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Joseph-Arthur, comte de Gobineau (1816-1882)
French diplomat, writer, ethnologist, and social thinker

Arthur GobineauThere 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.
-- Arthur Gobineau, Religions and Philosophies of Central Asia

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William Godwin (1756-1836)
British radical philosopher and novelist; founder of philosophical anarchism; father, with Mary Wollstonecraft, of Mary Shelley

William Godwin[A] celebrated 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.
-- William Godwin, describing Robert Sandeman, the founder of the brand of Christianity which his father embraced, quoted from Steven Kreis, "William Godwin, 1756-1836," Lectures on Modern European Intellectual History (2000)

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.
-- William Godwin, Enquiry Concerning Political Justice and Its Influence on Morals and Happiness, Book II, Chapter II, "Of Justice" (1793)

Revolution is engendered by an indignation with tyranny, yet is itself pregnant with tyranny.... An attempt to scrutinize men’s 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.
-- William Godwin, Enquiry Concerning Political Justice and Its Influence on Morals and Happiness, (1793), thanks to Laird Wilcox, ed, "The Degeneration of Belief"

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.
     The first of these a just philosophy will probably induce us universally to explode.
-- William Godwin, Enquiry Concerning Political Justice and Its Influence on Morals and Happiness, Book II, Chapter V, "Of Rights" (1793)

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.
-- William Godwin, Enquiry Concerning Political Justice and Its Influence on Morals and Happiness, Book II, Chapter V, "Of Rights" (1793)

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.
-- William Godwin, Enquiry Concerning Political Justice and Its Influence on Morals and Happiness, Book II, Chapter V, "Of Rights" (1793)

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.
-- William Godwin, Enquiry Concerning Political Justice and Its Influence on Morals and Happiness, Book II, Chapter V, "Of Rights" (1793)

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.
-- William Godwin, Enquiry Concerning Political Justice and Its Influence on Morals and Happiness, Book II, Chapter V, "Of Rights" (1793)

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.
-- William Godwin, Enquiry Concerning Political Justice and Its Influence on Morals and Happiness, Book II, Chapter V, "Of Rights" (1793)

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.
     Secondly, even if we had an infallible criterion, nothing would be gained, unless it were by all men recognized as such. If I were secured against the possibility of mistake, mischief and not good would accrue, from imposing my infallible truths upon my neighbour, and requiring his submission independently of any conviction I could produce in his understanding. Man is a being who can never be an object of just approbation, any further than he is independent. He must consult his own reason, draw his own conclusions and conscientiously conform himself to his ideas of propriety. Without this, he will be neither active, nor considerate, nor resolute, nor generous.
-- William Godwin, Enquiry Concerning Political Justice and Its Influence on Morals and Happiness, Book II, Chapter V, "Of Rights" (1793)

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Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)
German writer and scientist, master of poetry, drama, and the novel

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe at 69; painting: Joseph Karl Stieler (1828)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.
-- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, quoted from Victor J Stenger, Has Science Found God? (draft: 2001)

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.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe at 69; painting: Joseph Karl Stieler (1828)-- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, quoted from Peter Heinegg, ed, Mortalist: Readings on the Meaning of Life (Prometheus:2003), back cover

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.
-- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Sorrows Of Young Werther (1771), thanks to Laird Wilcox, ed, "The Degeneration of Belief"

Strictly speaking, you only know when you know little. Doubt grows with knowledge.
-- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (attributed: source unknown)

Johann Wolfgang von GoetheAll 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.
-- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (attributed: source unknown)

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Vincent van Gogh
Dutch painter

Vincent Van Gogh, Self-Portrait in a Grey Felt Hat, 1887, 41x32cm., Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum)Vincent Van Gogh, Self-Portrait at Saint-Remy, 1889, 65x54cm., Paris, Musee d'Orsay) 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.
-- Vincent Van Gogh (attributed: source unknown)

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Emma Goldman (1869-1940)
Russian-American anarchist, writer, publisher; eventually deported to Russia

