MY FAVORITE QUOTATIONS ON RELIGION

Collected by Richard Packham

Additions are usually at the bottom; if you have been here before, use your cursor to go to the end of the page for them.

- last revised: 12/14/15


"The simple believeth every word: but the prudent man looketh well to his going...
The simple inherit folly: but the prudent are crowned with knowledge."

- Prov 14:15, 18


Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.

- Voltaire


An honest God is the noblest work of man.

- Samuel Butler, paraphrasing Pope's "An honest man is the noblest work of God"


Tantum religio potuit suadere malorum!
[To what evil deeds religion urges (men) !]

- Lucretius, De Rerum Natura, i:101


Mit der Dummheit kämpfen die Götter selbst vergebens.
[Not even the gods can hope to conquer stupidity.]

- Schiller, Jungfrau v. O. iii.6


In religion, what damned error, but some sober brow will bless it and approve it with a text, hiding the grossness with fair ornament?

- Shakespeare, Merchant of Venice, III:2


Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. Do not believe anything because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything because it is written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and the benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.

- The Buddha, Kalama Sutra


I will not attack your doctrines nor your creeds if they accord liberty to me. If they hold thought to be dangerous - if they aver that doubt is a crime, then I attack them one and all, because they enslave the minds of men.

-Robert G. Ingersoll, The Ghosts


A man is accepted into church for what he believes--and turned out for what he knows.

-- Mark Twain


If a man, holding a belief which he was taught in childhood or persuaded of afterwards, keeps down and pushes away any doubts which arise about it in his mind, purposely avoids the reading of books and the company of men that call into question or discuss it, and regards as impious those questions which cannot easily be asked without disturbing it--the life of that man is one long sin against mankind.

-- W. K. Clifford


Theology is an attempt to explain a subject by those who do not understand it. The intent is not to tell the truth but to satisfy the questioner.

- Elbert Hubbard in The Philistine


Science is open to criticism, which is the opposite of religion. Science begs you to prove it wrong - that's the whole concept - whereas religion condemns you if you try to prove it wrong. It tells you to accept it on faith and shut the hell up.

- Jason Stock


I do not feel obliged to believe that the same god who has endowed us with sense, reason and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.

- Galileo Galilei


. . . a very LONG discussion is one of the most effective veils of Fallacy: . . A Fallacy which when stated barely . . . would not deceive a child, may deceive half the world if diluted in a quarto volume

- Richard Whately, Elements of Logic, p. 151


The surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct him to hold in higher esteem those who think alike than those who think differently.

- Nietzsche "The Dawn" (1881)


Welcome to Planet Earth, where Belief masquerades as Knowledge!
This way to the Unasked Questions --->
<--- This way to the Unquestioned Answers

- Anonymous


This is what truth is. Going behind what you hear first. Asking a hundred questions until you can make up your own mind on the basis of real evidence.

- James Michener, Hawaii p 765


To assert that the earth revolves around the sun is as erroneous as to claim that Jesus was not born of a virgin.

--Cardinal Bellarmine (1615, during the trial of Galileo)


There are two especially important times when a person should tell the truth: when someone else knows the truth and when someone else doesn't

- Carl Osborne


Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a god; because if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear.

- Thomas Jefferson


Man, once surrendering his reason, has no remaining guard against absurdities the most monstrous, and like a ship without a rudder, is the sport of every wind. With such persons, gullibility, which they call faith, takes the helm of reason, and the mind becomes a wreck.

- Thomas Jefferson


There is never a better measure of what a person is than what he does when he's absolutely free to choose, without fear of man, and especially without fear of God.

- Zena Kreps, paraphrasing William M. Bulger


Am I to believe in every absurdity? If not, why this one in particular?

- Sigmund Freud, The Future of an Illusion


All religions die of one disease, that of being found out.

- F.N. Morley


Comrade Ogilvy, who had never existed in the present, now existed in the past, and when once the act of forgery was forgotten, he would exist just as authentically, and upon the same evidence, as Charlemagne or Julius Caesar.

- George Orwell, 1984


FAITH, n. Belief without evidence in what is told by one who speaks without knowledge, of things without parallel.

- Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary


Heresy is only another word for freedom of thought.

- Graham Greene


A wise man sometimes changes his mind. A fool never does.

- Anon


Philosophy is questions that may never be answered.
Religion is answers that may never be questioned.

