Positive Atheism's Big List of Quotations

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Amos Bronson Alcott (1799-1888)
American teacher and reformer

Amos Bronson AlcottThe true teacher defends his pupils against his own personal influence. He inspires self-distrust. He guides their eyes from himself to the spirit that quickens him. He will have no disciple.
-- Amos Bronson Alcott, Orphic Sayings,"The Teacher" (1840)

Amos Bronson AlcottThought means life, since those who do not think so do not live in any high or real sense.
-- Amos Bronson Alcott, quoted from Sidney Madwed, ed, Poor Man's College Quotations Collection

Strengthen me by sympathizing with my strength, not my weakness.
-- Amos Bronson Alcott, Table Talk, "Sympathy" (1877)

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Ethan Allen (1738-1789)
American Revolutionary

Ethan AllenIn those parts of the world where learning and science have prevailed, miracles have ceased; but in those parts of it as are barbarous and ignorant, miracles are still in vogue.
-- Ethan Allen, Reason the Only Oracle of Man (1784)

I have generally been denominated a Deist, the reality of which I never disputed, being conscious I am no Christian, except mere infant baptism makes me one; and as to being a Deist, I know not strictly speaking, whether I am one or not.
-- Ethan Allen, Reason the Only Oracle of Man (1784)

Those who invalidate reason ought seriously to consider whether they argue against reason or without reason; if with reason, then they establish the principle that they are laboring to dethrone: but if they argue without reason (which, in order to be consistent with themselves they must do), they are out of reach of rational conviction, nor do they deserve a rational argument.
-- Ethan Allen, Reason the Only Oracle of Man (1784)

There is not any thing, whilch has contributed so much to delude mankind in religious matters, as mistaken apprehensions concerning supernatural inspiration or revelation; not considering that all true religion originates from reason, and can not otherwise be understood, but by the exercise and improvement of it.
-- Ethan Allen, Reason the Only Oracle of Man (1784)

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Steve as DJ - as silly in real life as he was in character (circa mid-1920s?) shading enhanced by hand -cwSteve Allen (d. 2000)
American actor; author; social critic; Guinness Book's 'most prolific composer of modern times' (8,500 songs -- though three years of piano lessons comprised his entire musical education); Jack of all trades; pioneer in the medium of television

Steve AllenThe fundamentalist believer is mostly a weird intellectual who often lacks real faith altogether. As a self-appointed attorney for God, who is in no need of attorneys, he very easily turns out to be more godless than the agnostic and the unbeliever. At all events, he seems deaf to poetry.
-- Steve Allen, Steve Allen on The Bible, Religion, and Morality, pp. 222-26

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Woody Allen (1935-)
American comic actor, writer, and filmmaker

Woody AllenThe chief problem about death, incidentally, is the fear that there may be no afterlife -- a depressing thought, particularly for those who have bothered to shave. Also, there is the fear that there is an afterlife but no one will know where it's being held.
-- Woody Allen, "The Early Essays," Without Feathers

I do occasionally envy the person who is religious naturally, without being brainwashed into it or suckered into it by all the organized hustles.
-- Woody Allen, Rolling Stone, 1987

If only God would give me some clear sign! Like making a large deposit in my name at a Swiss bank.
-- Woody Allen, "Selections from the Allen Notebooks," in New Yorker, Nov. 5, 1973

Not only is there no God, but try getting a plumber on weekends.
-- Woody Allen, "My Philosophy," The New Yorker (December 27, 1969), Getting Even "My Philosophy" (1971)

How can I believe in God when just last week I got my tongue caught in the roller of an electric typewriter?
-- Woody Allen, Without Feathers, 1975

If it turns out that there is a God, I don't think that he's evil. But the worst that you can say about him is that basically he's an underachiever.
-- Woody Allen, from the final monologue in his film, Love and Death (Thanks, Geof!)

