary to prevent a greater evil.
Every man has a certain sphere of discretion which he has a right to expect shall not be infringed by his neighbours. This right flows from the very nature of man.
No man must encroach upon my province, nor I upon his. He may advise me, moderately and without pertinaciousness, but he must not expect to dictate to me. He may censure me freely and without reserve; but he should remember that I am to act by my deliberation and not his.... I ought to exercise my talents for the benefit of others; but that exercise must be the fruit of my own conviction; no man must attempt to press me into the service.
First, all men are fallible; no man can be justified in setting up his judgment as a standard for others. We have no infallible judge of controversies; each man in his own apprehension is right in his decisions; and we can find no satisfactory mode of adjusting their jarring pretensions.
The web of this world is woven of Necessity and Chance. Woe to him who has accustomed himself from his youth up to find something necessary in what is capricious, and who would ascribe something like reason to Chance and make a religion of surrendering to it.
This being busied with thoughts of immortality is for the noble classes and especially for women with nothing to do. A solid person, though, someone who already intends to be something worthy here, and who therefore has to strive daily, has to struggle and work, gives the world to come a rest.
We are so constituted that we believe the most incredible things: and, once they are engraved upon the memory, woe to him who would endeavor to erase them.
Strictly speaking, you only know when you know little. Doubt grows with knowledge.
All truly wise thoughts have been thought already thousands of times; but to make them truly ours, we must think them over again honestly, till they take root in our personal experience.
-- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (attributed: source unknown)
This is the highest wisdom that I own; freedom and life are earned by those alone who conquer them each day anew.
I can very well do without God both in my life and in my painting, but I cannot, suffering as I am, do without something which is greater than I am, which is my life, the power to create.
The philosophy of Atheism represents a concept of life without any metaphysical Beyond or Divine Regulator. It is the concept of an actual, real world with its liberating, expanding and beautifying possibilities, as against an unreal world, which, with its spirits, oracles, and mean contentment has kept humanity in helpless degradation.
I do not believe in God, because I believe in man. Whatever his mistakes, man has for thousands of years past been working to undo the botched job your God has made.
Christianity is most admirably adapted to the training of slaves, to the perpetuation of a slave society.
It is characteristic of theistic "tolerance" that no one really cares what the people believe in, just so they believe or pretend to believe.
Redemption through the Cross is worse than damnation, because of the terrible burden it imposes upon humanity, because of the effect it has on the human soul, fettering and paralyzing it with the weight of the burden exacted through the death of Christ.
Mankind has been punished long and heavily for having created its gods; nothing but pain and persecution have been man's lot since gods began. There is but one way out of this blunder: Man must break his fetters which have chained him to the gates of heaven and hell, so that he can begin to fashion out of his reawakened and illumined consciousness a new world upon earth.
There are ... some potentates I would kill by any and all means at my disposal. They are Ignorance, Superstition, and Bigotry -- the most sinister and tyrannical rulers on earth.
Christ and his teachings are the embodiment of submission, of inertia, of the denial of life; hence responsible for the things done in their name.
Women need not always keep their mouths shut and their wombs open.
The great majority of Americans firmly oppose the use of government funds to help finance religiously affiliated schools.... We hope that Congress will recognize that proposals for federal aid to sectarian schools embody a substantial and harmful departure from constitutional principle and tradition.
The librarian who quietly removes a book from the shelf because of a noisy complaint is more guilty of restricting intellectual freedom than the complainant. The librarian has responsibility to a tradition, a body of law,
and to the procedures established and approved for dealing with complaints. Worse, once the librarian has surrendered on a single occasion, he or she is the first target in future assaults. Extremism feeds on success. It is made bolder and more demanding
issues there can be little or no compromise. There is no position on which people are so immovable as their religious beliefs. There is no more powerful ally one can claim in a debate than Jesus Christ, or God, or Allah, or whatever one calls this
supreme being. But like any powerful weapon, the use of God's name on one's behalf should be used sparingly. The religious factions that are growing throughout our land are not using their religious clout with wisdom. They are trying to force government
leaders into following their position 100 percent. If you disagree with these religious groups on a particular moral issue, they complain, they threaten you with a loss of money or votes or both.
