Positive Atheism's Big List of Quotations

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Georgia Harkness
Christian theologian in the Methodist tradition; leading figure in the modern ecumenical movement

Georgia Harkiness (wiki)The tendency to turn human judgments into divine commands makes religion one of the most dangerous forces in the world.
-- Georgia Harkness, quoted from ThinkExist.com

The sooner [the doctrine of original sin] disappears, the better it is for theology.
-- Georgia Harkness, quoted from Wikipedia, July 7, 2007, “Georgia Harkness (quote in Wiki not cited at this writing)

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John Marshall Harlan (1899-1971)
United States Supreme Court justice

John Marshall Harlan (photo: Supreme Court)One man's vulgarity is another's lyric.
-- John Marshall Harlan, quoted from Floyd College, Rome, Georgia, "Banned Books -- Quotes"

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Rev William R Harper
Curate of St John's Episcopal Church, Larchmont, NY

The majority has no right to impose its religion on the rest. That's a tradition as sacred as the Constitution itself to this country.
-- Rev William R Harper, Gannett Westchester newspaper, December 20, 1986, from Albert J Menendez and Edd Doerr, The Great Quotations on Religious Freedom

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Edward Michael Harrington (1928-1989)
American political activist, writer, and educator

Michael HarringtonI left the Catholic Church almost thirty years ago. It is relevant to my present attitudes that even though I rejected the Church ... I clearly remain a "cultural Catholic," much as an atheist Jew is culturally Jewish.... I am, then, what Georg Simmel called a "religious nature without religion," a pious man of deep faith, but not in the supernatural.
-- Michael Harrington, The Politics at God's Funeral, 1983, from James A Haught, ed, 2000 Years of Disbelief

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Leonard Harris
African-American philosopher; one of the World's leading scholars on the philosophy and life of Alain Locke; author of The Philosophy of Alain Locke and Racism

Although the concept of evil has religious overtones, I know of no other term that captures the depth of what it is to have a banality toward the misery of others, to glow in the pain of others, and to do so without remorse or rethinking. It is not only that evil is raveling in the pain of others for no reason, but the "no reason" is that the other is not counted.
-- Leonard Harris, in "Humanism, Reason, and Emotion," excerpted from Norm R Allen, Jr, editor, The Black Humanist Experience (Prometheus: 2003) page 24

The [Ku Klux] Klan and the Nation [of Islam] seemed so fanatically and obviously wrong that I never veered from my belief in the oneness of humanity. Not even when, in 1963, Glenville High School students in Cleveland, Ohio -- of which I was one student -- marched to the White high school because they had trapped the few Blacks that attended inside, and we went to free them. The students taunted us, threw rocks, and the police protected Whites while trying to arrest us. I never thought of the Whites as either inferior, inherently different, or invariably evil. It was the Klan that introduced real evil. And it is the commonness of humanity -- that fact that we are fundamentally emotive beings constituted in similar ways but capable of a vast range of emotions -- that makes the possibility of evil a horror that could be practiced by any individual or group.
-- Leonard Harris, in "Humanism, Reason, and Emotion," excerpted from Norm R Allen, Jr, editor, The Black Humanist Experience (Prometheus: 2003) page 24

I want to give up the fight. Forget about destroying religionists by destroying the rational basis of their beliefs. Showing that religionists are irrational, hold internally incoherent or contradictory views, and are terrible predictors of the future has not proven effective-and it is not likely to prove effective.
     Reason is a cheap substitute for faith. Pragmatic, utilitarian, or dialectical tools of reasoning are of no use when a sense of loss, emptiness, and finite existence creeps into our consciousness. Antireligionists have been too dependent on reasoning as a tool and far less reliant on the obvious: people, including antireligionists, are emotive agents.
-- Leonard Harris, in "Humanism, Reason, and Emotion," excerpted from Norm R Allen, Jr, editor, The Black Humanist Experience (Prometheus: 2003) page 27

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Louis Harris (b 1921)
American pollster

