Monday, October 22, 2007

we’ve moved!

Please visit the Church of Reason at www.goaloftruth.blogspot.com

While you’re here please enjoy our collection of quotes.

quotes

A
Douglas Adams
“Isn't it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?”


Edward Abbey
“Fantastic doctrines (like Christianity or Islam or Marxism) require unanimity of belief. One dissenter casts doubt on the creed of millions. Thus the fear and hate; thus the torture chamber, the iron stake, the gallows, the labor camp, the psychiatric ward.”


Brooks Adams (1848‐1927)
“Thought is one of the manifestations of human energy, and among the earlier and simpler phases of thought, two stand conspicuous—Fear and Greed. Fear, which, by stimulating the imagination, creates a belief in an invisible world, and ultimately develops a priesthood; and Greed, which dissipates energy in war and trade.”

“The power of the priesthood lies in the submission to a creed. In their onslaughts on rebellion they have exhausted human torments; nor, in their lust for earthly dominion, have they felt remorse, but rather joy, when slaying Christ’s enemies and their own.”


Felix Adler
“For more than three thousand years men have quarreled concerning the formulas of their faith. The earth has been drenched with blood shed in this cause, the face of day darkened with the blackness of the crimes perpetrated in its name. There have been no dirtier wars than religious wars, no bitterer hates than religious hates, no fiendish cruelty like religious cruelty; no baser baseness than religious baseness. It has destroyed the peace of families, turned the father against the son, the brother against the brother. And for what? Are we any nearer to unanimity? On the contrary, diversity within the churches and without has never been so widespread as at present. Sects and factions are multiplying on every hand, and every new schism is but the parent of a dozen others.”
-founding address of New York Society for Ethical Culture, May 15, 1876


Steve Allen
“As I argued in Beloved Son, a book about my son Brian and the subject of religious communes and cults, one result of proper early instruction in the methods of rational thought will be to make sudden mindless conversions—to anything—less likely. Brian now realizes this and has, after eleven years, left the sect he was associated with. The problem is that once the untrained mind has made a formal commitment to a religious philosophy—and it does not matter whether that philosophy is generally reasonable and high‐minded or utterly bizarre and irrational—the powers of reason are suprisingly ineffective in changing the believers mind.”

“It was only when I finally undertook to read the Bible through from beginning to end that I perceived that its depiction of the Lord God--whom I had always viewed as the very embodiment of perfection--was actually that of a monstrous, vengeful tyrant, far exceeding in bloodthirstiness and insane savagery the depredations of Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Attila the Hun, or any other mass murderer of ancient or modern history.”
—Steve Allen on the Bible, Religion & Morality, 1990


Anaxagorus, ca. 475 BC
“Everything has a natural explanation. The moon is not a god but a great rock and the sun a hot rock.”


Jan Anouilh
“Every man thinks God is on his side. The rich and powerful know he is.”


Susan B. Anthony
“I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do because I notice it always coincides with their own desires.”

“To no form of religion is woman indebted for one impulse of freedom…”

“Cautious, careful people, always casting about to preserve their reputation and social standing, never can bring about a reform. Those who are really in earnest must be willing to be anything or nothing in the world's estimation, and publicly and privately, in season and out, avow their sympathy with despised and persecuted ideas and their advocates, and bear the consequences.”


Karen Armstrong
A God who kept tinkering with the universe was absurd; a God who interfered with human freedom and creativity was tyrant. If God is seen as a self in a world of his own, an ego that relates to a thought, a cause separate from its effect, "he" becomes a being, not Being itself. An omnipotent, all-knowing tyrant is not so different from earthly dictators who make everything and everybody mere cogs in the machine which they controlled. An atheism that rejects such a God is amply justified.
—A History of God, pg. 383, speaking about theologian Paul Tillich

Religion is not a nice thing. It is potentially a very dangerous thing because it involves a heady complex of emotions, desires, yearnings and fears.
—in an interview in The San Francisco Chronicle's offices, quoted in (Chronicle Religion Writer) Don Lattin, "Televangelist, Fundamentalists believe their strict morality is the only answer" (September 23, 2001)

Whatever conclusions we reach about the reality of God, the history of this idea must tell us something important about the human mind and the nature of our aspiration.
—A History of God

A mode of knowledge rooted in silence and intuitive insight which gives meaning to life but which cannot be explained in rational terms.
—defining myth from which mystery and mysticism derive, in The Battle for God, (New York: Ballentine Books, 2000), p. xv., quoted from Victor J. Stenger, Has Science Found God? (2001)

Myth was regarded as primary; it was concerned with what was thought to be timeless and constant in our existence. Myth looked back to the origins of life, to the foundations of culture, and to the deepest levels of the human mind. Myth was not concerned with practical matters, but with meaning. Unless we find some significance in our lives, we mortal men and women fall very easily into despair. The mythos of a society provided people with a context that made sense of their day-to-day lives; it directed their attention to the eternal and the universal.
— The Battle for God, (New York: Ballentine Books, 2000), p. xv., quoted from Victor J. Stenger, Has Science Found God? (2001)

The human idea of God has a history, since it has always meant something slightly different to each group of people who have used it at various points of time. The idea of God formed in one generation by one set of human beings could be meaningless in another. Indeed, the statement "I believe in God" has no objective meaning, as such, but like any other statement only means something in context, when proclaimed by a particular community. Consequently, there is no one unchanging idea contained in the word "God"; instead, the word contains a whole spectrum of meanings, some of which are contradictory or even mutally exclusive. Had the notion of God not had this flexibility, it would not have survived to become one of the great human ideas. When one conception of God has ceased to have meaning or relevance, it has been quietly discarded and replaced by a new theology. A fundamentalist would deny this, since fundamentalism is antihistorical: it believes that Abraham, Moses and the later prophets all experienced their God in exactly the same way as people do today. Yet if we look at our [three] religions, it becomes clear that there is no objective view of "God": each generation has to create the image of God that works for it.
—A History of God


Isaac Asimov
"Properly read, the Bible is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived."

"I am an atheist, out and out. It took me a long time to say it. I've been an atheist for years and years, but somehow I felt it was intellectually unrespectable to say that one is an atheist, because it assumed knowledge that one didn't have. Smehow it was better to say one was a humanist or agnostic. I don't have the evidence to prove that God doesn't exist, but I so strongly suspect that he doesn't that I don't want to waste my time."

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

“Imagine the people who believe such things and who are not ashamed to ignore, totally, all the patient findings of thinking minds through all the centures since the Bible was written. And it is these ignorant people, the most uneducated, the most unimaginative, the most unthinking among us, who would make themselves the guides and leaders of us all; who would force their feeble and childish beliefs on us; who would invade our schools and libraries and homes. I personally resent it bitterly.”

“One would suppose that the battle for religious liberty was won in the United States two hundred years ago. However, in the time since, and right now, powerful voices are always raised in favor of bigotry and thought control. It is useful, then, to have a compendium of the thoughts of great men and women of all faiths (and of none) on the subject, to convince us that we men and woman of freedom are not and never have been alone.”

“[I]f I were not an atheist, I would believe in a God who would choose to save people on the basis of the totality of their lives and not the pattern of their words. I think he would prefer an honest and righteous atheist to a TV preacher whose every word is God, God, God, and whose every deed is foul, foul, foul.”

"I must say that I stand amazed at the highly intelligent people who have taken so much of the Bible so seriously"

"Nobody but a dedicated Christian could possibly read the gospels and not see them as a tissue of nonsense"

"I would not be satisfied to have my kids choose to be religious without trying to argue them out of it, just as I would not be satisfied to have them decide to smoke regularly or engage in any other practice I considered detrimental to mind or body"

"I am prejudiced against religion because I know the history of religion, and it is the history of human misery and of black crimes"

“Just the force of rational argument in the end cannot be withstood.”


P.W. Atkins
…Through fear of being shown to be vacuous, religion denies the awesome power of human comprehension. It seeks to thwart, by encouraging awe in things unseen, the disclosure of the emptiness of faith. Religion, in contrast to science, deploys the repugnant view that the world is too big for our understanding. Science, in contrast to religion, opens up the great questions of being to rational discussion, to discussion with the prospect of resolution and elucidation. Science, above all, respects the power of the human intellect. Science is the apotheosis of the intellect and the consummation of the Rennaissance. Science respects more deeply the potential of humanity than religion ever can.”
-The Limitless Power of Science essay in Nature’s Imagination, 1995



B
Julian Baggini
“Atheism is the throwing off of childish illusions and acceptance that we have to make our own way in the world. We have no divine parents who always protect us and who are unquestionably good. The world is instead a big and scary place, but also one where there are opportunities to go out and create lives for ourselves.

The loss of childhood innocence is a double-edged sword. There is something to lament and something to fear, hence the dark tinge of an atheist belief system which is akin to this loss. But it is also the precondition for meaningful adult lives. In the same way, unless we cast off the innocence of supernatural world views, we cannot live in a way that does justice to our nature as finite mortal creatures. Atheism is about moving on and taking the opportunities that life affords, and that carries with it risks of failure and the rejection of reassuring illusions.

It is this realism that means atheism cannot ever be presented as an undiluted, positive joy. Real life is about accepting ups and downs, the good and the bad, the possibility of failure as well as the ambition to succeed. Atheism speaks to the truth about our human nature because it recognizes all this and does not seek to shield us from the truth by myth and superstition.
-Atheism: A Very Short Introduction, pg 111


George Bernanos
“To be able to find joy in another's joy: that is the secret of happiness.”


Edmund Burke
But whoever is a genuine follower of Truth, keeps his eye steady upon his guide, indifferent whither he is led, provided that she is the leader.
- A Vindication of Natural Society


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


Joel Barlow
“. . . the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion . . .”
— Treaty of Tripoli, negotiated and co-written by Joel Barlow, U.S. Counsel to Algiers, ratified in 1797


Jeremy Bentham
“No power of government ought to be employed in the endeavor to establish any system or article of belief on the subject of religion. . . . in no instance has a system in regard to religion been ever established, but for the purpose, as well as with the effect of its being made an instrument of intimidation, corruption, and delusion, for the support of depredation and oppression in the hands of governments.”
Constitutional Code


Ambrose Bierce
Christian, n. One who believes that the New Testament is a divinely inspired book admirably suited to the spiritual needs of his neighbor. One who follows the teachings of Christ insofar as they are not inconsistent with a life of sin.

Evangelist, n. A bearer of good tidings, particularly (in a religious sense) such as assure us of our own salvation and the damnation of our neighbors.

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

Infidel, n. In New York, one who does not believe in the Christian religion; in Constantinople, one who does.

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

Religion, n. A daughter of Hope and Fear, explaining to Ignorance the nature of the Unknowable.

Reverence, n. The spiritual attitude of a man to a god and a dog to a man.

Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited.
-- The Devil's Dictionary (1906)


Georges Bizet
“Religion is a means of exploitation employed by the strong against the weak; religion is a cloak of ambition, injustice and vice . . . . Truth breaks free, science is popularized, and religion totters; soon it will fall, in the course of centuries--that is, tomorrow. . . . In good time we shall only have to deal with reason.”
- from Bizet, by William Dean. Colier Books, 1962


Max Born, German physicist
“The belief that there is only one truth and that oneself is in possession of it seems to me the deepest root of all evil that is in the world.”


Hypatia Bradlaugh Bonner
“Heresy makes for progress.”
- Motto of Reformer, a British journal launched in 1897 by Hypatia Bradlaugh Bonner.


Simone de Beauvoir
“Man enjoys the great advantage of having a God endorse the codes he writes; and since man exercises a sovereign authority over woman, it is especially fortunate that this authority has been vested in him by the Supreme Being. For the Jews, Mohammedans, and the Christians, among others, man is master by divine right; the fear of God, therefore, will repress any impulse toward revolt in the downtrodden female.”
-"Situation and Character," The Second Sex (1949, translated and edited by H.M. Parshley, 1953)


Charles Bradlaugh
“I maintain that thoughtful Atheism affords greater possibility for human happiness than any system yet based on, or possible to be founded on, Theism, and that the lives of true Atheists must be more virtuous--because more human--than those of the believers in Deity, . . .

Atheism, properly understood, is no mere disbelief; is in no wise a cold, barren negative; it is, on the contrary, a hearty, fruitful affirmation of all truth, and involves the positive assertion of action of highest humanity.”
-"A Plea for Atheism," Humanity's Gain from Unbelief (1929)


The Rev. Daniel Budd
“Practically the entire Western religious tradition has learned to quarrel about God all too well. History is full of far too many examples of how we make up definitions about who and what God is, declare them definitive, proclaim our perspective to be primary, and then proceed to mistreat, murder and maim in the name of this god, to separate and divide people based upon these beliefs, to justify bigotry and wars and crusades and progroms, to demean and belittle, to strip dignity and integrity from any who do not share this particular tiny, narrow, brittle and rigid view of this Great Spirit of Life, of the Engendering Energy of the Universe, of the Mystery, of the Ground of Being. ”
—from a 2000 sermon


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


Andrew Carnegie
“The whole scheme of Christian Salvation is diabolical as revealed by the creeds. An angry God, imagine such a creator of the universe. Angry at what he knew was coming and was himself responsible for. Then he sets himself about to beget a son, in order that the child should beg him to forgive the Sinner. This however he cannot or will not do. He must punish somebody--so the son offers himself up & our creator punishes the innocent youth, never heard of before--for the guilty and became reconciled to us. . . . . I decline to accept Salvation from such a fiend.”


Richard Carrier
“[Philosophy] should be our first if not only religion: a religion wherein worship is replaced with curiosity, devotion with diligence, holiness with sincerity, ritual with study, and scripture with the whole world and the whole of human learning. The philosopher regards it as tantamount to a religious duty to question all things, and to ground her faith in what is well-investigated and well-proved, rather than what is merely well-asserted or well-liked. Instead of aligning herself with this or that view and keeping only like-minded company, she mingles and discusses all views with everyone. And above all, she commits herself to the constant study and application of language, logic, and method, and seeks always to perfect, by testing and correcting, her total view of all things.”


