Positive Atheism’s Big List of Quotations

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Gerry Spence
Attorney who “spent his lifetime representing the poor, the injured, the forgotten and the damned against what he calls “the new slave master,” mammoth corporation and mammoth government.... He has never lost a criminal case. He has not lost a civil case since 1969. He has had more multi-million dollar verdicts without an intervening loss than any lawyer in America.” (Quoted from his Web page.)

Gerry Spence (image adapted from his Website)I would rather have a mind opened by wonder than one closed by belief.
Gerry Spence (attributed: source unknown)

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Samuel T Spear
Episcopal Priest, Brooklyn, New York

The public school, like the state, under whose authority it exists, and by whose taxing power it is supported, should be simply a civil institution, absolutely secular and not at all religious in its purposes, and all practical questions involving this principle should be settled in accordance therewith.
Samuel T Spear, Religion and the State, 1876, P 141, from Albert J Menendez and Edd Doerr, The Great Quotations on Religious Freedom

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Herbert Spencer (1820-1903)
British philosopher who attempted to apply the theory of evolution to philosophy and ethics in his series Synthetic Philosophy

Herbert SpencerEvery man is free to do that which he wills, provided he infringes not the equal freedom of any other man.
Herbert Spencer, The Principles of Ethics, Part IV, ch. 6, The Formula of Justice

[Agnostics are] people who, like myself, confess themselves to be hopelessly ignorant concerning a variety of matters, about which metaphysicians and theologians, both orthodox and heterodox, dogmatize with the utmost confidence.
Herbert Spencer, from Laird Wilcox and John George, eds., Be Reasonable: Selected Quotations for Inquiring Minds

The ultimate result of shielding men from the effects of folly, is to fill the world with fools.
Herbert Spencer, Essays, vol. 3, “State Tamperings with Money and Banks” (1891), quoted from The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations

The “Creed of Christendom” is alien to my nature, both emotional and intellectual.
Herbert Spencer, from Ira D Cardiff, What Great Men Think of Religion, quoted from James A Haught, ed., 2000 Years of Disbelief

There is no origin for the idea of an afterlife, save the conclusion which the savage draws from the notion suggested by dreams.
Herbert Spencer, from Ira D Cardiff, What Great Men Think of Religion, quoted from James A Haught, ed., 2000 Years of Disbelief

Religion has been compelled by science to give up one after another of its dogmas, of those assumed cognitions which it could not substantiate.
Herbert Spencer, First Principles (1862), from James A Haught, ed., 2000 Years of Disbelief

The preservation of health is a duty. Few seem conscious that there is such a thing as physical morality.
Herbert Spencer, Education, ch. 4 (1861), quoted from The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations

We hear with surprise of the savage who, falling down a precipice, ascribes the failure of his foothold to a malicious demon; and we smile at the kindred notion of the ancient Greek, that his death was prevented by a goddess who unfastened for him the thong of the helmet by which his enemy was dragging him. But daily, without surprise, we hear men who describe themselves as saved from shipwreck by “divine interposition” ... and the Christian priest who says prayers over a sick man in the expectation that the course of the disease will be stayed, differ only in respect of the agent from whom they expect supernatural aid.
Herbert Spencer, First Principles, from James A Haught, ed., 2000 Years of Disbelief

The idea of disembodied spirits is wholly unsupported by evidence, and I cannot accept it.
Herbert Spencer, from Rufus K Noyes, Views of Religion, quoted from James A Haught, ed., 2000 Years of Disbelief

Divine right of kings means the divine right of anyone who can get uppermost.
Herbert Spencer, Social Statistics, pt. 2, ch. 6, sct. 3 (1850), quoted from The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations

The cruelty of a Fijian god, who, represented as devouring the souls of the dead, may be supposed to inflict torture during the process, is small compared with the cruelty of a God who condemns men to tortures which are eternal.
Herbert Spencer, from Rufus K Noyes, Views of Religion, quoted from James A Haught, ed., 2000 Years of Disbelief

Hero-worship is strongest where there is least regard for human freedom.
Herbert Spencer, Social Statistics, pt. 4, ch. 30, sct. 6 (1850), quoted from The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations

Those who cavalierly reject the Theory of Evolution, as not adequately supported by facts, seem quite to forget that their own theory is supported by no facts at all.
Herbert Spencer, quoted from Bruce Grant, “Intentional Deception: Intelligent Design Creationism” (A review of Creationism’s Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design by Barbara Forrest and Paul R Gross, 2004) published in e-Skeptic

