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Any body of men who believe in hell will persecute whenever they have the power.
If a single one of these gentlemen is correct, if a believer of any type is right, the essential truth for man, the real drama of life, in comparison with which the secular story of the race, is a puppet-show and the unfolding of the universe is a triviality, is the dialogue of the immortal soul and the eternal God. Yet it seems that there is nothing in the world so hard to discover as this. The theory refutes itself.
An idea or institution may arise for one reason and be maintained for quite a different reason.
The theist and the scientist are rival interpreters of nature, the one retreats as the other advances.
... the absence of theistic belief ...
The sentiments attributed to Christ are in the Old Testament. They were familiar in the Jewish schools and to all the Pharisees, long before the time of Christ, as they were familiar in all the civilizations of the earth -- Egyptian, Babylonian, and Persian, Greek, and Hindu.
Today we know not only that there is a terrible amount of disorder in the heavens -- great catastrophes or conflagrations occur frequently -- but evolution gives us a perfectly natural explanation of such order as there is. No distinguished astronomer now traces "the finger of God" in the heavens; and astronomers ought to know best.
Evolution throws a wonderful light on all the struggles, eccentricities, tortuous developments of the human conscience in the past. It is the only theory of morals that does. And evolution throws just as much light on the ethical and social struggle today; and it is the only theory that does. What a strange age ours is from the religious point of view! What a hopeless age from the philosopher's point of view! Yet it is a very good age, the best that ever was. No evolutionist is a pessimist.
Then there is the high cultural development of the Greek-Roman civilization, and from 300 BC to 300 AD we find the thinly veiled Atheism of the Stoics, Epicureans, and Sceptics accepted by the great majority of the better educated. Atheism perishes again with the crass ignorance and clerical tyranny of the Iron Age, but it spreads widely in the light of the Arab-Persian civilization, wherever the fanatics are checked, and at the Renaissance it reappears in Christendom. The hardening of the religious attitude after the Reformation again checks it, but in the 18th Century it enters upon a development, which has, in spite of murderous clerical tyranny in some countries, proceeded steadily ever since.
I once met a pompous ass of a believer who had this religious-sense theory in an exaggerated degree. It is not at all my custom to obtrude the question of religion in conversation, but somebody maliciously tried to draw the man into debate about God with me. He would say nothing but, with comic solemnity: "I know there is a God." He would not explain further, but his meaning was clear. He felt it. He sensed it. And there is but one possible form in which he could have given precise expression to his actual experience. He was visibly annoyed, but still silent, when I put it. It is: "I have a strong conviction that God exists."
A law of nature is not a formula drawn up by a legislator, but a mere summary of the observed facts -- a "bundle of facts." Things do not act in a particular way because there is a law, but we state the "law" because they act in that way.
Both Madison and Jefferson relied heavily on the theory of church-state separation espoused by John Locke who maintained that "the care of souls cannot belong to the civil magistrate."
Sin has always been an ugly word, but it has been made so in a new sense over the last half-century. It has been made not only ugly but passé. People are no longer sinful, they are only immature or underprivileged or frightened or, more particularly, sick.
Ah, snug lie those that slumber
When blithe to argument I come,
Heaven is supposed to be a perfect place. Yet, it experienced a war (Revelation 12:7). How can there be a war in a perfect place and if it happened before why couldn't it happen again? Why would I want to go to a place in which war can occur? That's exactly what I'm trying to escape, aren't you?
Those who would seek the truth should take care that they may find it and in finding it be horrified.
The invisible and nonexistent look much alike.
We will be a better country when each religious group can trust its members to obey the dictates of their own religious faith without assistance from the legal structure of the country.
Never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.
When Christians accepted the alliance with Constantine and the Roman Empire, evil because it made Jesus' kingdom-not-of-this-world the tool of very this-worldly empires, they reverted to the old principle of coercion. In doing so they repeated the fatal error so often condemned by the Jewish prophets of putting their hope for salvation in alliances with the militarily powerful. At that point "Christendom" was born, and thereafter, contrary to their true principle, for fourteen centuries with spectacular pomp and circumstance, they depended on violence and coercion, purportedly to build and maintain the kingdom of the one they worshipped as the Prince of Peace....