Emma Goldman on Ellis Island, Photo from Statue of Liberty National Monument, U.S. Department of the Interior; Handwritter Caption: 'Emma Goldman -- Russian Jewish Anarchist -- Deported [??] ''Buford'' Dec. 31 -- 1919'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.
-- Emma Goldman, "The Philosophy of Atheism," in Goldman's Mother Earth journal, February, 1916

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.
-- Emma Goldman, speaking from a Detroit pulpit in 1898, quoted from Annie Laurie Gaylor, Women Without Superstition, p. 382

Christianity is most admirably adapted to the training of slaves, to the perpetuation of a slave society.
-- Emma Goldman, "The Failure of Christianity," in Goldman's Mother Earth journal, April, 1913

It is characteristic of theistic "tolerance" that no one really cares what the people believe in, just so they believe or pretend to believe.
-- Emma Goldman, "The Philosophy of Atheism," in Goldman's Mother Earth journal, February, 1916

Emma GoldmanRedemption 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.
-- Emma Goldman, "The Philosophy of Atheism," in Goldman's Mother Earth journal, February, 1916

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.
-- Emma Goldman, "The Philosophy of Atheism," in Goldman's Mother Earth journal, February, 1916

Emma Goldman mug shotThere 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.
-- Emma Goldman, speaking from a Detroit pulpit in 1898, quoted from Annie Laurie Gaylor, Women Without Superstition, p. 382

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.
-- Emma Goldman, "The Failure of Christianity," in Goldman's Mother Earth journal, April, 1913

Women need not always keep their mouths shut and their wombs open.
-- Emma Goldman, words for which she was sent to prison, according to Margaret Anderson, editor of The Little Review, quoted from Annie Laurie Gaylor, Women Without Superstition, p. 382

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Joanne Goldsmith
Executive Director, National Coalition for Public Education and Religious Liberty

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.
-- Joanne Goldsmith, testimony, US House of Representatives, September 21, 1977, from Albert J Menendez and Edd Doerr, The Great Quotations on Religious Freedom

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 by victory.
-- Joanne Goldsmith, quoted in Gordon M Conable, Public Libraries and Intellectual Freedom (263).

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Barry Morris Goldwater (1909-1998)
Republican Senator from Arizona, candidate for President (1964)

Barry Goldwater On religious 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.
     I'm frankly sick and tired of the political preachers across this country telling me as a citizen that if I want to be a moral person, I must believe in "A," "B," "C" and "D." Just who do they think they are? And from where do they presume to claim the right to dictate their moral beliefs to me? And I am even more angry as a legislator who must endure the threats of every religious group who thinks it has some God-granted right to control my vote on every roll call in the Senate. I am warning them today: I will fight them every step of the way if they try to dictate their moral convictions to all Americans in the name of "conservatism."
     -- Barry Goldwater, speech to the US Senate (September 16, 1981)
. Quoted from wikiquote.org.

Barry GoldwaterWhen 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.
     -- Barry Goldwater, The Washington Post (July 28, 1994)
. Quoted from wikiquote.org.

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.
     -- Barry Goldwater, November, 1994, in John Dean, Conservatives Without Conscience.
Quoted from wikiquote.org.

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.
     -- Barry Goldwater (attributed: source unknown)

I think every good Christian ought to kick Falwell right in the ass.
     -- Barry Goldwater, responding to Rev Jerry Falwell's opposition to the nomination of Sandra Day O'Connor to the Supreme Court, of which Falwell had said, "Every good Christian should be concerned." (July, 1981), in Ed Magnuson, The Brethren's First Sister, (Time Magazine: July 20, 1981). Quoted from wikiquote.org
.

