Positive Atheism's Big List of Quotations

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Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov (1899-1977)
Russian-born US novelist, poet

Vladimir NabokovThe cradle rocks above an abyss, and common sense tells us that our existence is but a brief crack of light between two eternities of darkness.
-- Vladimir Nabokov, Speak, Memory, ch. 1, sct. 1 (1955, rev. 1966), from The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations

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Taslima Nasrin
Bangladeshi writer, secular humanist, feminist; now living under fatwa (Islamic death sentence)

Taslima NasrinReligion is now the first obstacle to women's advancement. Religion pulls human beings backwards, it goes against science and progressiveness. Religion engulfs people with a fear of the supernatural. It bars people from laughing and never allows people to exercise their choice.
-- Taslima Nasrin, from her newspaper column, reported in Free Inquiry, Fall, 1994, Vol 14, No. 4, p. 9

Religion, society and state -- from none of these do women get their proper honor. It is religion, which has created an unparalleled disparity between men and women.
-- Taslima Nasrin (attributed: source unknown)

I don't find any difference between Islam and Islamic fundamentalists. I believe religion is the root, and from the root fundamentalism grows as a poisonous stem. If we remove fundamentalism and keep religion, then one day or another fundamentalism will grow again. I need to say that because some liberals always defend Islam and blame fundamentalists for creating problems. But Islam itself oppresses women. Islam itself doesn't permit democracy and it violates human rights.
-- Taslima Nasrin, Interview in Free Inquiry magazine, winter 1998-1999, Vol. 19, No. 1

Taslima NasrinI dont agree with those who think that the conflict is simply between two religions, namely Christianity and Islam.... To me, the key conflict is between irrational blind faith and rational, logical minds.
-- Taslima Nasrin, Interview in Free Inquiry magazine, winter 1998-1999, Vol. 19. No. 1

I am an atheist. I do not believe in prayers, I believe in work. And my work is that of an author. My pen is my weapon.
-- Taslima Nasrin, interview with International Society for Islamic Secularization (ISIS), quoted from Bubbles Online

Koranic teaching still insists that the sun moves around the earth. How can we advance when they teach things like that?
-- Taslima Nasrin, Time Magazine, 31 January 1994

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George Jean Nathan (1882-1958)
American writer, editor, and critic

George NathanThe path of sound credence is through the thick forest of skepticism.
-- George Nathan, Materia Critica

George NathanBad officials are elected by good citizens who do not vote.
-- George Nathan (attributed: source unknown)

It may be said that artist and censor differ in this wise: that the first is a decent mind in an indecent body and that the second is an indecent mind in a decent body.
-- George Nathan, The Autobiography of an Attitude

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Jawaharlal Nehru (1889-1964)
Indian nationalist leader and statesman, who was the first prime minister (1947-1964) of independent India

The spectacle of what is called religion, or at any rate organized religion, in India and elsewhere, has filled us with horror, and I have frequently condemned it and wished to make a clean sweep of it.
-- Jawaharlal Nehru, in Cardiff, What Great Men Think of Religion, from James A Haught, ed, 2000 Years of Disbelief

I want nothing to do with any religion concerned with keeping the masses satisfied to live in hunger, filth, and ignorance. I want nothing to do with any order, religious or otherwise, which does not teach people that they are capable of becoming happier and more civilized, on this earth, capable of becoming true man, master of his fate and captain of his soul. To attain this I would put priests to work, also, and turn the temples into schools.
-- Jawaharlal Nehru, in Edgar Snow, Journey to the Beginning, from James A Haught, ed, 2000 Years of Disbelief

The light has gone out of our lives.... Yet I am wrong, for the light that shone in this country was no ordinary light.... and a thousand years later that light will still be seen in this country and the world will see it.... For that light represented the living truth.
-- Jawaharlal Nehru, in his broadcast announcing the assassination of Gandhi (January 30, 1948)

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Aziz Nesin (1915-1995)
Turkish writer; activist

Aziz NesinI don't need God because I want neither paradise nor hell.
-- Aziz Nesin, quoted from Famous Dead Non-Theists

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Michael Newdow
California atheist, first person to successfully sue to have the McCarthy Era's antiatheistic addition to our Pledge of Allegiance, "under God," removed

There's a principle here, and I'm hoping the court will uphold this principle so that we can finally go back and have every American want to stand up, face the flag, place their hand over their heart and pledge to one nation, indivisible, not divided by religion, with liberty and justice for all.
-- Michael Newdow, to the United States Supreme Court (March 24, 2003)

The government must pursue a course of complete neutrality toward religion.
-- Michael Newdow, testimony in "Newdow vs. Congress," 9th Circuit, 00-16423 (Link To PDF File), quoted from Internet Infidels' Quote of the Minute (June 26, 2002)

