Positive Atheism's Big List of Quotations

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Ambrose Gwinett Bierce (1842-1914?)
American writer, characterized by his caustic wit and sense of realistic horror

     • Check our Big List of Ambrose Bierce Quotations

Ambrose BierceTheology is a thing of unreason altogether, an edifice of assumption and dreams, a superstructure without a substructure.
-- Ambrose Bierce, Collected Works (1912), quoted from James A Haught, ed, 2000 Years of Disbelief

Religions are conclusions for which the facts of nature supply no major premises.
-- Ambrose Bierce, Collected Works (1912)

Clairvoyant, n. A person, commonly a woman, who has the power of seeing that which is invisible to her patron -- namely, that he is a blockhead.
-- Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary (1911)

Clergyman, n. A man who undertakes the management of our spiritual affairs as a method of bettering his temporal ones.
-- Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary (1911)

Conservative, n. A statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from the liberal, who wishes to replace them with others.
-- Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary (1911)

Faith, n. Belief without evidence in what is told by one who speaks without knowledge, of things without parallel.
-- Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary (1911)

Pray, v. To ask that the laws of the universe be annulled in behalf of a single petitioner, confessedly unworthy.
-- Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary (1911)

Religion, n. A daughter of Hope and Fear, explaining to Ignorance the nature of the Unknowable.
-- Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary (1911)

Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited.
-- Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary (1911)

Scriptures, n. The sacred books of our holy religion, as distinguished from the false and profane writings on which all other faiths are based.
-- Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary (1911)

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Bishop Paul Ambrose Bigandet (1813-1894)
Roman Catholic Bishop of Rangoon (now Yangon), Burma (now Myanmar)

In reading the particulars of the life of Buddha it is impossible not to feel reminded of many circumstances relating to our Savior's life as sketched by the evangelists.
-- Paul Ambrose Bigandet, noticing the similarities between the Christ myth and the Buddha myth; quoted in John E  Remsberg, The Christ, p 373

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Josh Billings (1818-1885)
American writer and aphorist

Josh Billings (scanned from book ''Wit and Humor of the Age''; image restored by Cliff Walker)As scarce as the truth is, the supply is always greater than the demand.
-- Josh Billings (attributed: source unknown)

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Lloyd Billingsley
American author

The true fanatic is a theocrat, someone who sees himself as acting on behalf of some super-personal force: the Race, the Party, History, the Proletariat, the Poor, and so on. These absolve him from evil, hence he may safely do anything in their service.
-- Lloyd Billingsley, Religion's Rebel Son: Fanaticism In Our Time (1986), thanks to Laird Wilcox, ed, "The Degeneration of Belief"

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Arthur Morris Binstead (1846-1915)
Founder of The Pelican Club of Denman Street in London; nicknamed "Pitcher"

The most serious doubt that has been thrown on the authenticity of the biblical miracles is the fact that most of the witnesses in regard to them were fishermen.
-- Arthur Binstead, Pitcher's Proverbs (1909), quoted from Jonathon Green, The Cassell Dictionary of Cynical Quotations

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Richard Birnie (1808-1888)
British author (Sussex)

Richard BirnieHow large a share of vanity must spur the piety of the missionary. There is something melodramatic in landing on some Fiji island, in baptising, debauching and ultimately murdering the unsuspecting savage; then in taking his land in the name of the Most High.
-- Richard Birnie, Essays: Social, Moral And Political (1879)

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Prince Otto Eduard Leopold von Bismarck (1815-1898)
Duke of Lauenburg; creator and first chancellor of the German Empire (1871-1890)

Otto von BismarckOtto von BismarckThe Catholic priest, from the moment he becomes a priest, is a sworn officer of the pope.
-- Otto von Bismarck, speech in the Prussian upper house, April 12, 1886, quoted from James A Haught, ed, 2000 Years of Disbelief

I have wished to crush Rome that I might crush Christianity.
-- Otto von Bismarck, from Rufus K Noyes, Views of Religion, quoted from James A Haught, ed., 2000 Years of Disbelief

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Hugo Lafayette Black (1886-1971)
Associate Justice of the Unted States Supreme Court (1937-1971); Democratic Senator from Alabama (1927-1937); Captain in the United States Army, havingserved during World War I in the Headquarters of the 81st Field Artillery, 8th Division. Justice Black was noted for his ardent support of civil rights and was known to become frustrated when he could not find his copy of the United States Constitution, which he tried to keep on his person at all times. In the 1950s, when the majority of the justices upheld restrictions on personal liberty, Black wrote dissenting opinions favoring individual freedom within the limits set by the Constitution. He was interred at Arlington National Cemetary.