To YOU I'm an atheist; to God, I'm the Loyal Opposition.
-- Woody Allen (attributed: source unknown)

Woody AllenIn real life, Keaton believes in God. But she also believes that the radio works because there are tiny people inside it.
-- Woody Allen, (attributed: source unknown)

I don't want to achieve immortality through my work ... I want to achieve it through not dying.
-- Woody Allen, quoted in: Edward Lax, Woody Allen and his Comedy, ch. 12 (1975), quoted from The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations

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If Woody Allen were a Muslim, he'd be dead by now.
-- Salman Rushdie, Indian-born British author, quoted in: Independent (London, 18 February 1989), quoted from The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations

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Robert S Alley
American Historian

The present emphasis upon civil religion is a flagrant toying with the First Amendment. Various trends in national life suggest that a civil religion of the majority might find religious liberty something it did not care to preserve.
-- Robert S Alley, So Help Me God John Knox Press (1972) (from The Great Quotations On Religious Freedom compiled by Albert J Menendez and Edd Doerr.)

As a nation we have revisited that bitter lesson all too often since the school prayer decision of 1962. In the name of prayer and "family values," large numbers of citizens have reacted to their neighbors with hate and anger when public school religious practices have been challenged as violating the Bill of Rights. It is astounding and depressing to witness people who claim that school prayer is necessary to return the nation to spiritual values, attacking with vicious and intemperate behavior fellow citizens who disagree with their solution. In the name of their deity, these self-styled keepers of public morality exhibit the most outrageous forms of discrimination, hate, and intimidation against those who challenge organized prayer in public schools. And the venom has not been diluted over the thirty-four years since Engle. Further, on those occasions where the challenge to school prayer originated with Jewish citizens, the ugly head of anti-Semitism lurks all to close to the surface.
-- Robert S Alley, Without a Prayer: Religious Expression in Public Schools, p. 22

Over and over again throughout this book we witness the majority of citizens in a given community, in the name of prayer, abusing and tyrannizing those who have challenged local-or-state-endorsed religious practices. And these represent only a few examples: the problem itself is too widespread for every instance to be included here. Establishment in the name of the majority has bred hooligans ready to threaten fellow citizens, harassing both adults and children alike in the name of prayer. The disease of de facto religious establishments is evident today in the vicious treatment by community majorities of those courageous citizens who seek protection under the First Amendment.
-- Robert S Alley, Without a Prayer: Religious Expression in Public Schools (back cover)

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Gordon Willard Allport (1897-1967)
American psychology professor

Gordon AllportPeople who are aware of, and ashamed of, their prejudices are well on the road to eliminating them.
-- Gordon Allport, quoted by Dr. Paul Gorski, "Multicultural Pavilion: Quotations and Proverbs"

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Matthew Alper
Author of 'The God Part of the Brain'

Matthew AlperIn the "higher" animals, most particularly among the mammals, threatening circumstances elicit a particular type of pain we refer to as anxiety. Anxiety constitutes a type of pain meant to prompt these "higher" order animals to avoid potentially hazardous circumstances. For example, a rabbit is cornered by a mountain lion. In such a situation, the rabbit is pumped with adrenaline, charged with the painful symptoms of anxiety, all meant to incite the rabbit to most effectively escape from the source of its discomfort, in this case the mountain lion. In its healthiest form, anxiety is meant to prompt an animal to avoid or escape a potentially hazardous experience. In humans, however, once we became aware of the fact that death was not only inescapable but that it could come at any moment, we were left in a state of constant mortal peril, a state of unceasing anxiety -- much like rabbits perpetually cornered by a mountain lion from which there is no escape. With the emergence of self-awareness, humans became the dysfunctional animal, rendered helpless by an inherent and unceasing anxiety disorder. Unless nature could somehow relieve us of this debilitating awareness of death, it's possible our species might have soon become extinct. It was suddenly critical that our animal be modified in some way that would allow us to maintain self-conscious awareness, while enabling us to deal with our unique awareness of our own mortalities, of death.
-- Matthew Alper, from "The Premise" to his book, The God Part of the Brain