I have the right to bring up my daughter without God being imposed into her life by her schoolteachers.
-- Michael Newdow, on Arthel Neville, "Talkback Live" (CNN, June 26, 2002)

One day I was just looking at the coins [-- that] is what brought this up. I saw "In God We Trust" on my coins. I said, "I don't trust in God," what is this? And I recalled there was something in the Constitution that said you're not allowed to do that and so I did some research. And as soon as I did the research, I realized the law seemed to be on my side and I filed the suit. It's a cool thing to do. Everyone should try it.
-- Michael Newdow, on Arthel Neville, "Talkback Live" (CNN, June 26, 2002)

This issue is whether or not our government should be infusing religion into [the public schools]. Our churches are very strong in this nation and I think that's great and everybody should have the ability to worship as he or she sees fit. I choose to worship not believing in God and government should not thrust a religious idea down my throat.
-- Michael Newdow, on Arthel Neville, "Talkback Live" (CNN, June 26, 2002)

I believe in the Constitution. The Constitution says that government isn't supposed to be infusing religion into our society, and so I asked to have that upheld.
-- Michael Newdow, on Arthel Neville, "Talkback Live" (CNN, June 26, 2002)

I think the Constitution has been upheld. I think they made the right decision.
-- Michael Newdow, on Arthel Neville, "Talkback Live" (CNN, June 26, 2002)

[America] is the greatest nation and what has made it great is our Constitution. The framers were quite wise in recognizing what religion can do and how it can cause hatred and how it can cause death. You don't have to go far in this world, outside of our nation, to see where that has happened. It is prevalent over the entire globe and the reason we don't have it here is because we have an establishment clause ... If Mike [an audience member and critic] wouldn't mind saying "we are one nation under Buddha" every day, or "one nation under David Koresh" or "one nation" under some religious icon that he doesn't believe in ... if he doesn't understand the difference then we have a problem.
-- Michael Newdow, on Arthel Neville, "Talkback Live" (CNN, June 26, 2002)

I feel like I am not an American in the eyes of my government because of their religious beliefs. I think that is un-American.
-- Michael Newdow, to Associated Press Writer Stefanie Frith, in "Court: US Pledge Unconstitutional" (July 1, 2002)

Most people I know I think agree and even many theists agree with this. We don't want government involved. When atheists become the majority in this country, I don't think the theists are going to be glad to have "one nation under no God" inserted in the Pledge of Allegiance.
-- Michael Newdow, on Arthel Neville, "Talkback Live" (CNN, June 26, 2002)

[Supreme Court Justice Anton Scalia] should be commended for acknowledging that his views are so strong that -- should the Pledge case reach the Supreme Court -- he wouldn't be able to maintain the requisite impartiality.
-- Michael Newdow, on a federal law which requires a judge to recuse in any proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned, quoted from Tony Mauro, "Scalia Lands in Recusal Controversy" (New Jersey Law Journal: January 27, 2003)

He's a smart man, so I am assuming he will do it.
-- Michael Newdow, wondering aloud whether Justice Antonin Scalia would recuse from his case if (when) it reaches the Supreme Court, quoted from Tony Mauro, "Scalia Lands in Recusal Controversy" (New Jersey Law Journal: January 27, 2003)

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"The sight of one man standing up to challenge God and country is something that Madison, Jefferson and Franklin would cheer, and every American can celebrate."
-- Kenneth C Davis, in "Jefferson, Madison, Newdow?" (The New York Times: March 26, 2004)

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Isaac Newton (1642-1727)
English physicist, mathematician, and natural philosopher, considered one of the most important scientists of all time

When the adversaries of Erasmus had got the Trinity into his edition, they threw by their manuscript as an old almanac out of date.
-- Isaac Newton, letter to a Friend, later published by Bishop Horsley, quoted from John E Remsberg, The Christ, p. 259, after Erasmus had inserted the following passage, the only to teach Trinitarianism, into his second edition of his New Testament: "For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one" (I John v, 7).

What the Latins have done in this text (1 John v, 7) the Greeks have done to Paul (1 Tim. iii, 16). They now read, "Great is the mystery of godliness; God manifest in the flesh"; whereas all the churches for the first four or five hundred years, and the authors of all the ancient versions, Jerome as well as the rest, read, "Great is the mystery of godliness, which was manifest in the flesh." Our English version makes it yet a little stronger. It reads, "Great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh."
-- Isaac Newton, letter to a Friend, later published by Bishop Horsley, quoted from John E Remsberg, The Christ, p. 263

If the ancient churches, in debating and deciding the greatest mysteries of religion, knew nothing of these two texts, I understand not why we should be so fond of them now the debate is over.
-- Isaac Newton, letter to a Friend, later published by Bishop Horsley, quoted from John E Remsberg, The Christ, p. 263