The more specific idea of Evolution now reached is — a change from an indefinite, incoherent homogeneity to a definite, coherent heterogeneity, accompanying the dissipation of motion and integration of matter.
Herbert Spenser, not yet in touch with the absolute simplicity of natural selection as the unconscious desgner, in First Principles, vol. 1, pt. 2, ch. 16, para. 138 (1862), quoted from The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations

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Benedict [Baruch] Spinoza (1632-1677)
Dutch rationalistic philosopher and religious thinker, founder of modern pantheism

Baruch SpinozaPhilosophy has no end in view, save truth. Faith looks for nothing but obedience and piety.
Baruch Spinoza, quoted by James A Haught in “Honest Minds, Past and Present” Talks for History of Freethought conference Sept. 20-21, 1997, Cincinnati, Ohio sponsored by Council for Secular Humanism and Free Inquiry Group

I believe that a triangle, if it could speak, would say that God is eminently triangular, and a circle that the divine nature is eminently circular; and thus would every one ascribe his own attributes to God.
Baruch Spinoza, Epistles, 60

Anyone who seeks for the true causes of miracles, and strives to understand natural phenomena as an intelligent being, and not to gaze at them like a fool, is set down and denounced as an impious heretic.
Baruch Spinoza, The Ethics, Correspondence, and a Theologico-Political Treatise, R H M Elwes, tr (1951), p 78, quoted in George H Smith, Why Atheism? (2000), pp 202-3

Laws which prescribe what everyone must believe, and forbid men to say or write anything against this or that opinion, are often passed to gratify, or rather to appease the anger of those who cannot abide independent minds.
Baruch Spinoza, Theological Political Treatise (1670), quoted from Laird Wilcox, ed., “The Degeneration of Belief

The proper study of a wise man is not how to die but how to live.
-- Baruch Spinoza, quoted in David Brooks, The Necessity of Atheism "Preface"

I have made a ceaseless effort not to ridicule, not to bewail, not to scorn human actions, but to understand them.
Baruch Spinoza, quoted from a Skeptics Society promotional brochure (circa 2001)

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Bishop John Shelby Spong
Episcopal Bishop of New Jersey

John Shelby SpongTheism, as a way of conceiving God, has become demonstrably inadequate, and the God of theism not only is dying but is probably not revivable. If the religion of the future depends on keeping alive the definitions of theism, then the human phenomenon that we call religion will have come to an end. If Christianity depends on a theistic definition of God, then we must face the fact that we are watching this noble religious system enter the rigor mortis of its own death throes.
John Shelby Spong, from Why Christianity Must Change or Die (1998) p 59

A major function of fundamentalist religion is to bolster deeply insecure and fearful people. This is done by justifying a way of life with all of its defining prejudices. It thereby provides an appropriate and legitimate outlet for one’s anger. The authority of an inerrant Bible that can be readily quoted to buttress this point of view becomes an essential ingredient to such a life. When that Bible is challenged, or relativized, the resulting anger proves the point categorically.
John Shelby Spong, Rescuing the Bible From Fundamentalism, p 5 (1991)

They amuse themselves by playing an irrelevant ecclesiastical game called “Let’s Pretend.” Let’s pretend that we possess the objective truth of God in our inerrant Scriptures or in our infallible pronouncements or in our unbroken apostolic traditions.
John Shelby Spong (attributed: source unknown)

John Shelby SpongI could not believe that anyone who has read this book would be so foolish as to proclaim that the Bible in every literal word was the divinely inspired, inerrant word of God. Have these people simply not read the text? Are they hopelessly misinformed? Is there a different Bible? Are they blinded by a combination of ego needs and naïveté?
John Shelby Spong (attributed: source unknown)

What the mind cannot believe the heart can finally never adore.
John Shelby Spong, Rescuing the Bible From Fundamentalism, p 24 (1991)

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Josef Stalin (1879-1953)
Soviet dictator

Josef StalinYou know, they are fooling us, there is no God.
Josef Stalin, from the Soviet-published Landmarks in the Life of Stalin (1940)

The Pope? How many divisions has he got?
Josef Stalin, to French Foreign Minister Pierre Laval, in reply to a suggestion that the Soviet Union should encourage Catholicism in order to propitiate the Pope, in Winston Churchill, The Second World War, vol. 1, “The Gathering Storm,” ch. 8, (1948), said, 13 May 1935, quoted from, The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations

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Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902)
American feminist and social reformer