William Ellery Channing
To live content with small means; to seek elegance rather than luxury, and refinement rather than fashion; to be worthy, not respectable, and wealthy, not rich; to study hard, think quietly, talk gently, act frankly; to listen to the stars and birds, to babes and sages, with open heart; to bear on cheerfully, do all bravely, awaiting occasions, worry never; in a word to, like the spiritual, unbidden and unconscious, grow up through the common.


Celsus
“Clearly the Christians have used ... myths ... in fabricating the story of Jesus' birth'…It is clear to me that the writings of the Christians are a lie and that your fables are not well-enough constructed to conceal this monstrous fiction."
—On The True Doctrine, c 178 AD


Arthur C. Clarke
“Religion is the most malevolent of all mind viruses. We should get rid of it as quick as we can.”
—Popular Science, Aug. 2004


Samuel Taylor Coleridge
“Not one man in ten thousand has goodness of heart or strength of mind to be an atheist.”
- letter to Thomas Allsop, c. 1820


August Comte, the "father" of sociology
"The law is this: that each of our leading conceptions -- each branch of our knowledge -- passes successively through three different theoretical conditions: the Theological, or fictitious; the Metaphysical, or abstract; and the Scientific, or positive."

“All good intellects have repeated, since Bacon's time, that there can be no real knowledge but which is based on observed facts.”
-The Positive Philosophy


George Costanza
"Jerry, just remember, it's not a lie if you believe it."
-from Seinfeld


Quentin Crisp
“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?' ”


Michael Crichton
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. The characteristic human trait is not awareness but conformity, and the characteristic result is religious warfare. Other animals fight for territory or food; but, uniquely in the animal kingdom, human beings fight for their 'beliefs.' The reason is that beliefs guide behavior, which has evolutionary importance among human beings. But at a time when our behavior may well lead us to extinction, I see no reason to assume we have any awareness at all. We are stubborn, self-destructive conformists. Any other view of our species is just a self-congratulatory delusion.
-The Lost World


D
Clarence Darrow
“You can only protect your liberties in this world by protecting the other man’s freedom. You can only be free if I am free.”

“The fear of God is not the beginning of wisdom. The fear of God is the death of wisdom. Skepticism and doubt lead to study and investigation, and investigation is the beginning of wisdom. The modern world is the child of doubt and inquiry, as the ancient world was the child of fear and faith.”


Charles Darwin
“I can indeed hardly see how anyone ought to wish Christianity to be true; for if so the plain language of the text seems to show that the men who do not believe, and this would include my Father, Brother, and almost all my best friends, will be everlastingly punished. And this is a damnable doctrine.”


Leonardo da Vinci,
“Iron rusts from disuse, stagnant water loses its purity and in cold weather becomes frozen; even so does inaction sap the vigor of the mind.”
~Notebooks, 1508


Richard Dawkins
"It is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence."

"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, the lack of evidence."

“We are all atheists about most of the gods that humanity has ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further.”

“We are built as gene machines and cultured as meme machines, but we have the power to turn against our creators. We, alone on earth, can rebel against the tyranny of the selfish replicators.”

“Nearly all peoples have developed their own creation myth, and the Genesis story is just the one that happened to have been adopted by one particular tribe of Middle Eastern herders. It has no more special status than the belief of a particular West African tribe that the world was created from the excrement of ants.”


Frederick Douglass
“I prayed for twenty years but received no answer until I prayed with my legs.”


Earl Doherty
“The most popular expression of religious faith during the era which saw the rise of Christianity was not the official state religion of "Olympian" gods, but the salvation cults known as the "mystery religions". Each of these had its savior god or goddess, such as Mithras, Dionysos, Attis, Isis, Osiris. Most of these cults possessed myths in which the savior deity had overcome death in some way (not necessarily raised from it), or performed some act whose effects guaranteed for the initiates good fortune in this world and a happy existence in the next. Their rituals included communal sacred meals, often involving such things as bread and wine and bearing strong resemblance to Christian sacramentalism (Paul’s Lord’s Supper myth may well have been influenced by Mithraic counterparts), and the mystical relationships between initiate and deity are very similar to those expounded by Paul in his branch of Christian belief. While Christianity and the pagan cults interacted on one another as time went on, both can be regarded as more or less independent branches of the same broad, ancient-world tree.”...
“We are led to conclude that the beginning of the Christian movement was not a response to any human individual at one time and location. Christianity was born in a thousand places, out of the fertile religious and philosophical soil of the time, expressing faith in an intermediary Son who was a channel to God, providing knowledge, love and salvation. It sprang up in many innovative minds like Paul’s, among independent communities and sects all over the empire, producing a variety of forms and doctrines. Some of it tapped into traditional Jewish Messiah expectation and apocalyptic sentiment, other expressions were tied to more Platonic ways of thinking. Greek mystery concepts also fed into the volatile mix. Many groups (though not all) adopted the term "Christ" for their divine figure, as well as the name "Jesus", which in Hebrew has the meaning of "Savior". Paul and the Jerusalem brotherhood around Peter and James were simply one strand of this broad salvation movement, although an important and ultimately very influential one. Later, in a mythmaking process of its own, the Jerusalem circle with Paul as its satellite was adopted as the originating cell of the whole Christian movement.”
—from the Jesus Puzzle


Dr. George A. Dorsey
“Religion is a disease. It is born of fear; it compensates through hate in the guise of authority, revelation. Religion, enthroned in a powerful social organization, can become incredibly sadistic. No religion has been more cruel than the Christian.”


E
Thomas Edison [1847-1931] American inventor
"I have never seen the slightest scientific proof of the religious ideas of heaven and hell, of future life for individuals, or of a personal God."

"I do not believe that any type of religion should ever be introduced into the public schools of the United States."

"So far as religion of the day is concerned, it is a damned fake... Religion is all bunk."

“I cannot believe in the immortality of the soul. . . . I am an aggregate of cells, as, for instance, New York City is an aggregate of individuals. Will New York City go to heaven? . . . . No; nature made us--nature did it all--not the gods of the religions.”
The New York Times, Oct. 2, 1910 ("No Immortality of the Soul" Says Thomas A. Edison, interview by Edward Marshall)


Albert Einstein
"I am a deeply religious nonbeliever.... This is a somewhat new kind of religion."

"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 religion than it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it."

"I cannot imagine a God who rewards and punishes the objects of his creation, whose purposes are modeled after our own -- a God, in short, who is but a reflection of human frailty. Neither can I believe that the individual survives the death of his body, although feeble souls harbor such thoughts through fear or ridiculous egotism."

"I do not believe in the immortality of the individual, and I consider ethics to be an exclusively human concern with no superhuman authority behind it."

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

“The world we have created is a product of our thinking; it cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”

“The further the spiritual evolution of mankind advances, the more certain it seems to me that the path to genuine religiosity does not lie through the fear of life, and the fear of death, and blind faith, but through striving after rational knowledge.”

"Our situation on this earth seems strange. Every one of us appears here involuntary and uninvited for a short stay, without
knowing the whys and the wherefore. In our daily lives we only feel that man is here for the sake of others, for those whom we love and for many other beings whose fate is connected with our own." ... "The most beautiful and deepest experience a man can have is the sense of the mysterious. It is the underlying principle of religion as well as all serious endeavour in art and science. He who never had this experience seems to me, if not dead, then at least blind. To sense that behind anything that can be experienced there is a something that our mind cannot grasp and whose beauty and sublimity reaches us only indirectly and as a feeble reflection, this is religiousness. In this sense I am religious. To me it suffices to wonder at these secrets and to attempt humbly to grasp with my mind a mere image of the lofty structure of all that there is."
Einstein's speech 'My Credo' to the German League of Human Rights, Berlin, autumn 1932, Einstein: A Life in Science , Michael White and John Gribbin , Page 262



Ralph Waldo Emerson
“As men’s prayers are a disease of the will, so are their creeds a disease of the intellect.”


Epicurus, Greek philosopher (341-270 B.C.E.)
“The gods can either take away evil from the world and will not, or, being willing to do so cannot; or they neither can nor will, or lastly, they are able and willing.

“If they have the will to remove evil and cannot, then they are not omnipotent. If they can but will not, then they are not benevolent. If they are neither able nor willing, they are neither omnipotent nor benevolent.

“Lastly, if they are both able and willing to annihilate evil, why does it exist?”
—Aphorisms


F
G.W. Foote
“Who burnt heretics? Who roasted or drowned millions of 'witches'? Who built dungeons and filled them? Who brought forth cries of agony from honest men and women that rang to the tingling stars? Who burnt Bruno? Who spat filth over the graves of Paine and Voltaire? The answer is one word--CHRISTIANS.”
- "Are Atheists Wicked?," chapter from Flowers of Freethought (1894)

“The merits and services of Christianity have been industriously extolled by its hired advocates. Every Sunday its praises are sounded from myriads of pulpits. It enjoys the prestige of an ancient establishment and the comprehensive support of the State. It has the ear of rulers and the control of education. Every generation is suborned in its favor. Those who dissent from it are losers, those who oppose it are ostracised; while in the past, for century after century, it has replied to criticism with imprisonment, and to scepticism with the dungeon and the stake. By such means it has induced a general tendency to allow its pretensions without inquiry and its beneficence without proof. ”
--Preface, Crimes of Christianity, by G.W. Foote and J.M. Wheeler


John Fowles
“Being an atheist is a matter not of moral choice, but of human obligation.”
quoted in The New York Times Book Review (May 31, 1998)


Ludwig Feuerbach
“It is not as in the Bible, that God created man in his own image. But, on the contrary, man created God in his own image.”


Benjamin Franklin [1706-1790]
"The way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason."

"Lighthouses are more helpful than churches."

"I have found Christian dogma unintelligible. Early in life, I absenteed myself from Christian assemblies."



Sigmund Freud
"It would be very nice if there were a God who created the world and was a benevolent providence, and if there were a moral order in the universe and an after-life; but it is a very striking fact that all this is exactly as we are bound to wish it to be."

“A religion, even if it calls itself the religion of love, must be hard and unloving to those who do not belong to it.”
-Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego, 1921

“a personal God is, psychologically, nothing other than an exalted father” (this belief is) “so patently infantile and so foreign to reality, that…it is painful to think the great majority of mortals will never rise above this view of life.”



Gandhi
“To give pleasure to a single heart by a single act is better than a thousand heads bowed in prayer.”



Timothy Frecke and Peter Gandy
“The stories told about Osiris-Dionysus will no doubt sound familiar. He is the Son of God who is born to a virgin on the 25th of December before three shepherds. He is a prophet who offers his followers the chance to be born again through the rites of baptism. He is a wonderworker who raises the dead and miraculously turns water into wine at a marriage ceremony. He is God incarnate who dies at Easter, sometimes through crucifixion, but who resurrects on the third day. He is a savior who offers his followers redemption through partaking in a meal of bread and wine, symbolic of his body and blood. The Jesus story is a synthesis of the Jewish myth of the Messiah Joshua (in Greek Jesus) with these Pagan myths of the dying and resurrecting Godman.”
—The Jesus Mysteries

“The historical figure of Jesus has been so central to Western culture that it is hard to question his existence. As soon as we hear his name we can see him in our mind's eye, in his flowing white robes, with long hair and a beard. Yet this picture of Jesus was not created until the 8th century. Early portrayals of Jesus show him clean-shaven with short hair and wearing a Roman tunic. St Paul says that long hair disgraces a man, so presumably his image of Jesus was not the same as ours.”
—The Jesus Mysteries

“The fact is that everything we think we know about Jesus, like this romantic picture of the bearded savior, is a creation of the human imagination. Actually there is barely a shred of evidence for the existence of an historical Jesus and this dissolves on closer inspection. Paul, the earliest Christian source, shows no knowledge of an historical man, only a mystical Christ. The gospels have been thoroughly discredited as eyewitness reports. Other bits of traditional evidence, such as references to Jesus by the Jewish historian Josephus, have been shown to be later forgeries. If solid evidence had existed, there would have been no need to have created such fabrications.”

[Of hell] "The more enlightened sages of the Mysteries viewed such horrors as merely stories to encourage better moral behavior. Plutarch calls the terrors of the Underworld an 'improving myth'. The Christian philosopher Origen likewise argued that the literal terrors of hell were false, but they ought to be publicized in order to scare simpler believers"
—The Jesus Mysteries

“Today it may seem outrageous to claim that Christianity evolved from Paganism and that the Jesus story, like Genesis, is an allegorical myth. But tomorrow this will be obvious and uncontentious. Christianity did not arrive as a unique divine intervention. IT EVOLVED FROM THE PAST, LIKE EVERYTHING ELSE. There are no sudden breaks in history, only a continuum of change. The ancient Pagan Mysteries did not die. They transformed into something new—into Christianity.”
-The Jesus Mysteries p 254-55


Margaret Fuller
“Give me truth; cheat me by no illusion.”


Gustave Flaubert
“And I can't admit of an old boy God who takes walks in his garden with a cane in his hand, who lodges his friends in the belly of whales, dies uttering a cry, and rises again after three days; things absurd in themselves, and completely opposed, moreover, to all physical laws, which proves to us, by the way, that priests have always wallowed in squalid ignorance, and tried to drag whole nations down after them.”
-Pharmacist in Madame Bovary



G
Helen H. Gardner, 1853-1925
Every earnest thought, like every earnest thinker, adds something to the wealth of the world. Blind belief in the thought of another produces only hopeless mediocrity. Individual effort, not mere acceptance, marks the growth of the mind. The most fatal blow to progress is slavery of the intellect. The most sacred right of humanity is the right to think, and next to the right to think is the right to express that thought without fear. I believe in honesty. I believe that a Church has no right to teach what it does not know. I believe that a clean life and a tender heart are worth more to this world than all the faith and all the gods of Time. I believe that this world needs all our best efforts and earnest endeavors twenty-four hours every day. I believe that if our labors were needed in another world we should be in another world; so long as we are in this one I believe in making the best and the most of the materials we have on hand. I believe that fear of a god cripples men’s intellects more than any other influence. I believe that Humanity needs and should have all our time, efforts, love, worship, and tenderness. I believe that one world is all we can deal with at a time. I believe that, if there is a future life, the best possible preparation for it is to do the very best we can here and now. I believe that love for our fellow-men is infinitely nobler, better, and more necessary than love for God. I believe that men, women, and children need our best thoughts, our tenderest consideration, and our earnest sympathy. I believe that it is better to build one happy home here than to invest in a thousand churches which deal with a hereafter.


