Positive Atheism's Big List of Quotations

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PAMBLOQ Rules! Yesss!!

Stephen F Roberts (b 1967)
Atheistic activist, among other things

I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.
-- Stephen F Roberts, confirmed by Stephen F Roberts in a letter to Cliff Walker, (January 4, 2008); as a tag line for postings on the newsgroups alt.atheism and talk.atheism and thinks he originated it in late 1994 or early 1995; he has posted the story in "Brief history of The Quote."

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J M Robertson
Historian of freethought

The Oracle pursued a logical course of confuting theism, and leaving "a-theism" the negative result. It did not, in the absurd terms of common religious propaganda, "deny the existence of God." It affirmed that God was a term for an existence imagined by man in terms of his own personality and irreducible to any tenable definition. It did not even affirm that "there are no Gods"; it insisted that the onus of proof as to any God lay with the theist, who could give none compatible with his definitions.
-- J M Robertson, remarking on the "weak" atheism of Charles Southwell, who, in 1842, founded the Oracle of Reason, England's first avowedly atheistic periodical, in A History of Freethought in the Nineteenth Century (London, 1929), quoted from George H Smith, "Defining Atheism," in Atheism, Ayn Rand, and other Heresies

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James Harvey Robinson (1863-1936)
American historian whose work broadened historical scholarship in relation to social sciences

James Harvey Robinson (ca. 1900, Barnard Archives)We are incredibly heedless in the formation of our beliefs, but find ourselves filled with an illicit passion for them when anyone proposes to rob us of their companionship. It is obviously not the ideas themselves that are dear to us, but our self-esteem, which is threatened.
-- James Harvey Robinson, The Mind In The Making, thanks to Laird Wilcox, ed, "The Degeneration of Belief"

We find it hard to believe that other people' s thoughts are as silly as our own, but they probably are.
-- James Harvey Robinson, quoted from Allen Klein, ed, Quotations to Cheer You Up When the World is Getting You Down (1991)

Most of our so-called reasoning consists in finding arguments for going on believing as we already do.
-- James Harvey Robinson, The Mind In The Making

Rationalizing is the self-exculpation which occurs when we feel ourselves, or our group, accused of misapprehension or error.
-- James Harvey Robinson, quoted from Donald Bolander, ed, The New Webster's Dictionary of Quotations and Famous Phrases (1987)

Partisanship is our great curse. We too readily assume that everything has two sides and that it is our duty to be on one or the other.
-- James Harvey Robinson, The Mind In The Making

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Richard Robinson
British philosopher

Freedom is to be obtained in spite of the government rather than through it.
-- Richard Robinson, An Atheist's Values (1964) p. 219

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François Duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680)
French writer of aphorisms

Mediocre minds usually dismiss anything which reaches beyond their own understanding.
-- François Duc de La Rochefoucauld, Reflections; or, Sentences and Moral Maxims (1678)

There is nothing more horrible than the murder of a beautiful theory by a brutal gang of facts.
-- François Duc de La Rochefoucauld, Reflections; or, Sentences and Moral Maxims (1678), thanks to Laird Wilcox, ed, "The Degeneration of Belief"

Everyone complains of his memory, and no one complains of his judgement.
-- François Duc de La Rochefoucauld, Reflections; or, Sentences and Moral Maxims (1678)

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Nelson Aldrich Rockefeller (1908-1979)
Governor of New York (1959-1973), unelected vice-president of the United States (1974-1977)

I do not believe it right for one group to impose its vision of morality on an entire society.
-- Nelson Rockefeller, Veto Message, May 13, 1972. Rockefeller vetoed a bill to repeal New York's 1970 abortion law. Quoted from Albert J Menendez and Edd Doerr, The Great Quotations on Religious Freedom

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Gene Roddenberry (1921-1991)
Creator of Star Trek

Gene RoddenberryWe must question the story logic of having an all-knowing all-powerful God, who creates faulty Humans, and then blames them for his own mistakes.
-- Gene Roddenberry, Free Inquiry (autumn, 1992)