     • Check our Big List of Elizabeth Cady Stanton Quotations

Elizabeth Cady Stanton with childEmbrace truth as it is revealed to-day by human reason.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton, from “An Answer to Bishop Stevens,” from New York American & Journal (October 27, 1902), quoted from Annie Laurie Gaylor, Women Without Superstition, p 111

The Bible and the Church have been the greatest stumbling blocks in the way of women’s emancipation.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton, from Free Thought Magazine (Sept. 1896)

The memory of my own suffering has prevented me from ever shadowing one young soul with the superstitions of the Christian religion.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Eight Years and More (1898)

The whole tone of Church teaching in regard to woman is, to the last degree, contemptuous and degrading.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton, quoted from Freedom From Religion Foundation, “What They Said About Religion” (Nontract #4)

Heavenly Father and Mother, make us thankful for all the blessings of this life, and make us ever mindful of the patient hands that oft in weariness spread our tables and prepare our daily food. For humanity’s sake, Amen.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton, when asked to say “grace” used the opportunity to preach equality, in Alma Lutz, Created Equal (1940), p 201, quoted from and citation notes by Annie Laurie Gaylor, Women Without Superstition, p 106

Elizabeth Cady StantonWhen I first heard from the lips of Lucretia Mott that I had the same right to think for myself that Luther, Calvin, and John Knox had, and the same right to be guided by my own convictions, and would no doubt live a higher, happier life than if guided by theirs, it was like suddenly coming into the rays of the noon-day sun, after wandering with a rushlight in the caves the earth.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton, “I Had the Same Right to Think,” in The History of Woman Suffrage, vol I, p 422

I have endeavoured to dissipate these religious superstitions from the minds of women, and base their faith on science and reason, where I found for myself at last that peace and comfort I could never find in the Bible and the church.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton, “The Degraded Status of Woman in the Bible” (1896), quoted from Annie Laurie Gaylor, Women Without Superstition, p 103

The happiest people I have known have been those who gave themselves no concern about their own souls, but did their uttermost to mitigate the miseries of others.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton, in her autobiography, Eighty Years, p 385, quoted from Dr. Mynga Futrell, “The Ladies Clamor for Change

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Theodore Stanton
American writer

If [Abraham] Lincoln had lived and died an obscure Springfield lawyer and politician, he would unquestionably have been classed by his neighbors among Freethinkers. But, as is customary with the Church, whether Roman Catholic or Protestant, when Lincoln became one of the great of the World an attempt was made to claim him. In trying to arrive at a correct comprehension of Lincoln’s theology, this fact should be borne in mind in sifting the testimony. Another very important warping influence which should not be lost sight of was Lincoln’s early ambition for political preferment. Now, the shrewd American politician with an elastic conscience joins some Church, and is always seen on Sunday in the front pews. But the shrewd politician who has not an elastic conscience — and this was Lincoln’s case — simply keeps mum on his religious views, or, when he must touch on the subject, deals only in platitudes.
Theodore Stanton, in the Westminster Review for September, 1891, quoted from Franklin Steiner, The Religious Views of Our Presidents, p 141-42

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Rodney Stark
Sociologist who specializes in religions; professor at the University of Washington

     • See: The Scary Side of Rodney Stark

Rodney Stark (image adapted from his Website)No other single innovation had so much impact on history.
Rodney Stark, on the importance of monotheism, in One True God: Historical Consequences of Monotheism (1999)

People value religion on the basis of cost, and they don’t value the cheapest ones the most. Religions that ask nothing get nothing.
Rodney Stark, in Michael Aquilina, “A Double Take on Early Christianity: An Interview with Rodney Stark” (February, 2000: Touchstone Magazine, originally for Our Sunday Visitor)

... I don’t believe establishment is good for churches. It gets them involved in the worldly realm in ways that are unsuitable and corrupting. By the end of Constantine’s reign, we see people competing madly to become bishops because of the money. After that, Christianity was no longer a person-to-person movement.
     You look at the spread of Christianity beyond the empire, and you see that it was almost entirely by treaty and by baptizing kings. I think one reason medieval church attendance was so bad in Scandinavia and Germany was that these people weren’t really Christians. If it hadn’t been for the establishment of the Church, they might have been. Their lands would have become Christian because many people would have gone door-to-door to make Christians out of them — and then baptized the king. It was bad for the Church. I think the current pope would agree with me; I think most medieval popes would have me burned for saying this.
     American Catholics can understand it, though. They know how good it was for the Church to have to fight for its life in the United States....
Rodney Stark, in Michael Aquilina, “A Double Take on Early Christianity: An Interview with Rodney Stark” (February, 2000: Touchstone Magazine, originally for Our Sunday Visitor)