“I do not know of any divine commands. I do know of most important human ones. I do not know the needs of a god or of another world. . . . I do know that women make shirts for seventy cents a dozen in this one. I do know that the needs of humanity and this world are infinite, unending, constant, and immediate. They will take all our time, our strength, our love, and our thoughts; and our work here will be only then begun.”
-Men, Women and Gods (1885).


John Galsworthy
“He was in essence pagan: All was right with his world! His love was absorbed by Nature, and his wonder by the Great Starry Scheme he felt all around. This was God to him; for it was ever in the presence of the stars that he was most moved to a sense of divine order. Looking up at those tremulous cold companions he seemed more reverent, and awed, than ever he was in the face of creeds or his fellow man. Whether stirred by the sheer beauty of Night, or by its dark immensity swarming with those glittering worlds, he would stand silent, and then, perhaps, say wistfully: 'What little bits of things we are! Poor little wretches!' Yes, it was then that he really worshipped, adoring the great wonders of Eternity. No one ever heard him talk with conviction of a future life. He was far too self-reliant to accept what he was told, save by his own inner voice; and that did not speak to him with certainty. In fact, as he grew old, to be uncertain of all such high things was part of his real religion; it seemed to him, I think, impertinent to pretend to intimate knowledge of what was so much bigger than himself.”
"A Portrait," an essay about an unnamed 80-year-old man


Martin Gardner
“. . . bad science contributes to the steady dumbing down of our nation. Crude beliefs get transmitted to political leaders and the result is considerable damage to society. We see this happening now in the rapid rise of the religious right and how it has taken over large segments of the Republican Party. I think fundamentalist and Pentecostalist Pat Robertson is a far greater menace to America than, say, Jesse Helms who will soon be gone and forgotten.”
-Skeptical Inquirer, March/April 1998


William Lloyd Garrison,
“Why go to the Bible [about woman suffrage]? What question was ever settled by the Bible? What question of theology or any other department?

The human mind is greater than any book. The mind sits in judgment on every book. If there be truth in the book, we take it; if error, we discard it. Why refer this to the Bible? In this country, the Bible has been used to support slavery and capital punishment; while in the old countries, it has been quoted to sustain all manner of tyranny and persecution. All reforms are anti-Bible.”
-remarks at the 5th national woman's rights conference in Philadelphia on Oct. 18, 1854. History of Woman Suffrage, Vol. 1, pp. 382-383)


Galileo Galilei
“I have been . . . suspected of heresy, that is, of having held and believed that the Sun is the center of the universe and immovable, and that the earth is not the center of the same, and that it does move . . . I abjure with a sincere heart and unfeigned faith, I curse and detest the said errors and heresies, and generally all and every error and sect contrary to the Holy Catholic church.”
Galileo Galilei's Recantation, June 22, 1633


Marshall J. Gauvin
“[I]f the Devil is only a myth and hell but a figure of speech, the authority of the New Testament falls to the ground. With the Devil and hell gone, salvation loses its meaning; the savior is left without an office; the atonement remains unperformed; the wrath of God resolves itself into a priestly function—Christianity is seen to be not a divine revelation, but a gross superstition that has, for nearly two thousand years, deceived, betrayed and martyred mankind.”
–From foreward to the Biography of Satan by Kersey Graves, 1924


Anne Nicol Gaylor
“There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.”


Edmond de Goncourt
“If there is a God, atheism must seem to Him as less of an insult than religion.”


Hermann Goering
"Why of course the people don't want war. Why should some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece? Naturally the common people don't want war:neither in Russia, nor in England, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country."


Ulysses S. Grant [1822 - 1885]
A graduate from West Point, Commanding General of the Northern Army in the Civil War and US President.
"Leave the matter of religion to the family altar, the church, and the private schools, supported entirely by private contributions. Keep the church and the state forever separated."


Edward Gibbon
“A state of scepticism and suspense may amuse a few inquisitive minds. But the practice of superstition is so congenial to the multitude that, if they are forcibly awakened, they still regret the loss of their pleasing vision. Their love of the marvellous and supernatural, their curiosity with regard to future events, and their strong propensity to extend their hopes and fears beyond the limits of the visible world, were the principal causes which favoured the establishment of Polytheism. So urgent on the vulgar is the necessity of believing, that the fall of any system of mythology will most probably be succeeded by the introduction of some other mode of superstition.”
The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1776-1788)


Emma Goldman
“I do not believe in God, because I believe in man. Whatever his mistakes, man has for thousands of years been working to undo the botched job your god has made. There are . . . some potentates I would kill by any and all means at my disposal. They are Ignorance, Superstition, and Bigotry--the most sinister and tyrannical rulers on earth.”
-1898 speech to a liberal Detroit congregation


Barry Goldwater
“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. 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 … 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?”


Ruth Hurmence Green
“There was a time when religion ruled the world. It is known as the Dark Ages.”

“I am now convinced that children should not be subjected to the frightfulness of the Christian religion . . . If the concept of a father who plots to have his own son put to death is presented to children as beautiful and as worthy of society's admiration, what types of human behavior can be presented to them as reprehensible?”
-Preface of Born Again Skeptic's Guide to the Bible


Tenzin Gyatso, The 14th Dalai Lama
Compassion is not religious business, it is human business; it is not luxury, it is essential for our own peace and mental stability; it is essential for human survival. This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples, no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness.

If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.

I believe that the very purpose of our life is to seek happiness. That is clear. Whether one believes in religion or not, whether one believes in this religion or that religion, we all are seeking something better in life. So, I think, the very motion of our life is towards happiness…

[B]ecause our every action has a universal dimension, a potential impact on others' happiness, ethics are necessary as a means to ensure that we do not harm others. ...genuine happiness consists in those spiritual qualities of love, compassion, patience, tolerance and forgiveness...For it is these which provide both for our happiness and others' happiness.

[G]enuine compassion is based on the rationale that just as I do, others also have this innate desire to be happy and overcome suffering; just as I do, they have the natural right to fulfil this fundamental aspiration. Based on that recognition of this fundamental equality and commonality, one develops a sense of affinity and closeness, and based on that, one will generate love and compassion. That is genuine compassion.


H
Thich Nhat Hanh
"Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves - slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future; Live the actual moment. Only this moment is life."

Sam Harris
When we have reasons for what we believe, we have no need of faith; when we have no reasons, or bad ones, we have lost our connection to the world and to one another. Atheism is nothing more than a commitment to the most basic standard of intellectual honesty: One’s convictions should be proportional to one’s evidence. Pretending to be certain when one isn’t--indeed, pretending to be certain about propositions for which no evidence is even conceivable--is both an intellectual and a moral failing. Only the atheist has realized this. The atheist is simply a person who has perceived the lies of religion and refused to make them his own.

“If our tribalism is ever to give way to an extended moral identity, our religious beliefs can no longer be sheltered from the tides of genuine inquiry and genuine criticism. It is time we realized that to presume knowledge where one has only pious hope is a species of evil. Wherever conviction grows in inverse proportion to its justification, we have lost the very basis of human cooperation.
The End of Faith

“There's no document that I know of that is more despicable in its morality than the first few books of the Hebrew Bible. Books like Exodus and Deuteronomy and Leviticus, these are diabolical books. The killing never stops. The reasons to kill your neighbor for theological crimes are explicit and preposterous. You have to kill people for worshiping foreign gods, for working on the Sabbath, for wizardry, for adultery. You kill your children for talking back to you. It's there and it's not a matter of metaphors. It is exactly what God expects us to do to rein in the free thought of our neighbors.

Now, it just so happens, however, that most Christians think there's something in the New Testament that fully and finally repudiates all of that. And therefore, we do not have to kill homosexuals. We don't have to kill adulterers. And that's a very good thing that most Christians think it. Now, most Christians actually are not on very firm ground theologically to think that. It's not an accident that St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine thought we should kill or torture heretics. Aquinas thought we should kill them, Augustine thought we should torture them. And Augustine's argument for the use of torture actually laid the foundations for the Inquisition. So it's not an accident that we were burning heretics and witches and other people in Europe for five centuries under the aegis of Christianity. But Christianity is at a different moment in its history.”
—Salon Interview


James A. Haught
“When religion was all-powerful in Europe, it produced the epic bloodbath of the Crusades, the torture chambers of the Inquisition, mass extermination of “heretics,” hundreds of massacres of Jews, and 300 years of witch-burnings. The split of the Reformation loosed a torent of hate that took millions of lives in a dozen religious wars. The “Age of Faith” was an age of holy slaughter. When religion gradually ceased to control daily life, the concept of human rights and personal freedom took root. Today, much of the Third World hasn’t broken free from religious horror. In India, Sikhs, Hindus, and Muslims repeatedly massacre each other. In Iran, Shi’ite fundamentalists subjugate women and kill “blasphemers.” In Lebanon, Sunnis, Shi’ites, Druzes, Maronites, and Alawites destroy their nation and themselves. In Sri Lanka, Buddhists and Hindus exchange atrocities. In the Sudan, Muslims, Christians, and animists slaughter each other. It’s fashionable among thinking people to say that religion isn’t the real cause of these modern nightmares, that it merely provides labels for warring factions. Not so. Faith keeps the groups apart, alienated in hostile camps. “Religious tribalism” sets the stage for bloodshed. Without it, young people might adapt to changing times, intermarry, and forget historic wounds. But religion enforces separation–and whatever separates people breeds conflict.”


Hippocrates
“People think that epilepsy is divine simply because they don’t have any idea what causes epilepsy. But I believe that someday we will understand what causes epilepsy, and at that moment, we will cease to believe that it’s divine. And so it is with everything in the universe.”


Christopher Hitchens
(from article about God is Not Great)
Hitchens, who excels in fine distinctions, has been careful to state that he is not an atheist. He is, he says, an "anti-theist,"a man who vehemently opposes the concept of God as defined by the three dominant Western religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

That God, Hitchens argues, resembles the despotic ruler of a totalitarian state, monitoring our every thought, judging every action and keeping us in thrall not just in this life but for all eternity in a heaven (if you're lucky enough to get there) that resembles North Korea. Since Hitchens believes this God is a Santa Claus-like fiction invented by human beings, he stands in amazement at our ability to make life harder than it has to be.

"The person who is certain," Hitchens writes, "and who claims divine warrant for his certainty, belongs to the infancy of our species." Thousands of years pass, cultural forces work their magic, and primordial superstitions acquire a near-universal legitimacy and certitude, no matter their assault on reason or contradiction of fact.
Though we exist in a thoroughly material reality, religion does its best to persuade us otherwise. Hitchens sees this as an invitation for all sorts of terrible mischief. Since there's no objective standard to judge anything having to do with religion's imaginary realities, one theology is pitted against another. "It was never that difficult," Hitchens writes, "to see that religion was a cause of hatred and conflict, and that its maintenance depended on ignorance and superstition."
Although Hitchens does his best to demolish the claims of religions, he is very much a believer — in what he calls "a finer tradition." It's the tradition of Socrates, Galileo, James Mill, David Hume, Kant, Descartes, Spinoza, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, Charles Darwin and Albert Einstein, who wrote: "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."

It is Einstein's view that seems closest to Hitchens' own. For Hitchens there is something in the material world that is "far more miraculous and transcendent than any theology." If we seek ultimate truths, they are right here in front of us if only we are diligent and clever enough to discover them.
In the end, Hitchens calls for a "new enlightenment," based "on the proposition that the proper study of mankind is man, and woman." The tools are readily at hand: art, literature, philosophy and the "pursuit of unfettered scientific inquiry." Hitchens sees the human story as still very much unfinished. There is a sense in the last pages of this book that our species is at a momentous turning point: The old self-serving myths are falling to the relentless revelations of science, through which we will be either transformed or destroyed. The choice will be in our own hands, not God's.


Eric Hoffer
“The facts on which the true believer bases his conclusions must not be derived from his experience or observation but from holy writ. . . . To rely on the evidence of the senses and of reason is heresy and treason.
. . . . Thus the effectiveness of a doctrine should not be judged by its profundity, sublimity or the validity of the truths it embodies, but by how thoroughly it insulates the individual from his self and the world as it is. What Pascal said of an effective religion is true of any effective doctrine: It must be 'contrary to nature, to common sense and to pleasure.'”
- The True Believer, 1951.


Elbert Hubbard
“To talk about a Superior Being is a dip in superstition, and is just as bad as to let in an Inferior Being or a Devil.

When you once attribute effects to the will of a personal God, you have let in a lot of little gods and evils--then sprites, fairies, dryads, naiads, witches, ghosts and goblins, for your imagination is reeling, riotous, drunk, afloat on the flotsam of superstition. What you know then doesn't count. You just believe, and the more you believe the more do you plume yourself that fear and faith are superior to science and seeing.”
—An American Bible, 1912


Aldous Huxley
“If we must play the theological game, let us never forget that it is a game. Religion, it seems to me, can survive only as a consciously accepted system of make-believe. . . .You never see animals going through the absurd and often horrible fooleries of magic and religion. . . . Asses do not bray a liturgy to cloudless skies. Nor do cats attempt, by abstinence from cat's meat, to wheedle the feline spirits into benevolence. Only man behaves with such gratuitous folly. It is the price he has to pay for being intelligent but not, as yet, quite intelligent enough.”
-Texts and Pretexts,1932

"It is a bit embarrassing to have been concerned with the human problem all one's life and find at the end that one has no more to offer by way of advice than 'Try to be a little kinder.' "


Katharine Hepburn
“I'm an atheist, and that's it. I believe there's nothing we can know except that we should be kind to each other and do what we can for each other.”


