Have you ever thought to yourself, "Gosh, I wish I had a whole list of famous quotes dealing with atheism, agnosticism, humanism and freethought, with a few kooky bits from across the fence just to top it all off?" ...no? Well, you're getting one anyway. As always, if you have a suggestion, let us know, and we'll see if we can authenticate it and put it up with the rest. Enjoy!
Let's start out with a few from the opposition, that we think are certainly worth a look:
Leviticus 25:44-46 of the King James version of the Bible says:
"Both thy bondmen, and thy bondmaids, which thou shalt have, shall be of the heathen that are round about you; of them shall ye buy bondmen and bondmaids. Moreover of the children of the strangers that do sojourn among you, of them shall ye buy, and of their families that are with you, which they begat in your land: and they shall be your possession."
Think about that for a while.
Matthew 10, 34-39, KJB
"Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.
For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.
And a man's foes shall be they of his own household.
He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.
And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.
He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it."
(For more from the Big Book, go here. Go ahead, poke around a bit. It's fun.)
More from their guys...
"So one kid says, 'I don't want to pray'. Fine, bow your head and shut your mouth. Let the rest of the kids pray. It's not that big a deal."
--Ben Kinchlow (Pat Robertson's 700 Club co-host, on school prayer.)
Thanks! Glad to know we still have options.
"No, I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God."
--George H.W. Bush
Just in case you were getting comfortable...wake up. There's some work to be done yet.
"Gays and lesbians live perverted, twisted lives that feed upon the unsuspecting and the innocent, like our children."
--Lou Sheldon (Traditional Values Coalition)
Keep listening, folks...
"It is your God-given right to destroy any man or woman calling themselves doctors who willingly slaughter innocent children."
--Keith Tucci (Executive Director of Operation Rescue)
...there aren't words.
"Sex education classes in our public schools are promoting incest."
--Rev. Jimmy Swaggart
Later, it was found that the Rev. Swaggart had been involved in a bit of sexual deviance himself. One prostitute, when interviewed about her 'relationship' with the good Reverend, stated : "He was kind of perverted...I wouldn't want him around my kids."
"Don't make the mistake of believing that because you weren't punished immediately for a sin that there is no God or that sin goes unpunished. If you steal or lie or blaspheme against Him, God isn't going to hit you with a lightning bolt or turn you into a pillar of salt. He will give you space and time to repent. In some cases, that will be years. But ultimately, if you don't repent, you will be punished. When you see miserably unhappy adults who punish themselves with alcohol and unhappy relationships and who are filled with so much fear and hatred that it makes you afraid to think of being with them or being like them, they didn't get that way overnight. Somewhere, long ago, when they were your age, they intentionally did something wrong and decided, because they weren't hit with a lightning bolt, that they had 'gotten away with it.' Look at them. Do you think they 'got away with it'? And that's only in this world. Imagine what they're going to experience in the next world. Do the things that are right and don't do things that are wrong. You know the difference."
--Comics author Dave Sim, of Cerebus notoriety
Yeah, it's a long quote, but it's all so worthwhile we couldn't cut it. So if you steal a candy bar when you're five and don't repent soon enough, you end up an embittered alcoholic incapable of stable relationships and destined for the eternal flames of Hell. Like Reefer Madness, only with religion instead of marijuana. Sweet.
"...legitimate defense can be not only a right but a grave duty for someone responsible for another's life, the common good of the family or of the State. Unfortunately, it happens that the need to render the aggressor incapable of causing harm sometimes involves taking his life. In this case, the fatal outcome is attributable to the aggressor whose actions brought it about, even though he may not be morally responsible because of a lack of the use of reason."
--Pope John Paul II (From his Encyclical Letter from 1995, EVANGELIUM VITAE)
Immaculate words of wisdom. If you're ever in the mood to be confused and disturbed, look around for other great ideas John Paul has had over the years.
(classics from the fringe)
"...thank God this vile and satanic system will one day be utterly annihilated and there'll be a celebration in heaven."