The main thing you’ve got to recognize is that success is really about relationships and not about faith. What happens is that people form relationships and only then come to embrace a religion. It doesn’t happen the other way around. That’s really critical, and it’s something that you can only learn by going out and watching people convert to new movements. We would never, ever, have figured that out in the library. You can never find that sort of thing out after the fact — because after the fact people do think it’s about faith. And they’re not lying, by the way. They’re just projecting backwards.
     Something else: give people things to do. The folks in the Vineyard are geniuses at that. It’s quite an adventure to go off somewhere and set up a new church for them. The Mormons are great at giving people things to do too. You know, they not only tithe money but they also tithe time. They do an enormous amount of social services for one another, all of which builds community bonds. It also gives you this incredible sense of security — I’m going to be okay when I’m in a position of need; there are going to be people to look out for me. That makes a difference. And if you want to build commitment, send your kids out on missions when they’re nineteen! Go out and you save the world for two years! Even if you don’t get a single convert, it’s worth it in terms of the bonds you develop.
     You’ve also got to have a serious conception of God and the supernatural to succeed. Just having some “essence of goodness,” like the Tao, isn’t going to do it. It just isn’t. It doesn’t even do it in Asian countries, you know. They hang a whole collection of supernatural beings around these essences. So to succeed you do best by starting with a very active God who’s virtuous and makes demands, because people have a tendency to value religions on the basis of cost.
Rodney Stark, explaining his ideas on how and why religious movements succeed, in Toby Lester, “Oh Gods!” (February, 2002: The Atlantic Monthly)

... All questions concerning the rise of Christianity are one: How was it done? How did a tiny and obscure messianic movement from the edge of the Roman Empire dislodge classical paganism and become the dominant faith of Western civilization? Although this is the only question, it requires many answers — no one thing led to the triumph of Christianity.
Rodney Stark, laying the foundation for later countering the popular claim that the rise of Christianity cannot be explained through natural means, that its growth was due to a supernatural agency, in The Rise of Christianity (1996)

There’s a consensus among historians that the numbers [of Christian martyrs] weren’t large at all, and that we may know the name of just about every single martyr....
     ...
     One thing about religious truths is that we have to take them on faith, and faith needs reassurance. What’s more reassuring than noticing that some other people, whom you admire, are so certain that it’s all true that they’re willing to go the ultimate mile?
Rodney Stark, debunking the myth of Christian martyrs and then explaining how taking “religious truths ... on faith” which “needs reassurance” prevents the trivialization of the traditional notion that “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church,” in Michael Aquilina, “A Double Take on Early Christianity: An Interview with Rodney Stark” (February, 2000: Touchstone Magazine, originally for Our Sunday Visitor)

As for miracles: listen, people do get healed — spontaneously and, it would seem, miraculously. There’s not a physician on earth who would deny that. What is the agency? I don’t know. But to deny that people in tabernacles around the United States are getting healed is simply wrong. There’s no reason to deny that these things happen just because we don’t share the definitions put on them by the people of another time or place.
     Somebody at Harvard Divinity School might say, “That wasn’t a miracle. It was a spontaneous remission.” “Spontaneous remission” is the way the experts say, “We don’t have the slightest idea what happened.” The most hard-nosed scientist has no reason to doubt that miracles took place in the early Church. The opinions of the village atheist are as fundamentalist as anything any Baptist ever believed.
Rodney Stark, suggesting an attitude of healthy agnosticism on the subject of whether claims of allegedly miraculous healings do or do not have a supernatural source, but certainly advocating reasonableness over hardheadedness on the subject of whether or not people got healed at these events, in Michael Aquilina, “A Double Take on Early Christianity: An Interview with Rodney Stark” (February, 2000: Touchstone Magazine, originally for Our Sunday Visitor)

That’s true [that I’m “not religious as that term is conventionally understood,”] though I’ve never been an atheist. Atheism is an active faith; it says, “I believe there is no God.” But I don’t know what I believe. I was brought up a Lutheran in Jamestown, North Dakota. I have trouble with faith. I’m not proud of this. I don’t think it makes me an intellectual. I would believe if I could, and I may be able to before it’s over. I would welcome that.
Rodney Stark, not a “strong” atheist (as PAM defines the brand of atheism Stark here describes), yet not sure what he is; not able to believe at this point, but by no means afraid of faith (for the record, the original responded to the question, “You once wrote that you’re “not religious as that term is conventionally understood,’” and Stark replied,”That’s true, though I’ve never been ...”), in Michael Aquilina, “A Double Take on Early Christianity: An Interview with Rodney Stark” (February, 2000: Touchstone Magazine, originally for Our Sunday Visitor)