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Robert Altman
American film director behind such classics as: Short Cuts; The Player; M*A*S*H; Nashville

Robert AltmanWhat's a cult? It just means not enough people to make a minority.
-- Robert Altman, Interview, The Observer (London) (April 11, 1981), quoted from Jonathon Green, The Cassell Dictionary of Cynical Quotations

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Henri Frédéric Amiel (1821-1881)
Swiss poet and philosopher

Henri Frédéric AmielWe are always making God our accomplice so that we may legalize our own inequities. Every successful massacre is consecrated by a Te Deum, and the clergy have never been wanting in benedictions for any victorious enormity.
-- Henri Frédéric Amiel, Journal Intime (October 6, 1866), quoted from James A Haught, ed, 2000 Years of Disbelief

Our systems, perhaps, are nothing more than an unconscious apology for our faults -- a gigantic scaffolding whose object is to hide from us our favorite sin.
-- Henri Frédéric Amiel, Journal Intime (1882; tr. by Mrs. Humphry Ward, 1892), entry for 13 Aug. 1865. The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations

Truth is not only violated by falsehood; it may be outraged by silence.
-- Henri Frédéric Amiel, Journal Intime (December 17, 1856), quoted from George Seldes, ed, The Great Thoughts (1985)

Emancipation from error is the condition of real knowledge.
-- Henri Frédéric Amiel, Journal Intime (August 30, 1872), quoted from George Seldes, ed, The Great Thoughts (1985)

A belief is not true [simply] because it is useful.
-- Henri Frédéric Amiel, Journal Intime (November 15, 1876), quoted from George Seldes, ed, The Great Thoughts (1985)

A lively, disinterested, persistent liking for truth is extraordinarily rare. Action and faith enslave thought, both of them in order not to be troubled or inconvenienced by reflection, criticism or doubt.
-- Henri Frédéric Amiel, Journal Intime, thanks to Laird Wilcox, ed, "The Degeneration of Belief"

There is an illusion of central position, justifying one’s own purposes as right and everybody else’s as wrong, and providing a proper degree of paranoia. Righteous ends, thus approved, absolve of guilt the most violent means.
-- Henri Frédéric Amiel, Journal Intime, thanks to Laird Wilcox, ed, "The Degeneration of Belief"

The efficacy of religion lies precisely in what is not rational, philosophic, nor eternal; its efficacy lies in the unforeseen, the miraculous, the extraordinary. Thus religion attracts more devotion according as it demands more faith -- that is to say, as it becomes more incredible to the profane mind.
-- Henri Frédéric Amiel, Journal Intime (June 5, 1870), quoted from George Seldes, ed, The Great Thoughts (1985)

The philosopher aspires to explain away all mysteries, to dissolve them into light. Mystery, on the other hand, is demanded and pursued by the religious instinct; mystery constitutes the essence of worship.
-- Henri Frédéric Amiel, Journal Intime (September 21, 1874), quoted from George Seldes, ed, The Great Thoughts (1985)

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Tori Amos (b. 1964)
American singer and songwriter

Tori AmosThis whole Christian theology thing is that god came down to experience life through his son. Well, how's he experiencing life if he doesn't get laid? Give me a break. And why would he not get laid, as he created the apparatus in the first place?
-- Tori Amos, interview in Vox, May, 1994

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Maxwell Anderson (1888-1959)
American playwright

Maxwell AndersonThe gods of men are sillier than their kings and queens, and emptier and more powerless.
-- Maxwell Anderson, from Ira D Cardiff, What Great Men Think of Religion, quoted from James A Haught, ed, 2000 Years of Disbelief

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Maya Angelou [Marguerite Johnson] (b. 1928)
American poet, writer, activist

Maya AngelouPeople whose history and future were threatened each day by extinction considered that it was only by divine intervention that they were able to live at all. I find it interesting that the meanest life, the poorest existence, is attributed to God's will, but as human being become more affluent, as their living standard and style begin to ascend the material scale, God descends the scale of respectability at a commensurate speed.
-- Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

