"Shrines! Shrines! Surely you don’t believe in the gods. What’s your argument? Where’s your proof?"
Aristophanes (448-380 B.C.)
"As to the gods, I have no means of knowing either that they exist or do not exist or what they are like. Many things prevent our knowing; the subject is obscure, and brief is the span of mortal life."
Protagors (Ca. 481 411 B.C.)
"When I reached intellectual maturity, and began to ask myself whether I was an atheist, a theist, or a pantheist; a materialist or an idealist; a Christian or a freethinker; I found that the more I learned and reflected, the less ready was the answer; until, at last, I came to the conclusion that I had neither art nor part with any of these denominations, except the last. The one thing in which most of these good people were agreed was the one thing in which I differed from them. They were quite sure they had attained a certain "gnosis"-had, more or less successfully, solved the problem of existence; while I was quite sure I had not, and had a pretty strong conviction that the problem was insoluble. And , with Hume and Kant on my side, I could not think myself presumptuous in holding fast by that opinion."
Thomas Henry Huxley
Life and Letters
"(Believers) are but triflers who, when they cannot explain a thing, run back to the ‘will of God; this is, truly, a ridiculous way of expressing ignorance."
"First of all, let me define what I mean when I say "freethinker." The term "freethinker" has been used in different contexts over the years. For a long time, the word 'freethinker' referred to anybody who rejected authority and insisted on thinking for themselves in any field. Later on, it referred to people who used reason to decide about religious matters rather than appealing to divine revelation. In other words, rational religion as opposed to revealed, supernatural religion. "Free-thinker" came to be a term for atheists, agnostics, and -generally speaking-heretics."
"Popular religion may be summed up as a respect for ecclesiastics"
"Most of the great men of this world live as if they were atheists"
"The truths of religion are never so well understood as by those who have lost the power of reasoning."
"Examine the religious principles which have, in fact, prevailed in the world, and you will scarcely be persuaded that they are anything but sick men’s dreams."
"There are so many things to be said against religion that I wonder they do not occur to everyone."
Frederick the Great
"Of all the systems of religion that ever were invented, there is none more derogatory to the Almighty, more unedifying to man, more repugnant to reason, and more contradictory in itself than this called Christianity. Too absurd for belief, too impossible to convince, and too inconsistent for practice, it renders the heart torpid or produces only atheists or fanatics. As an engine of power, it serves the purpose of despotism, and as a means of wealth, the avarice of priests, but so far as respects the good of man in general it leads to nothing here or hereafter."
"….I am not afraid of the priests. They have tried upon me all their various batteries, of pious whining, hypocritical canting, lying and slandering, without being able to give me one moment of pain."
"Question with boldness even the existence of God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear."
"When the soul is just liberated from the wretched giant’s bed of dogmas on which it has been racked and stretched ever since it began to think, there is a feeling of exultation and strong hope."
"….To regard Christ as God, and to pray to him, are to my mind the greatest possible sacrilege."
Leo Tolstoy (in response to his excommunication)
"I am convinced that the teaching of the church is in theory a crafty and evil lie, and in practice a concoction of gross superstition and witchcraft."
"One may say with one’s lips: ‘I believe that God is one, and also three’-but no one can believe it, because the words have no sense."
What is Religion
"It has always seemed absurd to suppose that a god would choose for his companions, during all eternity, the dear souls whose highest and only ambition is to obey."
Robert Green Ingersoll
"The church in all ages and among all peoples has been the consistent enemy of the human race. Everywhere and at all times, it has opposed the liberty of thought and expression. It has been the sworn enemy of investigation and intellectual development. It has denied the existence of facts, the tendency of which was to undermine its power. It has always been carrying fagots to the feet of Philosophy. It has erected the gallows for Genius. It has built the dungeon for Thinkers. And today the orthodox church is as much opposed as it ever was to the mental freedom of the human race."
Robert Green Ingersoll
"Religion, in short, is a monumental chapter in the history of human egotism."
Varieties of Religious Experience
"I condemn Christianity, and I bring against the Christian Church the most terrible of all accusations….The Christian Church has left nothing untouched with its depravity, it has made a worthlessness of every value, a lie out of every truth…."
"One should not go to church if one wants to breathe pure air."
"Not one man in ten thousand has the goodness of heart or strength of mind to be an atheist."
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
"My own view on religion is that of Lucretius. I regard it as a disease born of fear and as a source of untold misery to the human race."
"It is no cynical joke, it is literally true, that the Christian churches would not recognize Christianity if they saw it."
"The man who worships a god has no confidence in himself. He lays his troubles on godly shoulders because he is not brave enough to assume responsibility for his actions. The man who fears a god is also afraid of any man who occupies a higher or more powerful position than his own. The man who would trust a god would also trust any crooked politician. It is very desirable from the capitalist point of view, that the working class should worship their masters, fear their bosses, and put their trust in the crooks who rule over them. The Christian religion tells you to "become as a child...knowing neither good nor evil," to trust those who injure you and love those who hate you. They tell you that you must be born again, I suppose because when you were born the first time you knew nothing at all, and when you are born the second time you will know still less. No wonder the capitalist class can afford to spend billions of dollars trying to convert you to Christianity.
Every religion has for its object the pacification of a restless people. Whatever the origin of religious belief may have been, the only excuse that modern religion has for organized existence is the ability of religious leaders to control the masses. For that they are paid in proportion to the efficiency with which they can exercise their power.
Christians talk everlastingly to the effect that "Jesus died to save us," but a hundred million people, and more, have died that you and I might have what little freedom we now enjoy. They say that "Jesus died upon a cross," and forget that hundreds of thousands of rebellious slaves have died upon crosses, died fighting for their freedom. They want us to forget that the Christian church has burned, crucified, tortured, starved, and slaughtered uncounted millions whose only crime was harboring an idea different from that accepted as true by their ignorant, brutish, fanatical neighbors. They want us to forget that human progress has been an eternal struggle between the men who have property and the men who have only muscle, between the men who have power and the men who have brains, between the men who use their intellect to enslave their fellows and those who would use their reason to set free the human race. "
"It is startling to realize how much unbelief is necessary to make belief possible. What we know as blind faith is sustained by innumerable unbelief's. The fanatical Japanese in Brazil refused to believe for years the evidence of Japan's defeat. The fanatical communist refuses to believe any unfavorable report about Russia, nor will he be disillusioned by seeing with his own eyes the cruel misery inside the Soviet promised land.
It is the true believer's ability to 'shut his eyes and stop his ears' to facts that do not deserve to be either seen or heard which is the source of unequaled fortitude and constancy.....And it is the certitude of infallible doctrine that renders the true believer impervious to uncertainties, surprises and the unpleasant realities of the world around him."
The True Believer
Book: "2,000 Years of Disbelief"* by James A. Haught
Book: "Doubt: A History" by Jennifer Michael Hecht
Book: "The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason" by Sam Harris
Book: "The Twilight of Atheism: The Rise and Fall of Disbelief in the Modern World" by Alister McGrath
Book: "Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism" by Susan Jacoby
Back to Chrestomathy Next Page