Ernest Hemingway
"All thinking men are atheists."


Christopher Hitchens
“Gullibility and credulity are considered undesirable qualities in every department of human life--except religion. . . . Why are we praised by godly men for surrendering our 'godly gift' of reason when we cross their mental thresholds? . . . . Atheism strikes me as morally superior, as well as intellectually superior, to religion. Since it is obviously inconceivable that all religions can be right, the most reasonable conclusion is that they are all wrong.”
"The Lord and the Intellectuals," Harper's (July 1982)


George Jacob Holyoake
“Free thought means fearless thought. It is not deterred by legal penalties, nor by spiritual consequences. Dissent from the Bible does not alarm the true investigator, who takes truth for authority not authority for truth. The thinker who is really free, is independent; he is under no dread; he yields to no menace; he is not dismayed by law, nor custom, nor pulpits, nor society--whose opinion appals so many. He who has the manly passion of free thought, has no fear of anything, save the fear of error.”
The Origin and Nature of Secularism, Ch. 3 (1896)


David Hume
“No testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind that its falsehood would be more miraculous than the fact which it endeavours to establish.”


Thomas Henry Huxley, M.D.
“Skepticism is the highest duty and blind faith the one unpardonable sin.”

"Sit down before fact as a little child, be prepared to give up every conceived notion, follow humbly wherever and whatever abysses nature leads, or you will learn nothing."


Paul Henri Baron von Holbach
“. . . In all parts of our globe, fanatics have cut each other's throats, publicly burnt each other, committed without a scruple and even as a duty, the greatest crimes, and shed torrents of blood. . . .

Savage and furious nations, perpetually at war, adore, under divers names, some God, conformable to their ideas, that is to say, cruel, carnivorous, selfish, blood-thirsty. We find, in all the religions, 'a God of armies,' a 'jealous God,' an 'avenging God,' a 'destroying God,' a 'God,' who is pleased with carnage, and whom his worshippers consider it a duty to serve. Lambs, bulls, children, men, and women, are sacrificed to him. Zealous servants of this barbarous God think themselves obliged even to offer up themselves as a sacrifice to him. Madmen may everywhere be seen, who, after meditating upon their terrible God, imagine that to please him they must inflict on themselves, the most exquisite torments. The gloomy ideas formed of the deity, far from consoling them, have every where disquieted their minds, and prejudiced follies destructive to happiness.

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.


Rupert Hughes,
“As for those who protest that I am robbing people of the great comfort and consolation they gain from Christianity, I can only say that Christianity includes hell, eternal torture for the vast majority of humanity, for most of your relatives and friends. Christianity includes a devil who is really more powerful than God, and who keeps gathering into his furnaces most of the creatures whom God turns out and for whom he sent his son to the cross in vain. If I could feel that I had robbed anybody of his faith in hell, I should not be ashamed or regretful.”

"I quit [going to church] because I came to believe that what is preached in the churches is mainly untrue and unimportant, tiresome, hostile to genuine progress, and in general not worth while. As for the necessity of paying homage to the deity, I began to feel that I did not know enough about God to pay him set compliments on set days. As for the God who is preached in the churches, I ceased to worship him because I could no longer believe in him or respect what is alleged of him. I cannot respect a deity who would want or even endure the hideous monotony and mechanism of most of the worship paid him by hired men, hired prayer-makers and their supporters."
- Why I Quit Going to Church, 1924


I
John J. Ingalls
“The people who are unhappy when they are poor would be unhappy if they were rich, and they who are happy in a palace in Paris would be happy in a dug-out on the frontier of Dakota. There are as many unhappy rich people as there are unhappy poor people. Every heart knows its own bitterness and its own joy. Not that wealth and what it brings is not desirable—books, travel, leisure, comfort, the best food and clothing, agreeable companionship—but all these do not necessarily bring happiness and may coexist with the deepest wretchedness, while adversity and penury, exile and privation are not incompatible with the loftiest exaltation of the soul.”


Robert G. Ingersoll [1833-1899]
Well known post civil war American political speechmaker and Secular-Humanist. Among his admirers were president James Garfield, poet Walt Whitman, General Ulysses S. Grant, industrialist-philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, inventor Thomas Edison, and Mark Twain.

“In nature there are neither rewards nor punishment - there are consequences.”

“Fear believes -- courage doubts. Fear falls upon the earth and prays -- courage stands erect and thinks. Fear is barbarism -- courage is civilization. Fear believes in witchcraft, in devils and in ghosts. Fear is religion, courage is science.”

“Christ, according to the faith, is the second person in the Trinity, the Father being the first and the Holy Ghost the third. Each of these persons is God. Christ is his own father and his own son. The Holy Ghost is neither father nor son, but both. The son was begotten by the father, but existed before he was begotten--just the same before as after. . . .“So, it is declared that the Father is God, and the Son God, and the Holy Ghost God, and that these three Gods make one God. “According to the celestial multiplication table, once one is three, and three times one is one, and according to heavenly subtraction, if we take two from three, three are left. The addition is equally peculiar, if we add two to one, we have but one. . . .“Nothing ever was, nothing ever can be more perfectly idiotic and absurd than the dogma of the Trinity.”
-Reason, Observation, and Experience -- the Holy Trinity of Science.

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.

The inspiration of the Bible depends upon the ignorance of the gentleman who reads it.

The true civilization is where every man gives to every other every right that he claims for himself.

Real religion means the doing of justice. Real religion means the giving to others every right you claim yourself. Real religion consists in duties of man to man, in feeding the hungry, in clothing the naked, in defending the innocent, and in saying what you believe to be true.

And yet this same Deity says to me, "resist not evil; pray for those that despitefully use you; love your enemies, but I will eternally damn mine." It seems to me that even gods should practice what they preach.

The truth is, most Christians are better than their creeds; most creeds are better than the Bible, and most men are better than their God.

What is it to be spiritual? To recognize the finer harmonies of conduct -- to live to the ideal -- to separate the incidental, the evanescent, from the perpetual -- to be enchanted with the perfect melody of truth -- open to the influences of the artistic, the beautiful, the heroic -- to shed kindness as the sun sheds light -- to recognize the good in others, and to include the world in the idea of self -- that is to be spiritual.

There is nothing spiritual in the worship of the unknown and unknowable, in the self-denial of a slave at the command of a master whom he fears. Fastings, prayings, mutilations, kneelings, and mortification are either the result of, or result in, insanity.

Is life worth living? Well, I can only answer for myself. I like to be alive, to breathe the air, to look at the landscape, the clouds, the stars, to repeat old poems, to look at pictures and statues, to hear music, the voices of the ones I love. I enjoy eating and smoking. I like good cold water. I like to talk with my wife, my girls, my grandchildren. I like to sleep and to dream. Yes, you can say that life, to me, is worth living.

“Few nations have been so poor as to have but one god. Gods were made so easily, and the raw material cost so little, that generally the god market was fairly glutted, and heaven crammed with these phantoms.”

"This crime called blasphemy was invented by priests for the purpose of defending doctrines not able to take care of themselves."

"Hands that help are far better than lips that pray.

"The good part of Christmas is not always Christian -- it is generally Pagan; that is to say, human, natural."

"Christianity did not come with tidings of great joy, but with a message of eternal grief. It came with the threat of everlasting torture on its lips. It meant war on earth and perdition hereafter."

"Secularism is a religion, a religion that is understood. It has no mysteries, no mumblings, no priests, no ceremonies, no falsehoods, no miracles, and no persecutions."

"One of the foundation stones of our faith is the Old Testament. If that book is not true, if its authors were unaided men, if it contains blunders and falsehoods, then that stone crumbles to dust...The Old Testament must be thrown aside. It is no longer a foundation. It has crumbled."

"An honest god is the noblest work of man. ... God has always resembled his creators. He hated and loved what they hated and loved and he was invariably found on the side of those in power."

"As people become more intelligent they care less for preachers and more for
teachers"

“There can be but little liberty on earth while men worship a tyrant in heaven.”

When I became convinced that the universe is natural, that all the ghosts and gods are 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 became 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--free to think, to express my thoughts--free to live 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 . . . I was free! I stood erect and fearlessly, joyously faced all worlds.

All that is necessary, as it seems to me, to convince any reasonable person that the Bible is simply and purely of human invention -- of barbarian invention -- is to read it. Read it as you would any other book; think of it as you would of any other; get the bandage of reverence from your eyes; drive from your heart the phantom of fear; push from the throne of your brain the coiled form of superstition -- then read the Holy Bible, and you will be amazed that you ever, for one moment, supposed a being of infinite wisdom, goodness and purity, to be the author of such ignorance and of such atrocity.


J
Thomas Jefferson [1743-1826]
3rd American president, author, scientist, architect, educator, and diplomat. Deist, avid separationist.

“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. . . . Do not be frightened from this inquiry by any fear of its consequences. If it ends in a belief that there is no God, you will find inducements to virtue in the comfort and pleasantness you feel in its exercise, and the love of others which it will procure you.”

"I do not find in orthodox Christianity one redeeming feature."

"Religions are all alike - founded upon fables and mythologies."

"To talk of immaterial existences is to talk of nothings. To say that the human soul, angels, God, are immaterial, is to say they are nothings, or that there is no God, no angels, no soul. I cannot reason otherwise: but I believe I am supported in my creed of materialism by Locke, Tracy, and Stewart. At what age of the Christian church this heresy of immaterialism, this masked atheism, crept in, I do not know. But a heresy it certainly is. Jesus told us indeed that 'God is a spirit,' but he has not defined what a spirit is, nor said that it is not matter. And the ancient fathers generally, if not universally, held it to be matter: light and thin indeed, an etherial gas; but still matter." letter to John Adams, August 15, 1820

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

"History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance of which their civil as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purposes" Letter to von Humboldt, 1813

"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." Letter to John Adams, April 11, 1823

"In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own"

"But a short time elapsed after the death of the great reformer of the Jewish religion, before his principles were departed from by those who professed to be his special servants, and perverted into an engine for enslaving mankind, and aggrandizing their oppressors in Church and State."

"...an amendment was proposed by inserting the words, 'Jesus Christ...the holy author of our religion,' which was rejected 'By a great majority in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and the Mohammedan, the Hindoo and the Infidel of every denomination.'"

On January 16, 1786, Thomas Jefferson's Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom passed. The preamble is a sweeping indictment of state-dictated religion, noting that "false religions over the greatest part of the world and through all time" have been maintained through the church-state. "To compell a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves is sinful and tyrannical . . . our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, any more than our opinions in physics or geometry. . ." The heart of the Statute has been replicated in differing versions in most state constitutions (see quote below). So important was this Statute to Jefferson that he gave these instructions for the epitaph to be placed on his tombstone: "Thomas Jefferson/Author of the Declaration of American Independence, of the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom & Father of the University of Virginia." Omitting his two terms as president, Jefferson wrote these were the "testimonials that I have lived [and by which] I wish most to be remembered."


Penn Jillette
"This I believe: I believe there is no God.

Having taken that step, it informs every moment of my life. I'm not greedy. I have love, blue skies, rainbows and Hallmark cards, and that has to be enough. It has to be enough, but it's everything in the world and everything in the world is plenty for me. It seems just rude to beg the invisible for more. Just the love of my family that raised me and the family I'm raising now is enough that I don't need heaven. I won the huge genetic lottery and I get joy every day.

Believing there's no God means I can't really be forgiven except by kindness and faulty memories. That's good; it makes me want to be more thoughtful. I have to try to treat people right the first time around.

Believing there's no God stops me from being solipsistic. I can read ideas from all different people from all different cultures. Without God, we can agree on reality, and I can keep learning where I'm wrong. We can all keep adjusting, so we can really communicate. I don't travel in circles where people say, "I have faith, I believe this in my heart and nothing you can say or do can shake my faith." That's just a long-winded religious way to say, "shut up," or another two words that the FCC likes less. But all obscenity is less insulting than, "How I was brought up and my imaginary friend means more to me than anything you can ever say or do." So, believing there is no God lets me be proven wrong and that's always fun. It means I'm learning something.

Believing there is no God means the suffering I've seen in my family, and indeed all the suffering in the world, isn't caused by an omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent force that isn't bothered to help or is just testing us, but rather something we all may be able to help others with in the future. No God means the possibility of less suffering in the future.

Believing there is no God gives me more room for belief in family, people, love, truth, beauty, sex, Jell-O and all the other things I can prove and that make this life the best life I will ever have.”


Samuel Johnson
The fountain of contentment must spring up in the mind. They who have so little knowledge of human nature as to seek happiness by changing anything but their own dispositions will waste their lives in fruitless efforts and multiply the grief which they purpose to remove.


Paul Johnson
The essence of civilization is the orderly quest for truth, the rational perception of reality and all its facets, and the adaptation of man's behaviour to its laws. So long as we follow the path of reason we shall not move far from the lighted circle of civilization. Its enemies invariably lie among those who, for whatever motive, deny, distort, minimize, exaggerate or poison the truth, and who falsify the processes of reason. At all times civilization has its enemies, though they are constantly changing their guise and their weapons. The great defensive art is to detect and unmask them before the damage they inflict becomes fatal. 'Hell.' wrote Thomas Hobbes, 'is truth seen too late.' Survival is falsehood detected in time.