The daily disappearance and the subsequent rise of the sun appeared to many of the ancients as a true resurrection; thus, while the east came to be regarded as the source of light and warmth, happiness and glory, the west was associated with darkness and chill, decay and death. This led to the custom of burying the dead so as to face the east when they rose again, and of building temples and shrines with an opening toward the east. To effect this, Vitruvius, two thousand years ago, gave precise rules, which are still followed by Christian architects.
-- Isaac Newton, quoted from John E Remsberg, The Christ, p. 345-6

I know not how I seem to others, but to myself I am but a small child wandering upon the vast shores of knowledge, every now and then finding a small bright pebble to content myself with while the vast ocean of undiscovered truth lay before me.
-- Isaac Newton, quoted from John Stear, No Answers in Genesis

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Kai Nielsen
Canadian philosopher

Kai NielsenThere is no religious experience which guarantees that our experience is an experience of God. This can be asserted without for a moment doubting that some people have religious experiences. The psychological reality of such experience is one thing, that these experiences are actually experiences of God is another.
-- Kai Nielsen, Philosophy and Atheism (1985) p. 46, quoted from the Secular Web "II Quotations File"

There is an important and correct way in which understanding religion is incompatible with believing in it.
-- Kai Nielsen, Naturalism and Religion (2001), p. 13

In the United States religion is rampant and massively, though, of course, not exclusively, Neanderthal. In a recent survey taken in the United States, 88 percent of the population (if the sample taken was accurate) maintained that they had never had any doubts about the existence of God. Even if this survey is inaccurate and this is true of only 40 percent of the population, it is still an intellectual and moral disgrace -- a disgrace that should be a scandal in the United States.
-- Kai Nielsen, Naturalism and Religion (2001), p. 13

In spite of the power of the religious right, it is paranoid to see the United States as dominated by it, thought it is certainly not paranoid to believe that in recent years American society has been to some considerable extent adversely affected by it. Still there are massive and not ineffective counterbalancing forces.
-- Kai Nielsen, Naturalism and Religion (2001), p. 13

In cultures such as ours, religion is very often an alien form of life to intellectuals. Living as we do in a post-enlightenment era, it is difficult for us to take religion seriously. The very concept seems fantastic to us ... that people in our age can believe that they have had a personal encounter with God, that they could believe that they have experienced conversion through a "mystical experience of God," so that they are born again in the Holy Spirit, is something that attests to human irrationality and a lack of sense of reality.
-- Kai Nielsen, in The Humanist, (May-June, 1977), p. 46

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The Reverend Martin Niemoller (1892-1984)
Pastor in the German Confessing Church who spent seven years in a concentration camp

The Reverend Martin Niemoller -- portrait from Anton Gil, *An Honourable Defeat*In Germany they first came for the Communists -- and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist. Then they came for the Jews -- and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists -- and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics -- and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me -- and by that time no one was left to speak up.
-- The Reverend Martin Niemoller, famous quip (1945) quoted from Randy Cassingham, This is True (11 November 2001)

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Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (1844-1900)
German philosopher who reasoned that Christianity's emphasis on the afterlife makes its believers less able to cope with earthly life

     • Check our Big List of Friedrich Nietzsche Quotations

Friedrich Nietzsche, from the Stoeving portraitChristianity was from the beginning, essentially and fundamentally, life's nausea and disgust with life, merely concealed behind, masked by, dressed up as, faith in "another" or "better" life.
-- Friedrich Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy, p.23, Walter Kaufmann transl.

Whatever a theologian regards as true must be false: there you have almost a criterion of truth.
-- Friedrich Nietzsche, The Antichrist (1895), quoted from Jonathon Green, The Cassell Dictionary of Insulting Quotations

A casual stroll through a lunatic asylum shows that faith does not prove anything.
-- Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, quoted from Jonathon Green, The Cassell Dictionary of Cynical Quotations

If the Christian dogmas of a revengeful God, universal sinfulness, election by divine grace and the danger of eternal damnation were true, it would be a sign of weak-mindedness and lack of character not to become a priest, apostle or hermit and, in fear and trembling, to work solely on one's own salvation; it would be senseless to lose sight of one's eternal advantage for the sake of temporal comfort. If we may assume that these things are at any rate believed true, then the everyday Christian cuts a miserable figure; he is a man who really cannot count to three, and who precisely on account of his spiritual imbecility does not deserve to be punished so harshly as Christianity promises to punish him.
-- Friedrich Nietzsche, Human, all too Human, 116, RJ Hollingdale transl.