- Anon


It is morally as bad not to care whether a thing is true or not, so long as it makes you feel good, as it is not to care how you got your money as long as you have got it. . . . . . . . . . For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring. Which attitude is better geared for our long-term survival? Which gives us more leverage on our future? And if our naive self-confidence is a little undermined in the process, is that altogether such a loss? Is there not cause to welcome it as a maturing and character-building experience?

- Edwin Way Teale, Circle of the Seasons


...society is very well aware of the insecurity of the claim it makes on behalf of religious doctrines. Otherwise it would certainly be very ready to put the necessary data at the disposal of anyone who wanted to arrive at conviction. ...We ought to believe because our forefathers believed. But these ancestors of ours were more ignorant than we are. They believed in things we could not possibly accept today; and the possibility occurs to us that the doctrines of religion may belong to that class too. The proofs they have left us are set down in writings which themselves bear every mark of untrustworthiness. They are full of contradictions, revisions and falsifications, and where they speak of factual confirmations they are themselves unconfirmed...countless people have been tormented by similar doubts, and have striven to suppress them, because they thought it was their duty to believe...

- Sigmund Freud


Can we be quite certain that it is not precisely religious education which bears a large share of the blame for this relative atrophy [of the intellect of the developing child]? I think it would be a very long time before a child who was not influenced began to trouble himself about God and things in another world. Perhaps his thoughts on these matters would then take the same paths as they did with his forefathers. But we do not wait for such a development; we introduce him to the doctrines of religion at an age when he is neither interested in them or capable of grasping their import. ... Thus by the time the child's intellect awakens, the doctrines of religion have already become unassailable.

- Sigmund Freud, Future of an Illusion


Believe those who are seeking the truth; doubt those who find it.

- Andre Gide


Talk sense to a fool and he calls you foolish.

--Euripides, The Bacchae


I tore myself from the safe comfort of certainties through my love for truth; and truth rewarded me.

- Simone de Beauvoir


If you are comfortable with a lie, you will never look for the truth.

- Anon (?)


Bill Keane, creator of the Family Circus cartoon strip tells of a time when he was penciling one of his cartoons and his son Jeffy said, "Daddy, how do you know what to draw?" I said, "God tells me." Jeffy said, "Then why do you keep erasing parts of it?"
Die Wahrheit kann und darf vor Männern das Licht nicht scheuen. Es gibt keine Wahrheit, die man vor Vernünftigen verbergen müßte.
[The truth cannot and must not shrink from the light. There can be no truth that would have to hide itself from examination by reasonable people.]

- Johann Gottfried Seume


Eine Religion, die des Menschen vorzügliche, fast einzige Hoffnung in ein anderes Leben weist, hat die Präsumption der Gaunerei in diesem für sich.
[Any religion which says that mankind's primary - almost only - hope lies in another life, can be presumed to be a hoax in this one.]

- Johann Gottfried Seume


If a kid asks where rain comes from, I think a cute thing to tell him is "God is crying." And if he asks why God is crying, another cute thing to tell him is "probably because of something you did."

- Jack Handey, Deep Thoughts


If two things don't fit, but you believe both of them, thinking that somewhere, hidden, there must be a third thing that connects them, that's credulity.

-- Umberto Eco


Men have never fully used [their] powers to advance the good in life, because they have waited upon some power external to themselves and to nature to do the work they are responsible for doing.

-- John Dewey


A man's ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death.

- Albert Einstein, in Time Magazine, 9 November 1930


I have never seen the slightest scientific proof of the religious theories of heaven and hell, of future life for individuals, or of a personal God.

-- Thomas Edison


I count religion but a childish toy, And hold there is no sin but ignorance.

-- Christopher Marlowe


Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away.

-- Philip K. Dick


Anyone who engages in the practice of psychotherapy confronts every day the devastation wrought by the teachings of religion.

- Nathaniel Branden, Ph.D., Psychologist
author of The Psychology of Self-esteem


Eskimo: "If I did not know about God and sin, would I go to hell?"
Priest: "No, not if you did not know."
Eskimo: "Then why did you tell me?"


Human beings never think for themselves, they find it too uncomfortable. For the most part, members of our species simply repeat what they are told--and become upset if they are exposed to any different view. ... We are stubborn, self-destructive conformists. Any other view of our species is just a self-congratulatory delusion.

-- Michael Crichton in The Lost World


[The word] "Skeptic" does not mean one who doubts, but one who investigates or researches, as opposed to one who simply asserts and thus thinks that he has found.