Hugo Black (from the Supreme Court)The "establishment of religion" clause of the First Amendment means at least this: Neither a state nor the Federal Government can set up a church. Neither can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer one religion over another. Neither can force nor influence a person to go to or to remain away from church against his will or force him to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion.
-- Hugo Black, Majority opinion, Everson v Board of Education

The First Amendment was added to the Constitution to stand as a guarantee that neither the power nor the prestige of the Federal Government would be used to control, support or influence the kinds of prayer the American people can say.... Under that Amendment's prohibition against governmental establishment of religion, as reinforced by the provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment, government in this country, be it state or federal, is without power to prescribe by law any particular form of prayer which is to be used as an official prayer in carrying on any program of govermentally-sponsored religious activity.
-- Hugo Black, Majority Opinion, Engel v. Vitale (1963), quoted from Robert E Nordlander, "Madalyn Murray O'Hair: The Making of a Modern Myth" (Freethought Today, November, 1988)

It is my belief that there are "absolutes" in our Bill of Rights, and that they were put there on purpose by men who knew what words meant, and meant their prohibitions to be "absolute."
-- Hugo Black, Hugo Black: A Biography by Roger K Newman (1994), limiting the power of the courts and Congress to reinterpret the Constitution

Freedom of speech means that you shall not do something to people either for the views they express, or the words they speak or write.
-- Hugo Black, One Man's Stand For Freedom (1963), thanks to Laird Wilcox, ed, "The Degeneration of Belief"

Hugo BlackIts first and most immediate purpose rested on the belief that a union of government and religion tends to destroy government and degrade religion.
-- Hugo Black, on the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, quoted from the Democratic Alliance, "Yes, They Really Said It!"

In the words of Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect 'a wall of separation between church and state.
-- Hugo Black, Everson v. Board of Education (1947)

 

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Jeremiah S Black (1810-1883)
Chief Justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court

The manifest object of the men who framed the institutions of this country, was to have a State without religion and a Church without politics -- that is to say, they meant that one should never be used as an engine for the purposes of the other.... For that reason they built up a wall of complete and perfect partition between the two.
-- Jeremiah S Black, from a 1856 speech on religious liberty, in Essays and Speeches, 1885, p. 53, from Menendez and Doerr, The Great Quotations on Religious Freedom

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Loring M Black
Congressman from New York

I don't see how you have the nerve to oppose this bill when you run the biggest gambling business in the world -- gambling on the hereafter.
-- Loring M Black, speaking in behalf of a bill to legalize horse racing in the District of Columbia, Black was opposed by a church delegation. Irritated by this opposition, he turned to the ministers and said the above. Quoted from Joseph Lewis, The Ten Commandments (page 516).

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Susan Blackmore
Senior lecturer in psychology at the University of the West of England; Zen Buddhist; researcher into the validity of the popular claims that are being made regarding near-death experiences; author of the definitive skeptical book regarding near-death experiences, Dying to Live, In Search of the Light

All things considered, I can see no reason to adopt the afterlife hypothesis. I am sure I shall remain in a minority for a long time to come, especially among experiencers, but for me the evidence and the arguments are overwhelming ... We are biological organisms, evolved in fascinating ways for no purpose at all and with no end in mind. We are simply here and this is how it is. I have no self and "I" own nothing. There is no one to die. There is just this moment, and now this, and now this.
-- Susan Blackmore, questioning popular (and entirely natural) presuppositions behind the validity of the notions of "Self," "I," and "Me," she points out that science now prefers to think of this as an illusion; she then questions the notion that there even is an "I" who decides to come back from the dead, in Dying to Live, In Search of the Light, quoted from near-death.com, "Dr. Susan Blackmore's Research"

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Harry Andrew Blackmun (1908-1999)
Justice of the US Supreme Court (1970-1994)