What is certain now is that many of the positions of the Religious Right are meeting with outright rejection from the American people. The Religious Right is a target of wrath for a sizable majority of the American people and a distinct political liability to those who embrace its cause.
-- Lou Harris, Inside America (1987), from Albert J Menendez and Edd Doerr, The Great Quotations on Freedom

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Sam Harris
American atheistic activist and author of Letter to a Christian Nation and The End of Faith

Sam HarrisAtheism is not a philosophy; it is not even a view of the world; it is simply an admission of the obvious. In fact, "atheism" is a term that should not even exist. No one ever needs to identify himself as a "non-astrologer" or a "non-alchemist." We do not have words for people who doubt that Elvis is still alive or that aliens have traversed the galaxy only to molest ranchers and their cattle. Atheism is nothing more than the noises reasonable people make in the presence of unjustified religious beliefs. An atheist is simply a person who believes that the 260 million Americans (87 percent of the population) claiming to "never doubt the extended of God" should be obliged to present evidence for his existence -- and, indeed, for his benevolence, given the relentless destruction of innocent human beings we witness in the world each day. An atheist is a person who believes that the murder of a single little girl -- once in a million years -- casts doubt upon the idea of a benevolent God.
-- Sam Harris, Letter to a Christian Nation pp 51-2

To speak plainly and truthfully about the state of our world -- to say, for instance, that the Bible and the Koran both contain mountains of life-destroying gibberish -- is antithetical to tolerance as moderates currently conceive it. But we can no longer afford the luxury of such political correctness. We must finally recognize the price we are paying to maintain the iconography of our ignorance.
-- Sam Harris, The End of Faith, excerpted in The Truthdig Interview (April 3, 2006)

It is safe to say that almost every person living in New Orleans at the moment Hurricane Katrina struck shared your belief in an omnipotent, omniscient, and compassionate God. But what was God doing while Katrina laid waste to their city? Surely He heard the prayers of those elderly men and women who fled the rising waters for the safety of their attics, only to be slowly drowned there. These were people of faith. These were good men and women who had prayed throughout their lives. Do you have the courage to admit the obvious? These people died talking to an imaginary friend.
-- Sam Harris, Letter to a Christian Nation p 53

But the greatest problem with [Pascal's] wager -- and it is a problem that infects religious thinking generally -- is its suggestion that a rational person can knowingly will himself to believe a proposition for which he has no evidence. A person can profess any creed he likes, of course, but to really believe something, he must also believe that the belief under consideration is true. To believe that there is a God, for instance, is to believe that you are not just fooling rself; it is to believe that you stand in some relation to God's existence such that, if He didn't exist, you wouldn't believe in him. How does Pascal's wager fit into this scheme? It doesn't.
-- Sam Harris, "The Empty Wager" in On Faith

[About] 120 million of us place the big bang 2,500 years after the Babylonians and Sumerians learned to brew beer. If our polls are to be trusted, nearly 230 million Americans believe that a book showing neither unity of style nor internal consistency was authored by an omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent deity.
-- Sam Harris, The End of Faith, excerpted in The Truthdig Interview (April 3, 2006)

Some ... sexist evil probably predates religion and can be ascribed to our biology, but there is no question that religion promulgates and renders sacrosanct attitudes toward women that would be unseemly in a brachiating ape.
-- Sam Harris, "God's Hostages" in On Faith

Advance warning of Katrina's path was wrested from mute Nature by meteorological calculations and satellite imagery. God told no one of His plans. Had the residents of New Orleans been content to rely on the beneficence of God, they wouldn't have known that a killer hurricane was bearing down upon them until they felt the first gusts of wind on their faces. And yet, as will come as no surprise to you, a poll conducted by The Washington Post found that 80 percent of Katrina's survivors claim that the event only strengthened their faith in God.
-- Sam Harris, Letter to a Christian Nation p 53

While I heard many silly retorts to atheism at this conference, here is a list of those most in need of deflation by freethinkers:
     1. Even though I’m an atheist, my friends are atheists, and we all get along fine without pretending to know that one of our books was written by the Creator of the universe, other people really do need religion. It is, therefore, wrong to criticize their faith.
     2. People are not really motivated by religion. Religion is used as a rationale for other aims—political, economic, and social. Consequently, the specific content of religious doctrines is beside the point.
     3. It is useless to argue against the veracity of religious doctrines, be¬cause religious people are not actually making claims about reality. Their claims are metaphorical or otherwise without real content. Hence, there is no conflict between religion and science.
     4. Religion will always be with us. The idea that we might rid ourselves of it to any significant degree is quixotic, bordering on delusional. Dawkins and other strident opponents of religious faith are just wasting their time.