You don't have to be straight to be in the military; you just have to be able to shoot straight.
     -- Barry Goldwater (attributed: source unknown)

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....
Goldwater US Presidential 1964     By maintaining the separation of church and state, the United States has avoided the intolerance which has so divided the rest of the world with religious wars. Throughout our two hundred plus years, public policy debate has focused on political and economic issues, on which there can be compromise....
     The great decisions of government cannot be dictated by the concerns of religious factions. This was true in the days of Madison, and it is just as true today. We have succeeded for 205 years in keeping the affairs of state separate from the uncompromising idealism of religious groups and we mustn't stop now. To retreat from that separation would violate the principles of conservatism and the values upon which the framers built this democratic republic.
     -- Barry Goldwater, US Senate Address, September 16, 1981, from Albert J Menendez and Edd Doerr, The Great Quotations on Religious Freedom

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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.
-- Alfred T Goodwin, speaking for the majority in "Newdow vs. US Congress," 9th Circuit, 00-16423 (June 26, 2002)

[Excerpt]:
The coercive effect of this policy is particularly pronounced in the school setting given the age and impressionability of schoolchildren, and their understanding that they are required to adhere to the norms set by their school, their teacher, and their fellow students.
-- Alfred T Goodwin, speaking for the majority in "Newdow vs. US Congress," 9th Circuit, 00-16423 (June 26, 2002)

[Passage]:
Although the defendants argue that the religious content of "one nation under God" is minimal, to an atheist or a believer in certain non-Judeo-Christian religions or philosophies, it may reasonably appear to be an attempt to enforce a "religious orthodoxy" of monotheism, and is therefore impermissible. The coercive effect of this policy is particularly pronounced in the school setting given the age and impressionability of schoolchildren, and their understanding that they are required to adhere to the norms set by their school, their teacher, and their fellow students.
-- Alfred T Goodwin, speaking for the majority in "Newdow vs. US Congress," 9th Circuit, 00-16423 (June 26, 2002)

It's the noisiest thing I've ever experienced.
-- Alfred T Goodwin, remarking on the demonstration against him in Coronado, California, quoted from Linda Deutsch, "'Pledge' Judges Face Demonstrators" (July 17, 2002)

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Gora [Shri Goparaju Ramachandra Rao] (1902-1975)
Atheist from India who worked toward the abolition of untouchability with Gandhi, and who founded the world-renowned Atheist Centre in Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh

GoraHallucinations and illusions are not facts useful for scientific investigation.
-- Gora, "Atheistic Philosophy," Positive Atheism

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.
-- Gora, Atheism Questions and Answers, p. 83

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.
-- Gora, "Atheism and Morality" in Atheism Questions and Answers

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.
-- Gora, "Atheistic Philosophy," chapter ii of the book Positive Atheism

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.
-- Gora, "Atheistic Philosophy," chapter ii of the book Positive Atheism

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.
-- Gora, "Atheistic Philosophy," chapter ii of the book Positive Atheism

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.
-- Gora, "Atheistic Philosophy," chapter ii of the book Positive Atheism

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 psychological.
-- Gora, elsewhere blaming the religious fatalism and built-in complacency of the Hindu Caste system for aggravating this widespread famine, noting the untouchables' refusal to steal food from markets or even eat what was thrown away by a member of a higher caste, in "Switzerland," An Atheist Around The World

The love of individual freedom has stood in the way of the appreciation of social obligations.
-- Gora, "Atheistic Philosophy," chapter ii of the book Positive Atheism

Real morality is possible when the sanctions for morality are also tangible and real.
-- Gora, Atheism Questions and Answers, p. 17

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Colin Gordon
Australian educator

By the time a boy has been two years in a church school he is immunized against religion.
-- Colin Gordon, Australian educator, quoted from Jonathon Green, The Cassell Dictionary of Cynical Quotations

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Albert Arnold Gore, Jr. (b. 1948)
US Vice-President (1993-2001), Presidential Candidate (2000)

     • Check out The Scary Side of Al Gore

Al GoreI 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.
-- Al Gore, on being asked how much information about religion politicians should share [with the public], during the December, 1999, Democratic debate on ABC's Nightline

Atheists have just as much of a right to the public discourse as any ... people of any religious faith in this country.
-- Al Gore, on being asked how much information about religion politicians should share [with the public], during the December, 1999, Democratic debate on ABC's Nightline

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Marjoe Gortner (b. 1944)
American child evangelist billed as 'The World's Youngest Ordained Minister'; actor; skeptical lecturer

Marjoe GortnerIf 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.
-- Marjoe Gortner, quoted from "The Great Juggle Journal," Sweetmorn, Discord 13, Year 0 e.j.