Harry BlackmunThe Free Exercise Clause at the very least was designed to guarantee freedom of conscience by prohibiting any degree of compulsion in matters of belief. It was offended by a burden on one's religion.
     The Establishment Clause can be understood as designed in part to ensure that the advancement of religion comes only from the voluntary efforts of its proponents and not from support by the state. Religious groups are to prosper or perish on the intrinsic merit and attraction of their beliefs and practices.
-- Harry Blackmun, address at National Archives, Washington, DC, June 23, 1987, quoted from Menendez and Doerr, The Great Quotations on Religious Freedom

Over our history there are always those who want to take this wall of separation and remove a brick here or there or damage it more than that. I think one has to be vigilant and constantly on the alert.
-- Harry Blackmun, address to Americans United for Separation of Church and State

The mixing of government and religion can be a threat to free government, even if no one is forced to participate.... When the government puts its imprimatur on a particular religion, it conveys a message of exclusion to all those who do not adhere to the favored beliefs. A government cannot be premised on the belief that all persons are created equal when it asserts that God prefers some.
-- Harry Blackmun, Majority Opinion, Lee v. Weisman, 1992

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William Blackstone [pronounced Blexstun] (1723-1780)
Jurist and professor who produced the four-volume historical and analytic treatise on English common law called Commentaries on the Laws of England; it remains an important source on the common law and its meaning

William Blackstone (engraved after a picture by Sir Joshua Reynolds)By marriage the husband and wife are one person in law, that is, the very being or legal existence of the woman is suspended during marriage.
-- William Blackstone, describing the fate of a woman under the laws of a "Christian nation," quoted in Samuel Putnam, 400 Years of Freethought (1894), page 481; excerpted by PAM

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William T Blackstone
Philosopher, writer, educator

Until the content of a belief is made clear, the appeal to accept the belief on faith is beside the point, for one would not know what one has accepted. The request for the meaning of a religious belief is logically prior to the question of accepting that belief on faith or to the question of whether that belief constitutes knowledge.
-- William T Blackstone, The Problem of Religious Knowledge (Engle-wood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, Inc, 1963), p 2; quoted from George H. Smith, "The Concept of God," Chapter 2 from his book Atheism: The Case Against God; excerpted by PAM

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William Blake (1757-1827)
First of the English Romantic poets; artist, engraver, publisher

William Blake (portrait: Thomas Phillips, 1807, National Portrait Gallery, London)If Jesus Christ is the greatest man, you ought to love him in the greatest degree; now hear how he has given his sanction to the law of the ten commandments: did he not mock at the Sabbath, and so mock the sabbath's God? Murder those who were murdered because of him? turn away the law from the woman taken in adultery? Steal the labor of others to support him? bear false witness when he omitted making a defence before Pilate? Covet when he prayed for his disciples, and when he bid them shake off the dust of their feet against such as refused to lodge them? I tell you, no virtue can exist without breaking these ten commandments.
-- William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1790-3)

Some will say, "Is not God alone the Prolific?"
I answer, "God only Acts & Is, in existing beings or Men."
-- William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1790-3)

The reason Milton wrote in fetters when he wrote [in Paradise Lost] of Angels & God, and at liberty when of Devils & Hell, is because he was a true Poet and of the Devil's party without knowing it.
-- William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1790-3)

Reason, or the ratio of all we have already known, is not the same that it shall be when we know more.
-- William Blake, There Is No Natural Religion (1788)

Those who restrain desire, do so because theirs is weak enough to be restrained.
-- William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1790-3)

As the caterpillar chooses the fairest leaves to lay her eggs on, so the priest lays his curse on the fairest joys.
-- William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1790-3)

Prisons are built with stones of Law, Brothels with
          bricks of Religion.
The pride of the peacock is the glory of God.
The lust of the goat is the bounty of God.
The wrath of the lion is the wisdom of God.
The nakedness of woman is the work of God.
Excess of sorrow laughs. Excess of joy weeps.
The roaring of lions, the howling of wolves, the raging
of the stormy sea, and the destructive sword, are
portions of eternity too great for the eye of man.
The fox condemns the trap, not himself.
-- William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1790-3)

Then the Parson might preach, & drink, & sing,
And we'd be as happy as birds in the spring;
And modest dame Lurch, who is always at Church,
Would not have bandy children, nor fasting, nor birch.
-- William Blake, Songs of Experience "The Little Vagabond" (1789-1794), quoted from Encarta Book of Quotations (1999)

'Come hither, my boy, tell me what thou seest there?'
'A fool tangled in a religious snare.'
-- William Blake, "Lacedemonian Instruction" from the Notebook (1793)