Civilization... is the rational pursuit of truth within a framework of order. The discovery of truth, of course, is part of this ordering process, the way by which man located himself in the universe. This is a very long, complicated and cumulative process. Man needs to orientate himself in time, by discovering and perfecting chronology; in space, by acquiring geographical and astronomical knowledge; in nature, by discovering its laws and using them to master his environment. He is also engaged in a continuous effort of moral and social orientation, reflected in his attempts to improve his designs for civil government, for legal and ethical codes, and his image of what a just society should be. There is, likewise, a process of moral ordering, in which man seeks to discover his worth in relation to other men, and to the potentialities of his surroundings. Human beings need to know where they stand in all these matters, for such knowledge is an essential element in their security, and... their happiness...

...truth is much more than a means to expose the malevolent. It is the great creative force of civilization. For truth is knowledge; and a civilized man is one who, in Hobbes' words, has a "perseverance of delight in the continual and indefatigable generation of knowledge." Hobbes also writes: "Joy, arising from imagination of a man's own power and ability, is that exaltation of mind called glorying." And so it is; for the pursuit of truth is our civilization's glory, and the joy we obtain from it is the nearest we shall approach to happiness, at least on this side of the grave. If we are steadfast in this aim, we need not fear the enemies of society.
-Enemies of Society


Sonia Johnson
“I have to admit that one of my favorite fantasies is that next Sunday not one single woman, in any country of the world, will go to church. If women simply stop giving our time and energy to the institutions that oppress, they would have to cease to do so.”
1982 speech before the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Madison, Wis.


K
John F. Kennedy (1917—1963) American President
“I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute--where no Catholic prelate would tell the President (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote--where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference--and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the President who might appoint him or the people who might elect him.

“I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish--where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source--where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials--and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all. . . .

“Finally, I believe in an America where religious intolerance will someday end--where all men and all churches are treated as equal--where every man has the same right to attend or not attend the church of his choice--where there is no Catholic vote, no anti-Catholic vote, no bloc voting of any kind--and where Catholics, Protestants and Jews, at both the lay and pastoral level, will refrain from those attitudes of disdain and division which have so often marred their works in the past, and promote instead the American ideal of brotherhood.”
—Speech to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association, Rice Hotel, Sept. 12, 1960


Omar Khayyam (1048-1131)
Oh, threats of hell and hopes of paradise!
One thing at least is certain -- this life flies;
One thing is certain, and the rest is lies;
The flower that once has blown forever dies.
—the Rubaiyat


Martin Luther King, Jr.,
“In the midst of blatant injustices inflicted upon the Negro, I have watched white churches stand on the sideline and merely mouth pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities. . . . [H]ere we are moving toward the exit of the twentieth century with a religious community largely adjusted to the status quo, standing as a tail light behind other community agencies rather than a headlight leading men to higher levels of justice. . . . The contemporary Church is so often a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. It is so often the arch-supporter of the status quo. . . Is organized religion too inextricably bound to the status quo to save our nation and the world?”
- "Letter from Birmingham Jail," 1963


Margaret Knight (b. 1936)
“At the time of the broadcasts, I held two assumptions that were common among the more highbrow type of sceptic. These were: (i) that Jesus, though he was deluded in believing himself to be the long-awaited Jewish Messiah, was, nevertheless, a great moral teacher, and a man of outstanding moral excellence, and (ii) that though Christianity is now rapidly being outgrown, it was a great force for good in its day. In the light of wider knowledge, both assumptions now seem to me to be false. I now incline to the view that the conversion of Europe to Christianity was one of the greatest disasters of history.”

“Jesus, in fact, was typical of a certain kind of fanatical young idealist: at one moment holding forth, with tears in his eyes, about the need for universal love; at the next, furiously denouncing the morons, crooks and bigots who did not see eye to eye with him. It is very natural and very human behaviour. But it is not superhuman.”

“There is no ground whatever for the claim, so often made by religious apologists, that these ideals are specifically Christian and originated with Jesus. What were specifically Christian were some of the less enlightened teachings, which have done untold harm. Christians claim that organised Christianity has been a great force for good, but this view can be maintained on one assumption only: that everything good in the Christian era is a result of Christianity and everything bad happened in spite of it.”

“During the ages of faith the Church argued, not illogically, that any degree of cruelty towards sinners and heretics was justified, if there was a chance that it could save them, or others, from the eternal torments of hell. Thus, in the name of the religion of love, hundreds of thousands of people were not merely killed but atrociously tortured in ways that made the gas chambers of Beslen seem humane.”

“One of the most persistent fallacies about the Christian Church is that it kept learning alive during the Dark and Middle Ages. What the Church did was to keep learning alive in the monasteries, while preventing the spread of knowledge outside them.... Even as late as the beginning of the nineteenth century, however, nine-tenths of Christian Europe was illiterate.”


Joel Kramer & Diana Alstad
"Having good and evil as separate categories made it easier to control people within hierarchies. The external controls of tribalism (group approval or censure, shame, and ostracism) became insufficient for controlling larger groups in which people did not know each other. A dualistic morality where the abstract concepts of good and evil are internalized, coupled with an omniscient God who spies on every act, shifts control to internal mechanisms such as fear and guilt."
—The Guru Papers: Masks of Authoritarian Power, p.189


Stanley Kubrick
“The whole idea of god is absurd. If anything, '2001' shows that what some people call 'god' is simply an acceptable term for their ignorance. What they don't understand, they call 'god' . . . . I chose to do Dr. Clarke's story as a film because it highlights a critical factor necessary for human evolution; that is, beyond our present condition. This film is a rejection of the notion that there is a god; isn't that obvious?”


Paul Kurtz
“The meaning of life is not to be discovered only after death in some hidden, mysterious realm; on the contrary, it can be found by eating the succulent fruit of the Tree of Life and by living in the here and now as fully and creatively as we can. ”


L
John Lennon,
Imagine there's no heaven,
It's easy if you try,
No hell below us,
Above us only sky.
Imagine all the people
Living for today.

Imagine there's no country,
It isn't hard to do.
Nothing to kill or die for,
And no religion, too.
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace--

You may say I'm a dreamer.
But I'm not the only one.
Someday I hope you'll join us,
And the world will be as one.
-Imagine


Abraham Lincoln
"The Bible is not my book nor Christianity my profession. I could never give assent to the long, complicated statements of Christian dogma.”

Colonel Ward H. Lamon (a religionist and Lincoln's longtime friend),
“Mr. Lincoln was never a member of any Church, nor did he believe in the divinity of Christ, or the inspiration of the Scriptures in the sense understood by evangelical Christians.

When a boy, he showed no sign of that piety which his many biographers ascribe to his manhood. When he went to church at all, he went to mock, and came away to mimic.

When he came to New Salem, he consorted with Freethinkers, joined with them in deriding the gospel story of Jesus, read Volney and Paine, and then wrote a deliberate and labored essay, wherein he reached conclusions similar to theirs.”
Life of Abraham Lincoln, pp. 486, 487, 157 (1872), cited by Franklin Steiner in The Religious Beliefs of Our Presidents


James Russell Lowell
“Toward no crimes have men shown themselves so cold-bloodedly cruel as in punishing differences of belief.”
Literary Essays, Witchcraft, Vol. II, p. 374 (1891)


C.S. Lewis
“If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair.”


M
Karl Marx
"The first requisite for the happiness of the people is the abolition of religion."

"Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, & the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people."


Delos B. McKown
"The invisible and the non-existent look very much alike."

H.L. Mencken
"Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurrence of the improbable" (The New York Times Magazine, Sept. 11, 1955). "The chief contribution of Protestantism to human thought is its massive proof that God is a bore" (Minority Report, 1956). "No one in this world, so far as I know . . . has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people" (Notes on Journalism, Chicago Tribune, Sept. 19 1926). "Puritanism - The haunting fear that someone, somewhere may be happy." "Sunday - A day given over by Americans to wishing that they themselves were dead and in Heaven, and that their neighbors were dead and in Hell" (A Book of Burlesques 1916, 1924). "Theology: An effort to explain the unknowable by putting it into terms of the not worth knowing" (A Mencken Chrestomathy, 1949). "The most curious social convention of the great age in which we live is the one to the effect that religious opinions should be respected" (American Mercury, March 1930). D. 1956.

I believe that religion, generally speaking, has been a curse to mankind--that its modest and greatly overestimated services on the ethical side have been more than overcome by the damage it has done to clear and honest thinking.

I believe that no discovery of fact, however trivial, can be wholly useless to the race, and that no trumpeting of falsehood, however virtuous in intent, can be anything but vicious. . .

I believe that the evidence for immortality is no better than the evidence of witches, and deserves no more respect.

I believe in the complete freedom of thought and speech . . .

I believe in the capacity of man to conquer his world, and to find out what it is made of, and how it is run.

I believe in the reality of progress.

But the whole thing, after all, may be put very simply. I believe that it is better to tell the truth than to lie. I believe that it is better to be free than to be a slave. And I believe that it is better to know than be ignorant.
-- Mencken's Creed, cited by George Seldes in Great Thoughts 's


John Stuart Mill
“In sober truth, nearly all the things which men are hanged or imprisoned for doing to one another are nature’s everyday performances. Killing, the most criminal act recognized by human laws, nature does once to every being that lives, and in a large proportion of cases after protracted tortures such as only the greatest monsters whom we read of ever purposely inflicted on their living fellow creatures.”

“A large proportion of the noblest and most valuable teaching has been the work, not only of men who did not know, but of men who knew and rejected the Christian faith.”
— On Liberty, 1859


A.A. Milne
“The Old Testament is responsible for more atheism, agnosticism, disbelief-call it what you will-than any book ever written; it has emptied more churches than all the counterattractions of cinema, motor bicycle and golf course. ”


Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad
"Intolerance breeds injustice. Injustice invariably leads to rebellion and retaliation, and these will lead to escalation on the part of both making reconciliation almost impossible. It would appear that during times of stress, despair and frustration, people become increasingly irrational, and they do things which they never think they are capable of. And so we see hideous brutality perpetrated by the most gentle people."

"Once started religious strife has a tendency to go on and on, to become permanent feuds. Today we see such intractable inter-religious wars in Northern Ireland, between Jews and Muslims and Christians in Palestine, Hindus and Muslims in South Asia and in many other places. Attempts to bring about peace have failed again and again. Always the extremist elements invoking past injustices, imagined or real, will succeed in torpedoing the peace efforts and bringing about another bout of hostility."
—Prime Minister of Malaysia, addressing the World Evangelical Fellowship on May 4, 2001.


George Monbiot
While human life, resulting from a series of evolutionary accidents, is arguably meaningless, individual human lives are not. Those accidents have bequeathed an extraordinary degree of consciousness, which in turn has granted us an enhanced capacity for both sympathy and suffering. Using the one to relieve the other invests our lives with a purpose which surely requires no celestial justification.Nor do we need God to tell us to protect other species and beautiful landscapes: we can do so simply because we love them.
The Guardian , 25 May 2000


Montesquieu
“No kingdom has ever had as many civil wars as the kingdom of Christ.”
-French philosopher (1689-1755), Persian Letters, 1721

“If triangles made a god, they would give him three sides.”


Jon J. Muth
Remember then that there is only one important time, and that time is now. The most important one is always the one you are with. And the most important thing is to do good for the one who is standing at your side. For these, my dear boy, are the answers to what is most important in this world.
-The Three Questions


N
Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) German philologist and philosopher

“After coming into contact with a religious man, I always feel I must wash my hands.”
-Why I Am a Destiny, 1888

“Great intellects are skeptical.”
-The Antichrist, 1888

“There is not sufficient love and goodness in the world to permit us to give some of it away to imaginary beings.”
-Human, All-Too-Human, 1878

“Christianity as antiquity. -- When we hear the ancient bells growling on a Sunday morning we ask ourselves: Is it really possible! This, for a Jew, crucified two thousand years ago, who said he was God's son? The proof of such a claim is lacking. Certainly the Christian religion is an antiquity projected into our times from remote prehistory; and the fact that the claim is believed -- whereas one is otherwise so strict in examining pretensions -- is perhaps the most ancient piece of this heritage. A god who begets children with a mortal woman; a sage who bids men work no more, have no more courts, but look for the signs of the impending end of the world; a justice that accepts the innocent as a vicarious sacrifice; someone who orders his disciples to drink his blood; prayers for miraculous interventions; sins perpetrated against a god, atoned for by a god; fear of a beyond to which death is the portal; the form of the cross as a symbol in a time that no longer knows the function and ignominy of the cross -- how ghoulishly all this touches us, as if from the tomb of a primeval past! Can one believe that such things are still believed?”

"Faith means not wanting to know what is true."

"So long as the priest, that professional negator, slanderer and poisoner of life, is regarded as a superior type of human being, there cannot be any answer to the question: What is truth?"

"The Christian faith from the beginning, is sacrifice: the sacrifice of all freedom, all pride, all self-confidence of spirit; it is at the same time subjection, a self-derision, and self-mutilation."

"All religions bear traces of the fact that they arose during the intellectual immaturity of the human race – before it had learned the obligations to speak the truth. Not one of them makes it the duty of its God to be truthful and understandable in his communications."

"The most serious parody I have ever heard was this: In the beginning was nonsense, and the nonsense was with God, and the nonsense was God."

"There is no devil and no hell. Thy soul will be dead even sooner than thy body: fear therefore nothing any more."

"In Christianity neither morality nor religion come into contact with reality at any point."

"I call Christianity the one great curse, the one great intrinsic depravity, the one great instinct of revenge, for which no means are venomous enough, or secret, subterranean and small enough - I call it the one immortal blemish upon the human race."

"Which is it, is man one of God's blunders or is God one of man's?"


O
Justice H.S. Orton of the Supreme Court of Wisconsin
“There is no such source and cause of strife, quarrel, fights, malignant opposition, persecution, and war, and all evil in the state as religion. Let it once enter our civil affairs, our government would soon be destroyed. . . . Those who made our Constitution saw this, and used the most apt and comprehensive language in it to prevent such a catastrophe.”
—concurring opinion in Weiss v. the District Board, decided on March 18, 1890, ruling bible readings and devotionals in public schools unconstitutional


P
Thomas Paine [1737-1809]
American writer, an important figure in the American Revolution with his pamphlets like "Common Sense", and "The Crisis".
"I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek church, by the Turkish church, by the Protestant church, nor by any church that I know of....Each of those churches accuse the other of unbelief; and of my own part, I disbelieve them all."