-- Miguel de Unamuno


My young son asked me what happens after we die. I told him we get buried under a bunch of dirt and worms eat our bodies. I guess I should have told him the truth--that most of us go to Hell and burn eternally--but I didn't want to upset him.

-- Jack Handey


The truth which makes men free is for the most part the truth which men prefer not to hear.

-- Herbert Agar A Time for Greatness, 1942


The biggest cause of trouble in the world today is that the stupid people are so sure about things and the intelligent folks are so full of doubts.

-- Bertrand Russell


The Colorado Indians experienced a ... culturally induced delusion when they climbed to a mountaintop to fast until the Great Spirit came to them. Every Indian boy who had to pass through this rite of puberty wasn't allowed to eat anything until he reported that the Great Spirit spoke to him. Every young man in the tribe actually hallucinated hearing and seeing the Great Spirit. But his hallucinations were not psychotic; it was simply something that the whole culture believed in to the point of mass delusion.

From Letting Go by Zev Wanderer and Tracy Cabot, p. 73


Reason is the greatest enemy that faith has: it never comes to the aid of spritual things, but--more frequently than not --struggles against the Divine Word....

Reason must be deluded, blinded, and destroyed. Faith must trample underfoot all reason, sense, and understanding, and whatever it sees must be put out of sight and ... know nothing but the word of God.

- Martin Luther


The Bible is a wonderful source of inspiration for those who do not understand it.

- George Santayana


For having lived long, I have experienced many instances of being obliged, by better information or fuller consideration, to change opinions, even on important subjects, which I once thought right but found to be otherwise.

- Benjamin Franklin - From the closing speech at the
Constitutional Convention of 1787


The deepest sin against the human mind is to believe things without evidence

-T. H. Huxley


Just because you explain something, doesn't mean you're right.

- John Stone


Religion began when the first scoundrel met the first fool.

- Voltaire


Life is a journey. It is not a guided tour.

- unknown


People who want to share their religious views with you almost never want you to share yours with them.

- Dave Barry


If there really is a God who created the entire universe with all of its glories, and He decides to deliver a message to humanity, He will not use, as His messenger, a person on cable TV with a bad hairstyle.

- Dave Barry


If, therefore, a man claims to know and speak of God, and carries you backward to the phraseology of some old mouldered nation in another country, in another world, believe him not.

- Ralph Waldo Emerson


Whoever says he knows the way, does not know the way.  - Lao Tze
A fact never went into partnership with a miracle. Truth scorns the assistance of wonders. A fact will fit every other fact in the universe, and that is how you can tell whether it is or is not a fact. A lie will not fit anything except another lie.

Robert G. Ingersoll


And the day will come, when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the Supreme Being as His Father, in the womb of a virgin, will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva, in the brain of Jupiter.

-Thomas Jefferson


It is possible to pay another man's debts on his behalf, but it is not possible to make a guilty man innocent by suffering in his place.

-Carl Lofmark, What is the Bible?


Faith is a cop-out. It is intellectual bankruptcy. If the only way you can accept an assertion is by faith, then you are conceding that it can't be taken on its own merits.

- Dan Barker


Anything you don't understand, Mr. Rankin, you attribute to God. God for you is where you sweep away all the mysteries of the world, all the challenges to our intelligence. You simply turn your mind off and say God did it.

- "Dr. Arroway" in Carl Sagan's Contact


But Faith, fanatic Faith, once wedded fast
To some dear falsehood, hugs it to the last.

- Thomas Moore, "The Veiled Prophet" iii 356


O ye Religious, discountenance every one among you who shall pretend to despise Art and Science!
...
I care not whether a man is Good or Evil; all that I care
Is whether he is a Wise man or a Fool. Go! put off Holiness
And put on Intellect.

- William Blake, "Jerusalem"


The greatest gift of apostasy from an absolutist religion is the expansive love you can finally feel for the various teachers in the world.

- "Jes January" (Deborah Stolworthy)


The threat of punishment for disbelief is the crowning touch of Christian misology. Believe in Jesus - regardless of evidence or justification - or be subjected to agonizing torture. With this theme reverberating throughout the New Testament, we have intellectual intimidation, transcendental blackmail in its purest form. Threats replace argumentation, and irrationality gains the edge over reason through an appeal to brute force. Man's ability to think and question becomes his most dangerous liability, and the intellectually frightened, docile, unquestioning believer is presented as the exemplification of moral perfection.