When you say "radical right" today, I think of these moneymaking ventures by fellows like Pat Robertson and others who are trying to take the Republican Party away from the Republican Party,
and make a religious organization out of it. If that ever happens, kiss politics goodbye.
Mark my word, if and when these preachers get control of the [Republican] party, and they're sure trying to do so, it's going to be a terrible damn problem. Frankly, these people frighten me. Politics
and governing demand compromise. But these Christians believe they are acting in the name of God, so they can't and won't compromise. I know, I've tried to deal with them.
Religious factions will go on imposing their will on others unless the decent people connected to them recognize that religion has no place in public policy. They must learn to make their views known without
trying to make their views the only alternatives.
I think every
good Christian ought to kick Falwell right in the ass.
You don't have to be straight to be in the military; you just have to be able to shoot straight.
Being a conservative in America traditionally has meant that one holds a deep, abiding respect for the Constitution. We conservatives believe
sincerely in the integrity of the Constitution. We treasure the freedom that document protects....
|Alfred T Goodwin
Justice, Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals
A profession that we are a nation "under God" is identical, for Establishment Clause purposes, to a profession that we are a nation "under Jesus," a nation "under Vishnu," a nation "under Zeus," or a nation "under no god," because none of these professions can be neutral with respect to religion.
It's the noisiest thing I've ever experienced.
Gora [Shri Goparaju Ramachandra Rao] (1902-1975)
Hallucinations and illusions are not facts useful for scientific investigation.
Further, economic systems to which Marx gives primary importance, have never arranged themselves by themselves. It is men who do the ordering according to their attitudes, desires and understanding of things. Changes take place, not independent of man's will, but on account of man's wills. Civilization has progressed by man's interference with material conditions.
Because morality is a social necessity, the moment faith in god is banished, man's gaze turns from god to man and he becomes socially conscious. Religious belief prevented the growth of a sense of realism. But atheism at once makes man realistic and alive to the needs of morality.
The language of theism which was familiar to the people, gave [Gandhi] the advantage of easy communication with the people, but it is atheistic in principle. It could have been the starting point for the atheistic movement in the modern age.
Satyagraha means insistence on what one knows to be the truth. The insistence implies the exercise of free will as the need of social obligation. If one is content to know the truth himself, he does not become a votary of Satyagraha. A Satyagrahi should not only know the truth but should insist upon it in social relations. So Satyagraha is activation of truthfulness.
The insistence on truthfulness does not disturb the freedom of the individual. The social obligation implied in Satyagraha turns the freedom of the individual into moral freedom. An atheist is free to say or to do what he likes, provided he does what he says and says what he does. So, in the context of social relations, the freedom of the individual is moral freedom.
Existentialist philosophy recognizes the existence of the individual as the real purpose of human life. The recognition is basically atheistic and it encourages the individual to free himself from the impositions of custom, governmental authority, economic pressures, and cultural inhibitions.
Human problems are more
psychological than materialistic. This is not only true of individual behaviour,
but in mass action also. A suggestion from a leader sparks off a revolution.
Material circumstances help mass action, but in themselves do not raise
action. The conditions of untouchability and of poverty in India, especially
at the time of famine in Bengal in 1945-46, when thousands of destitutes
died of sheer hunger in the streets of Calcutta City, are such as would
provoke an immediate revolution. But the revolution does not come off in
the Indian masses. The reason is clear. In India there are revolutionary
circumstances, but there is no revolutionary consciousness among the people.
If the revolutionary consciousness is present, people would revolt against
any injustice on the slightest pretext. And consciousness is essentially
The love of individual freedom has stood in the way of the appreciation of social obligations.
Real morality is possible when the sanctions for morality are also tangible and real.
By the time a boy has been two years in a church school he is immunized against religion.