"All natural institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian, or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit."

"Of all the systems of religion that ever were invented, there is no more derogatory to the Almighty, more unedifiying to man, more repugnant to reason, and more contradictory to itself than this thing called Christianity."

"It is a contradiction in terms and ideas to call anything a revelation that comes to us at second hand, either verbally or in writing. Revelation is necessarily limited to the first communication -- after this, it is only an account of something which that person says was a revelation made to him; and though he may find himself obliged to believe it, it cannot be incumbent on me to believe it in the same manner; for it was not a revelation made to me, and I have only his word for it that it was made to him. When Moses told the children of Israel that he received the two tablets of the commandments from the hands of God, they were not obliged to believe him, because they had no other authority for it than his telling them so; and I have no other authority for it than some historian telling me so."

“The most detestable wickedness, the most horrid cruelties, and the greatest miseries, that have afflicted the human race have had their origin in this thing called revelation, or revealed religion. It has been the most dishonourable belief against the character of the divinity, the most destructive to morality, and the peace and happiness of man, that ever was propagated since man began to exist.”

How could the human mind progress, while tormented with frightful phantoms, and guided by men, interested in perpetuating its ignorance and fears? Man has been forced to vegetate in his primitive stupidity: he has been taught stories about invisible powers upon whom his happiness was supposed to depend. Occupied solely by his fears, and by unintelligible reveries, he has always been at the mercy of priests, who have reserved to themselves the right of thinking for him, and of directing his actions.”
-Common Sense, 1772


Bernard M. Patten
“To get to the truth, we must consider all the evidence and omit none. If evidence that is crucial to the support of the conclusion or that definitively proves the conclusion wrong is omitted from consideration, we cannot get to the heart of the matter at the core of the truth.”
–Truth, Knowledge, Or Just Plain Bull


Leo Pfeffer
“I believe that complete separation of church and state is one of those miraculous things which can be best for religion and best for the state, and the best for those who are religious and those who are not religious.

I believe that the history of the First Amendment and also the Constitution itself, which forbids religious tests for public office, have testified to the healthful endurance of a principle which is the greatest treasure the United States has given the world: the principle of complete separation of church and state. I'm here to tell you that that principle is endangered today. ”


Huang Po
"The foolish reject what they see and not what they think; the wise reject what they think and not what they see."


Edgar Allan Poe
“Let us begin, then, at once, with that merest of words, 'Infinity.' This, like 'God,' 'spirit,' and some other expressions of which the equivalents exist in all languages, is by no means the expression of an idea--but of an effort at one. It stands for the possible attempt at an impossible conception.”
- Eureka, 1848


Katha Pollitt (1949-)
“When you consider that God could have commanded anything he wanted--anything!--the Ten [Commandments] have got to rank as one of the great missed moral opportunities of all time. How different history would have been had he clearly and unmistakably forbidden war, tyranny, taking over other people's countries, slavery, exploitation of workers, cruelty to children, wife-beating, stoning, treating women--or anyone--as chattel or inferior beings.”
"Stacked Decalogue," The Nation, September 22, 2003


Samuel Porter Putnam
“The last superstition of the human mind is the superstition that religion in itself is a good thing, though it might be free from dogma. I believe, however, that the religious feeling, as feeling, is wrong, and the civilized man will have nothing to do with it. . . . [When the] shadow of religion disappeared forever . . . I felt that I was free from a disease.”
-My Religious Experience, 1891


R
Ayn Rand
“If I were to speak your kind of language, I would say that man's only moral commandment is: Thou shalt think. But a 'moral commandment' is a contradiction in terms. The moral is the chosen, not the forced; the understood, not the obeyed. The moral is the rational, and reason accepts no commandments.”

Marilla M. Ricker
“A religious person is a dangerous person. He may not become a thief or a murderer, but he is liable to become a nuisance. He carries with him many foolish and harmful superstitions, and he is possessed with the notion that it is his duty to give these superstitions to others. That is what makes trouble. Nothing is so worthless as superstition. . . .”
-"Science Against Creeds," I Am Not Afraid Are You? (1917).


Stephen F. Roberts
“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.”


Tom Robbins
“Soul is not even that Crackerjack prize that God and Satan scuffle over after the worms have all licked our bones. That's why, when we ponder--as sooner or later each of must--exactly what we ought to be doing about our soul, religion is the wrong, if conventional, place to turn. Religion is little more than a transaction in which troubled people trade their souls for temporary and wholly illusionary psychological comfort--the old give-it-up-in-order-to-save-it routine. Religions lead us to believe that the soul is the ultimate family jewel and that in return for our mindless obedience, they can secure it for us in their vaults, or at least insure it against fire and theft. They are mistaken.”
-- Character Stubblefield from Villa Incognito, 2004


Ernestine Rose
“It is an interesting and demonstrable fact, that all children are atheists and were religion not inculcated into their minds, they would remain so.”


Jean Jacques Rousseau
“Whoever dares to say: 'Outside the Church is no salvation,' ought to be driven from the State.

But I am mistaken in speaking of a Christian republic; the terms are mutually exclusive. Christianity preaches only servitude and dependence. Its spirit is so favorable to tyranny that it always profits by such a regime. True Christians are made to be slaves, and they know it and do not much mind: this short life counts for too little in their eyes.”
--The Social Contract, 1762


Salman Rushdie
“In India, as elsewhere in our darkening world, religion is the poison in the blood. Where religion intervenes, mere innocence is no excuse. Yet we go on skating around this issue, speaking of religion in the fashionable language of 'respect.' What is there to respect in any of this, or in any of the crimes now being committed almost daily around the world in religion's dreaded name?”
Slaughter in the Name of God, Washington Post, March 8, 2002

Bertrand Russell [1872 - 1970]
British philosopher, logician, essayist, and social critic, best known for his work in mathematical logic and analytic philosophy and was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1950. His essays include, "Am I an Agnostic or an Atheist?" and "Why I am not a Christian" Bertrand Russell was born in England. "A good world needs knowledge, kindliness, and courage; it does not need a regretful hankering after the past, or a fettering of the free intelligence by the words uttered long ago by ignorant men," Russell wrote. "Bertie" to friends, Russell, during his 97 years, did all he could to add to human knowledge and to inspire kindness. His second wife, Dora Black, called him "enchantingly ugly." The New York attorney who won a suit to void Russell's appointment to the philosophy department at the College of the City of New York in 1940 because of his liberal views, described Russell as "lecherous, libidinous, lustful, venerous, erotomaniac, aphrodisiac, irreverent, narrow-minded, untruthful and bereft of moral fiber." "What I wish at bottom is to become a saint," Russell once admitted, but he couldn't help being pleased by the label "aphrodisiac." The mathematician (who called his first encounter with Euclid "as da zzling as first love," Autobiography), philosopher and social activist authored 75 books.

He launched headlong into a life of radicalism in his forties as a pacifist opposing World War I. He liked to recount his experience at prison, where he was sentenced for his pacifism: "I was much cheered on my arrival by the warden at the gate, who had to take particulars about me. He asked my religion, and I replied 'agnostic.' He asked how to spell it, and remarked with a sigh: 'Well, there are many religions, but I suppose they all worship the same God.' This remark kept me cheerful for about a week." (Autobiography) Russell spent his last years courageously working for nuclear disarmament. In "The Faith of a Rationalist," broadcast by the BBC in 1953, Russell observed: "Cruel men believe in a cruel God and use their belief to excuse their cruelty. Only kindly men believe in a kindly God, and they would be kindly in any case." One of his maxims: "Never try to discourage thinking, for you are sure to succeed." Russell won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1950. D . 1969.

“I do not pretend to be able to prove that there is no God. I equally cannot prove that Satan is a fiction. The Christian god may exist; so may the gods of Olympus, or of ancient Egypt, or of Babylon. But no one of these hypotheses is more probable than any other: they lie outside the region of even probable knowledge, and therefore there is no reason to consider any of them.”

"I wish to propose for the reader's favourable consideration a doctrine which may, I fear, appear wildly paradoxical and subversive. The doctrine in question is this: that it is undesirable to believe in a proposition when there is no ground whatever for supposing it true."

"We may define "faith" as the firm belief in something for which there is no evidence. Where there is evidence, no one speaks of "faith." We do not speak of faith that two and two are four or that the earth is round. We only speak of faith when we wish to substitute emotion for evidence."

"Religion is based, I think, primarily and mainly upon fear. It is partly the terror of the unknown and partly, as I have said, the wish to feel that you have a kind of elder brother who will stand by you in all your troubles and disputes. Fear is the basis of the whole thing -- fear of the mysterious, fear of defeat, fear of death. Fear is the parent of cruelty, and therefore it is no wonder if cruelty and religion have gone hand in hand."

"And if there were a God, I think it very unlikely that He would have such an uneasy vanity as to be offended by those who doubt His existence." What is an Agnostic?

"So far as I can remember, there is not one word in the Gospels in praise of intelligence."

"Fear is the parent of cruelty, therefore it is no wonder if religion and cruelty have gone hand-in-hand."

"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."

"I am myself a dissenter from all known religions, and I hope that every kind of religious belief will die out."

Men fear thought as they fear nothing else on earth, more than ruin, more even than death. Thought is subversive and revolutionary, destructive and terrible, thought is merciless to privilege, established institutions, and comfortable habit. Thought looks into the pit of hell and is not afraid. Thought is great and swift and free, the light of the world, and the chief glory of man.

Fear is the main source of superstition, and one of the main sources of cruelty. To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom.

“The most savage controversies are those about matters as to which there is no good evidence either way. Persecution is used in theology, not in arithmetic.”

The happy man is the man whose personality is neither divided against itself nor pitted against the world. Such a man feels himself a citizen of the universe, enjoying freely the spectacle that it offers, and the joys that it affords, untroubled by the thought of death because he feels himself not really separate from those who will come after him. It is in such profound instinctive union with the stream of life that the greatest joy is to be found.
-The Conquest of Happiness

There could be a happy world, where cooperation was more in evidence than competition, and monotonous work is done by machines, where what is lovely in nature is not destroyed to make room for hideous machines whose sole business is to kill, and where to promote joy is more respected than to produce mountains of corpses. Do not say this is impossible: it is not. It only waits for men to desire it more than the infliction of torture. There is an artist imprisoned in each one of us. Let him loose to spread joy everywhere.
from his last essay (written at age 95, in 1967)


Andy Rooney
“We all ought to understand we're on our own. Believing in Santa Claus doesn't do kids any harm for a few years but it isn't smart for them to continue waiting all their lives for him to come down the chimney with something wonderful. Santa Claus and God are cousins. Christians talk as though goodness was their idea but good behavior doesn't have any religious origin. Our prisons are filled with the devout. I'd be more willing to accept religion, even if I didn't believe it, if I thought it made people nicer to each other but I don't think it does.”
-Sincerely, Andy Rooney, 1999

For most of life, nothing wonderful happens. If you don't enjoy getting up and working and finishing your work and sitting down to a meal with family or friends, then the chances are that you're not going to be very happy. If someone bases his happiness or unhappiness on major events like a great new job, huge amounts of money, a flawlessly happy marriage or a trip to Paris, that person isn't going to be happy much of the time. If, on the other hand, happiness depends on a good breakfast, flowers in the yard, a drink or a nap, then we are more likely to live with quite a bit of happiness.



S
Carl Sagan
“If some good evidence for life after death were announced, I'd be eager to examine it; but it would have to be real scientific data, not mere anecdote. As with the face on Mars and alien abductions, better the hard truth, I say, than the comforting fantasy. And in the final tolling it often turns out that the facts are more comforting than the fantasy.”
-"The Fine Art of Baloney Detection," from The Demon-Haunted World: Science As A Candle In The Dark, 1996

“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 adherants 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.”



George Sand
“[I reject Christianity's anthropomorphic God,] made in our image, silly and malicious, vain and puerile, irritable or tender, after our fashion.”


George Bernard Shaw [1856-1950]
Irish-born English playwright
"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."

"No man ever believes that the Bible means what it says; he is always convinced that it says what he means."

“If God exists, he certainly existed before religion. He is a philosopher’s God, logically inferred from self-evident premises. That he should have been taken up by a glorified supporters’ club is only a matter of psychological interest.”


Percy Bysshe Shelley
“If ignorance of nature gave birth to gods, knowledge of nature is made for their destruction.”
-The Necessity of Atheism, 1811

“Religion! but for thee, prolific fiend, Who peoplest earth with demons, hell with men, And heaven with slaves!”
- Queen Mab, 1813

“Christianity indeed has equaled Judaism in the atrocities, and exceeded it in the extent of its desolation. Eleven millions of men, women, and children have been killed in battle, butchered in their sleep, burned to death at public festivals of sacrifice, poisoned, tortured, assassinated, and pillaged in the spirit of the Religion of Peace, and for the glory of the most merciful God.”
-A Refutation of Deism, 1814


Arthur Schopenhauer
“Faith and knowledge are related as the two scales of balance; when the one goes up, the other goes down. . . . The power of religious dogma, when inculcated early, is such as to stifle conscience, compassion, and finally every feeling of humanity. . . . For, as you know, religions are like glow worms; they shine only when it's dark. A certain amount of ignorance is the condition of all religions, the element in which alone they can exist. ”


Olive Schreiner
“But we, wretched unbelievers, we bear our own burdens; we must say, 'I myself did it, I. Not God, not Satan; I myself!'

This thing is certain--he is a fool who says, 'No man hath said in his heart, There is no God.'”


Arthur Schopenhauer
The happiness which we receive from ourselves is greater than that which we obtain from our surroundings. . . . The world in which a person lives shapes itself chiefly by the way in which he or she looks at it.