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Sir Richard Steele (1672-1729)
Irish-English essayist and playwright; Joseph Addison’s chief collaborator in the
“Tatler” and the “Spectator”

     • Check out Scary, Scary Sir Richard Steele

Sir Richard SteeleI love to consider an Infidel, whether distinguished by the title of deist, atheist, or free-thinker, ...
Sir Richard Steele, although excerpted from an extremely hostile description, this quip nonetheless displays the interchangeability of the titles of the critics of orthodoxy, in The Tatler (No. 111) (1709), quoted from, and citation based upon, Jim Herrick, Against the Faith (1985), p 15

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Joseph Lincoln Steffens (1866-1936)
Crusading journalist who initiated the journalistic tradition of muckraking

Lincoln SteffensWhy is it that the less intelligence people have, the more spiritual they are? They seem to fill all the vacant, ignorant spaces in their heads with soul. Which explains how it is that the less knowledge they have, the more religion.
Lincoln Steffens, from Ira D Cardiff, What Great Men Think of Religion, quoted from James A Haught, 2000 Years of Disbelief

Lincoln SteffensWe know that there is no absolute knowledge, that there are only theories; but we forget this. The better educated we are, the harder we believe in axioms.
Lincoln Steffens, quoted from David Hatcher Childress, The Lost Cities Series

Morality is only moral when it is voluntary.
Lincoln Steffens (attributed: source unknown)

Short Graphic Rule

Darrow explains Steffens’ irony

Everything serious that he says is a joke and everything humorous that he says is dead serious.
Clarence Darrow, about Lincoln Steffens, “Chiastic Quotes of the Week,” March 12-18, 2000

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Rod Steiger (b. 1925)
American actor

Rod SteigerThat’s all religion is — some principle you believe in ... man has accomplished far more miracles than the God he invented. What a tragedy it is to invent a God and then suffer to keep him King.
Rod Steiger, in Playboy magazine (1969)

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Gertrude Stein (1874-1946)
American writer

Gertrude SteinThere ain’t no answer. There ain’t going to be any answer. There never has been an answer. That’s the answer.
Gertrude Stein, quoted by Robert Byrne in The Fourth 937 Best Things Anybody Ever Said, quoted from James A Haught, 2000 Years of Disbelief

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Gordon Stein (1941-1996)
American philosopher; senior editor of Free Inquiry

Gordon SteinObviously, if theism is a belief in a God and atheism is a lack of a belief in a God, no third position or middle ground is possible. A person can either believe or not believe in a God. Therefore, our previous definition of atheism has made an impossibility out of the common usage of agnosticism to mean “neither affirming nor denying a belief in God.”
Gordon Stein, defending the “weak” definition for the word atheism, from “The Meaning of Atheism and Agnosticism,” in his An Anthology of Atheism and Rationalism (1980)

Because of the confusion surrounding the term “agnosticism,” it would seem better to use the very similar term “rationalism” in its place when referring to the original Huxleyan meaning of the term. The use of “rationalist” for “agnostic” would also seem to be less ambiguous.
Gordon Stein, from “The Meaning of Atheism and Agnosticism,” in his An Anthology of Atheism and Rationalism (1980)

If theism is the belief in the existence of God, then a-theism ought to mean “not theism” or “without theism.” Actually, there is no notion of “denial” in the origin of the word, and the atheist who denies the existence of God is by far the rarest type of atheist — if he exists at all. Rather, the word atheism means to an atheist “lack of belief in the existence of a God or gods.” An atheist is one who does not have a belief in God, or who is without a belief in God. The importance of these distinctions is that one cannot understand what one cannot define accurately. An atheist cannot deny the existence of that which he finds to be without meaning, namely the term *God. In order to deny the existence of something, one must know what the term one is denying means.
Gordon Stein, defending the “weak” definition for the word atheism, from the “Atheism,” entry of his The Encyclopedia of Unbelief