-- Sam Harris, "Beyond the Believers" in Free Inquiry
(February-March, 2007) page 21

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Francis Bret Harte (1836-1902)
American short-story writer; US consul in Glasgow, Scotland

Bret HarteThe creator who could put a cancer in a believer's stomach is above being interfered with by prayers.
-- Bret Harte, from Rufus K Noyes, Views of Religion, quoted from James A Haught, ed, 2000 Years of Disbelief

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Karl Robert Eduard Von Hartmann (1842-1906)
German philosopher who sought to unite the 'idea' of Hegel with the 'will' of Schopenhauer as 'spiritual monism'

When liberal Protestantism demands religious reverence for the man Jesus, it is disgusting and shocking. They cannot themselves believe that the respect in which Jesus is held by the people, and which they have made use of in such an un-Protestant manner, can be maintained for any length of time after the nimbus of divinity has been destroyed, and they may reflect on the insufficiency of the momentary subterfuge. The Protestant principle, in its last consequences, disposes of all kinds of dogmatic authority in a remorseless manner, and its supporters must, whether they like it or not, dispense with the authority of Christ.
-- Edward von Hartmann, quoted from John E Remsberg, The Christ (1909)

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Sen Mark O Hatfield
Former US Senator from Oregon

Mark HatfieldAs a Christian, there is no other part of the New Right ideology that concerns me more than its self-serving misuse of religious faith. What is at stake here is the very integrity of biblical truth. The New Right, in many cases, is doing nothing less than placing a heretical claim on Christian faith that distorts, confuses, and destroys the opportunity for a biblical understanding of Jesus Christ and of his gospel for millions of people.
-- Mark Hatfield, quoted in the pamphlet "Christian Reconstruction: God's Glorious Millennium?" by Paul Thibodeau

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James A Haught
American Newspaper Editor (Charleston Gazette); Author

James A. HaughtDuring a recent evolution showdown, a visiting "creation scientist" from California repeatedly challenged me to debate, because I support the teaching of evolution. A Charleston talk radio host blistered me on the air because I would not come on his show and quarrel with the creationist professor.
     But I felt it would be silly for me to argue about his supernatural beliefs. After all, I would not debate a Scientologist who asserts that all human souls are "thetans" from another planet. And I would not quarrel with a Unification Church member's claim that Jesus appeared to Master Moon and told him to convert all people as "Moonies". And I would not dis­pute a Mormon's belief that Jesus visited prehistoric America. And so on, and so on.
     Let them all believe whatever they want. It is pointless to go on radio shows and wrangle over mystical claims. However, such claims must not be imposed on captive children in government-owned schools. That is prohibited by the separation of church and state, a core principle in the First Amendment in America's Bill of Rights.
-- James A Haught, "The Evolution Debate is about Honesty," Charleston (West Virginia) Gazette, reprinted in the National Center for Science Education (May-June, 2000, issue)

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Tariq al-Haydar
Saudi graduate student in Riyadh

I believe the way America treats its citizens is much closer to Islam than the ways of Arab "puppet" governments. That is probably one of the advantages of being a Muslim in America: You will be heard. This doesn't mean that the American government's foreign policies, especially towards Palestine, aren't deeply flawed, but I wish my government treated me more like yours does you.
-- Tariq al-Haydar, lamenting the "corrupt tyranny" that he said rules his own country, to a Beliefnet audience, quoted in Leslie Walker, "A Turning Point For Sites That Keep the Faith?" (November 1, 2001)

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Judith Hayes
American columnist, atheistic writer