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.
-- Marjoe Gortner, quoted from Flo Conway and Jim Siegelman, Snapping: America's Epidemic of Sudden Personality Changes

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.
-- Marjoe Gortner, quoted from Flo Conway and Jim Siegelman, Snapping: America's Epidemic of Sudden Personality Changes

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.
-- Marjoe Gortner, quoted from Flo Conway and Jim Siegelman, Snapping: America's Epidemic of Sudden Personality Changes

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.
-- Marjoe Gortner, quoted from Flo Conway and Jim Siegelman, Snapping: America's Epidemic of Sudden Personality Changes

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.
-- Marjoe Gortner, explaining that "tongues" it's not a real language at all, and is not instantaneously manifested, as claimed by Fundamentalists, but must be actively acquired and requires much practice, quoted from Flo Conway and Jim Siegelman, Snapping: America's Epidemic of Sudden Personality Changes

Marjoe GortnerI 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.
-- Marjoe Gortner, quoted from Flo Conway and Jim Siegelman, Snapping: America's Epidemic of Sudden Personality Changes

Short Graphic Rule

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."
-- Hugh F Pyle, The Truth about Tongues

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Stephen Jay Gould (1941-2002)
American paleontologist, interpreter of science

Stephen Jay Gould from the Harvard University GazetteI 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.
-- Stephen Jay Gould, from the book, The Panda's Thumb (1980) pp 11-12; quoted from The Unofficial Stephen Jay Gould Archive

We 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.
-- Stephen Jay Gould, Life magazine, December 1988, quoted from James A Haught, ed, 2000 Years of Disbelief

... a fortuitous cosmic afterthought.
-- Stephen Jay Gould, describing the evolution of human life on this planet, quoted from Conrad Goeringer, "Stephen Gould Dies, Premier Defender Of Evolution" AANEWS (May 21, 2002)

It 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.
-- Stephen Jay Gould, in the chapter "Pleasant Dreams," from An Urchin in the Storm, (1987) p 206; quoted from The Unofficial Stephen Jay Gould Archive

Stephen Jay Gould by Terrance McCarthy, NYT (1999)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.
     Homo Sapiens did not appear on the earth, just a geologic second ago, because evolutionary theory predicts such an outcome based on themes of progress and increasing neural complexity. Humans arose, rather, as a fortuitous and contingent outcome of thousands of linked events, any one of which could have occurred differently and sent history on an alternative pathway that would not have led to consciousness.
-- Stephen Jay Gould, from: "The Evolution of Life on Earth," Scientific American (October, 1994): pp. 85-86

... no compelling data to support its anachronistic social Darwinism.
-- Stephen Jay Gould, attacking the book The Bell Curve for advancing racially charged theories, in his savage review of the book for The New Yorker, in John Nichols, "Gould Was a Scientist for the People" (The Capital Times: May 30, 2002)

Objectivity 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 usually do).
-- Stephen Jay Gould, in "Capturing the Center," Natural History 107 (December 1998) p 18; quoted from The Unofficial Stephen Jay Gould Archive

Stephen Jay GouldThe 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.
-- Stephen Jay Gould, Bully for Brontosaurus, 1990, quoted from James A Haught, ed, 2000 Years of Disbelief

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.
-- Stephen Jay Gould, responding to the Kansas School Board's decision, under pressure from Christian funadamentalists, to remove mention of evolution from all public school science curricula, in "Dorothy, it's really Oz," Time Magazine, August 23, 1999

... a local, indigenous, American bizarre-ity.
-- Stephen Jay Gould, describing Christian creationism, quoted from Conrad Goeringer, "Stephen Gould Dies, Premier Defender Of Evolution" (May 21, 2002)

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?
-- Stephen Jay Gould, The Skeptical Inquirer, quoted from About.com

