Positive Atheism's Big List of Quotations

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Max Stirner (Johann Kaspar Schmidt) (1806-1856)
Anarchist philosopher

Max StirnerThe great are great only because we are on our knees. Let us rise!
-- Max Stirner, quoted from a bumper sticker

The truth wears longer than all the gods; for it is only in the truth's service, and for love of it, that people have overthrown the gods and at last God himself. "The truth" outlasts the downfall of the world of gods, for it is the immortal soul of this transitory world of gods; it is Deity itself.
-- Max Stirner (attributed: source unknown)

Before what is sacred, people lose all sense of power and all confidence; they occupy a powerless and humble attitude toward it. And yet no thing is sacred of itself, but by my declaring it sacred, by my declaration, my judgment, my bending the knee; in short, by my conscience.
-- Max Stirner (attributed: source unknown)

The State calls its own violence law, but that of the individual crime.
-- Max Stirner (attributed: source unknown)

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Lucy Stone (1818-1893)
American suffragist

Lucy Stone (Thanks to Jone Johnson Lewis of about.com)Christianity ... that musty old theology, which already has its grave clothes on, and is about to be buried.... A wall of Bible, brimstone, church and corruption has hitherto hemmed women into nothingness.
-- Lucy Stone, quoted by Andrea Moore Kerr in Lucy Stone: Speaking Out for Equality, from James A Haught, ed, 2000 Years of Disbelief

In education, in marriage, in religion, in everything, disappointment is the lot of women. It shall be the business of my life to deepen this disappointment in every woman's heart until she bows down to it no longer.
-- Lucy Stone, (attributed: source unknown)

Image thanks to Jone Johnson Lewis of about.com .

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Anthony Storr (b. 1920)
British psychiatrist

What chiefly concerns and alarms many of us are the problems arising from religious fanaticism. As long as large numbers of militant enthusiasts are persuaded that they alone have access to the truth, and that the rest of us are infidels, we remain under threat. Lord Acton's famous phrase about power can be used of another danger. Dogma tends to corrupt, and absolute dogma corrupts absolutely.
-- Anthony StorrHuman Destructiveness (1991), p. 156, from James A Haught, ed, 2000 Years of Disbelief

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Joseph Story (1779-1845)
Associate justice of the US Supreme Court (1811-1845)

It was under a solemn consciousness of the dangers from ecclesiastical ambition, the bigotry of spiritual pride, and the intolerance of sects.... that it was deemed advisable to exclude from the national government all power to act upon the subject.
-- Joseph Story, quoted in M Searle Bates, Religious Liberty: An Inquiry (1945) p. 90, from Albert J Menendez and Edd Doerr, The Great Quotations on Religious Freedom

This clause [Article VI, US Constitution] is not introduced merely for the purpose of satisfying the scruples of many respectable persons, who feel an invincible repugnance to any religious test, or affirmation. It had a higher object; to cut off for ever every pretence of any alliance between church and state in the national government. The framers of the Constitution were fully sensible of the dangers from this source, marked out in the history of other ages and countries; and not wholly unknown to our own. They knew that bigotry was unceasingly vigilant in its stratagems to secure to itself an exclusive ascendancy over the human mind; and that intolerance was ever ready to arm itself with all the terrors of the civil power to exterminate those who doubted its dogmas, or resisted its infallibility. The Catholic and the Protestant had alternately waged the most ferocious and unrelenting warfare on each other.... The history of the parent country, too, could not fail to instruct them in the uses and the abuses of religious tests. They there found the pains and penalties of non-conformity written in no equivocal language and enforced with a stern and vindictive jealousy.
-- Joseph Story, quoted in Philip B Kurland and Ralph Lerner (eds.) The Founder's Constitution (1987) Vol. 4, p. 646, from Albert J Menendez and Edd Doerr, The Great Quotations on Religious Freedom

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Strabo (ca. BCE 58 to CE 24)
Greek geographer

The poets were not alone in sanctioning myths, for long before the poets the states and the lawmakers had sanctioned them as a useful expedient.... They needed to control the people by superstitious fears, and these cannot be aroused without myths and marvels.
-- Strabo, Geographia, bk. 1, sct. 2, subsct. 8

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David Friedrich Strauss (1808-1874)
German theologian and philosopher, whose controversial skeptical interpretation of the Gospel was an important influence on modern biblical scholarship

If there be a mind that, not perceiving in the narratives we have compared the fingermarks of tradition, and hence the legendary character of these evangelical anecdotes, still leans to the historical interpretation, whether natural or supernatural; that mind must be alike ignorant of the true character both of legend and of history, of the natural and the supernatural.
-- David Friedrich Strauss, Leben Jesu, p. 339, quoted from John E Remsberg, The Christ, p. 106, regarding the two accounts of Jesus's miraculous draught of fishes -- widely discrepant except for the fact that they both resemble a Pythagorean legend