- George H. Smith Atheism: The Case Against God


He who will not reason is a bigot,
He who cannot is a fool,
He who dares not is a slave.

- William Drummond


When did I realize I was God? Well, I was praying and I suddenly realized that I was talking to myself.

- Peter Barnes, The Ruling Class


Losing an illusion makes you wiser than gaining a truth.

- Ludwig Börne


It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it.

- Albert Einstein in Albert Einstein: The Human Side, edited by
Helen Dukas (Einstein's secretary) and Banesh Hoffman


Nothing in this world or the next is a substitute for anything else; and if you find you must do without something, such as religious faith or philosophic belief, then you must just do without it.

- T. S. Eliot


Überzeugungen sind oft die gefährlichsten Feinde der Wahrheit.
[Certainty (that one is correct) is often the most dangerous enemy of the truth.]

- Friedrich Nietzsche


Der christliche Entschluß, die Welt häßlich und schlecht zu finden, hat die Welt häßlich und schlecht gemacht.
[Christians, determined to see the world as ugly and evil, have succeeded in making the world ugly and evil. ]

- Friedrich Nietzsche, Die fröhliche Wissenschaft


We hand folks over to God's mercy, and show none ourselves.

- George Eliot, Adam Bede Ch. 42


The Jewish sages also tell us that God dances when His children defeat Him in argument, when they stand on their feet and use their minds. So questions ... are worth asking. To ask them is a very fine kind of human behavior. If we keep demanding that God yield up His answers, perhaps some day we will understand them. And then we will be something more than clever apes, and we shall dance with God.

- Mary Doria Russell, The Sparrow


Teach children to revere that which they cannot understand. Teach them that to doubt is sin. Teach them that faith is superior to reason. Teach children these things if you will, but do not be surprised if they eventually replace your brand of irrationalism with some other. Without the guidance of a sharp, disciplined mind, they will be easy prey for whatever cult can capture their emotional fancy.

- George H. Smith, Atheism, Ayn Rand, and Other Heresies, p. 66


[T]o believe on faith is to defy and abandon the judgment of one's mind. Faith conflicts with reason. It cannot give you knowledge; it can only delude you into believing that you know more than you really do. Faith is intellectually dishonest, and it should be rejected by every person of integrity.

- George H. Smith, Atheism, Ayn Rand, and Other Heresies, p. 63


[T]o love truth, for truth's sake, is the principal part of human perfection in this world, and the seed-plot of all other virtues.

- John Locke, to Anthony Collins, The Works of John Locke, IX:271


Don't talk to me of miracles that happened 2000 years ago. Don't tell me of the greatness of your god. Show your god to others, as he lives through you.

- Gandhi


Der Gläubige läßt sich seinen Glauben nicht entreißen, nicht durch Argumente und nicht durch Verbote. Gelänge es aber bei einigen, so wäre es eine Grausamkeit. Wer durch Dezennien Schlafmittel genommen hat, kann natürlich nicht schlafen, wenn man ihm das Mittel entzieht.

[The Believer will not be deprived of his faith, either by arguments or by prohibitions. If it should happen, it would be extremely cruel: someone who has been taking sleeping pills for decades cannot go to sleep, of course, if he doesn't have his pills.]

- Sigmund Freud


Believing is easier than thinking. Hence so many more believers than thinkers.

- Bruce Calvert


A superstition is a premature explanation that overstays its time.

- George Iles


If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed.

- Albert Einstein


Ignorance is preferable to error, and he is less remote from the truth who believes nothing, than he who believes what is wrong.... It is always better to have no ideas than false ones; to believe nothing, than to believe what is wrong.

- Thomas Jefferson, Notes On the State of Virginia, 1782


I am against religion because it teaches us to be satisfied with not understanding the world.

- Richard Dawkins


The clergy know that I know that they know that they do not know.

- Robert G. Ingersoll


To err is human. To torture your children for an eternity is divine.

- John Quinley


Theology...is searching in a dark cellar at midnight for a black cat that isn't there.

- Robert Heinlein


Attempting to debate with a person who has abandoned reason is like giving medicine to the dead.

- Thomas Paine


Either we are not free and God the all-powerful is responsible for evil. Or we are free and responsible but God is not all-powerful. All the scholastic subtleties have neither added anything to nor subtracted anything from the acuteness of this paradox.