Its seems to me -- it's likely that heaven's here right now. If you could take life with its pain and misery, where you fail and you sometimes win, and if you package it into a game, people would pay a fortune to have this game. And I don't know that I'd want it to be resolved so peacefully that the game would be all over.
-- Gene Roddenberry (source unknown, quoted by Jim Dew)

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Roddenberry Did Not Say This:

"I condemn false prophets, I condemn the effort to take away the power of rational decision, to drain people of their free will -- and a hell of a lot of money in the bargain. Religions vary in their degree of idiocy, but I reject them all. For most people, religion is nothing more than a substitute for a malfunctioning brain."
-- Phony Quote (as far as we can tell), not found in "Interview of Gene Roddenberry: Writer, Producer, Philosopher, Humanist," in The Humanist (March-April, 1991), as cited here for several years, thanks to Jeff for alerting us of this fact. If anybody can find this quote in a legitimate primary source, we would want either a scan or a photocopy of the original source in order to restore the quote; we will not accept secondary sources, but only the primary source (magazine that contained the interview, etc.).

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Ray Romano (1927-2002)
Atheistic activist, creator of former stunt man, director, and actor

I've had people say to me, look at the sky, the fields, the ocean, the beautiful sunset. Isn't that proof positive of God? I reply, "Following that line of thought, look at the magnificent rainbows after a big rainstorm. Isn't that proof positive that God is gay?"
-- Ray Romano, in a letter to Positive Atheism (October 27, 1998)

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Anna Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962)
American diplomat, writer, and First Lady of the United States (1933-1945)

Eleanor RooseveltI do not want church groups controlling the schools of our country. They must remain free.
-- Eleanor Roosevelt, column, My Day, July 8, 1949, from Albert J Menendez and Edd Doerr, The Great Quotations on Religious Freedom

Anyone who knows history will recognize that the domination of education or of government by any one particular religious faith is never a happy arrangement for the people.
-- Eleanor Roosevelt, letter to Cardinal Spellman, July 23, 1949, from Albert J Menendez and Edd Doerr, The Great Quotations on Religious Freedom

The kind of propaganda that some of the religious groups, aided and abetted by the opposition, put forth in that campaign [1928] utterly disgusted me. If I needed anything to show me what prejudice can do to the intelligence of human beings that campaign was the best lesson I could have had.
-- Eleanor Roosevelt, Autobiography of Eleanor Roosevelt, 1961, p. 148, from Albert J Menendez and Edd Doerr, The Great Quotations on Religious Freedom

Those of us who believe in the right of any human being to belong to whatever church he sees fit, and to worship God in his own way, cannot be accused of prejudice when we do not want to see public education connected with religious control of the schools, which are paid for by taxpayers' money.
-- Eleanor Roosevelt, quoted from Nicole Brinkman, "An Amateur's Guide to Heresy"

The separation of church and state is extremely important to any of us who holds to the original traditions of our nation. To change these traditions by changing our traditional attitude toward public education would be harmful to our whole attitude of tolerance in the religious area. If we look at situations which have arisen in the past in Europe and other world areas, I think we will see the reasons why it is wise to hold to our early traditions.
-- Eleanor Roosevelt, New York World-Telegram, June 23, 1949, from Albert J Menendez and Edd Doerr, The Great Quotations on Religious Freedom

Nobody can make you feel inferior without your permission.
-- Eleanor Roosevelt (attributed: source unknown)

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Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882-1945)
The 32nd President of the United States (1933-1945)

United States Flag

Franklin Delano RooseveltThe lessons of religious toleration -- a toleration which recognizes complete liberty of human thought, liberty of conscience -- is one which, by precept and example, must be inculcated in the hearts and minds of all Americans if the institutions of our democracy are to be maintained and perpetuated.
     We must recognize the fundamental rights of man. There can be no true national life in our democracy unless we give unqualified recognition to freedom of religious worship and freedom of education.
     -- Franklin D Roosevelt, letter to the Calvert Associates, 1937. Samuel I Rosenman, ed. The Public Papers and Addresses of Franklin D Roosevelt, Volume 4, page 96. Quoted from Albert J Menendez and Edd Doerr, The Great Quotations on Religious Freedom