We should always keep an open mind about any new phenomenon in nature. To merely say “that’s impossible, therefore it doesn’t exist,” is to commit a serious error. A much better approach would be to say “That’s quite unlikely, but show me the evidence you have that says that it may be so.” It would be the height of arrogance to think that man knows everything possible about the Universe or the Earth. There are many things yet to be discovered, and that is why we have scientific research (or any kind of research). That should be the rationalist’s approach to parapsychology and the occult.
Gordon Stein, in his What is Rationalism? (1985), quoted from the American Humanist Association’s obituary of Stein

Many of the innovations in science and philosophy have come from unbelievers, some of whom died for their “unbeliefs.” Without unbelief, we might well be living in the Dark Ages or at least in the intellectual equivalent of that time.
     In past centuries many theists savagely attacked atheists on the ground that someone without a belief in God must be a moral “monster,” who would permit any action. This argument is rarely heard today, as the number of people who are openly atheists has become so large that its falsity is self-evident. Atheists do have a moral code to guide them. It is usually based upon the Golden Rule, plus a variety of utilitarian reasons, although there are a number of other possible systems. Rather than being immoral, most atheists are extremely moral.
     There are a large number of people who can and do manage to lead decent upright lives with no use for a belief in God as a guide. Atheists do not care whether others believe as they do. They do ask, however, for the right to believe as they wish.

Gordon Stein, in his The Encyclopedia of Unbelief, quoted from the Center for Inquiry’s obituary of Stein

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Gloria Steinem (b. 1934)
American writer and political activist, leading figure in the women’s rights movement of the 1960s and 1970s

Gloria SteinemBy the year 2000 we will, I hope, raise our children to believe in human potential, not God.
Gloria Steinem, from Laurence J Peter, Peter’s Quotations: Ideas for Our Time, quoted from James A Haught, “Breaking the Last Taboo” (1996)

However sugarcoated and ambiguous, every form of authoritarianism must start with a belief in some group’s greater right to power, whether that right is justified by sex, race, class, religion or all four. However far it may expand, the progression inevitably rests on unequal power and airtight roles within the family.
Gloria Steinem, “If Hitler Were Alive, Whose Side Would He Be On?” Ms., Oct./Nov. 1980

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Charles Proteus Steinmetz (1865-1923)
German-American electrical engineer and inventor

Charles SteinmetzIn the realm of science, all attempts to find any evidence of superhatural beings, of metaphysical conceptions, as God, immortality, infinity, etc., thus have failed, and if we are honest, we must confess that in science there exists no God, no immortality, no soul or mind as distinct from the body.
Charles Steinmetz, quoted in American Freeman, July, 1941, quoted from James A Haught, ed., 2000 Years of Disbelief

No evidence or proof of the existence of a God has been found in the phenomena of nature, based on experience.
Charles Steinmetz (attributed: source unknown)

IEEE Charles Proteus Steinmetz AwardNo man really becomes a fool until he stops asking questions.
Charles Steinmetz, quoted from The Speaker’s Electronic Reference Collection, AApex Software (1994)

Marking dynamos for repair $10,000.00 -- 2 hours labor $10.00; knowing where to mark $9,990.00.
Charles Steinmetz, on an itemized bill sent to Henry Ford, quoted from Edmund Fuller, ed., 2500 Anecdotes for All Occasions (1970); thisis actually an old Andy Capp punchline wherein the TV repair guy knows where to thump with his screwdriver

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Stendhal [Marie-Henri Beyle] (1783-1842)
French novelist

The only excuse for God is that he doesn’t exist.
Stendhal, quoted from Jonathon Green, The Cassell Dictionary of Cynical Quotations

All religions are founded on the fear of the many and the cleverness of the few.
Stendhal, quoted from Jonathon Green, The Cassell Dictionary of Insulting Quotations

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Victor J Stenger
Particle physicist; skeptic

     • Check our Interview with Particle Physicist Victor J Stenger (November, 1999)
     • Check our Big List of Victor J Stenger Quotations

Vic StengerAny attempt at understanding humanity must include an explanation of the hold that supernatural belief continues to have on most of the human race.
Vic Stenger, Physics and Psychics (1990) p 91

When people start using science to argue for their specific beliefs and delusions, to try to claim that they’re supported by science, then scientists at least have to speak up and say, “You’re welcome to your delusions, but don’t say that they’re supported by science.”
Vic Stenger, in Cliff Walker, “Interview with Particle Physicist Victor J Stenger,” Positive Atheism, December 1998, January 1999, and February 1999