Judith Hayes[I]t wouldn't matter if every single President since Washington had been a Bible-toting, evangelical Christian. They weren't, of course, but even if they had been, it still would not change the secular foundation of our republic. Christians like to quote various Presidents or Supreme Court Justices who (quite incorrectly) have referred to our "Christian nation." But what do those quotes prove? I could quote Richard Nixon, but would that prove that ours was intended to be a nation of crooks?
-- Judith Hayes, "All Those Christian Presidents" (1997) from The Happy Heretic

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Rutherford Birchard Hayes (1822-1893)
The 19th President of the United States (1877-1881)

United States Flag

Rutherford B. HayesWe all agree that neither the Government nor political parties ought to interfere with religious sects. It is equally true that religious sects ought not to interfere with the Government or with political parties. We believe that the cause of good government and the cause of religion suffer by all such interference.
-- Rutherford B Hayes, Statement as Governor of Ohio, 1875, from Albert J Menendez and Edd Doerr, The Great Quotations on Religious Freedom

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Charles C Haynes
First Amendment Center senior scholar

If the aim is to keep “Christ” in the shopping-mall Christmas or to ensure that pagan trees and mistletoe don’t lose their Christian labels, then it might make sense to attack presidents and business owners who commit the “happy holiday” sin. But if the goal is to restore the religious meaning of the Christian holy day, then they are aiming at the wrong Target.
-- Charles C Haynes, "To Save Christmas, Separate Christ from Commerce" (December 25, 2005); the word Target is capitalized as part of a subtle comment about the Target chain of stores in that Evangelical Christians boycotted Target and other stores in 2005 for (Get this!) displayng the slogan "Happy Holidays"

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William Hazlitt (1778-1830)
English essayist

William HazlittThe garb of religion is the best cloak for power.
-- William Hazlitt, "On the Clerical Character," Political Essays, (1819), from James A Haught, ed, 2000 Years of Disbelief

Mankind are an incorrigible race. Give them but bugbears and idols -- it is all that they ask; the distinctions of right and wrong, of truth and falsehood, of good and evil, are worse than indifferent to them.
-- William Hazlitt, "Common Places," no. 76, in Literary Examiner (London, 29 Nov. 1823; repr. in Collected Works, vol. 11, ed. by A R Waller and Arnold Glover, 1904).

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Ben Hecht (1894-1964)
American writer of short stories, novels, dramas, and screenplays

That God has managed to survive the inanities of the religions that do Him homage is truly a miraculous proof of His existence.
-- Ben Hecht, in Bartlett's Unfamiliar Quotations (1971), p. 113, quoted from James A Haught, ed, 2000 Years of Disbelief

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Georg W F Hegel (1770-1831)
German philosopher

The proofs of the existence of God are to such an extent fallen into discredit that they pass for something antiquated, belonging to days gone by.
-- Georg Hegel, from Rufus K Noyes, Views of Religion, quoted from James A Haught, ed, 2000 Years of Disbelief

God is, as it were, the sewer into which all contradictions flow.
-- Georg Hegel (attributed: source unknown)

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Roland R Hegstad
Editor of Liberty magazine

Our forefathers did not erect the wall of separation because they were irreligious, but because they were religious. They saw the wall of separation as a wall of protection for both church and state ...
     They wrote our Constitution against the backdrop of European church-state conflict that had ravaged the Continent for centuries. It is no wonder that they said, "Enough of cooperation of church and state; for the sake of both, for the sake of free men, let us have separation."
     And so they built a wall....
     -- Roland R Hegstad, address, October 1966, from Albert J Menendez and Edd Doerr, The Great Quotations on Religious Freedom

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Heinrich Heine (1797-1856)
German poet

Heinrich HeineHe who fights with priests may make up his mind to have his poor good name torn and befouled by the most infamous lies and the most cutting slanders.
-- Heinrich Heine, from Ira D Cardiff, What Great Men Think of Religion, quoted from James A Haught, ed, 2000 Years of Disbelief

