Quotations Related to Atheism

Here are some quotes related to atheism and religious belief that I find interesting.


Rationality of Atheism

Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama, Time, April 11, 1988.
“We must conduct research and then accept the results. If they don’t stand up to experimentation, Buddha’s own words must be rejected.”
Heraclitus of Ephesus (540-480 BCE), 500 BCE.
“A blow to the head will confuse a man’s thinking, a blow to the foot has no such effect, this cannot be the result of an immaterial soul.”
Frederick Douglass (1817-1985), escaped slave.
“I prayed for twenty years but received no answer until I prayed with my legs.”
Anaxagorus, circa 475 BCE.
“Everything has a natural explanation. The moon is not a god but a great rock and the sun a hot rock.”
Philip K. Dick (1928-1982), Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, 1968.
“Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.”
Clarence Darrow (1857-1938), Scopes trial, July 1925.
“To think is to differ.”
Carl Sagan (1934-1996), 1987 CSICOP keynote address.
“In science it often happens that scientists say, ‘You know that’s a really good argument; my position is mistaken,’ and then they actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn’t happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion.”

Ethics without Religion

Abraham Lincoln.
“When I do good, I feel good; when I do bad, I feel bad. That’s my religion.”
Albert Einstein, “Religion and Science,” New York Times Magazine, 9 November 1930.
“A man’s ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties and needs; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death.”
Marcus Aurelius
“Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.”
Madalyn Murray (later O’Hair), Murray v. Curlett, preamble, April 27, 1961.
“An Atheist loves himself and his fellowman instead of a god. An Atheist knows that heaven is something for which we should work now—here on earth—for all men together to enjoy. An Atheist thinks that he can get no help through prayer but that he must find in himself the inner conviction and strength to meet life, to grapple with it, to subdue, and enjoy it. An Atheist thinks that only in a knowledge of himself and a knowledge of his fellowman can he find the understanding that will help to a life of fulfillment.

Therefore, he seeks to know himself and his fellowman rather than to know a god. An Atheist knows that a hospital should be build instead of a church An Atheist knows that a deed must be done instead of a prayer said. An Atheist strives for involvement in life and not escape into death. He wants disease conquered, poverty vanquished, war eliminated. He wants man to understand and love man. He wants an ethical way of life. He knows that we cannot rely on a god nor channel action into prayer nor hope for an end to troubles in the hereafter. He knows that we are our brother’s keeper and keepers of our lives; that we are responsibile persons, that the job is here and the time is now.”

Isaac Asimov (1920-1992), “On Religiosity,” Free Inquiry.
“Although the time of death is approaching me, I am not afraid of dying and going to Hell or (what would be considerably worse) going to the popularized version of Heaven. I expect death to be nothingness and, for removing me from all possible fears of death, I am thankful to atheism.”

Benefits of Atheism (or Absence of Theism)

“Two hands working can do more than a thousand clasped in prayer.”
John Burroughs (1837-1921), American naturalist, The Light of Day.
“Science has done more for the development of western civilization in one hundred years than Christianity did in eighteen hundred years.”
Dan Barker, Losing Faith in Faith, 1992.
“I have something to say to the religionist who feels atheists never say anything positive: You are an intelligent human being. Your life is valuable for its own sake. You are not second-class in the universe, deriving meaning and purpose from some other mind. You are not inherently evil—you are inherently human, possessing the positive rational potential to help make this a world of morality, peace and joy. Trust yourself.”

Irrationality of Religious Belief

David Hume (1711-1776), An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, 1748.
The Christian religion not only was at first attended with miracles, but even at this day cannot be believed by any reasonable person without one.
St. Augustine (Aurelius Augustine, Augustine of Hippo, 354-420), De Genesi ad litteram libri duodecim (The Literal Meaning of Genesis), chapter 19.
“Often a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other parts of the world, about the motions and orbits of the stars and even their sizes and distances, ... and this knowledge he holds with certainty from reason and experience. It is thus offensive and disgraceful for an unbeliever to hear a Christian talk nonsense about such things, claiming that what he is saying is based in Scripture. We should do all that we can to avoid such an embarrassing situation, which people see as ignorance in the Christian and laugh to scorn.”
Bruce Calvert.
“Believing is easier than thinking. Hence so many more believers than thinkers.”
Chapman Cohen.
“Gods are fragile things; they may be killed by a whiff of science or a dose of common sense.”
Gloria Steinem.
It’s an incredible con job when you think of it, to believe something now in exchange for life after death. Even corporations with all their reward systems don’t try to make it posthumous.
H. L. Mencken (1880-1956), Treatise on the Gods.
“... Christian theology, like every other theology, is not only opposed to the scientific spirit; it is also opposed to every other form of rational thinking.”
Clarence Darrow, speech, Toronto, 1930.
“I don’t believe in god because I don’t believe in Mother Goose.”
David Feherty, PGA Tour golfer.
“If god wanted people to believe in him, why’d he invent logic then?”
Laurie Lynn, sechum-l (secular humanist discussion list).
“God tells Adam and Eve not to eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. If this was the only way they could understand the difference between good and evil, how could they have known that it was wrong to disobey god and eat the fruit?”