The public schools shall be free from sectarian influences and, above all, free from any attitude of hostility to the adherents of any particular creed. Franklin D. Roosevelt, quoted in The Wars of the Godly, by Reuben Maury (1928, p.213)
-- Franklin D Roosevelt, quoted by Reuben Maury in The Wars of the Godly, (1928, p.213) Menendez

 

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Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919)
The 26th President of the United States (1901-1909)

United States Flag

Theodore RooseveltI hold that in this country there must be complete severance of Church and State; that public moneys shall not be used for the purpose of advancing any particular creed; and therefore that the public schools shall be nonsectarian and no public moneys appropriated for sectarian schools.
-- Theodore Roosevelt, address, Carnegie Hall, October 12, 1915, from Albert J Menendez and Edd Doerr, The Great Quotations on Religious Freedom

To discriminate against a thoroughly upright citizen because he belongs to some particular church, or because, like Abraham Lincoln, he has not avowed his allegiance to any church, is an outrage against that liberty of conscience which is one of the foundations of American life.
-- Theodore Roosevelt, letter to J C Martin, November 9, 1908, from Albert J Menendez and Edd Doerr, The Great Quotations on Religious Freedom

If there is one thing for which we stand in this country, it is for complete religious freedom, and it is an emphatic negation of this right to cross-examine a man on his religion before being willing to support him for office.
-- Theodore Roosevelt, letter to J C Martin, November 9, 1908, from Albert J Menendez and Edd Doerr, The Great Quotations on Religious Freedom

Because we are unqualifiedly and without reservation against any system of denominational schools, maintained by the adherents of any creed with the help of state aid, therefore, we as strenuously insist that the public schools shall be free from sectarian influences, and above all, free from any attitude of hostility to the adherents of any particular creed.
-- Theodore Roosevelt, quoted in Reuben Maury, The Wars of the Godly, 1928, p. 213, quoted from from Albert J Menendez and Edd Doerr, The Great Quotations on Religious Freedom

I believe that this Republic will endure for many centuries. If so there will doubtless be among its Presidents Protestants and Catholics, and very probably at some time, Jews. I have consistently tried while President to act in relation to my fellow Americans of Catholic faith as I hope that any future President who happens to be Catholic will act towards his fellow Americans of Protestant faith. Had I followed any other course I should have felt that I was unfit to represent the American people.
-- Theodore Roosevelt, letter to J C Martin, November 9, 1908, from Albert J Menendez and Edd Doerr, The Great Quotations on Religious Freedom

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Elihu Root (1845-1937)
American lawyer and public official who served as US Secretary of State (1905-1909), and Senator from New York (1909-1915). He won the 1912 Nobel Peace Prize, prompting the Nobel Foundation to deem Root "one of the most brilliant administrators in American history"

It is not a question of religion, or of creed, or of party; it is a question of declaring and maintaining the great American principle of eternal separation between Church and State.
-- Elihu Root, "Statement Against the Use of Public Funds for Sectarian Education by the State of New York," 1894, from Albert J Menendez and Edd Doerr, The Great Quotations on Religious Freedom

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David Roozen
Director of Hartford Seminary's Institute for Religion Research

David Roozen (Image used with permission -- thanks!)There is as much ignorance as there is concern about intolerance today. The most fully developed literature we have on the subject is that dealing with race and ethnicity. Although of critical importance in its own right, this literature also provides a necessary foundation for our engagement of other "others" -- e.g., gender, faith, class, sexual preference.
-- David Roozen, describing the very dilemma which years ago Positive Atheism identified as the atheist's: combating antiatheist bigotry has no precedent upon which we might model our own struggle (although the gay rights movement is very close), from his Faculty Profile for Hartford Seminary

Part of it is a reflection of the national politics. There's been an increasing vigor and a sense of empowerment of the right, and I think that's carried over to the mainline denominations. Their conservative side, which would have either gone underground or been left in the past, says, "Hey this is as much our denomination as anyone else's, and we're going to stay and fight for it."
-- David Roozen, quoted from Eileen E Flynn, "Protestants Fear Differences on Gays May Split Churches" (Austin American-Statesman: July 27, 2003)

