original source here
Celeberty atheists Famous dead non-theists The Thomas Paine Library
This is a collection of some of my favorite quotes, I will be adding to it as I find more of them.
"Lighthouses are more helpful than churches."
"When a religion is good, I conceive it will support itself; and when it
does not support itself, and God does not care to support it, so that its
professors are obliged to call for the help of the civil power, 'tis a
sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one."
"My parents had early given me religious impressions, and brought me
through my childhood piously in the dissenting [puritan] way. But I was
scarce fifteen, when, after doubting by turns of several points, as I
found them disputed in the different books I read, I began to doubt of
Revelation itself. Some books against Deism fell into my hands; they
were said to be the substance of sermons preached at Boyle's lectures.
[Robert Boyle (1627-1691) was a British physicist who endowed the Boyle
Lectures for defense of Christianity.] It happened that they wrought an
effect on me quite contrary to what was intended by them; for the
arguments of the deists, which were quoted to be refuted, appeared to me
much stronger than the refutations; in short, I soon became a thorough deist"
"I have found Christian dogma unintelligible. Early in
life I absented myself from Christian assemblies."
"I cannot conceive otherwise than that He, the Infinite
Father, expects or requires no worship or praise from us,
but that He is even infinitely above it."
"Belief in a cruel God makes a cruel man."
"Of all the tyrannies that affect mankind,
tyranny in religion is the worst."
"As to the book called the bible, it is blasphemy to call
it the Word of God. It is a book of lies and contradictions
and a history of bad times and bad men."
"...Thomas did not believe the resurrection [John 20:25], and, as they
say, would not believe without having ocular and manual demonstration
himself. So neither will I, and the reason is equally as good for me,
and for every other person, as for Thomas."
"The study of theology, as it stands in the Christian churches, is the
study of nothing; it is founded on nothing; it rests on no principles;
it proceeds by no authority; it has no data; it can demonstrate nothing;
and it admits of no conclusion."
"The continually progressive change to which the meaning of words is
subject, the want of a universal language which renders translation
necessary, the errors to which translations are again subject, the
mistakes of copyists and printers, together with the possibility of
willful alteration, are of themselves evidences that the human
language, whether in speech or in print, cannot be the vehicle of
the Word of God. The Word of God exists in something else."
"The adulterous connection between church and state."
"Whenever we read the obscene stories, the voluptuous debaucheries, the
cruel and tortuous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness with which
more than half the Bible is filled, it would be more consistant that we
call it the word of a demon than the word of God. It is a history of
wickedness that has served to corrupt and brutalize mankind; and, for my
part, I sincerely detest it, as I detest everything that is cruel."
"That God cannot lie, is no advantage to your argument, because it
is no proof that priests can not, or that the Bible does not."
"The NT, compared with the Old, is like a farce of one act..."
"There are matters in the Bible, said to be done by the
express commandment of God, that are shocking to humanity
and to every idea we have of moral justice....".
"..but the Bible is such a book of lies and contradictions
there is no knowing which part to believe or whether any..."
"As to the book called the Bible, it is blasphemy to call it the Word of
God. It is a book of lies and contradictions, and a history of bad times
and bad men. There are but a few good characters in the whole book."
"I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish Church, by the
Roman Church, by the Greek Church, by the Turkish Church, by the Protestant
Church, nor by any Church that I know of. My own mind is my own Church."
"The story of Jesus Christ appearing after he was dead is the story
of an apparition, such as timid imaginations can always create in
vision, and credulity believe. Stories of this kind had been told
of the assassination of Julius Caesar..."
"What is it the Bible teaches us? - raping, cruelty, and murder.
What is it the New Testament teaches us? - to believe that the
Almighty committed debauchery with a woman engaged to be married,
and the belief of this debauchery is called faith."
"There is nothing which can better deserve our patronage than
the promotion of science and literature. Knowledge is in every
country the surest basis of public happiness."
"In those parts of the world where learning and science have prevailed,
miracles have ceased; but in those parts of it as are barbarous and
ignorant, miracles are still in vogue."
"While we are under the tyranny of Priests [...] it will ever be
their interest, to invalidate the law of nature and reason, in
order to establish systems incompatible therewith."
"The Bible is not my Book and Christianity is not my religion. I could
never give assent to the long complicated statements of Christian
"I am for liberty of conscience in its noblest, broadest, and highest
sense. But I cannot give liberty of conscience to the pope and his
followers, the papists, so long as they tell me, through all their
councils, theologians, and canon laws that their conscience orders them
to burn my wife, strangle my children, and cut my throat when they find
"My earlier views at the unsoundness of the Christian scheme of
salvation and the human origin of the scriptures, have become clearer and
stronger with advancing years and I see no reason for thinking I shall
ever change them."
"It will not do to investigate the subject of religion
too closely, as it is apt to lead to infidelity."
"I am approached with the most opposite opinions and advice, and by
religious men who are certain they represent the Divine will. ... I
hope it will not be irreverent in me to say, that if it be probable
that God would reveal his will to others, on a point so connected with
my duty, it might be supposed he would reveal it directly to me."
"I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is
absolute- where no Catholic prelate would tell the president (should he
be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his
parishoners for whom to vote--where no church or church school is granted
any public funds or political preference--and where no man is denied
public office merely because his religion differs from the president who
might appoint him or the people who might elect him."
"I would suggest the taxation of all property
equally whether church or corporation."