Religion cannot sink lower than when somehow it is raised to a state religion ... It becomes then an avowed mistress.
-- Heinrich Heine, Letters from Berlin (1822), quoted from Albert J Menendez and Edd Doerr, The Great Quotations on Religious Freedom

It is extremely difficult for a Jew to be converted, for how can he bring himself to believe in the divinity of -- another Jew?
-- Heinrich Heine (attributed), Heine converted from the faith of his fathers, Judaism, to Christianity, in 1825, in order to secure his rights as a German citizen, quoted from Encarta Book of Quotations (1999)

I consider it a degradation and a stain on my honor to submit to baptism in order to qualify myself for state employment in Prussia.
-- Heinrich Heine, from Rufus K Noyes, Views of Religion, quoted from James A Haught, ed, 2000 Years of Disbelief

In dark ages people are best guided by religion, as in a pitch-black night a blind man is the best guide; he knows the roads and paths better than a man who can see. When daylight comes, however, it is foolish to use blind, old men as guides.
-- Heinrich Heine, Gedanken und Einfalle

Of course God will forgive me; that's His job.
-- Heinrich Heine, quoted in Edmond and Charles Goncourt, Journal (23 Feb. 1863), said on his deathbed, in reply to a priest who had told him God would forgive his sins. The psychiatrist Sigmund Freud commented on this: "The force of the joke lies in its purpose. What it means to say is nothing else than: 'Of course he'll forgive me. That's what he's there for, and that's the only reason I've taken him on (as one engages one's doctor or one's lawyer).' So in the dying man, as he lay there powerless, a consciousness stirred that he had created God and equipped him with power so as to make use of him when the occasion arose. What was supposed to be the created being revealed itself just before its annihilation as the creator." (From Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious, "The Purposes of Jokes," 1905.) Quoted from the Columbia Dictionary of Quotations.

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Robert Anson MacDonald Heinlein (1907-1988)
American author, considered one of the most important writers of science fiction

Robert A. HeinleinMen rarely (if ever) managed to dream up a god superior to themselves. Most gods have the manners and morals of a spoiled child.
-- Robert A Heinlein: Lazarus Long, in Time Enough for Love, quoted in McWilliams, Ain't Nobody's Business If You Do, p. 375, from James A Haught, ed., 2000 Years of Disbelief

History does not record anywhere or at any time a religion that has any rational basis. Religion is a crutch for people not strong enough to stand up to the unknown without help. But, like dandruff, most people do have a religion and spend time and money on it and seem to derive considerable pleasure from fiddling with it.
-- Robert A Heinlein: Lazarus Long in Time Enough for Love, quoted from Famous Dead Non-theists

The most preposterous notion that H sapiens has ever dreamed up is that the Lord God of Creation, Shaper and Ruler of all the Universes, wants the saccharine adoration of His creatures, can be swayed by their prayers, and becomes petulant if He does not receive this flattery. Yet this absurd fantasy, without a shred of evidence to bolster it, pays all the expenses of the oldest, largest, and least productive industry in all history.
-- Robert A Heinlein: Lazarus Long in Time Enough for Love, quoted from Famous Dead Non-theists

Any priest or shaman must be presumed guilty until proven innocent.
-- Robert A Heinlein: Lazarus Long, in Time Enough for Love, submitted by Bill Frampton

Theology is never any help; it is searching in a dark cellar at midnight for a black cat that isn't there.
-- Robert A Heinlein, Job: A Comedy of Justice

Anyone who can worship a trinity and insist that his religion is a monotheism can believe anything ... just give him time to rationalize it.
-- Robert A Heinlein, from Job: A Comedy of Justice, submitted by Bill Frampton, citation thanks to James A Brown

The faith in which I was brought up assured me that I was better than other people; I was saved, they were damned.... Our hymns were loaded with arrogance -- self-congratulation on how cozy we were with the Almighty and what a high opinion he had of us, what hell everybody else would catch come Judgment Day.
-- Robert A Heinlein, from Laurence J Peter, in, Peter's Quotations: Ideas for Our Time, quoted from James A Haught, ed, 2000 Years of Disbelief

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