Check out The Scary Side of Al Gore
I affirm my faith when I'm asked about it. But I always try to do so in a way that communicates absolute respect, not only for people who worship in a different way, but just as much respect for those who do not believe in God and who are atheists.
Atheists have just as much of a right to the public discourse as any ... people of any religious faith in this country.
If you're going to get into big time religion, these are the games you have to play. You go into it as a business and you work it as a business.
It's the same at a rock-and-roll concert. You have an opening number with a strong entrance; then you go through a lot of the old standards, building up to your hit song at the end.
The people who are out there don't see it as entertainment, although that is in fact the way it is. These people don't go to movies; they don't go to bars and drink; they don't go to rock-and-roll concerts -- but everyone has to have an emotional release. So they go to revivals and they dance around and talk in tongues. It's socially approved and that is their escape.... It was my duty to give them the best show possible. Say you've got a timid little preacher in North Carolina or somewhere. He'll bring in visiting evangelists to keep his church going. We'd come in and hit the crowd up and we were superstars. It's the charisma of the evangelist that the audience believes in and comes to see.
As a preacher, I'm working with the crowd, watching the crowd, trying to bring them to that high point at a certain time in the evening. I let everything build up to that moment when they're all in ecstasy. The crowd builds up and you have to watch it that you don't stop it. You start off saying you've heard that tonight's going to be a great night; then you begin the whole pitch and keep it rolling.
You start with a guy who obviously has a problem. You've got to begin on that premise. Things haven't worked out for him, or he's looking for something, or whatever. So he goes to one of these revivals. He hears very regimented things. He sees a lot of people glowing around him -- people who seem very, very happy -- and they're all inviting him to come in and join the clique and it looks great. They say, "Hey, my life was changed!" or "Hey, I found a new job!" That's when he's ready to get saved, or Born Again; and once he's saved, they all pat him on the back. It's like he's been admitted to this very special elite little club.
Tongues is something you learn. It is a releasing that you teach yourself. You are told by your peers, the church, and the Bible -- if you accept it literally -- that the Holy Ghost spake in another tongue; you become convinced that it is the ultimate expression of the spirit flowing through you. The first time maybe you'll just go dut-dut-dut-dut, and that's about all that will get out. Then you'll hear other people and next night you may go dut-dut-dut-UM-dut-DEET-dut-dut, and it gets a little better. The next thing you know, it's ela-hando-satelay-eek-condele-mosandrey-aseya ... and it's a new language you've got down.
I really don't put it down. I never have. It's just that I analyze it and look at it from a very rational point of view. I don't see it as coming from God and say that at a certain point the Holy Spirit zaps you with a super whammy on the head and you've "gone for tongues" and there is it. Tongues is a process that people build up to. Then, as you start to do something, just as when you practice the scales on the piano, you get better at it.
Pyle: Marjoe Says It Was Psychosomatic
"Television and movie actor Marjoe Gortner was ordained to preach at the age of four and was billed as a boy-wonder on the miracle-preaching circuit. He preached for years. Women would swoon and fall to the floor at his touch and his command. He says now that he was just 'acting,' and that while he could have made a lot of money in the healing-revival business, he became bitter about it all by the time he had reached seventeen, and realized what his mother had done to him. Yet great crowds had faith in his power to heal by the 'laying on of hands.' Marjoe laughs about it all and says it was all psychosomatic."
was lucky to wander into evolutionary theory, one of the most exciting and important of all scientific fields. I had never heard of it when I started at a rather tender age; I was simply awed by dinosaurs. I thought paleontologists spent their lives digging
up bones and putting them together, never venturing beyond the momentous issue of what connects to what. Then I discovered evolutionary theory. Ever since then, the duality of natural history—richness in particularities and potential union in underlying
explanation—has propelled me.
are here because one odd group of fishes had a peculiar fin anatomy that could transform into legs for terrestrial creatures; because the Earth never froze entirely during an ice age; because a small and tenuous species, arising in Africa a quarter of
a million years ago, has managed, so far, to survive by hook and by crook. We may yearn for a higher answer -- but none exists.