What is it: is man only a blunder of God, or God only a blunder of man?
-- Friedrich Nietzsche, The Twilight of the Gods

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Robert Nisbet (1913-1996)
American sociologist, historian, educator

Religious ideologies and their fanaticisms are dangerous enough, but when these or other ideologies become frenzied elements of the political area, the only area of absolute power over human lives ... they become potentially dangerous in their impact on a free society.
-- Robert Nisbet, Prejudices: A Philosophical Dictionary (1982), quoted from James A Haught, ed, 2000 Years of Disbelief

Disloyalty, however picayune, is unforgivable to the fanatic. Even the appearance of disloyalty is sufficient for banishment of the offender, no matter how many years of unquestioned devotion have been given; they are as nothing compared to the enormity of the moment.
-- Robert Nisbet, Prejudices: A Philosophical Dictionary (1982), thanks to Laird Wilcox, ed, "The Degeneration of Belief"

No dogma or superstition in any religion yet uncovered by anthropologists is more tyrannical, and more intellectually absurd, than that of the historically inevitable or necessary.
-- Robert Nisbet, Twilight Of Moral Authority (1981), thanks to Laird Wilcox, ed, "The Degeneration of Belief"

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Nel Noddings (b 1929)
American Educator, best known for her work developing the ethics of caring

Nel NoddingsWhat sort of god would deliberately create a world in which his creatures must eat one another to live?
-- Nel Noddings, giving us her spin on the philosophical problem of Epicurus; quoted from William Hart, Evil: A Primer (2004), page 29

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David C Noelle
American Humanist

David C. NoelleAfter thinking of Rosa Parks, I no longer saw our gathering as uncivil. Like Rosa, we are living in a city that, through its actions, has identified many of us as second class citizens, all because of our particular religious beliefs or the lack thereof. The Christian monument on this hill, which our city government has supported both in maintenance and court costs, is a clear sign that the non-Christians in San Diego should not always expect fair and equal treatment by their city. This large cross in a public park, still standing despite court orders for its removal, is a clear message that, in the eyes of the City of San Diego, Christians are preferred and others are to be, at best, merely tolerated. In the face of this insult, we cannot be quietly courteous. As members of a civil society, we must stand up to the prejudices of our city in the name of freedom of conscience and freedom of opinion.
-- David C Noelle, on the occasion of an atheist group reserving the portion of Mt. Soledad Park near a giant Christian cross on Easter Sunday Morning (April 7, 1996), during which time a large Christian organization usually holds an Easter Sunrise worship service, in "On Being Civil," his speech presented at that event

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Mark A Noll
American historian of Christianity, Evangelical Christian theologian

Mark A. Noll (photo: Wheaton College)Early America does not deserve to be considered uniquely, distinctly or even predominantly Christian.... There is no lost Golden Age to which American Christians may return.
-- Mark A Noll, The Search for Christian America, 1984, quoted from Albert J Menendez and Edd Doerr, The Great Quotations on Religious Freedom

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Robert Nordlander
American social critic

Those death sentences for blasphemy suggest that Islam lacks the moral and intellectual strength and integrity to defend itself against its critics.
-- Robert Nordlander, in a Letter to the Editor, The Daily Illini, University of Illinois (July 27, 2002)

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Charles Eliot Norton (1827-1908)
A founder of the Nation magazine

One may sigh for all that one loses in giving up the old religion.... but the new irreligion is the manlier, honester and simpler thing, and affords a better throry of life and a more solid basis for morality.
-- Charles Eliot Norton, letter to Goldwin Smith, January 31, 1905, quoted from James A Haught, ed, 2000 Years of Disbelief

It does not seem to me that the evidence concerning the being of a God, and concerning immortality, is such as to enable us to assert anything in regard to either of these topics.
-- Charles Eliot Norton, letter to John Ruskin, (1869), quoted from James A Haught, ed, 2000 Years of Disbelief

The loss of religious faith among the most civilized portion of the race is a step from childishness toward maturity.
-- Charles Eliot Norton, letter to Goldwin Smith, (June 14, 1897), quoted from James A Haught, ed, 2000 Years of Disbelief

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Ted Nugent
American Rock 'N' Roll Gonzo, member of the board of the National Rifle Association

Ted NugentOur soldiers did not go to some foreign country and risk their lives in vain and defend our Constitution so that decades later you can tell me it's a living document ever changing and is open to interpretation. The guys who wrote it were light years ahead of anyone today, and they meant what they said -- now leave the document alone, or there's going to be trouble.
-- Ted Nugent, "I'm a Bad American"

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Gary Numan
Recording Artist

I am not religious, quite the opposite. It would seem, particularly at the moment, that in certain countries to deny having faith is virtually to admit to being a worshipper of the devil. Such is the fear, hate and hostility created by the believers of this so called all forgiving God.
     I worship nothing. Not a good lie nor a dark one. If nature is proof of God's amazing creation then I have truly seen the light, and the light is black. Nature is genius at its most cruel and savage. No benevolent God could have come up with such an outrage.
-- Gary Numan (1996?) mailing list digest, quoted from The Celebrity Atheist List

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