Harm of Religion

Thomas Paine.
“Belief in a cruel god makes a cruel man.”
Steven Weinberg, Nobel Laureate, Washington, DC, April 1999.
“Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.”
Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902), Free Thought Magazine, September 1896.
The Bible and the Church have been the greatest stumbling blocks in the way of women’s emancipation.
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970), “Why I am Not a Christian,” March 6, 1927.
I say quite deliberately that the Christian religion, as organized in its churches, has been and still is the principal enemy of moral progress in the world.
James Madison (1751-1836), A Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments, addressed to the Virginia General Assembly, June 20, 1785.
During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What have been its fruits? More or less, in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution.
Dr. J. C. Flugel.
“Religion... can exercise a severe crippling and inhibiting effect upon the human mind, by fostering irrational anxiety and guilt, and by hampering the free play of the intellect.”
Isaac Asimov (1920-1992), Canadian Atheists Newsletter, 1994.
“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 centuries 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 and warn the people of Canada...”
Tom Flynn, The Trouble with Christmas.
“The Santa myth is one of the most effective means ever devised for intimidating children, eroding their self-esteem, twisting their behavior, warping their values, and slowing their development of critical thinking skills.”
H. L. Mencken (1880-1956), New York Times Magazine, 11 September 1955.
“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.”
Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899).
“Religion supports nobody. It has to be supported. It produces no wheat, no corn; it ploughs no land; it fells no forests. It is a perpetual mendicant. It lives on the labors of others, and then has the arrogance to pretend that it supports the giver.”
Bernard Spilka, Ralph Hood, and Richard Gorsuch, The Psychology of Religion (standard psychology text).
“Most studies show that conventional religion is not an effective force for moral behavior or against criminal activity.”
Pope Innocent III (1161-1216).
“Consequently, in the name of God Almighty, by the authority of the Apostles Saints Peter and Paul, and by our Own, We reprove and condemn this Charter [the Magna Carta]; under pain of anathema We forbid the King to observe it or the barons to demand its execution. We declare the Charter null and of no effect, as well as all the obligations contracted to confirm it. It is Our wish that in no case should it have any effect.”

Bigotry by Theists

Saint Augustine.
“The good Christian should beware of mathematicians and all those who make empty prophecies. The danger already exists that mathematicians have made a covenant with the devil to darken the spirit and confine man in the bonds of Hell.”
Judge Braswell Dean, Time Magazine, March 1981.
“...this monkey mythology of Darwin is the cause of permissiveness, promiscuity, prophylactics, perversions, pregnancies, abortions, pornotherapy, pollution, poisoning and proliferation of crimes of all types.”
Pope Leo XIII, “Great Encyclical Letters,” 16.
“It is quite unlawful to demand, defend, or to grant unconditional freedom of thought, or speech, of writing or worship, as if these were so many rights given by nature to man.”
Jerry Falwell, “Can Our Young People Find God in the Pages of Trashy Magazines? No, Of Course Not!” Reader’s Digest, August 1985: 142-157.
“The decline in American pride, patriotism, and piety can be directly attributed to the extensive reading of so-called ‘science fiction’ by our young people. This poisonous rot about creatures not of God’s making, societies of ‘aliens’ without a good Christian among them, and raw sex between unhuman beings with three heads and God alone knows what sort of reproductive apparatus keeps our young people from realizing the true will of God.”
George Bush, “Bush on Atheism,” Free Inquiry 8, no. 4 (Fall 1988): 16.
“I don’t know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots.”

Silly and Hypocritical Theists

At a PTL convention, the hotel reported that over 80% of the conventionites watched at least one X-rated movie on the hotel’s pay-per-view cable...
New York State Senator James Donovan, speaking in support of capital punishment.
“Where would Christianity be if Jesus got eight to fifteen years with time off for good behavior?”
James Watt.
“We don’t have to protect the environment, the Second Coming is at hand.”

Whimsy and Miscellaneous

Give a man a fish, and you’ll feed him for a day. Give him a religion, and he’ll starve to death while praying for a fish.
H. L. Mencken (1880-1956), Minority Report, 1956.
“We must respect the other fellow’s religion, but only in the sense and to the extent that we respect his theory that his wife is beautiful and his children smart.”
Mario Cuomo.
“The price of seeking to force our beliefs on others is that someday they might force their beliefs on us.”
H. L. Mencken (1880-1956).
“It is now quite lawful for a Catholic woman to avoid pregnancy by a resort to mathematics, though she is still forbidden to resort to physics or chemistry.”
Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), The Anti-Christ, 1889.
“Belief means not wanting to know what is true.”
Terry Pratchett, Diggers.
“The trouble with having an open mind, of course, is that people will insist on coming along and trying to put things in it.”
Seneca the Younger (4? BCE - 65 CE).
“Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.”
Charlotte Observer, 1897.
“Education and religion are two things not regulated by supply and demand. The less of either the people have, the less they want.”
Thomas Edison (1847-1931).
“So far as religion of the day is concerned, it is a damned fake... Religion is all bunk.”
Lynn R. Buzzard, Executive Director of Christian Legal Society, as quoted in They Haven’t Got a Prayer, Elgin, Illinois: David C. Cook, 1982, p. 81.
“Not only were a good many of the revolutionary leaders more deist than Christian, the actual number of church members was rather small. Perhaps as few as five percent of the populace were church members in 1776”
Reverend Jerry Falwell.
“I feel most ministers who claim they’ve heard God’s voice are eating too much pizza before they go to bed at night, and it’s really an intestinal disorder, not a revelation.”
James Feibleman, “Understanding Philosophy,” 1973.
“A myth is a religion in which no one any longer believes.”
Baron Paul Henri T. d’Holbach.
“Theology is but the ignorance of natural causes reduced to a system.”
Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899), “The Gods,” 1872.
“Man must learn to rely upon himself. Reading bibles will not protect him from the blasts of winter, but houses, fires, and clothing will. To prevent famine, one plow is worth a million sermons, and even patent medicines will cure more diseases than all the prayers uttered since the beginning of the world.”
A. A. Milne.
“The Old Testament is responsible for more atheism, agnosticism, disbelief—call it what you will—than any book ever written.”
James Morrow.
“‘There are no atheists in foxholes’ isn’t an argument against atheism, it’s an argument against foxholes.”

Compilation © copyright 2000 by Eric Postpischil.