I am sure this Jesus will not do,
Either for Englishman or Jew.
-- William Blake, The Everlasting Gospel (1818), quoted from Encarta Book of Quotations (1999)

The ancient poets animated all objects with Gods or Geniuses, calling them by the names and adorning them with the properties of woods, rivers, mountains, lakes, cities, nations, and whatever their enlarged & numerous senses could perceive. And particularly they studied the genius of each city & country, placing it under its mental deity; Till a system was formed, which some took advantage of, & enslav'd the vulgar by attempting to realize or abstract the mental deities from their objects: thus began priesthood; Choosing forms of worship from poetic tales. And at length they pronounc'd that the Gods had order'd such things. Thus men forgot that all deities reside in the human breast.
-- William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1790-3)

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Paul Blanshard (1892-1980)
First general counsel to Protestants and Other Americans United for Separation of Church and State, later named Americans United for Separation of Church and State

Paul BlanshardReligious liberty in a nation is as real as the liberty of its least popular religious minority. Look not to the size of cathedrals or even to the words on the statute books for proof of the reality of religious freedom. Ask what is the fate of the Protestant in Spain, the Jew in Saudi Arabia, the Arab in Israel, the Catholic in Poland or the atheist in the United States.
-- Paul Blanshard, address, Orlando, Florida, February 1974, quoted from Menendez and Doerr, The Great Quotations on Religious Freedom

We want complete religious freedom to teach, preach, proselyte or deny, together with the right to operate sectarian school systems or to denounce them as divisive.
     We want continuing legal equality among all sects, with no legal preference of any sort.
     We want the public school to remain a neutral institution open to the children of all creeds and of no creed, without discrimination or sectarian promotion.
     We want no new types of public appropriations for sectarian purposes; the present drift in that direction has already gone beyond the proper functional limits of a neutral state.
     We want no religious or anti-religious political parties.
     We want no citizen to be excluded from public office or elected to public office merely because of his religious faith.
-- Paul Blanshard, God and Man in Washington, 1960, p. 220, quoted from Menendez and Doerr, The Great Quotations on Religious Freedom

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Joseph L Blau (1909-1986)
American scholar of Jewish history and philosophy; professor emeritus of religion at Columbia University; wrote Cornerstones of Religious Freedom in America in 1949

Freedom of religion means the right of the individual to choose and to adhere to whichever religious beliefs he may prefer, to join with others in religious associations to express these beliefs, and to incur no civil disabilities because of his choice.
-- Joseph L Blau, Cornerstones of Religious Freedom in America 1949, quoted from Menendez and Doerr, The Great Quotations on Religious Freedom

Those who accept freedom of religion as a right are obligated by this acceptance to take the maintenance of freedom of religion as a duty.
-- Joseph L Blau, Cornerstones of Religious Freedom in America 1949, quoted from Menendez and Doerr, The Great Quotations on Religious Freedom

Since 1787 the principle of freedom of religion has been attacked but never overthrown. Keeping education in the United States free of sectarian influence has long been one of the primary struggles of believers in freedom of religion.
-- Joseph L Blau, Cornerstones of Religious Freedom in America 1949, quoted from Menendez and Doerr, The Great Quotations on Religious Freedom

It might be said that religious freedom in the American sense, incorporating the separation of church and state, has been the pivotal concept of the national development of the United States of America.
-- Joseph L Blau, "The Wall of Separation," in Union Seminary Quarterly Review 38, 1984, p. 283, quoted from Menendez and Doerr, The Great Quotations on Religious Freedom

Religion is too important an aspect of human life to be prostituted to politics, just as politics is too zxcdddddddddddddddddddcccc ll of Separation," in Union Seminary Quarterly Review 38, 1984, p. 284, quoted from Menendez and Doerr, The Great Quotations on Religious Freedom

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Lady Marguerite, Countess of Blessington (1789-1849)

Religion converts despair, which destroys, into resignation, which submits.
-- Marguerite Blessington (attributed: source unknown)

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Alan Bloom
American educator, Yale University

Freedom of the mind requires not only, or not even specially, the absence of legal constraints but the presence of alternative thoughts. The most successful tyranny is not the one that uses force to assure uniformity but the one that removes the awareness of other possibilities.
-- Alan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind (1987), thanks to Laird Wilcox, ed, "The Degeneration of Belief"

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