It is naïve to suppose that the acceptance of evolution theory depends upon the evidence of a number of so-called "proofs"; it depends rather upon the fact that the evolutionary theory permeates and supports every branch of biological science, much as the notion of the roundness of the earth underlies all geodesy and all cosmological theories on which the shape of the earth has a bearing. Thus antievolutionism is of the same stature as flat-earthism.
To abdicate from the rule of reason and substitute for it an authentication of belief by the intentness and degree of conviction with which we hold it can be perilous and destructive. Religious beliefs give a spurious spiritual dimension to tribal enmities.
It goes with the passionate intensity and deep conviction of the truth of a religious belief, and of course of the importance of the superstitious observances that go with it, that we should want others to share it -- and the only certain way to cause a religious belief to be held by everyone is to liquidate nonbelievers. The price in blood and tears that mankind generally has had to pay for the comfort and spiritual refreshment that religion has brought to a few has been too great to justify our entrusting moral accountancy to religious belief.
I regret my disbelief in God.
The transfiguration and ascension of Christ may be compared to the heathen apotheosis of such heroes as Hercules, while the story of the descent into Hades is modeled after such narratives as those describing the visit of Hercules and Theseus to the lower world.
Faith, like a jackal, feeds among the tombs, and even from these dead doubts she gathers her most vital hope.
The reason the mass of men fear God, and at bottom dislike Him, is because they rather distrust His heart, and fancy Him all brain like a watch. (You perceive I employ a capital initial in the pronoun referring to the Deity; don't you think there is a slight dash of flunkeyism in that usage?).
We incline to think that God cannot explain His own secrets and that He would like a little information upon certain points Himself. We mortals astonish Him as much as He us. But it is this Being of the matter; there lies the knot with which we choke ourselves. As soon as you say Me, a God, a Nature, so soon you jump off from your stool and hang from the beam. Yes, that word is the hangman. Take God out of the dictionary, and you would have Him in the street.
I'll try a pagan friend, thought I, since Christian kindness has turned out to be hollow courtesy.
The idea of Jehovah was born here.... Out of the rude elements of the insignificant thoughts thoughts that are in all men, they reared the transcendent conception of a God.
When my eye rested on an arid height, spirit partook of the barrenness. -- Heartily wish Niebuhr & Strauss to the dogs. The deuce take their penetration & acumen. They have robbed us of the bloom.
Queegqueg no care what god made him shark ... wedder Fejee god or Nantucket god; but de god what made him shark must be one dam Ingin.
There are certain queer times and occasions in this strange mixed affair we call life when a man takes this whole universe for a vast practical joke, though the wit thereof he but dimly discerns, and more than suspects that the joke is at nobody's expense but his own.
I baptize you not in the name of the father, but in the name of the devil.
Gary Sloan: Lambasts the Ways of Deity
Moby-Dick, by the way, is nothing less than an extended allegory on the villainy of God. Unlike Paradise Lost, which Milton wrote to justify the ways of God to man, Melville wrote Moby-Dick to lambast the ways of deity. Melville's method is largely one of indirection.
The so-called religious organizations which now lead the war against the teaching of evolution are nothing more, at bottom, than conspiracies of the inferior man against his betters.
The way to deal with superstition is not to be polite to it, but to tackle it with all arms, and so rout it, cripple it, and make it forever infamous and ridiculous.... Then their folly should be brought out into the light of day, and exhibited there in all its hideousness until they flee from it, hiding their heads in shame.... True enough, even a superstitious man has certain inalienable rights. He has a right to harbor and indulge his imbecilities as long as he pleases, provided only he does not try to inflict them upon other men by force.... But certainly he has no right to be protected against the free criticism of those who do not hold them.... He has no right to preach them without challenge.
It is now quite lawful for a Catholic woman to avoid pregnancy by a resort to mathematics, though she is still forbidden to resort to physics or chemistry.