- Albert Camus


Die Geschichte läßt sich auf die Dauer nicht fälschen, die Legende vermag vor der wissenschaftlichen Forschung nicht standzuhalten, das dunkle Gewebe wird ans Licht gebracht und zerrissen, auch wenn es noch so kunstvoll und fein gesponnen war.
[History cannot be falsified forever. A legend has no defense against scientific inquiry: its dim fabric will be exposed to the light and torn apart, no matter how cleverly it has been woven.]

- Jakob Ruchti


To surrender to ignorance and call it God has always been premature, and it remains premature today.

- Isaac Asimov


The church says the earth is flat, but I know that it is round, for I have seen the shadow on the moon, and I have more faith in a shadow than in the church.

- Ferdinand Magellan


Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurrence of the improbable.

- H. L. Mencken


Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, lack of evidence.

- Richard Dawkins


If there is a sin against life, it consists perhaps not so much in despairing of life as in hoping for another life and in eluding the implacable grandeur of this life.

- Albert Camus


The most formidable weapon against errors of every kind is reason. I have never used any other, and I trust I never shall.

- Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason


Just as Christianity must destroy reason before it can introduce faith, so it must destroy happiness before it can introduce salvation.

- George H. Smith, Atheism: The Case Against God


We must believe in free will! We have no choice!

- Isaac Bashevis Singer


You're just jealous because the Voices are talking to me!

- unknown


It is so much easier to assume than to prove.
It is so much less painful to believe than to doubt.
There is such a charm in the repose of prejudice,
When no discordant voice jars upon the harmony of belief.
There is such a thrilling pain when cherished dreams are scattered
And old creeds abandoned,
That it is not surprising that men close their eyes to the unwelcome light.

- W. E. H. Lecky


When I became convinced that the universe was natural,
That all the ghosts and gods were myths,
There entered into my brain, into my soul, into every drop of my blood,
The sense, the feeling, the joy of freedom.
The walls of my prison crumbled and fell.
The dungeon was flooded with light
And all the bolts and bars and manacles turned to dust.
I was no longer a servant, a serf, or a slave.
There was for me no master in all the wide world, not even in infinite space.
I was free to think free to express my thoughts free to live in my own ideal.
Free to live for myself, and those I loved.
Free to use all my faculties, all my senses.
Free to spread imagination's wings,
Free to investigate, to guess, and dream and hope.
Free to judge and determine for myself.
Free to reject all ignorant and cruel creeds,
All the inspired books that savages have produced
And the barbarous legends of the past.
Free from sanctified mistakes and holy lies.
Free from the fear of eternal pain,
Free from the winged monsters of the night.
Free from devils, ghosts and gods.
For the first time I was free...
There were no prohibited places in all of the realm of thought.
No error, no space where fancy could not spread her painted wings.
No chains for my limbs.
No lashes for my back.
No flames for my flesh.
No Master's frown or threat,
No following in another's steps.
No need to bow or cringe or crawl, or utter lying words.
I was free; I stood erect and fearlessly, joyously faced all worlds.
My heart was filled with gratitude, with thankfulness,
And went out in love to all the heros, the thinkers who gave their lives

For liberty of hand and brain,
For the freedom of labor and thought to those who fell
On the fierce fields of war.
To those who died in dungeons, bound in chains,
To those by fire consumed,
To all the wise, the good, the brave of every land
Whose thoughts and deeds have given freedom to the sons of men.
And then, I vowed to grasp the torch that they held, and hold it high,
That light might conquer darkness still.

- Robert G. Ingersoll


Gods are fragile things; they may be killed by a whiff of science or a dose of common sense.

- Chapman Cohen


To substitute the fear of God for fear of the world is to exchange a finite terror for one that is infinite.

- Alan Watts


It must be remembered that we have only heard one side of the case. God has written all the books.

- Samuel Butler, Note Books, Ch 14


I am sincerely happy that the religion which Chance has given you has contributed to your peace of mind... perhaps it is better to be un-sane and happy rather than sane and unhappy. But it is best of all to be sane and happy.

- Arthur Clarke


One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we've been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We're no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It is simply too painful to acknowledge -- even to ourselves -- that we've been so credulous. (So the old bamboozles tend to persist as the new bamboozles rise.)

- Carl Sagan, "The Fine Art of Baloney Detection"


If merely 'feeling good' could decide, [then] drunkenness would be the supremely valid human experience.

- William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience


The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one.

- George Bernard Shaw


[The Bible] is full of interest. It has noble poetry in it; and some clever fables; and some blood-drenched history; and some good morals; and a wealth of obscenity; and upwards of a thousand lies.