(gotta love him) --Jerry Falwell (former leader of Moral Majority, referring to the gay oriented church, MCC)
"I've been fighting against the Jews and niggers and for our Lord Jesus Christ and the white race ever since I was a child. And most of the time we've been losing... We had lost the fight for the preservation of the white race until God himself intervened in earthly affairs with AIDS to rescue and preserve the white race that He had created. So AIDS is a great racial miracle. I praise God all the time for AIDS."
--JB Stoner (Aryan Nations Congress)
............okay. Y'know, normally, out of respect for the fact that the KKK can't be blamed on religion so much as aberrant and incredible human lunacy, this wouldn't make the list. But sometimes, just sometimes, it's good to remember that people like this exist and, for the most part, actually believe themselves.
"If English was good enough for Jesus Christ, then it is good enough for Texas children."
--Texas Governor Ferguson (on Spanish being taught in Texas public schools.)
What, you thought we'd miss that one?
Now, let's be fair here and get some non-Christian words of wisdom into the mix:
"Death for the wicked, conclude our Sages, is a benefit for them and for the world while death for the righteous is bad for them and bad for the world."
--Sanhedrin 72a, from the Talmud
"Say: My Lord would not care for you were it not for your prayer; but you have indeed rejected (the truth), so that which shall cleave shall come."
--The Distinction 25.77, from the Koran
all these religious texts are so gosh-darn nice. How could non-religion ever compete?
"Don't see a thing working...see it finished!"
--Raymond Buckland (Wiccan author, on visualization "magick")
*shrug* unfortunately, those of us on this plane don't get to skip steps.
Now, with all of that in mind, here's what you've been waiting for. These are some of our guys...
"God is a comedian playing to an audience too afraid to laugh."
"Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?"
"Believing in gods always causes confusion."
--Pearl S. Buck
"If you think your belief is based upon reason, you will support it by argument rather than by persecution, and will abandon it if the argument goes against you. But if your belief is based upon faith, you will realize that argument is useless, and will therefore resort to force either in the form of persecution or by stunting or distorting the minds of the young in what is called 'education.'"
"I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect, has intended us to forgo their use."
"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."
Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction."
--Blaise Pascal, 1670
"Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored."
-- Aldous Huxley
"Not all those who wander are lost."
--JRR Tolkien (...who wasn't an atheist, but the quote seems to have some broad applications anyway.)
"The Church says the Earth is flat. But I know that it is round. For I have seen the shadow on the Moon. And I have more faith in a shadow than in the Church."
"I'm sickened by all religions. Religion has divided people. I don't think there's any difference between the pope wearing a large hat and parading around with a smoking purse and an African painting his face white and praying to a rock."
"Atheism leaves a man to sense, to philosophy, to natural piety, to laws, to reputation; all of which may be guides to an outward moral virtue, even if religion vanished; but religious superstition dismounts all these and erects an absolute monarchy in the minds of men."
"The greatest tragedy in mankind's entire history my be the hijacking of morality by religion."
"I do not pretend to know what many ignorant men are sure -- that is all agnosticism means."
-- Clarence Darrow
"When they tell us to get down on our knees and repent, they are basically asking us to bend over and get screwed."
--Father Benedict Johannen (from Bend Over and Receive God)
"All religions are founded on the fear of the many and the cleverness of the few."
and, on that same note:
"There's a sucker born every minute."
"The hope of science is the perfection of the human race. The hope of theology is the salvation of a few and the damnation of almost everybody."
-- Robert Ingersoll
"Calling atheism a religion is like calling bald a hair color."
"I do not approve of a word you say but will defend to the death your right to say it."
Also worth noting are Voltaire's last recorded words:
"In the name of God, let me die in peace!"
--When asked on his deathbed whether he would finally acknowledge the divinity of Jesus Christ, Voltaire, the one of the most notorious Deists in history, just wasn't having it. (from Famous Last Words, ed. Ray Robinson [Workman 2003])
"I desire to go to Hell, not to Heaven. In Hell I shall enjoy the company of popes, kings and princes, but in Heaven are only beggars, monks, hermits and apostles."