 
 

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Ernestine L Rose (1810-1892)
Atheist, America's First Woman's Rights Canvasser

Ernestine L. RoseI asked God if it was a sin and He didn't say anything.
-- young Ernestine Potowski to her father, after he had rebuked her for combing her hair, quoted from Annie Laurie Gaylor, Women Without Superstition, p. 63

If God is pleased in making you sick and unhappy, I hate God.
-- young Ernestine Potowski questioning the religious fasting that threatened her father's health, from History of Woman Suffrage, I, 95-98, quoted from Annie Laurie Gaylor, Women Without Superstition, p. 63

Emancipation from every kind of bondage is my principle. I go for recognition of human rights, without distinction of sect, party, sex, or color.
-- Ernestine L Rose, address before the American Anti-Slavery Society, 1853, quoted from Annie Laurie Gaylor, Women Without Superstition, p. 64

Agitate! Agitate! Ought to be the motto of every reformer.... Agitation is the opposite of stagnation -- the one is life, the other death.
-- Ernestine L Rose, quoted from Annie Laurie Gaylor, Women Without Superstition, p. 65

Ignorance is the evil -- knowledge will be the remedy. Knowledge not of what sort of beings we shall be hereafter, or what is beyond the skies, but a knowledge pertaining to terra firma, and we may have all the power, goodness and love that we have been taught belongs to God himself.
-- Ernestine L Rose, address to the First National Infidel Convention, New York City, May 4, 1845, quoted from Annie Laurie Gaylor, Women Without Superstition, p. 64

And when your minister asks you for money for missionary purposes, tell him there are higher, and holier, and nobler missions to be performed at home. When he asks for colleges to educate ministers, tell him you must educate woman, that she may do away with the necessity of ministers, so that they may be able to go to some useful employment.
-- Ernestine L Rose, address to the Seventh National Woman's Convention, New York, November 25-26, 1856, from History of Woman Suffrage, I, 661-3, quoted from Annie Laurie Gaylor, Women Without Superstition, p. 69

For my part, I see no need to appeal to any written authority, particularly when it is so obscure and indefinite as to admit different interpretations. When the inhabitants of Boston converted their harbor into a teapot rather than submit to unjust taxes, they did not go to the Bible for their authority; for if they had, they would have been told from the same authority to "give unto Caesar what belonged to Caesar." Had the people, when they rose in the might of their right to throw off the British yoke, appealed to the Bible for authority, it would have answered them, "Submit to the powers that be, for they are from God," No! on Human Rights and Freedom, on a subject that is as self-evident as that two and two make four, there is no need of any written authority.
-- Ernestine L Rose, address to the Third National Woman's Convention meeting in Syracuse, New York, September 8-10, 1852, opposing Rev Antoinette Brown's move to reconcile Christianity with women's rights, from History of Woman Suffrage, I, 536-7, 540, quoted from Annie Laurie Gaylor, Women Without Superstition, p. 64

As we believe our case to be based on truth, we know it can bear the test of reason, and, like gold doubly refined, will come out purer and brighter from the fiery ordeal. The young man [a male opponent in the audience] ... based his principal argument against us, "Because," said he, "you can bring no authority from revelation or from nature." ... It is true we do not go to revelations written in books; but ours is older than all books, ... That revelation is no less than the living, breathing, thinking, feeling, acting revelation manifested in the nature of woman. In her manifold powers, capacities, needs, hopes, and aspirations, lies her title-deed, and whether that revelation was written by nature or nature's God, matters not, for here it is. No one can disprove it. No one can bring an older, broader, higher, and more sacred basis for human rights. Do you tell me what Paul or Peter says on the subject? Then again I reply that our claims do not rest on the opinions of any one, not even on those of Paul and Peter, for they are older than they. Books and opinions, no matter from whom they came, if they are in opposition to human rights, are nothing but dead letters.
-- Ernestine L Rose, address to the Seventh National Woman's Convention, New York, November 25-26, 1856, from History of Woman Suffrage, I, 661-3, quoted from Annie Laurie Gaylor, Women Without Superstition, p. 68-9