- Mark Twain, Letters From The Earth


For ages, a deadly conflict has been waged between a few brave men and women of thought and genius upon the one side, and the great ignorant religious mass on the other. This is the war between Science and Faith. The few have appealed to reason, to honor, to law, to freedom, to the known, and to happiness here in this world. The many have appealed to prejudice, to fear, to miracle, to slavery, to the unknown, and to misery hereafter. The few have said, "Think!" The many have said, "Believe!"

- Robert Green Ingersoll, The Gods, 1872


A fanatic is a man who does what he thinks the Lord would do if He knew the facts of the case.

- "Mister Dooley" (Finley Peter Dunne)


Religious ideas are inflammatory in a way that I find difficult to understand. There are very few wars over the theory of relativity. Very few heated arguments, for that matter. Whereas, in Northern Ireland, they are killing one another over religion. When I told the people of Northern Ireland that I was an atheist, a woman in the audience stood up and said, "Yes, but is it the God of the Catholics or the God of the Protestants in whom you don't believe?"

- Quentin Crisp


If you know in advance what the truth will be, you will never find it.

- Machette Chute


Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.

- Steven Weinberg, Nobel Laureate in Physics


It is a peculiar habit of Christianity to conceive the most passionate and forgiving divinities and use them to sponsor wars.

- Barbara Tuchman, in The First Salute


In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won't find any rhyme or reason in it nor any justice. The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose , no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.

- Richard Dawkins, River Out of Eden, 1995


You tell me, doubt is Devil-born...
There lives more faith in honest doubt,
Believe me, than in half the creeds.

- Alfred, Lord Tennyson, In Memoriam, Canto 96


pray, v. To ask that the laws of the universe be annulled in behalf of a single petitioner, confessedly unworthy.

- Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary


I do not consider it an insult, but rather a compliment, to be called an agnostic. I do not pretend to know, where many ignorant men are sure - that is all that agnosticism means.

- Clarence Darrow, courtroom argument at the Scopes trial, 1925


As scarce as truth is, the supply has always been in excess of the demand.

- Josh Billings, Affurisms


We can be absolutely certain only about things we do not understand.

- Eric Hoffer in The True Believer


If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things.

- Rene Descartes, Principia Philosophica


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, The Sorrows of Young Werther


Writing science fiction for about a penny a word is no way to make a living. If you really want to make a million, the quickest way is to start your own religion.

- L. Ron Hubbard (science-fiction writer and founder of Scientology)
as quoted in L. Ron Hubbard by Bert Corydon and L. Ron Hubbard, Jr.


It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no God.

- Thomas Jefferson, "Notes on the State of Virginia"


There seems to be a terrible misunderstanding on the part of a great many people to the effect that when you cease to believe you may cease to behave.

- Louis Kronenberger, "Company Manners"


The greatest horrors of our world, from the executions in Iran to the brutalities of the IRA, are committed by people who are totally sincere.

- John Mortimer, quoted in The Observer


The infliction of cruelty with a good conscience is a delight to moralists. That is why they invented Hell.

- Bertrand Russell, Sceptical Essays


The atheist who believes in man and scorns God can be closer to holiness than the religionist who believes in God and scorns man.

The most reprehensible form of name-dropping is the public invocation of God by politicians.

Most people seem to value sincerity as a value more than I do. But sincerity is not an independent value, like truth. If you are wrong, the more sincere you are, the more damage you can do, and the more wrong-minded followers you are able to attract.

- Sidney Harris


Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing? then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?

- Epicurus


Say what you will about the sweet miracle of unquestioning faith, I consider a capacity for it terrifying and absolutely vile.

- Kurt Vonnegut


Strange times are these, in which we live, when old and young are taught in falsehood's school. And the one man who dares to tell the truth is called at once a lunatic and fool.

- Plato


[Although the following quote is about politics, it could be applied with equal validity to religion.]
The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed - and hence clamorous to be led to safety - by menacing them with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

- H.L. Mencken


I know that most men, including those at ease with problems of the greatest complexity, can seldom accept even the simplest and most obvious truth, if it be such as would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they have delighted in explaining to colleagues, which they proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabric of their lives.

- Leo Tolstoy


I believe that when I die I shall rot, and nothing of my ego will survive. I am not young, and I love life. But I should scorn to shiver with terror at the thought of annihilation. Happiness is none the less true happiness because it must come to an end, nor do thought and love lose their value because they are not everlasting.