Men become civilized not in proportion to their willingness to believe but in proportion to their readiness to doubt.
Theology: An effort to explain the unknowable by putting it into terms of the not worth knowing.
The man or the country that fights priestcraft and priests is to my mind striking deeper for freedom than can be struck anywhere.
When I was quite a boy I had a spasm of religion which lasted six weeks.... But I never since have swallowed the Christian fable.
The man who has no mind of his own lends it to the priests.
Ah, what a dusty answer gets the soul
Cynicism is intellectual dandyism without the coxcomb's feathers.
Not till the fire is dying in the grate,
In my own experience, I have been amazed to see how unrealistic are the bases for political opinion in general. Only rarely have I found a person who has chosen any particular political party -- democratic or totalitarian -- through study and comparison of principles.
The tension of a mysterious danger is even more unbearable than danger itself. People hate the vacuum of an unknown situation. They want security. They even prefer war to the insecure expectation of a war with its threat of enemy surprise. This vague fearful expectation acts on their fantasies. They anticipate all kinds of mysterious dangers; they begin to provoke them. It is the evocation of fear and danger in order to escape the tension of insecurity.
The bulk of the totalitarian-minded in the democratic societies are men and women who are attracted to this destructive way of life for inner emotional reasons unknown to themselves.
If I had a message to my contemporaries, I said, it was surely this: Be anything you like, be madmen, drunks, and bastards of every shape and form, but at all costs avoid one thing: success.... If you have learned only how to be a success, your life has probably been wasted. If a university concentrates on producing successful people, it is lamentably failing in its obligation to society and to the students themselves.
The danger of education, I have found, is that it so easily confuses means with ends. Worse than that, it quite easily forgets both and devotes itself merely to the mass production of uneducated gradtuates -- people literaly unfit for anything except to take part in an elaborate and completely artificial charade which they and their contemporaries have conspired to call "life".
The most awful tyranny is that of the proximate utopia where the last sins are currently being eliminated and where, tomorrow, there will be no sins because all the sinners have been wiped out.
... inventions and purely human institutions...
You will think, perhaps, my dear friends, that among the great number of false religions there are in the world, my intention will be to except from their number at least Christianity, apostolic and Roman, which we profess and which we say is the only one to teach genuine truth, the only one which recognises and adores, as is required, the true God, and the only one which leads men on the path to salvation and eternal happiness. But disabuse yourself, my dear friends, disabuse yourself of that, and generally of all that your pious ignoramuses, or your mocking and self-interested priests and doctors, press you to say and to believe, under the false pretext of the infallible certitude of their supposedly sacred and divine religion.... Your religion is no less vain, no less superstitious than any other; it is not less false in its principles, not less ridiculous and absurd in its dogmas and maxims; you are no less idolaters than those you blame and condemn for idolatry; the idols of the pagans and of your religion are only different in names and figures. In a word, all that your priests and doctors preach to you with such eloquence touching the grandeur, excellence and sanctity of the mysteries that they make you adore, all that which they recount to you with such gravity, with the certainty of their claimed miracles and all that which is given out to you with such zeal and such assurance concerning the grandeur of the rewards of heaven, and concerning the terrifying punishments of hell, are no more at bottom than illusions, errors, dreams, fictions and impostures, invented firstly for political ends and ruses, continued by deceivers and impostors; finally received and believed blindly by the ignorant and rude common people, and then eventually maintained by the authority of the great, and the sovereigns of the earth, who have favoured the abuses, the errors, the superstition and the imposture which are upheld by their laws in order to hold the mass of men in yoke and make them do all that their rulers want.
To discover the true principles of morality, men have no need of theology, of revelation, or of gods. They need but common sense. They have only to look within themselves, to reflect upon their own nature, to consult their obvious interests, to consider the object of society and of each of the members who compose it, and they will easily understand that virtue is an advantage, and that vice is an injury to beings of the species.
Voltaire: Most Singular Phenomenon
"[Meslier was] the most singular phenomenon ever seen among all the meteors fatal to the Christian religion."
The Subtle Fulmination of the Encircled Sea
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