All that I can tell you is, that I used my humble powers to the uttermost, and raised my voice in behalf of Human Rights in general, and the elevation and Rights of Woman in particular, nearly all my life.... Yet in spite of hardships, for it was not easy to travel at that time as now; and the expense, as I never made a charge or took up a collection, I look back to that time, when a stranger and alone, I went from place to place, in high-ways and by-ways, did the work and paid my bills with great pleasure and satisfaction; for the cause gained ground, and in spite of heresies I had always good audiences, attentive listeners, and was well received wherever I went.
-- Ernestine L Rose, letter to Susan B Anthony, January 9, 1877, from History of Woman Suffrage, I, 99, quoted from Annie Laurie Gaylor, Women Without Superstition, p. 64-5

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James F Ross
Professor of Philosophy and Law at the University of Pennsylvania Law School (Penn Law)

James F RossWith no description or definition to work from, we will literally fail to know what we are talking about.
-- James F. Ross, Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion (Toronto: The Macmillan Co, 1969), p. 11; 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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Clinton Rossiter
American historian

The establishment of religious freedom was no less momentous an achievement than the clearing of the great forest or the winning of independence, for the twin doctrines of separation of church and state and liberty of individual conscience are the marrow of our democracy, if not indeed America's most magnificent contribution to the freeing of Western man.
-- Clinton Rossiter, The American Quest, 1971, from Albert J Menendez and Edd Doerr, The Great Quotations on Religious Freedom

Although is had its share of strenuous Christians... the gathering at Philadelphia was largely made up of men in whom the old fires were under control or had even flickered out. Most were nominally members of one of the traditional churches in their part of the country.. and most were men who could take their religion or leave it alone. Although no one in this sober gathering would have dreamed of invoking the Goddess of Reason, neither would anyone have dared to proclaim his opinions had the support of the God of Abraham and Paul. The Convention of 1787 was highly rationalist and even secular in spirit.
-- Clinton Rossiter, quoted from the Joint Baptist Committee's pamphlet, "Critique of David Barton's 'America's Godly Heritage'"

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Jean Rostand (1894-1977)
French biologist, author of major works on experimental parthenogenesis and on the standing of biology in the humanist culture

Jean RostandThe divine is perhaps that quality in man which permits him to endure the lack of God.
-- Jean Rostand, Carnets d'un Biologiste (repr. in The Substance of Man, p. 181, 1962). From The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations

What makes our opponents useful is that they allow us to believe that without them we would be able to realize our goals.
-- Jean Rostand, Journal d’un Charactere (1931), thanks to Laird Wilcox, ed, "The Degeneration of Belief"

God, that checkroom (dépotoir) of our dreams.
-- Jean Rostand, Carnets d'un Biologiste (repr. in The Substance of Man, 1962). From The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations

Hatred, for the man who is not engaged in it, is a little like the odor of garlic for one who hasn't eaten any.
-- Jean Rostand, Pensees d'un Biologiste, ch. 10 (1939; repr. in The Substance of Man, 1962). From The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations

Stupidity, outrage, vanity, cruelty, iniquity, bad faith, falsehood -- we fail to see the whole array when it is facing in the same direction as we.
-- Jean Rostand, Pensées d'un Biologiste (1939; repr. in The Substance of Man, "A Biologist's Thoughts," ch. 10, 1962). From The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations

Kill a man, one is a murderer; kill a million, a conqueror; kill them all, a God.
-- Jean Rostand, Pensées d'un Biologiste (1939; repr. in The Substance of Man, 1962, p. 68). From The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations

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Leo Calvin Rosten [Leonard Q Ross] (b. 1908)
Polish-born US humorist-sociologist

I never cease being dumbfounded by the unbelievable things people believe.
-- Leo Rosten, from Laurence J Peter, Peter's Quotations: Ideas for Our Time, also James A Haught, ed, 2000 Years of Disbelief

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PAMBLOQ Rules! Yesss!!