“All religions promise a reward for excellences of the will or heart, but none for excellences of the head or understanding.”
-The World as Will and Idea, 1819


Percy Bysshe Shelley
If he is infinitely good, what reason should we have to fear him? If he is infinitely wise, why should we have doubts concerning our future? If he knows all, why warn him of our needs and fatigue him with our prayers? If he is everywhere, why erect temples to him? If he is just, why fear that he will punish the creatures that he has filled with weaknesses? If grace does everything for them, what reason would he have for recompensing them? If he is all-powerful, how offend him, how resist him? If he is reasonable, how can he be angry at the blind, to whom he has given the liberty of being unreasonable? If he is immovable, by what right do we pretend to make him change his decrees? If he is inconceivable, why occupy ourselves with him? IF HE HAS SPOKEN, WHY IS THE UNIVERSE NOT CONVINCED? If the knowledge of a God is the most necessary, why is it not the most evident and the clearest.
The Necessity of Atheism


Michael Shermer
[T]here is no paranormal or supernatural; there is only the normal and the natural … and mysteries yet to be explained.

Where is paradise? It is here. It is now. It is within us and without us. It is in our thoughts and in our actions. It is in our lives and in our loves. It is in our families and in our friends. It is in our communities and in our world. It is in the courage of our convictions and in the character of our souls. Hope springs eternal, even if life is not.


Upton Sinclair
When the first savage saw his hut destroyed by a bolt of lightning, he fell down upon his face in terror. He had no conception of natural forces, of laws of electricity; he saw this event as the act of an individual intelligence. Today we read about fairies and demons, dryads and fauns and satyrs, Wotan and Thor and Vulcan, Freie and Flora and Ceres, and we think of all these as pretty fancies, play-products of the mind; losing sight of the fact that they were originally meant with entire seriousness—that not merely did ancient man believe in them, because the mind must have an explanation of things that happen, and an individual intelligence was the only explanation available.… Men imagined supernatural powers such as they could comprehend. If the lightning god destroyed a hut, obviously it must be because the owner of the hut had given offense; so the owner must placate the god, using those means which would be effective in the quarrels of men—presents of roast meats and honey and fresh fruits, of wine and gold and jewels and women, accompanied by friendly words and gestures of submission. And when in spite of all things the natural evil did not cease, when the people continued to die of pestilence, then came the opportunity for hysterical or ambitious persons to discover new ways of penetrating the mind of the god. There would be dreamers of dreams and seers of visions and hearers of voices; readers of the entrails of beasts and interpreters of the flight of birds; there would be burning bushes and stone tablets on mountain-tops, and inspired words dictated to aged disciples on lonely islands. There would arise special castes of men and women, learned in these sacred matters; and these priestly castes would naturally emphasize the importance of their calling, would hold themselves aloof from the common herd, endowed with special powers and entitled to special priveleges. They would interpret the oracles in ways favorable to themselves and their order; they would proclaim themselves friends and confidants of the god, walking with him in the night-time, receiving his messengers and angels, acting as his deputies in forgiving offenses, in dealing punishments and in receiving gifts. They would become makers of laws and moral codes. They would wear special costumes to distinguish them, they would go through elaborate ceremonies to impress their followers, employing all sensuous effects, architecture and sculpture and painting, music and poetry and dancing, candles and incense and bells and gongs…So builds itself up, in a thousand complex and complicated forms, the Priestly Lie.
The Profits of Religion, 1918, pg 21-23


Pete Singer
“At an earlier stage of our development most human groups held to a tribal ethic. Members of the tribe were protected, but people of other tribes could be robbed or killed as one pleased. Gradually the circle of protection expanded, but as recently as 150 years ago we did not include blacks. So African human beings could be captured, shipped to America and sold. In Australia white settlers regarded Aborigines as a pest and hunted them down, much as kangaroos are hunted down today. Just as we have progressed beyond the blatantly racist ethic of the era of slavery and colonialism, so we must now progress beyond the speciesist ethic of the era of factory farming, of the use of animals as mere research tools, of whaling, seal hunting, kangaroo slaughter and the destruction of wilderness. We must take the final step in expanding the circle of ethics.”
—In Defense of Animals, 1985


The Simpsons
"Come on Milhouse, theres no such thing as a soul! Its just something they made up to scare kids, like the Boogie Man or Michael Jackson.
- Bart Simpson

"And as we pass the collection plate, please give as if the person next to you was watching."
-Reverend Lovejoy

Lovejoy: "Get a divorce."
Marge: "But isn't that a sin?"
Lovejoy: "Marge, just about everything is a sin. Y'ever sat down and read this thing? Technically, we're not allowed to go to the bathroom."

"This so-called new religion is nothing but a pack of weird rituals and chants designed to take away the money of fools. Now let us say the lord's prayer 40 times, but first let's pass the collection plate."
- Rev. Lovejoy

"Science is like a blabbermouth who ruins a movie by telling you how it ends! Well I say there are some things we don't want to know! Important things!"
- Ned Flanders

"I put out these milk and cookies as a sacrifice. If Thou wishest me to eat them, please give me a
sign by doing absolutely nothing. MMMMmmmm..."
- Homer Simpson

"Prayer has no place in the public schools, just like facts have no place in organized religion."
- School Superintendent on "The Simpsons" episode #100, 1994

"Suppose we've chosen the wrong god. Every time we go to church we're just making him madder and madder"
- Homer Simpson's version of Pascal's Wager


Kay Nolte Smith
“The tragedy is that every brain cell devoted to belief in the supernatural is a brain cell one cannot use to make life richer or easier or happier.”


Herbert Spencer
“Religion has been compelled by science to give up one after another of its dogmas, of those assumed cognitions which it could not substantiate..”
First Principles, 1862


Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902)
American suffragist
"The memory of my own suffering has prevented me from ever shadowing one young soul with the superstitions of the Christian religion."

"The Bible and the Church have been the greatest stumbling blocks in the way of women's emancipation."

"The bible teaches that woman brought sin and death into the world, that she precipitated the fall of the race, that she was arraigned before the judgment seat of Heaven, tried, condemned and sentenced. Marriage for her was to be a condition of bondage, maternity a period of suffering and anguish, and in silence and subjection, she was to play the role of a dependent on man's bounty for all her material wants, and for all the information she might desire...Here is the Bible position of woman briefly summed up."

She wrote of the Bible, "I found nothing grand in the history of the Jews nor in the morals inculcated in the Pentateuch. Surely the writers had a very low idea of the nature of their god. They made him not only anthropomorphic, but of the very lowest type, jealous and revengeful, loving violence rather than mercy. I know of no other books that so fully teach the subjection and degradation of women."

“For the supposed crimes of heresy and witchcraft, hundreds of women endured such persecutions and tortures that the most stolid historians are said to have wept in recording them; and no one can read them to-day but with a bleeding heart. And, as the Christian Church grew stronger, woman's fate grew more helpless. Even the Reformation and Protestantism brought no relief, the clergy being all along their most bitter persecutors, the inventors of the most infernal tortures. Hundreds and hundreds of fair young girls, innocent as the angels in heaven, hundreds and hundreds of old women, weary and trembling with the burdens of life, were hunted down by emissaries of the Church, dragged into the courts with the ablest judges and lawyers of England, Scotland and America on the bench, and tried for crimes that never existed but in the wild, fanatical imaginations of religious devotees. Women were accused of consorting with devils and perpetuating their diabolical propensities. Hundreds of these children of hypothetical origin were drowned, burned, and tortured in the presence of their mothers, to add to their death agonies. These things were not done by savages or pagans: they were done by the Church. Neither were they confined to the Dark Ages, but permitted by law in England far into the eighteenth century. The clergy everywhere sustained witchcraft as Bible doctrine, until the spirit of rationalism laughed the whole thing to scorn, and science gave mankind a more cheerful view of life.”

“For years many a thinking people have had gloomy forebodings as to the result of the immense power of the church in our political affairs. . . . And the first step in the disestablishment of the church & of all churches is the taxation of church property. The government has no right to tax infidels for everything that takes the name of religion. For every dollar of church property untaxed, all other properties must be taxed one dollar more, and thus the poor man's home bears the burden of maintaining costly edifices from which he & his family are as effectively excluded--as though a policeman stood to bar their entrance, and in smaller towns all sects are building, building, building, not a little town in the western prairies but has its three & four churches & this immense accumulation of wealth is all exempt from taxation. In the new world as well as the old these rich ecclesiastical corporations are a heavy load on the should ers of the people, for what wealth escapes, the laboring masses are compelled to meet. If all the church property in this country were taxed, in the same ratio poor widows are to day, we could soon roll off the national debt. . . .”


Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
“It is not the level of prosperity that makes for happiness but the kinship of heart to heart and the way we look at the world. Both attitudes are within our power, so that people are happy so long as they choose to be happy, and no one can stop them.”


Stendal (Marie Henri Beyle), novelist (1783-1842)
“The shepherd always tries to persuade the sheep that their interests and his own are the same.”


John Shelby Spong
“Let me begin by making a distinction. I try not to talk about the "God of theism." I regard theism as a human definition of God. It is not who or what God is. Theism is a human attempt to describe a God experience in pre-modern language. Prior to Copernicus, Kepler and Galileo, people inevitably thought of God as a supernatural presence over the natural world.

Before Isaac Newton, they thought of God as setting aside the laws of the universe to do miracles or to answer prayers. Before Darwin and Freud, they thought of God as the external creator and portrayed God as a heavenly parent. Prior to Einstein, they assumed that these perceptions were objectively true and not subject to the relativity in which all human thought dwells since both the time in which we live and the space we occupy are relative, not absolute. So when I dismiss theism, I am not dismissing God. I am dismissing one human image of God that sought to define a human experience of the divine.

To suggest that if theism is not true then the opposite of theism is true is to make the same mistake. Every human attempt to define God is nothing more than a human attempt to define the human experience of the divine. We can never tell who God is or who God is not. We can only tell another of what we believe our experience of God has been. Even then we have to face the possibility that all of our God talk may be delusional.

When I try to talk of God, I am only talking of my God experience. That is not what God is, that is only what I believe my experience of God to be.

I do not experience God as a supernatural power, external to life invading my world in supernatural power. I see no evidence to think this definition is real. The problem is that most people have most deeply identified this definition of God with God that when this definition dies the victim of expanded knowledge, we think that God has died.

I am not trying to form a new definition. I am only trying to share an experience. In my human self-consciousness at both the depth of life and on the edges of consciousness, I believe I encounter a transcendent other. In that encounter, I experience expanded life, the increased ability to love and a new dimension of what it means to be. I call that experience God and that experience leads me to say that if I meet God in expanded life, God becomes for me the source of life. If I meet God in the enhanced ability to love, God becomes for me the source of love. If I meet God in an increased ability to be all that I am, God becomes for me the ground of being.

I can talk about my experience. Having only a human means of communication I cannot really talk about God. Horses can experience a human being entering their horse consciousness, but a horse could never tell another horse what it means to be human. Somehow human beings have never quite embraced that fact that this is also true about the human being's knowledge of God.

I do not know how God acts therefore I can never say how God acts. For me to say God is unable to intervene would be to say more than I know. For me to explain how God intervenes or why God does not intervene is to claim knowledge of God that is not mine.

I test my experience daily in the light of evolving human language. The result of that is that every day I believe in God more deeply, while at the same time, every day I seem to have less and less beliefs about God. Human beings seem almost incapable of embracing mystery, especially ultimate mystery. I am content to walk daily with the mystery of God. I walk past road maps, past religious systems, even my own but never beyond the mystery of God. I suppose that makes me a mystic, but an uncomfortable, never satisfied, always-evolving one.

I find great meaning and great power in this approach. I commend it to you.”


Charles W. Sutherland
“For every morsel of bread given to a stranger in need, hundreds have died from diseases whose cures were thwarted by organized religion’s traditional opposition to science. For every word soothing the tempers of men, there have been calls to arms resulting in the death and maiming of thousands. The United Nation’s Children’s Emergency Fund estimates that forty thousand children die each day even as religious organizations obstruct the distribution of birth control devices in poor countries.The resultant daily pain and torturous deaths by starvation far outstrip the almsgiving and generosity religion has always claimed to espouse.”


Julia Sweeney
It took me years, but letting go of religion has been the most profound wake up of my life. I feel I now look at the world not as a child, but as an adult. I see what's bad and it's really bad. But I also see what is beautiful, what is wonderful. And I feel so deeply appreciative that I am alive. How dare the religious use the term 'born again.' That truly describes freethinkers who've thrown off the shackles of religion so much better!


Albert Szent-Gyorgi
“Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen, and thinking what nobody has thought.”


T
Paul-Henri Thiry, Baron d’Holbach, French Enlightenment leader
“Many men without morals have attacked religion because it was contrary to their inclinations. Many wise persons have regarded it with indifference, because they have never felt its true disadvantages. But it is as a citizen that I attack it, because it seems to me harmful to the happiness of the state, hostile to the march of the mind of man, and contrary to sound morality, from which the interests of state policy can never be separated.”


Henry David Thoreau
“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island opportunities and look toward another land . There is no other land , there is no other life but this.”  


Ivan Turgenev
“Whatever a man prays for, he prays for a miracle. Every prayer reduces itself to this: Great God, grant that twice two be not four.”
--Fathers and Sons, 1861


Mark Twain
"Our Bible reveals to us the character of our god with minute and remorseless exactness... It is perhaps the most damnatory biography that exists in print anywhere. It makes Nero an angel of light and leading by contrast"
-Reflections on Religion, 1906

"[The Bible] has noble poetry in it... and some good morals and a wealth of obscenity, and upwards of a thousand lies."

"In religion and politics people's beliefs and convictions are in almost every case gotten at second-hand, and without examination, from authorities who have not themselves examined the questions at issue but have taken them at second-hand from other non-examiners, whose opinions about them were not worth a brass farthing."