We really are 15 countries, and it's remarkable that each of us thinks we represent the real America. The Midwesterner in Kansas, the black American in Durham -- both are certain they are the real American.
-- Maya Angelou, quoted by Dr. Paul Gorski, "Multicultural Pavilion: Quotations and Proverbs"

Maya Angelou (photo from mayaalgelou.com)The plague of racism is insidious, entering into our minds as smoothly and quietly and invisibly as floating airborne microbes enter into our bodies to find lifelong purchase in our bloodstreams.
-- Maya Angelou, quoted by Dr. Paul Gorski, "Multicultural Pavilion: Quotations and Proverbs"

The need for change bulldozed a road down the center of my mind.
-- Maya Angelou, quoted by Dr. Paul Gorski, "Multicultural Pavilion: Quotations and Proverbs"

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Natalie Angier (b. 1958)
American journalist

Natalie AngierWhatever else I might have thought of [President George W] Bush's call, with its assumption that prayer is some sort of miracle Vicks VapoRub for the national charley horse, it's clear that his hands were reaching for any hands but mine.
-- Natalie Angier, "Confessions of a Lonely Atheist," in New York Times Magazine, January 14, 2001

So, I'll out myself. I'm an Atheist. I don't believe in God, Gods, Godlets or any sort of higher power beyond the universe itself, which seems quite high and powerful enough to me. I don't believe in life after death, channeled chat rooms with the dead, reincarnation, telekinesis or any miracles but the miracle of life and consciousness, which again strike me as miracles in nearly obscene abundance. I believe that the universe abides by the laws of physics, some of which are known, others of which will surely be discovered, but even if they aren't, that will simply be a result, as my colleague George Johnson put it, of our brains having evolved for life on this one little planet and thus being inevitably limited. I'm convinced that the world as we see it was shaped by the again genuinely miraculous, let's even say transcendent, hand of evolution through natural selection.
-- Natalie Angier, "Confessions of a Lonely Atheist," in New York Times Magazine, January 14, 2001

When I sent out a casual and nonscientific poll of my own to a wide cast of acquaintances, friends and colleagues, I was surprised, but not really, to learn that maybe 60 percent claimed a belief in a God of some sort, including people I would have bet were unregenerate skeptics. Others just shrugged. They don't think about this stuff. It doesn't matter to them. They can't know, they won't beat themselves up trying to know and for that matter they don't care if their kids believe or not.
-- Natalie Angier, "Confessions of a Lonely Atheist," in New York Times Magazine, January 14, 2001

Still, the current climate of religiosity can be stifling to nonbelievers, and it helps now and then to cry foul. For one thing, some of the numbers surrounding the deep religiousness of America, and the rarity of nonbelief, should be held to the fire of skepticism, as should sweeping statistics of any sort. Yes, Americans are comparatively more religious than Europeans, but while the vast majority of them may say generically that they believe in God, when asked what their religion is, a sizable fraction, 11 percent, report "no religion," a figure that has more than doubled since the early 1970's and that amounts to about 26 million people.
     As [The Nation columnist Katha] Pollitt points out, when one starts looking beneath the surface of things and adding together the out-front atheists with the indifferent nonbelievers, you end up with a much larger group of people than Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and Unitarians put together.
-- Natalie Angier, "Confessions of a Lonely Atheist," in New York Times Magazine, January 14, 2001

Among the more irritating consequences of our flagrantly religious society is the special dispensation that mainstream religions receive. We all may talk about religion as a powerful social force, but unlike other similarly powerful institutions, religion is not to be questioned, criticized or mocked.
-- Natalie Angier, "Confessions of a Lonely Atheist," in New York Times Magazine, January 14, 2001

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Peter Annet (1673-1769)
First British Freethought lecturer and journalist; providing a link between the Deists and the iconoclastic agitators such as Paine and Carlile