Stephen Jay Gould on The SimpsonsThe 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.
-- Stephen Jay Gould, "The Verdict on Creationism," The Skeptical Inquirer, Winter 1987-88, p. 186, quoted from About.com

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."
-- Stephen Jay Gould, "Creationism: Genesis vs. Geology" Science and Creationism, p. 130 (1984), quoted from Internet Infidels

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.
-- Stephen Jay Gould, "Evolution as Fact and Theory" Science and Creationism, p. 118 (1984), quoted from Internet Infidels

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."
-- Stephen Jay Gould, responding to the Kansas School Board's decision, under pressure from Christian funadamentalists, to remove mention of evolution from all public school science curricula, in John Nichols, "Gould Was a Scientist for the People" (The Capital Times: May 30, 2002)

Stephen Jay Gould from Stanford Lecture seriesOrchids 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.
-- Stephen Jay Gould, from the chapter "The Panda's Thumb," in The Panda's Thumb, (1980) p 20; quoted from The Unofficial Stephen Jay Gould Archive

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.
-- Stephen Jay Gould, in the "Forward" to Michael Shermer's book, Why People Believe Weird Things, (1997) pp ix-xii; quoted from The Unofficial Stephen Jay Gould Archive

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.
-- Stephen Jay Gould, from the interview by Michael Krasny in Mother Jones (January-February 1997)

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).
-- Stephen Jay Gould, to which he adds, in a footnote referenced immediately following the first parenthesis: "Two of these three ranked as 'folk wisdom' in Darwin's day and needed no further justification -- variation and inheritance (the mechanism of inheritance remained unknown, but its factuality could scarcely be doubted). Only the principle that all organisms produce more offspring than can possibly survive -- superfecundity, in Darwin's lovely term -- ran counter to popular assumptions about nature's benevolence, and required Darwin's specific defense in the Origin." Quoted from his, The Structure of Evolutionary Theory (2002), chapter 1, "Defining and Revising the Structure of Evolutionary Theory," p. 13.

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.
-- Stephen Jay Gould, "Evolution as Fact and Theory" Science and Creationism, p. 124 (1984), quoted from Internet Infidels

Stephen Jay Gould from the cover of Natural History MagazineDebate 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!
-- Stephen Jay Gould, after the Arkansas creationism trial, quoted by Michael Shermer in the round-up of his April, 2004, debate against Kent Hovind

When people learn no tools of judgment and merely follow their hopes, the seeds of political manipulation are sown.
-- Stephen Jay Gould (attributed: source unknown), quoted from About.com

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William Franklin "Billy" Graham (b. 1918)
American religious leader

Billy GrahamI 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.
-- Billy Graham, Parade, February 1, 1981, from Albert J Menendez and Edd Doerr, The Great Quotations on Religious Freedom

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.
-- Billy Graham, to George and Barbara Bush, as quoted by George W Bush, quoted from Ken Herman, "The Candidates and the Higher Authority: Richards, Bush Both Methodists But Their Views on Religion Differ," Houston Post (October 2, 1994)

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Ulysses Simpson Grant (1822-1885)
The 18th US President (1869-77)

United States Flag

Ulysses S. GrantIn 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.
-- Ulysses S Grant, from Rufus K Noyes, Views of Religion, quoted from James A Haught, ed, 2000 Years of Disbelief

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.
-- Ulysses S Grant, letter appointing the US Consul at Bucharest, Rumania, December 18, 1870, from Albert J Menendez and Edd Doerr, The Great Quotations on Religious Freedom

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.
-- Ulysses S Grant, address to the Army of the Tennessee, Des Moines, Iowa, September 25, 1875, from Albert J Menendez and Edd Doerr, The Great Quotations on Religious Freedom

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.
-- Ulysses S Grant (attributed: source unknown)

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Kersey Graves (1813-1883)
Author of The World's Sixteen Crucified Saviours

Kersey Graves, courtesy of American AtheistsThe 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.
-- Kersey Graves, Preface, The World's Sixteen Crucified Saviors

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