The designation of the locality in one excludes the appearances narrated by the rest; the determination of time in another leaves no space for the narratives of his fellow-evangelists; the enumeration of a third is given without any regard to the events reported by his predecessors; lastly, among several appearances recounted by various narrators, each claims to be the last, and yet has nothing in common with the others. Hence nothing but wilful blindness can prevent the perception that no one of the narrators knew and presupposed what another records.
-- David Friedrich Strauss, quoted from John E Remsberg, The Christ, p. 226, regarding the discrepancies between the various legends of Christ's resurrection

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Galen Strawson (b. 1952)
British philosopher, literary critic

It is an insult to God to believe in God. For on the one hand it is to suppose that he has perpetrated acts of incalculable cruelty. On the other hand, it is to suppose that he has perversely given his human creatures an instrument- their intellect- which must inevitably lead them, if they are dispassionate and honest, to deny his existence. It is tempting to conclude that if he exists, it is the atheists and agnostics that he loves best, among those with any pretensions to education. For they are the ones who have taken him most seriously.
-- Galen Strawson, quoted in the Independent (London) 24 June 1990

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Dr. Eleanore Stump
American philosopher

Eleanore StumpIf God had not allowed rabies in the world -- or earthquakes or hurricanes or congenital malformations of infants, and so on -- there would be no point in having knowledge of such things. If you conceal traps in my front yard, then my repeated attempts to get from my front door to my car parked at the curb will produce in me knowledge about the consequences of my movements. And this knowledge will be useful to me, if I live long enough to acquire it, because it will enable me to avoid traps in the future. So this knowledge is good, it is gained from experience of the evil which you have introduced into my yard, and without this knowledge I could not avoid the evils of the traps. But you are not morally justified in setting traps in my front yard -- no matter how good or useful the knowledge about the consequences of my actions may be and no matter how dependent that knowledge is on my experiencing the jaws of the trap?
     -- Eleanore Stump, regarding the notion that God allows evil so that we will be able to use our free will and make informed decisions regarding the consequences of various acts, in "Knowledge, Freedom, and the Problem of Evil" (1983), in Michael L Peterson, ed, The Problem of Evil: Selected Readings (1992)

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Morris Sullivan (b. 1956)
American writer, playwright/director/producer, wrote the play "Femmes Fatale," which is more popularly known as "the nude Macbeth"; one of the few living American authors whose work has been pronounced "art" by a circuit court judge

For the fundamentalist who wants to believe every word of the Bible, however, life is a house of cards, with each card a tenet of faith. If you remove one card, the entire house collapses.
-- Morris Sullivan, "CREATIONISM: Monkeying With Science Education," in Impact Press (December, 1999-January, 2000)

Many people use the term "theory" as a synonym for "opinion." However, in a science classroom, "theory" means something very specific. A scientist formulates a hypothesis which may explain a phenomenon. He or she then tests the hypothesis through some means of experimentation or seeking supporting evidence. If the hypothesis passes the test, then it is tested again and again by other scientists to see if it passes it consistently. If the testing supports the hypothesis over and over, it becomes a theory. If it doesn't pass consistently, another hypothesis is sought. Sometimes, a better hypothesis comes along that explains more or better. In that case, the old theory is discarded and the new adopted.
     A theory should not only explain what has happened, but predict what will happen. Theories about the Earth's movement in the heavens, for example, accurately predict when the sun will rise. In science, a theory must be tested using empirical means. In other words, at some point, the scientist must be able to perceive evidence for the theory with normal human senses. Even then, the theory is not considered "fact" unless it becomes somehow empirically observed. For instance, the theory that the earth is round can be "proved" either by travelling all the way around it or by flying into space to look. Only then does it become fact.
     In science, there are relatively few "facts."
-- Morris Sullivan, "CREATIONISM: Monkeying With Science Education," in Impact Press (December, 1999-January, 2000)

Religion is another matter. Religion -- or at least Christianity -- insists that certain things be considered facts, based purely on faith. In other words, you are supposed to believe, just because the religious view says to. The faithful will tell you, for example, that God exists in fact, in spite of the total lack of empirical evidence for God's existence. If pressed for evidence, they will come up with a series of irrational statements like, "Well, the world couldn't possibly exist unless God made it," or "There has to be a reason for all this to exist." According to the religious world-view, too, all of creation exists for the benefit of man.
-- Morris Sullivan, "CREATIONISM: Monkeying With Science Education," in Impact Press (December, 1999-January, 2000)

The truth is that “family values,” as used by the American Family Association, Dan Quayle, and the southern Baptists, has nothing to do with either family or values, nor does it really have anything to do with homosexuals, “abortionists,” or “pornographers.” Those groups actually only serve as windmills to tilt at. The true agenda is power -- power over the intellectually weak, emotionally immature, and ethically deficient Americans who are incapable of critical thinking and independent decision-making, and who are easily manipulated by the basest of human emotions -- fear and the desire for revenge.
-- Morris Sullivan, "Family Values: Witch-Hunting in the Nineties," in Impact Press (August-September, 1997)