Scientific evidence for God’s existence is being claimed today by theists, many of whom carry respectable scientific or philosophical credentials. “He” who is neither a “she” nor an “it” supposedly answers prayers and otherwise dramatically affects the outcome of events. If these consequences are as significant as believers say, then the effects should be detectable in properly controlled experiments.
Victor J Stenger, Has Science Found God? (draft: 2001), Chapter 3

The battle over the validity of evolution has been publicly posed as a scientific one. However, you will find little sign of it in scientific journals, where such quarrels as exist are over details, not the basic concept.... Evolution has proved so useful as a paradigm for the origin and structure of life that it constitutes the foundation of the sciences of biology and medicine.
Vic Stenger, Has Science Found God? (draft: 2001)

In short, evolution is as close to being a scientific fact as is possible for any theory, given that science is open-ended and no one can predict with certainty what may change in the future. The prospect that evolution by natural selection, at least as a broad mechanism, will be overthrown in the future is about as likely as the prospect of finding out some day that the Earth is really flat. Unfortunately, those who regard these scientific facts as a threat to faith have chosen to distort and misrepresent them to the public.
Victor J Stenger, Has Science Found God? (draft: 2001)

From this experience, I have learned what science asks of us when we claim the existence of an extraordinary new phenomenon. It requires much, including years of hard work, uncompromising honesty, and willingness to accept failure. I can quickly recognize fallacious logic or faulty experimental procedure when I read a paper that purports to observe something that goes beyond existing knowledge. I am dubious and suspicious whenever an important result has been obtained too easily or too quickly, and reported in the media before it has run the gamut of critical review by disinterested, knowledgeable parties.
Vic Stenger, Has Science Found God? (draft: 2001)

To most theistic believers, human life can have no meaning in a universe without God. Quite sincerely, and with understandable yearning for a meaning to their existence, they reject the possibility of no God. In their minds, only a purposeful universe based on God is possible and science can do nothing else but support this “truth.”
Vic Stenger, Has Science Found God? (draft:2001)

The argument from design stands or falls on whether it can be demonstrated that some aspect of the universe such as its origin or biological life could not have come about naturally. The burden of proof is ... on the supernaturalist to demonstrate that something from outside nature must be introduced to explain the data.
Vic Stenger, Has Science Found God? (draft: 2001), chapter 4

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George Sterling (1869-1926)
US poet, friend of Jack London

George SterlingAnd if thou slay Him, shall the ghost not rise?
     Yea! if thou conquer Him thine enemy,
His specter from the dark shall visit thee —
Invincible, necessitous and wise.
The tyrant and mirage of human eyes,
     Exhaled upon the spirit’s darkened sea,
     Shares He thy moment of eternity,
Thy truth confronted ever with His lies.
 
George Sterling, on the Jack London ranch; photo by Charmain LondonThy Banners gleam a little, and are furled;
          Against thy turrets surge His phantom tow’rs;
     Drugged with his Opiates the nations nod,
          Refusing still the beauty of thine hours;
And fragile is thy tenure of this world
     Still haunted by the monstrous ghost of God.
     — George Sterling, “To Science” (1919), quoted from S T Joshi, Atheism: A Reader, p 191

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Howard Stern (b. 1954)
American radio personality

Howard SternHere’s what happens when you die — you sit in a box and get eaten by worms. I promise you that when you die, nothing cool happens.
Howard Stern (attributed: source unknown)

I’m sickened by all religions. Religion has divided people. I don’t think there is any difference between the pope wearing a large hat and parading around with a smoking purse and an African painting his face white and praying to a rock.
Howard Stern (attributed: source unknown)

I don’t think any religion makes any sense and I think people who are into that are really getting duped, and I don’t think Judaism makes any more sense than Christianity, and I don’t think Christianity makes any more sense than Scientology. But here’s a guy, L Ron Hubbard, who told all his friends, “Look, I’m gonna start a religion, ‘cause I can’t make any money as a science fiction writer.” [Laughter] I mean, he admitted that publicly! At least with Jesus Christ, you can’t go talk to the guy.
Howard Stern, on his radio show, May 18, 2001, after his guest Leah Remini mentioned that she is a Scientologist, submitted by James Beacham

Please, with the God talk. Hate to break it to you, but there is no God.
Howard Stern, April 23, 1999, during a show discussing the Columbine massacre

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Sir Leslie Stephen (1832-1904)
Anglican clergyman turned atheist; journalist and editor, being the first editor of the Dictionary of National Biography, though Hours in a Library most vividly displays his talent for critism; avid Alpine mountaineer; father of Virginia Woolf