"[The Free Inquirer had ridiculed Scripture and tried to show] that the prophet Moses was an impostor, the sacred truths and miracles recorded and set forth in the Pentateuch were impositions and false inventions, and thereby to infuse and propagate irreligious and diabolical opinions in the minds of his majesty's subjects and to shake the foundation of the civil and ecclesiastical government established in this kingdom."
-- blasphemy charges against Peter Annet, "the charge being fully proved, he was sentenced to be imprisoned one month in Newgate, and within that time to stand twice in and upon the pillory, once at Charing Cross and once at the Royal Exchange; to pay a fine to the King of six shillings and eightpence; then to be sent to Bridewell and kept to hard labour one year, and at the expiration thereof to find securities for his good behaviour during the remainder of his life, himself in one hundred pounds, and the sureties in fifty pounds each," quoted from Jim Herrick, Against the Faith (1985), p. 55 (source quip quoted directly from "The Complete Newgate Calendar, Vol. IV") [see also: A Collection of Tracts of a Certain Free Enquirer Peter Annet, new introduction by John V Price (1999)]

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Jean Anouilh (1910-1987)
French playwright

Jean AnouilhEvery man thinks God is on his side. The rich and powerful know he is.
-- Jean Anouilh, Charles, in The Lark (adapted by Lillian Hellman, 1955), quoted from Encarta Book of Quotations (1999)

With God, what is terrible is that one never knows whether it's not just a trick of the devil.
-- Jean Anouilh, the Archbishop, in The Lark

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Susan Brownell Anthony (1820-1906)
American feminist leader and suffragist

Susan B. AnthonyTo no form of religion is woman indebted for one impulse of freedom.
-- Susan B Anthony (attributed: source unknown)

The religious persecution of the ages has been done under what was claimed to be the command of God.
-- Susan B Anthony, from Rufus K Noyes, Views of Religion, quoted from James A Haught, ed, 2000 Years of Disbelief

I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do because I notice it always coincides with their own desires.
-- Susan B Anthony. In 1896, Susan B Anthony stepped down from the chair and addressed the National-American Woman Suffrage Association meeting when a resolution was offered to repudiate Elizabeth Cady Stanton's Woman's Bible. Aunt Susan's impassioned appeal was directed more at religious freedom and the rights of individuals.

I tell them I have worked 40 years to make the WS platform broad enough for Atheists and Agnostics to stand upon, and now if need be I will fight the next 40 to keep it Catholic enough to permit the straightest Orthodox religionist to speak or pray and count her beads upon.
-- Susan B Anthony (attributed: source unknown), speaking about the Women's Suffrage platform

What you should say to outsiders is that a Christian has neither more nor less rights in our Association than an atheist. When our platform becomes too narrow for people of all creeds and of no creeds, I myself shall not stand upon it.
-- Susan B Anthony, Susan B Anthony: A Biography, by Kathleen Barry, New York University Press, 1988, p.310

Short Graphic Rule

Stanton, Anthony, Gage: Protracted Shame

Throughout this protracted and disgraceful assault on American womanhood, the clergy baptized each new insult and act of injustice in the name of the Christian religion, and uniformly asked God's blessing on proceedings that would have put to shame an assembly of Hottentots.
-- Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B Anthony, and Matilda Joslyn Gage, a statement "for the betterment of woman" signed by the three, quoted from James A Haught, ed, 2000 Years of Disbelief

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Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274)
Roman Catholic philosopher and theologian

     • See Thomas's Scary Quotations

What can be accomplished by a few principles is not effected by many. But it seems that everything we see in the world can be accounted for by other principles, supposing God did not exist. For all natural things can be reduced to one principle, which is nature, and all voluntary things can be reduced to one principle, which is human reason, or will. Therefore there is no need to suppose God's existence.
-- Thomas Aquinas, anticipating Occam's Razor but never going on to deny or refute it; to be sure, after this example of an objection to the claim that God exists, Thomas continues: "On the contrary, it is said in the person of God: 'I am Who am,'" citing Exodus 3:14, at which point Thomas begins his famous effort to prove God's existence five different ways, quoted from George H Smith, Why Atheism? (2000), chapter 2

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