... a fortuitous cosmic afterthought.
seems the height of antiquated hubris to claim that the universe carried on as it did for billions of years in order to form a comfortable abode for us. Chance and historical contingency give the world of life most of its glory and fascination. I sit
here happy to be alive and sure that some reason must exist for "why me?" Or the earth might have been totally covered with water, and an octopus might now be telling its children why the eight-legged God of all things had made such a perfect
world for cephalopods. Sure we fit. We wouldn't be here if we didn't. But the world wasn't made for us and it will endure without us.
History includes too much chaos, or extremely sensitive dependence on minute and unmeasurable differences in initial conditions, leading to massively divergent outcomes based on tiny and unknowable disparities
in starting points. And history includes too much contingency, or shaping of present results by long chains of unpredictable antecedent states, rather than immediate determination by timeless laws of nature.
... no compelling data to support its
anachronistic social Darwinism.
cannot be equated with mental blankness; rather, objectivity resides in recognizing your preferences and then subjecting them to especially harsh scrutiny -- and also in a willingness to revise or abandon your theories when the tests fail (as they
The fundamentalists, by knowing the answers before they start [examining evolution], and then forcing nature into the straitjacket of their discredited preconceptions, lie
outside the domain of science -- or of any honest intellectual inquiry.
Why get excited over this latest episode in the long, sad history of American anti-intellectualism? Let me suggest that, as patriotic Americans, we should cringe in embarrassment that, at the dawn of a new, technological millennium, a jurisdiction in our heartland has opted to suppress one of the greatest triumphs of human discovery.
... a local, indigenous, American bizarre-ity.
Creation science has not entered the curriculum for a reason so simple and so basic that we often forget to mention it: because it is false, and because good teachers understand exactly why it is false. What could be more destructive of that most fragile yet most precious commodity in our entire intellectual heritage -- good teaching -- than a bill forcing honorable teachers to sully their sacred trust by granting equal treatment to a doctrine not only known to be false, but calculated to undermine any general understanding of science as an enterprise?
The argument that the literal story of Genesis can qualify as science collapses on three major grounds: the creationists' need to invoke miracles in order to compress the events of the earth's history into the biblical span of a few thousand years; their unwillingness to abandon claims clearly disproved, including the assertion that all fossils are products of Noah's flood; and their reliance upon distortion, misquote, half-quote, and citation out of context to characterize the ideas of their opponents.
In candid moments, leading creationists will admit that the miraculous character of origin and destruction precludes a scientific understanding. Morris writes (and Judge Overton quotes): "God was there when it happened. We were not there.... Therefore, we are completely limited to what God has seen fit to tell us, and this information is in His written Word."
Well, evolution is a theory. It is also a fact. And facts and theories are different things, not rungs in a hierarchy of increasing certainty. Facts are the world's data. Theories are structures of ideas that explain and interpret facts. Facts don't go away when scientists debate rival theories to explain them. Einstein's theory of gravitation replaced Newton's in this century, but apples didn't suspend themselves in midair, pending the outcome. And humans evolved from ape-like ancestors whether they did so by Darwin's proposed mechanism or by some other yet to be discovered.
The board transported its jurisdiction to a never-never
land where a Dorothy of the new millennium might exclaim: "They still call
it Kansas, but I don't think we're in the real world anymore."
manufacture their intricate devices from the common components of ordinary flowers, parts usually fitted for very different functions. If God had designed a beautiful machine to reflect his wisdom and power, surely he would not have used a collection
of parts generally fashioned for other purposes. Orchids were not made by an ideal engineer; they are jury-rigged from a limited set of available components. Thus, they must have evolved from ordinary flowers.