"In conclusion, there is a marvelous anecdote from the occasion of [Bertrand] Russell's ninetieth birthday that best serves to summarize his attitude toward God and religion. A London lady sat next to him at this party, and over the soup she suggested to him that he was not only the world's most famous atheist but, by this time, very probably the world's oldest atheist. "What will you do, Bertie, if it turns out you're wrong?" she asked. "I mean, what if -- uh -- when the time comes, you should meet Him? What will you say?" Russell was delighted with the question. His bright, birdlike eyes grew even brighter as he contemplated this possible future dialogue, and then he pointed a finger upward and cried, "Why, I should say, 'God, you gave us insufficient evidence.'"
--Al Seckel, in Preface to Bertrand Russell on God and Religion
Last but not least, in the words of our Forefathers...
In 1787, when the framers excluded all mention of God from the Constitution, they were widely denounced as immoral and the document was denounced as godless, which is precisely what it is. A good many people important to this nation's formation were Deists. Here are quotes from some of the forefathers of the United States of America:
"As to Jesus of Nazareth, my opinion of whom you particularly desire, I think the System of Morals and his religion...has received various corrupting changes, and I have, with most present dissenters in England, some doubts as to his divinity; tho' it is a question I do not dogmatize upon, having never studied it, and think it needless to busy myself with it now, when I expect soon an opportunity of knowing the Truth with less trouble."
--The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, by Benjamin Franklin (Dover 1996)
"I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek church, by the Turkish church, nor by any church that I know of... Each of those churches accuse the other of unbeliefe [sic]; and for my own part, I disbelieve them all."
--from The Age of Reason
He also had a few thoughts in regards to the Bible: "It is a history of wickedness that has served to corrupt and brutalize mankind; and, for my part, I sincerely detest it as I detest everything that is cruel."
John Adams, the 2nd Constitutional President:
Twenty times in the course of my late reading have I been upon the point of breaking out, 'This would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it!'"
(John Adams, A Biography in His Own Words)
"We can never be so certain of any Prophecy or the fulfillment of any Prophecy; or of any miracle as We are, from the recelation of nature i.e. natures God that two and two are equal to four. Miracles or Prophecies might frighten Us out of our Witts; might scare us to death; might induce Us to lie, to say that We believe that 2 and 2 make 5. But We should not believe it. We should know the contrary."
-- The Adams-Jefferson Letters, ed. Lester Cappon (Chapel Hill 1959)
"the Government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion."
John Adams, from the Treaty of Peace and Friendship (Article XI)
"I trust that there is not a young man now living in the United States who will not die a Unitarian."
"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 blind-folded fear."
"The legitimate powers of government extend only to such acts as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg."
--from Notes on Virginia, 1784
James Madison, fourth president of the U.S.:
If Religion be not within the cognizance of Civil Government how can its legal establishment be necessary to Civil Government? What influence in fact have ecclesiastical establishments had on Civil Society? In some instances they have been seen to erect a spiritual tyranny on the ruins of the Civil authority; in many instances they have been seen upholding the thrones of political tyranny: in no instance have they been seen the guardians of the liberties of the people.
"Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise."
--Letter to William Bradford
Ethan Allen made possible the capture of Fort Ticonderoga and that lead to the belief that maybe the war for our Independence was possible to win. He described himself as "denominated a Deist, the reality of which I never disputed, being conscious I am no Christian." (Reason, the Only Oracle of Man, by Ethan Allen)
George Washington had his own thoughts on how to deal with religious diversity in society.
All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunity of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people, that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens.
--Letter to the Jewish community of Newport, Rhode Island, 1790.
Think about that one for a bit.
*We are greatly indebted to Susan Jacoby's Freethinkers: A History of Secular America (Metropolitan 2004) for many of the Founding Fathers quotes. Go read it, it's really interesting.