- Bertrand Russell


The idea that there is one people in possession of the truth, one answer to the world's ills or one solution to humanity's needs has done untold harm throughout history.

- United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan
from his speech as he accepted the 2001 Nobel Peace Prize


Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.

- Blaise Pascal


You believe in a book that has talking animals, wizards, witches. demons, sticks turning into snakes, burning bushes, food falling from the sky, people walking on water, and all sorts of magical, absurd and primitive stories, and you say that we are the ones that need help?

- Mark Twain


An intelligent man does not need a god.

- Graham Greene, A Burnt-out Case


If we go back to the beginnings of things, we shall always find that ignorance and fear created the gods; that imagination, rapture and deception embellished them; that weakness worships them; that custom spares them; and that tyranny favors them in order to profit from the blindness of men.

- Paul Henri Thiry, Baron d'Holbach


Wherever I found religion in my life I found strife, the attempt of one individual or group to rule another in the name of God.

- Richard Wright, author of Black Boy


The naked will to power seemed always to walk in the wake of a hymn.

- Richard Wright, author of Black Boy


The Theologian may indulge the pleasing task of describing religion as she descended from Heaven, arrayed in her native purity. A more melancholy duty is imposed on the historian. He must discover the inevitable mixture of error and corruption which she contracted in a long residence upon earth, among a weak and degenerate race of beings.

- Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Chapter XV


Better by far to embrace the hard truth than a reassuring fable.

- Carl Sagan


Life in Lubbock, Texas, taught me two things: One is that God loves you and you're going to burn in hell. The other is that sex is the most awful, filthy thing on earth and you should save it for someone you love.

- Butch Hancock


Fear illusion's gifts; their haunting beauty often hides treachery.

- Brad L. Morin, Suddenly Strangers ch 13


You shall not accept any information, unless you verify it for yourself. I have given you the hearing, the eyesight, and the brain, and you are responsible for using them.

- Koran 17:36


Anger at queries about our beliefs is the body's warning signal: here lies unexamined and probably dangerous doctrinal baggage.

- Carl Sagan, Broca's Brain


The great trouble with religion - any religion - is that the religionist, having accepted certain propositions by faith, cannot thereafter judge those propositions by reason. One can bask at the warm fires of faith, or choose to live in the cold reality of reason; one cannot have both.

- Robert Heinlein, Friday


It is a truism that almost any sect, cult, or religion will legislate its creed into law if it acquires the political power to do so, and will follow it by suppressing opposition, subverting all education to seize early the minds of the young, and by killing, locking up, or driving underground all heretics.

-- Robert Heinlein, Revolt in 2100 (1953)


People are entitled to their own opinions but not to their own facts.

-- Daniel Patrick Moynihan


Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.

-- John Adams


If we're absolutely sure that our beliefs are right, and those of others are wrong; that we are motivated by good, and others by evil; that the King of the Universe speaks to us, and not to adherents of very different faiths; that it is wicked to challenge conventional doctrines or to ask searching questions; that our main job is to believe and obey – then the witch mania will recur in its infinite variations down to the time of the last man.

-- Carl Sagan, The Demon Haunted World p. 413


It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into.

-- Jonathan Swift


The highest courage is to dare to be yourself in the face of adversity. Choosing right over wrong, ethics over convenience, and truth over popularity…these are the choices that measure your life. Travel the path of integrity without looking back, for there is never a wrong time to do the right thing.

-- Unknown


I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken.

- Oliver Cromwell


I don't believe in God, but the world is just as warm, as rich, if not warmer and richer, when seen without a religious point of view.

- Ian McEwan


Man is a Religious Animal. He is the only Religious Animal. He is the only animal that has the True Religion - several of them. He is the only animal that loves his neighbor as himself and cuts his throat if his theology isn't straight.

- Mark Twain


The world is not an illusion. It only seems that way.

- Peter DeVries in Sauce For The Goose


When we are self-indulgent and uncritical, when we confuse hopes and facts, we slide into pseudoscience and superstition.

- Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World


Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.

- Martin Luther King, Jr., Speech at Civil Rights March on Washington, August 28, 1963


If once a man indulges himself in murder, very soon he comes to think little of robbing; and from robbing, he comes next to drinking and Sabbath-breaking, and from that to incivility and procrastination.