"Often it does seem a pity that Noah and his party did not miss the boat."

“The gods offer no rewards for intellect. There was never one yet that showed any interest in it.”

“. . . now at least, in our immediate day, we hear a Pope saying slave trading is wrong, and see him sending an expedition to Africa to stop it. The texts remain; it is the practice that has changed. Why? Because the world has corrected the Bible. The Church never corrects it; and also never fails to drop in at the tail of the procession--and take the credit of the correction. As she will presently do in this instance.”


U
Benjamin Underwood
“There is no argument worthy of the name that will justify the union of the Christian religion with the State. Every consideration of justice and equality forbids it. Every argument in favor of free Republican institutions is equally an argument in favor of a complete divorce of the State from the Church. History in warning tones tells us there can be no liberty without it. Justice demands it. Public safety requires it. He who opposes it is, whether he realizes it or not, an enemy of freedom.”
-"The Practical Separation of Church & State," an address to the 1876 Centennial Congress of Liberals


V
Voltaire [1694-1778]
French philosopher and writer whose works epitomize the Age of Enlightenment.

"Of all religions the Christian is without doubt the one which should inspire tolerance most, although up to now the Christians have been the most intolerant of all men."

"Christianity is the most ridiculous, the most absurd and bloody religion that has ever infected the world."

"The first clergyman was the first rascal who met the first fool"

"Men who believe absurdities will commit atrocities."


W
Barbara G. Walker
“Tell me what your God is, and I can tell what you are. He is, after all, simply human.

It's the human spirit that makes God, not the other way round. God is the collective dream of men as they would like to see themselves: all-powerful, invincible, having his own way in everything.”

“. . . the very fears and guilts imposed by religious training are responsible for some of history's most brutal wars, crusades, pogroms, and persecutions, including five centuries of almost unimaginable terrorism under Europe's Inquisition and the unthinkably sadistic legal murder of nearly nine million women. History doesn't say much very good about God.”


Alice Walker
“What a burden to think one is conceived in sin rather than in pleasure; that one is born into evil rather than into
joy. . . .

It is chilling to think that the same people who persecuted the wise women and men of Europe, its midwives and healers, then crossed the oceans to Africa and the Americas and tortured and enslaved, raped, impoverished, and eradicated the peaceful, Christ-like people they found. And that the blueprint from which they worked, and still work, was the Bible.”
- "The Only Reason You Want to Go to Heaven Is That You Have Been Driven Out of Your Mind," Anything We Love Can Be Saved: A Writer's Activism).


Thomas J. Watson
All the problems of the world could be settled easily if men were only willing to think. The trouble is that men very often resort to all sorts of devices in order not to think, because thinking is such hard work.


George Washington
“Of all the animosities which have existed among mankind, those which are caused by difference of sentiment in religion appear to be the most inveterate and distressing, and ought most to be deprecated. I was in hopes that the enlightened and liberal policy which has marked the present age would at least have reconciled Christians of every denomination, so far that we should never again see their religious disputes carried to such a pitch as to endanger the peace of society.”
- letter to Sir Edward Newenham, Oct. 20, 1792.


James Watson
“The biggest advantage to believing in God is you don't have to understand anything, no physics, no biology. I wanted to understand. . . . I think the morality comes from human nature. I think we were born to care for one another. . . . It gives people pleasure to help each other.”
-Youngstown State University speech, quoted in The Vindicator, Dec. 2, 2003

“Every time you understand something, religion becomes less likely. Only with the discovery of the double helix and the ensuing genetic revolution have we had grounds for thinking that the powers held traditionally to be the exclusive property of the gods might one day be ours. . . .[As a young man ] I came to the conclusion that the church was just a bunch of fascists that supported Franco. I stopped going on Sunday mornings and watched the birds with my father instead.”
-London Telegraph, March 22, 2003


Lemuel K. Washburn
"A man cannot be happy who believes in hell, any more than he can sweeten his coffee with a pickle."


Ed Weathers
"A man truly awake does not need religion. He doesn't need gods. He doesn't need miracles. He doesn't need holy lands here below or celestial heavens up above. For him, life in this universe is itself holy, as is every patch of ground and every path he walks. Life itself is enough of a miracle. To believe in a god who made this life is to believe in a miracle even greater than this miracle. Who needs more than one unfathomable miracle? Existence is a fluke, a freak, a wonder, a dream, a bizarre uncanny thing. Our own consciousness of this existence is so incredible a phenomenon that I don't understand why anyone feels the need to believe in anything else more 'spiritual.' It's all spiritual. It's all true magic. Why add imagined magic to explain the magic that is right before us?"
~ Memphis Flyer


Robert Weston
Cherish your doubts, for doubt is the handmaiden of truth. Doubt is the key to the door of knowledge, it is the servant of discovery. A belief that may not be questioned binds us in error, for there is incompleteness and imperfection in every belief. Let no man fear for truth, that doubt may consume it; for doubt is a testing of belief. He that would silence doubt is filled with fear. Let us not fear doubt, but let us rejoice in its help. It is to the wise as a staff to the blind; doubt is the handmaiden of truth.
- Hymns for the Celebration of Life, 1954


Joseph Wheless
“Disbelief, doubt, inquiry of truth, rejection of superstition, is distinctly an act of Intelligence; it often requires heroic virtue of bravery and independence of mind to disbelieve, to revolt against and reject the creeds and credulities of the ignorant community... It is the bravest men and the finest minds, with high courage to dare and defy Holy Church.”
Forgery In Christianity, 1930, pg. 317-318


Sherwin Wine
“If we say we are intellectual but never read a book; if we say that we are compassionate but never help a neighbor; if we claim to love life but proceed to destroy ourselves, then we are not what we think we are. Behavior always exposes our fantasies. We cannot be what we are unwilling to do. Watching behavior is the best way to confront reality. It dispels all illusions. It rescues us from phony sincerity. It restores vision, the only vision that really counts, the vision of truth.”
- Celebration, 1988


Frank Lloyd Wright [1869-1959] American architect
"I believe in God, only I spell it Nature."


Andrew Dickson White (1832-1918)
American educator and diplomat who founded Cornell University with Ezra Cornell and was its first president (1868-1885)

“The cardinal doctrine of a fanatic's creed is that his enemies are the enemies of God.”

“Here we may pause for a moment to note one of the chief differences between scientific and theological reasoning considered in themselves. Kepler's main reasoning as to the existence of a law for cometary movement was right; but his secondary reasoning, that comets move nearly in straight lines, was wrong. His right reasoning was developed by Gassendi in France, by Borelli in Italy, by Hevel and Doerfel in Germany, by Eysat and Bernouilli in Switzerland, by Percy and -- most important of all, as regards mathematical demonstration -- by Newton in England. The general theory, which was true, they accepted and developed; the secondary theory, which was found untrue, they rejected; and, as a result, both of what they thus accepted and of what they rejected, was evolved the basis of the whole modern cometary theory. Very different was this from the theological method. As a rule, when there arises a thinker as great in theology as Kepler in science, the whole mass of his conclusions ripens into a dogma. His disciples labour not to test it, but to establish it; and while, in the Catholic Church, it becomes a dogma to be believed or disbelieved under the penalty of damnation, it becomes in the Protestant Church the basis for one more sect.”


Graeme Wilson
“Wherever Judaeo-Christianity has exerted influence it has ravaged mankind morally, intellectually and physically. Christianity
has sought to impose limitations upon the mind. Ignorance is elevated to a holy state. Paul declares: ‘For wisdom of this world is foolishness to God.’ (I Cor. 3:19). This is the mentality which gave history the Dark Ages, the Inquisition, book burning, a legacy of dark ignorance which continues to have its impact today. It is the same mentality which even now motivates ‘concerned Christian parents’ to burn books containing material far less ‘immoral’ than the chronicle of rape, murder and pillage contained in their own Bible. It is Christianity which has soured relations between the sexes with its commandments for the subjugation of women. ‘Wives must submit yourselves to your husbands’; ‘But I shall suffer not a woman to teach, not to usurp authority over man’, writes the neurotic Paul. How different this is to the attitude of pre-Christian Europe, which regarded women as prophetesses.”


Mary Wollstonecraft
“. . . the being cannot be termed rational or virtuous who obeys any authority but that of reason.”
-A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792)


Y
William Butler Yeats, Irish poet
“Once every people in the world believed that trees were divine, and could take a human or grotesque shape and dance among the shadows; and that deer, and ravens and foxes, and wolves and bears, and clouds and pools, almost all things under the sun and moon, and the sun and moon, were not less divine and changeable. They saw in the rainbow the still-bent bow of a god thrown down in his negligence; they heard in the thunder the sound of his beaten water jar, or the tumult of his chariot wheels; and when a sudden flight of wild ducks, or of crows, passed over their heads, they thought they were gazing at the dead hastening to their rest....”




Some thoughts on critical thinking found by my friend Loriane at
http://www.freeinquiry.com/critical-thinking.html.

"Critical thinking is the ability to think for one's self and reliably and
responsibly make those decisions that affect one's life. Critical thinking
is also critical inquiry, so such critical thinkers investigate problems,
ask questions, pose new answers that challenge the status quo, discover
new information that can be used for good or ill, question authorities and
traditional beliefs, challenge received dogmas and doctrines, and often
end up possessing power in society greater than their numbers. It may be
that a workable society or culture can tolerate only a small number of
critical thinkers, that learning, internalizing, and practicing scientific
and critical thinking is discouraged. Most people are followers of
authority: most do not question, are not curious, and do not challenge
authority figures who claim special knowledge or insight. Most people,
therefore, do not think for themselves, but rely on others to think for
them. Most people indulge in wishful, hopeful, and emotional thinking,
believing that what they believe is true because they wish it, hope it, or
feel it to be true. Most people, therefore, do not think critically.

Critical thinking has many components. Life can be described as a sequence
of problems that each individual must solve for one's self. Critical
thinking skills are nothing more than problem solving skills that result
in reliable knowledge. Humans constantly process information. Critical
thinking is the practice of processing this information in the most
skillful, accurate, and rigorous manner possible, in such a way that it
leads to the most reliable, logical, and trustworthy conclusions, upon
which one can make responsible decisions about one's life, behavior, and
actions with full knowledge of assumptions and consequences of those
decisions.

Raymond S. Nickerson (1987), an authority on critical thinking,
characterizes a good critical thinker in terms of knowledge, abilities,
attitudes, and habitual ways of behaving. Here are some of the
characteristics of such a thinker:

uses evidence skillfully and impartially

organizes thoughts and articulates them concisely and coherently

distinguishes between logically valid and invalid inferences

suspends judgment in the absence of sufficient evidence to support a decision

understands the difference between reasoning and rationalizing

attempts to anticipate the probable consequences of alternative actions

understands the idea of degrees of belief

sees similarities and analogies that are not superficially apparent

can learn independently and has an abiding interest in doing so

applies problem-solving techniques in domains other than those in which
learned

can structure informally represented problems in such a way that formal
techniques, such as mathematics, can be used to solve them

can strip a verbal argument of irrelevancies and phrase it in its
essential terms

habitually questions one's own views and attempts to understand both the
assumptions that are critical to those views and the implications of the
views

is sensitive to the difference between the validity of a belief and the
intensity with which it is held

is aware of the fact that one's understanding is always limited, often
much more so than would be apparent to one with a noninquiring attitude

recognizes the fallibility of one's own opinions, the probability of bias
in those opinions, and the danger of weighting evidence according to
personal preferences


What is Religion?

"Religion: A general term used... to designate all concepts concerning the belief in god(s) and goddess(es) as well as other spiritual beings or transcendental ultimate concerns."
—Penguin Dictionary of Religions (1997).

"Religion: Relation of human beings to God or the gods or to whatever they consider sacred or, in some cases, merely supernatural."
—Britannica Concise Encyclopedia (online, 2006)

"Religion: Human beings' relation to that which they regard as holy, sacred, spiritual, or divine."
—Encyclop√¶dia Britannica (online, 2006)

"Religion: (2) a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices; (4) a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith."
—Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary (online, 2006)

"The religious response is a response to experience and is coloured by the wish to provide a wider context for a fragile, short and turbulent life."
—Philip Rousseau, The Early Christian Centuries (2002), p. 4.

"Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation. It is the opiate of the people."
—Karl Marx

"Religion is the human attitude towards a sacred order that includes within it all being—human or otherwise—i.e., belief in a cosmos, the meaning of which both includes and transcends man."
—Peter Berger

"Viewed systematically, religion can be differentiated from other culturally constituted institutions by virtue only of its reference to superhuman beings."
—Melford Spiro

"Religion is what the individual does with his own solitariness."
—A.N. Whitehead

"...for limited purposes only, let me define religion as a set of symbolic forms and acts which relate man to the ultimate conditions of his existence."
—R.N. Bellah

"Religion is the daughter of Hope and Fear, explaining to ignorance the nature of the Unknowable."
—Ambrose Bierce

"A religion is a unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things, that is to say, things set apart and forbidden—beliefs and practices which unite into one single moral community called a Church, all those who adhere to them."
—Emile Durkheim

"One's religion is whatever he is most interested in."
—J.M. Barrie, The Twelve-Pound Look (1910)

"Religion consists in a set of things which the average man thinks he believes and wishes he was certain of."
—Mark Twain

"Religion is an illusion and it derives its strength from the fact that it falls in with our instinctual desires."
—Sigmund Freud, New Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis

"Religion is excellent stuff for keeping common people quiet."
—Napoleon Bonaparte

"We go into religion in order to feel warmer in our hearts, more connected to others, more connected to something greater and to have a sense of peace."
—Goldie Hawn, Beliefnet interview

"Religion is something left over from the infancy of our intelligence; it will fade away as we adopt reason and science as our guidelines."
—Bertrand Russell

"Religions are the great fairy tales of conscience."
—George Santayana

"Religion is all bunk."
— Thomas Edison