Consider the issue of abortion, for instance. The political left wants to see it as an issue of the value of a woman’s right over her own body. The political right wants to see it as an issue of the value of a human life. Both are misguided. The anti-abortionists do not want to control a woman’s body -- they want to control individual morality. The value of a human life is not an issue here. If it were, they’d all be against capital punishment, as well....
     The real conflict in the abortion issue is between a value -- the right to choose whether or not to have the child -- and a moral dictum -- don’t kill other humans. The more here, even, is flexible and relative. “Thou shall not kill” really means, “don’t kill productive, contributing members of your own society that aren’t a threat to your safety.” If it was not relative, then no “Judeo-Christian” person could ever go to war or execute someone.
-- Morris Sullivan, "Family Values: Witch-Hunting in the Nineties," in Impact Press (August-September, 1997)

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Charles Sumner (1811-1874)
American statesman

I am without religious feeling.
-- Charles Sumner, from Ira D Cardiff, What Great Men Think of Religion, also James A Haught, ed, 2000 Years of Disbelief

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William Graham Sumner (1840-1910)
American minister, later a sociologist and anthropoligist at Yale, who mixed social Darwinism with the Calvinistic work ethic and wrote extensively on the effect of the belief system on human behavior

William Graham SumnerIf you want a war, nourish a doctrine. Doctrines are the most frightful tyrants to which men are ever subject, because doctrines get inside a man’s reason and betray him against himself. Civilized men have done their fiercest fighting for doctrines.
-- William Graham Sumner, Essays, thanks to Laird Wilcox, ed, "The Degeneration of Belief"

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Jonathan Swift (1667-1745)
Irish-born English writer known for his satirical works

     • check out The Scary Side of Jonathan Swift

Religion supposed Heaven and Hell, the word of God, and sacraments, and twenty other circumstances which, taken seriously, are a wonderful check to wit and humour.
-- Jonathan Swift, letter of advice to a young poet (1720), quoted from Jonathon Green, The Cassell Dictionary of Cynical Quotations

... the atheists, libertines, despisers of religion ... that is to say all those who usually pass under the name of Free-thinkers.
-- Jonathan Swift, showing the interchangeability of the various terms used to describe Freethinkers (1708), quoted from Jim Herrick, Against the Faith (1985), p. 16

We've got just enough religion to hate [each other], but not enough religion to love each other.
-- Jonathan Swift, quoted by Robert Anton Wilson in Cliff Walker, The KBOO Interview (1990)

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A C Swinburne 1837-1909
British poet and critic who attacked the conventions of Victorian morality

The beast faith lives on its own dung.
-- A C Swinburne, Dirae (1875), quoted from Jonathon Green, The Cassell Dictionary of Cynical Quotations

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The Rev David Swing
Once a popular minsiter in Chicago

It is often lamented by the churchmen that Washington and Lincoln possessed little religion except that found in the word 'God.' All that can here be affirmed is that what the religion of those two men lacked in theological details it made up in greatness. Their minds were born with a love of great principles... There are few instances in which a mind great enough to reach great principles in politics has been satisfied with a fanatical religion... It must not be asked for Washington and Lincoln that, having reached greatness in political principles, they should have loved littleness in piety.
-- David Swing, sermon on "Washington and Lincoln," quoted in Franklin Steiner, The Religious Beliefs of Our Presidents, p. 140-41

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John M Swomley, Jr. (b. 1915)
American civil libertarian scholar; Professor Emeritus of Christian Ethics, Saint Paul School of Theology

Every church is a better church if it wins the loyalty or obedience of its people instead of relying on the government to enforce church teaching.
-- John M Swomley, Jr., Church & State, November, 1976, from Albert J Menendez and Edd Doerr, The Great Quotations on Religious Freedom

When the government aids the religious mission of large religious bodies by subsidizing their schools, hospitals, colleges, public charities, or other activities that are used to inculcate church doctrines, win converts, or establish a foothold in a new community, it taxes the public at large, including religious minorities, to pay for these subsidies. Such taxation forces members of minority religious faiths as well as nonbelievers to make a contribution to the religious mission of churches they do not wish to support. The government subsidies given to large churches build their power and influence as well. These subsidies make possible a large empire of hospitals, colleges and charitable enterprises that reach into local communities to provide a government-supported ministry.
-- John M Swomley, Jr., Religious Liberty and the Secular State, (1987), from Albert J Menendez and Edd Doerr, The Great Quotations on Religious Freedom

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Thomas S Szasz, MD
American psychiatrist

Thomas SzaszIf you talk to God, you are praying; if God talks to you, you have schizophrenia.
-- Thomas Szasz, The Second Sin (1973), quoted from Jonathon Green, The Cassell Dictionary of Cynical Quotations

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