-Thomas DeQuincy


You were given the same explanation ... as everyone else - but it apparently doesn't satisfy you. You've heard it from infancy but have never managed to swallow it. You have the feeling something's been left out, glossed over. You have the feeling you've been lied to about something, and if you can, you'd like to know what it is...

- Daniel Quinn, Ishmael


I do not often debate the issue [religion]: debate requires reasoning, and faith lies beyond reason."

- Rafael Steinberg


If you don't change your beliefs, your life will be like this forever.   Is that good news?

- Douglas Adams


The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.

- Gloria Steinem


I am prepared to meet my Maker.  Whether my Maker is prepared for the great ordeal of meeting me is another matter.

- Sir Winston Churchill, on the eve of his 75th birthday


Scientific beliefs are supported by evidence, and they get results.   Myths and faiths are not and do not.

- Richard Dawkins


From the cowardice that shrinks from new truth; from the laziness that is content with half-truths; from the arrogance that thinks it knows all truth -- oh God of Truth deliver us!

- Unknown


What if nothing really matters? ... Or suppose everything matters.   Which would be worse?

- Bill Watterson, Calvin and Hobbes, July 30, 1995


I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.

- Thomas Jefferson

  This famous quote, inscribed in large letters above Jefferson's statue in the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C., is from a letter to Dr. Benjamin Rush, September 23, 1800. What is not generally known is that he wrote that comment in response to Dr. Rush's inquiry about his views on religion. He obviously included religion among the forms of tyranny.


Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, and imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch toward uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one-half the world fools and the other half hypocrites.

- Thomas Jefferson


My confidence in venturing into science lies in my basic belief that as in science so in Buddhism, understanding the nature of reality is pursued by means of critical investigation: if scientific analysis were conclusively to demonstrate certain claims in Buddhism to be false, then we must accept the findings of science and abandon those claims.

- the Dalai Lama, The Universe in a Single Atom


Religion is for people who are scared to go to hell. Spirituality is for people who have already been there.

- Bonnie Raitt


With devotion's visage and pious action we do sugar o'er the devil himself.

- Thomas Fuller (1608 - 1661)


If you talk to God, you are praying; if God talks to you, you have schizophrenia.

- Thomas Szasz (professor of psychiatry)


Truth is an elusive critter, but there is an external reality that science looks at, and if we ignore the objective reality outside of us, we are somewhere between autistic, ignorant, and psychotic.

- Michael Hoyt


All religions are founded on the fear of the many and the cleverness of the few.

- Stendhal


The great thing to remember is that the mind of man cannot be enlightened permanently by merely teaching him to reject some particular set of superstitions. There is an infinite supply of other superstitions always at hand; and the mind that desires such things — that is, the mind that has not trained itself to the hard discipline of reasonableness and honesty, will, as soon as its devils are cast out, proceed to fill itself with their relations.

- Gilbert Murray, Five Stages of Greek Religion (1935)


All the faith in the world cannot make truth from an untruth.

- unknown


[addressed to a believer: ]
I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.

- Stephen Henry Roberts


These are the root of all evil: fear of god, of death, of pain, and desire which goes beyond what nature requires for a happy life.

- Diogenes of Oinoanda


It's not what you don't know that hurts you. It's what you know that just ain't so.

- Leroy "Satchel" Paige


One man’s theology is another man’s belly laugh.

- Robert A. Heinlein


I care what is actually true even more than what I hope is true.

- Michael Shermer


Personal experiences have two qualities. They are wholly compelling to the person who has them and they are often wrong. They make a terrible base from which to generalize. That is why we invented something that doesn't depend solely on personal experiences. It is called science.

- Gerald Bracey


Morality is doing what is right, no matter what you are told. Religion is doing what you are told, no matter what is right.

- H.L. Mencken


Ubi dubitum, ibi libertas ("Where [there is] skepticism, there [is found] freedom")

- Latin proverb, source unknown


Christianity: The belief that some cosmic Jewish Zombie who was his own father can make you live forever if you symbolically eat his flesh and telepathically tell him that you accept him as your master, so he can remove an evil force from your soul that is present in humanity because a rib-woman was convinced by a talking snake to eat from a magical tree.

- Source unknown


Most of what we currently hold sacred is not sacred for any reason other than that it was thought sacred yesterday.

- Sam Harris


Faith is selective gullibility, a virus, every drop of which contaminates reason and honesty with the comfortable poison of self-deception.

- W. Cassity-Guilliom


Knowledge doesn't always tell you what you want. Faith does.

- poster "Razortooth" on Recovery from Mormonism


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