Skepticism or debunking often receives the bad rap reserved for activities -- like garbage disposal -- that absolutely must be done for a safe and sane life, but seem either unglamorous or
unworthy of overt celebration. Yet the activity has a noble tradition, from the Greek coinage of "skeptic" (a word meaning "thoughtful") to Carl Sagan's last book, The Demon-Haunted World. [...] Skepticism
is the agent of reason against organized irrationalism -- and is therefore one of the keys to human social and civic decency. [...] Skepticism's bad rap arises from the impression that, however necessary the activity, it
can only be regarded as a negative removal of false claims. Not so [...]. Proper debunking is done in the interest of an alternate model of explanation, not as a nihilistic exercise. The alternate model is rationality itself,
tied to moral decency -- the most powerful joint instrument for good that our planet has ever known.
Whenever you build a structure for adaptive reasons, the structure is going to exhibit properties that have nothing to do with adaptation. They're just side consequences. [...] Let's say the human brain
gets big for natural selection reasons. Let's say it's an adaptation. There are some things we needed to do on the savannas of Africa for which a big brain was good. Now that doesn't imply that everything the big brain can do is therefore an adaptation.
But that's the error that many so-called evolutionary psychologists make. Our brains didn't get big so that we could write, so that we could read, so that we could compose operas, so that we would know the facts of our personal mortality -- those arise
as side consequences of building a big brain for other reasons.
The basic formulation, or bare-bones mechanics, of natural selection is a disarmingly simple argument, based on three undeniable facts (overproduction of offspring, variation, and heritability) and one
syllogistic inference (natural selection, or the claim that organisms enjoying differential reproductive success will, on average, be those variants that are fortuitously better adapted to changing local environments, and that these variants will then
pass their favored traits to offspring by inheritance).
Since we proposed punctuated equilibria to explain trends, it is infuriating to be quoted again and again by creationists -- whether through design or stupidity, I do not know -- as admitting that the fossil record includes no transitional forms. The punctuations occur at the level of species; directional trends (on the staircase model) are rife at the higher level of transitions within major groups.
is an art form. It is about the winning of arguments. It is not about the discovery of truth. There are certain rules and procedures to debate that
really have nothing to do with establishing fact -- which they are very good at.
Some of those rules are: never say anything positive about your own position
because it can be attacked, but chip away at what appear to be the weaknesses
in your opponent's position. They are good at that. I don't think I could beat
the creationists at debate. I can tie them. But in courtrooms they are
terrible, because in courtrooms you cannot give speeches. In a courtroom you have to
answer direct questions about the positive status of your belief. We destroyed
them in Arkansas. On the second day of the two-week trial we had our victory party!
When people learn no tools of judgment and merely follow their hopes, the seeds of political manipulation are sown.
I don't want to see religious bigotry in any form. It would disturb me if there was a wedding between the religious fundamentalists and the political right. The hard right has no interest in religion except to manipulate it.
Look, I happen to agree with what George says about the interpretation of the New Testament, but I want to remind both of you to never play God.
In 1850, I believe, the church property in the United States, which paid no tax, amounted to $87 million. In 1900, without a check, it is safe to say, this property will reach a sum exceeding $3 billion. I would suggest the taxation of all property equally.
The United States, knowing no distinction of her own citizens on account of religion or nationality, naturally believes in a civilization the world over which will secure the same universal laws.
Encourage free schools and resolve that not one dollar appropriated for their support shall be appropriated to the support of any sectarian schools. Resolve that neither the state nor nation, nor both combined, shall support institutions of learning other than those sufficient to afford every child growing up in the land of opportunity of a good common school education, unmixed with sectarian, pagan, or atheistical dogmas. Leave the matter of religion to the family altar, the church and the private school supported entirely by private contributions. Keep the church and state forever separate.
I would like to call your attention to ... an evil that, if allowed to continue, will probably lead to great trouble.... It is the accumulation of vast amounts of untaxed church property.
The moral and religious teachings of no bible reach a higher altitude than the intelligence and mental development of the age and country which produced it.
The Subtle Fulmination of the Encircled Sea
Please Feel Free
Grab some quotes to embellish your web site,
Use them to introduce the chapters of a book or
Poster your wall! Graffiti your (own) fence.
That's what this list is for!
In using this resource, however, keep in mind that
If you decide to build your own online
There's something to be said