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Of all possible sexual perversions, religion is the only one to have ever been scientifically systematized.
|Glenn L Archer (b. 1929)
Unites States federal jurist
The church must never become a government factory, carrying on a nationalized industry of religion with the people as the bolts and nuts; with God reduced to the role of cramped advocate of current national policy. Surely the pages of history are replete and the examples in many a foreign country convincing that this kind of church-state union -- whatever the original motives, or however noble the original purposes -- winds up with a state that is less than stable and a church that is less than sanctified, and with the poor still hungry.
We must work harder than ever to preserve freedom of religion here in this blessed land. We must not capitulate. Our resolve must not waiver. Much mischief and grief will come from any alliances, holy or otherwise, between organized religious groups and the state.
"Theocracy" has always been the synonym for a bleak and narrow, if not a fierce and blood-stained, tyranny.
|Hannah Arendt (1906-1975)
German-American political scientist
The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil.
There are no dangerous thoughts; thinking itself is dangerous.
|Aristophanes (ca. 448-380 BCE)
Athenian comic poet
Open your mouth and shut your eyes and see what Zeus will send you.
Shrines! Shrines! Surely you don't believe in the gods. What's your argument? Where's your proof?
|Aristotle (ca. 384-322 BCE)
Men create gods after their own image, not only with regard to their form but with regard to their mode of life.
A tyrant must put on the appearance of uncommon devotion to religion. Subjects are less apprehensive of illegal treatment from a ruler whom they consider god-fearing and pious. On the other hand, they do less easily move against him, believing that he has the gods on his side.
We may assume the superiority ceteris paribus [other things remaining equal] of the demonstration which derives from fewer postulates or hypotheses -- in short, from fewer premises.
It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.
If the hammer and the shuttle could move themselves, slavery would be unnecessary.
|Bishop James Armstrong
United Methodist Church
In a pluralistic society, no group, no matter how numerous or powerful, has a right to prescribe a set of beliefs or a code of ethics for all.
Historian of theology and religious belief
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.
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.
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 mode of knowledge rooted in silence and intuitive insight which gives meaning to life but which cannot be explained in rational terms.
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 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 humn 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.
|Matthew Arnold (1822-1888)
English poet, whose work is representative of Victorian intellectual concerns and who was the foremost literary critic of his age
Miracles are doomed; they will drop out like fairies and witchcraft, from among the matter which serious people believe.
The intellectual who no longer feels attached to anything is not satisfied with opinion merely; he wants certainty, he wants a system. The revolution provides him with his opium.
Intellectuals cannot tolerate the chance event, the unintelligible: they have a nostalgia for the absolute, for a universally comprehensive scheme.
|Isaac Asimov (1920-1992)
Russian-born American scientist and prolific writer
Properly read, the Bible is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived.
To surrender to ignorance and call it God has always been premature, and it remains premature today.
When people thought the earth was flat, they were wrong. When people thought the earth was spherical, they were wrong. But if you think that thinking the earth is spherical is just as wrong as thinking the earth is flat, then your view is wronger than both of them put together.
Creationists make it sound as though a "theory" is something you dreamt up after being drunk all night.
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.
To rebel against a powerful political, economic, religious, or social establishment is very dangerous and very few people do it, except, perhaps, as part of a mob. To rebel against the "scientific" establishment, however, is the easiest thing in the world, and anyone can do it and feel enormously brave, without risking as much as a hangnail. Thus, the vast majority, who believe in astrology and think that the planets have nothing better to do than form a code that will tell them whether tomorrow is a good day to close a business deal or not, become all the more excited and enthusiastic about the bilge when a group of astronomers denounces it.
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 one was an atheist, because it assumed knowledge that one didn't have. Somehow it was better to say one was a humanist or an agnostic. I finally decided that I'm a creature of emotion as well as of reason. Emotionally I am an atheist. I don't have the evidence to prove that God doesn't exist, but I so strongly suspect he doesn't that I don't want to waste my time.
Humanity has the stars in its future, and that future is too important to be lost under the burden of juvenile folly and ignorant superstition.
Why continue? Because we must. Because we have the call. Because it is nobler to fight for rationality without winning than to give up in the face of continued defeats. Because whatever true progress humanity
makes is through the rationality of the
occasional individual and because any one individual we may win for the cause may do more for humanity than a hundred thousand who hug their superstitions to their breast.
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.
When I die I won't go to heaven or hell, there will just be nothingness.
|Saint Athanasius (ca. 293-373)
Bishop of Alexandria, leading defender of Christian orthodoxy against Arianism
It is not by the sword or the spear, by soldiers or by armed force that truth is to be promoted, but by counsel and gentle persuasion.
The humorous man recognizes that absolute purity, absolute justice, absolute logic and perfection are beyond human achievement and that men have been able to live happily for thousands of years in a state of genial frailty.
People everywhere enjoy believing things that they know are not true. It spares them the ordeal of thinking for themselves and taking responsibility for what they know.
The most fatal illusion is the settled point of view. Since life is growth and motion, a fixed point of view kills anybody who has one.
In every age "the good old days" were a myth. No one ever thought they were good at the time. For every age has consisted of crises that seemed intolerable to the people who lived through them.
I have no objections to churches so long as they do not interfere with God's work.
Compare views of social critic Matthew Parris
Having spent a substantial part of my career parodying religious figures from my own Christian background, I am aghast at the notion that it could, in effect, be made illegal to imply ridicule of a religion or to lampoon religious figures.
I have always believed that there should be no subject about which one cannot make jokes, religion included. Clearly, one is always constricted by contemporary mores and trends because, after all, what one seeks above all is an appreciative audience.
For telling a good and incisive religious joke, you should be praised. For telling a bad one, you should be ridiculed and reviled. The idea that you could be prosecuted for the telling of either is quite fantastic.
However, would a film like 'Monty Python's Life of Brian,' criticized at the time of its release for being anti-Christian, be judged under the proposed law? Or that excellent joke in 'Not the Nine O'Clock news' all those years ago, showing worshippers in a mosque simultaneously bowing to the ground with the voiceover: 'And the search goes on for the Ayatollah Khomeini's contact lens'? Not respectful, but comedy takes no prisoners. However, in period and in context it was extremely funny and I believe that it is the reaction of the audience that should decide the appropriateness of a joke, not the law of the land.
|Demetrius J Atsalis|
State Representative in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for precincts in the towns of Barnstable and Yarmouth
We may not ever find out why this happened, but it is no secret that [child molesters] are considered the lowest of the low in prison. They are considered targets.
|Margaret Atwood (b. 1939)
Canadian poet and author
You say, The sensed absence
The only reason the Protestants and Catholics have given up the idea of universal domination is because they've realised they can't get away with it.
Suppress prostitution, and capricious lusts will overthrow society.
If the assertion that there is a god is nonsensical, then the atheist's assertion that there is no god is equally nonsensical, since it is only a significant proposition that can be significantly contradicted.
Theism is so confused and the sentences in which "God" appears so incoherent and so incapable of verifiability or falsifiability that to speak of belief or unbelief, faith or unfaith, is logically impossible.
I take it, therefore, to be a fact, that one's existence ends with death. I think it possible to show how this fact can be emotionally acceptable.
The Subtle Fulmination of the Encircled Sea
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