Sir Leslie StephenHow much intellect and zeal runs to waste in the spasmodic efforts of good men to cling to the last fragment of decaying systems, to galvanize dead formulæ into some dim semblance of life! Society will not improve as it might when those who should be leaders of progress are staggering backward and forward with their eyes passionately reverted to the past. Nay, we shall never be duly sensitive to the miseries and cruelties which make the world a place of torture for so many, so long as men are encouraged in the name of religion to look for a remedy, not in fighting against surrounding evils, but in cultivating aimless contemplations of an imaginary ideal. Much of our popular religion seems to be expressly directed to deaden our sympathies with our fellow men by encouraging an indolent optimism; our thoughts of the other world are used in many forms as an opiate to drug our minds with indifference to the evils of this; and the last word of half of our preachers is, 'dream rather than work.'
Sir Leslie Stephen, quoted in David Brooks, The Necessity of Atheism "Preface"

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John Paul Stevens
Supreme Court Justice

John Paul StevensThe graphic emphasis placed on those first lines is rather hard to square with the proposition that the monument expresses no particular religious preference.
John Paul Stevens, letting stand an order to remove the Ten Commandments plaque in Elkhart, Indiana, pointing out that Thomas, Scalia, and Rehnquist failed to note that the Elkhart monument begins with the lines, “THE TEN COMMANDMENTS — I AM the LORD thy God,” and rejecting their argument that the Ten Commandments monument “simply reflects the Ten Commandments’ role in the development of our legal system.” May 29, 2001

“Respecting” means concerning or with reference to. But it also means with respect— that is “reverence,” “good-will,” “regard” to. Taking into account this richer meaning, the Establishment Clause, in banning laws that concern religion, especially prohibits those that pay homage to religion.
John Paul Stevens, Allegheny Country v. ACLU, 109 SCt. 3086, 3130 (1989), quoted from the Joint Baptist Committee’s pamphlet, “Critique of David Barton’s ‘America’s Godly Heritage’”

If the historic landmark on the hill in Boerne happened to be a museum or an art gallery owned by an atheist, it would not be eligible for an exemption from the city ordinances that forbid an entanglement of the structure. Because the landmark is owned by the Catholic Church, it is claimed that RFRA gives its owner a federal statutory entitlement to an exemption from a generally applicable, neutral civil law. Whether the Church would actually prevail under the statute or not, the statute has provided the Church with a legal weapon that no atheist or agnostic can obtain. This governmental preference for religion, as opposed to irreligion, is forbidden by the First Amendment ...
John Paul Stevens, striking down the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act which had been signed into law by President Clinton, and enjoyed near-unanimous backing from America’s religious groups; in the Boerne v. Flores ( June 25, 1997)

Just as the right to speak and the right to refrain from speaking are complementary components of a broader concept of individual freedom of mind, so also the individual’s freedom to choose his own creed is the counterpart of his right to refrain from accepting the creed established by the majority. At one time, it was thought that this right merely proscribed the preference of one Christian sect over another, but would not require equal respect for the conscience of the infidel, the atheist, or the adherent of a non-Christian faith such as Islam or Judaism. John Paul Stevens giving keynote address to the Michigan State Bar's 64th Annual MeetingBut when the underlying principle has been examined in the crucible of litigation, the Court has unambiguously concluded that the individual freedom of conscience protected by the First Amendment embraces the right to select any religious faith or none at all. This conclusion derives support not only from the interest in respecting the individual’s freedom of conscience, but also from the conviction that religious beliefs worthy of respect are the product of free and voluntary choice by the faithful and from recognition of the fact that the political interest in forestalling intolerance extends beyond intolerance among Christian sects — or even intolerance among “religions” — to encompass intolerance of the disbeliever and the uncertain.
John Paul Stevens, Wallace v Jaffree, 1985

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Wallace Stevens (1879-1955)
American Modernist Poet

Wallace StevensOne must have a mind of winter
          To regard the frost and the boughs
     Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;
 
And have been cold a long time
          To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
     The spruces rough in the distant glitter
 
Of the January sun; and not to think
          Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
     In the sound of a few leaves,

 
Which is the sound of the land
Elsie Stevens, wife of Wallace, pose for the Mercury dime (among others of their apartment landlord, the brilliant sculptor Adolph A Weinman.          Full of the same wind
     That is blowing in the same bare place
 
For the listener, who listens in the snow,
          And, nothing himself, beholds
     Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is

          — Wallace Stevens, “The Snow Man”

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The Subtle Fulmination of the Encircled Sea

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