"If not an absolute atheist, he had no belief in a future existence. All
his ideas of obligation or retribution were bounded by the present
"The Christian God is a being of terrific character --
cruel, vindictive, capricious, and unjust."
"If the obstacles of bigotry and priestcraft can be surmounted,
we may hope that common sense will suffice to do everything else."
"I do not find in orthodox Christianity one redeeming feature."
"He is less remote from the truth who believes
nothing, than he who believes what is wrong."
"The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are
injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say
there are twenty gods, or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks
"If we could believe that [Jesus]...countenanced the follies,
falsehoods and charlatanisms which his biographers father on him,
...the conclusion would be irresistible...that he was an imposter."
"I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American
people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting
an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,'
thus building a wall of separation between church and State."
"All persons shall have full and free liberty of religious opinion;
nor shall any be compelled to frequent or maintain any religious
"I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just."
"...difference of opinion is advantageous in religion. The several sects
perform the office of a common censor over each other. Is uniformity
attainable? Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the
introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned;
yet we have not advanced an inch towards uniformity. What has been the
effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half
hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth."
"Christianity is the most perverted system that ever shone on man."
"It is between fifty and sixty years since I read the Apocalypse,
and I then considered it merely the ravings of a maniac."
"[no citizen] shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious
worship, place, or ministry whatsoever...[to] compell a man to furnish
contributions of money for the propagation of [religious] opinions
which he disbelieves is sinful and tyrannical."
"..our civil rights have no dependance on our religious
opinions, any more than our opinions in physics or geometry"
"A lively and lasting sense of filial duty is more effectually
impressed on the mind of a son or daughter by reading King Lear, than
by all the dry volumes of ethics, and divinity, that ever were written."
"There is not a truth existing which I fear...
or would wish unknown to the whole world."
"We discover [in the gospels] a groundwork of vulgar ignorance, of
things impossible, of superstition, fanaticism and fabrication."
"The Christian god can be easily pictured as virtually the same as the
many ancient gods of past civilizations. The Christian god is a three
headed monster; cruel, vengeful and capricious. If one wishes to know
more of this raging, three headed beast-like god, one only needs to look
at the caliber of the people who say they serve him. They are always of
two classes: fools and hypocrites."
"...merely the ravings of a maniac, no more worthy, nor capable
of explanation than the incoherences of our own nightly dreams."
"Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law."
Shake off all the fears of servile prejudices, under which weak minds are
servilely crouched. Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call on her tribunal
for every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of
a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of
reason than that of blindfolded fear."
"The Christian priesthood, finding the doctrines of Christ levelled to
every understanding and too plain to need explanation, saw, in the
mysticisms of Plato, materials with which they might build up an
artificial system which might, from its indistinctness, admit everlasting
controversy, give employment for their order, and introduce it to profit,
power and pre-eminence. The doctirnes which flowed from the lips of Jesus
himself are within the comprehension of a child; but thousands of volumes
have not yet explained the Platonisms engrafted on them: and for this
obvious reason that nonsense can never be explained."
"The Christian priesthood, finding the doctrines of Christ leveled
to every understanding, and too plain to need explanation, saw in
the mysticisms of Plato materials with which they might build up
an artificial system, which might, from its indistinctness, admit
everlasting controversy, give employment for their order and
introduce it to profit, power and pre-eminence"
"I distrust those people who know so well what
God wants them to do because I notice it always
coincides with their own desires."
"I was born a heretic. I always distrust people who know
so much about what God wants them to do to their fellows."
"To no form of religion is woman
indebted for one impulse of freedom..."
"The whole tone of Church teaching in regard to women is,
to the last degree, contemptuous and degrading."
"The memory of my own suffering has prevented me from ever shadowing
one young soul with the superstitions of the Christian religion."
"The religious superstitions of women perpetuate
their bondage more than all other adverse influences."
"All through the centuries scholars and scientists have been imprisoned,
tortured and burned alive for some discovery which seemed to conflict
with a petty text of Scripture. Surely the immutable laws of the
universe can teach more impressive and exalted lessons than the holy
books of all the religions on earth."
"The Bible and the Church have been the greatest
stumbling blocks in the way of women's emancipation."
"The divorce between church and state ought to be absolute. It ought
to be absolute. It ought to be so absolute that no church property
anywhere, in any state, or in any nation, should be exempt from taxation,
for if you exempt the church property of any church organization, to that
extent you impose tax upon the whole community."
"It is error alone that needs the support of
government. Truth can stand by itself."
[laws establishing freedom of religion]..."were meant to include within
them the Muslim, the Hindoo [sic], and the infidel of any sort."
"Our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions more
than our opinions in physics or geometry; that therefore the proscribing
any citizen as unworthy the public confidence by laying upon him an
incapacity of being called to offices of trust and emolument, unless he
profess or renounce this or that religious opinion, is depriving him
injuriously of those privileges and advantages to which in common with
his fellow citizens he has a natural right; that it tends also to corrupt
the principles of that very religion it is meant to encourage, by
bribing, with a monopoly of worldly honors and emoluments, those who will
externally profess and conform to it; that though indeed these are
criminal who do not withstand such temptation, yet neither are those
innocent who lay the bait in their way; that to suffer the civil
magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion and to
restrain the profession or propagation of principles, on supposition of
their ill tendency, is a dangerous fallacy, which at once destroys all
religious liberty, because he being of course judge of that tendency,
will make his opinions the rule of judgment, and approve or condemn the
sentiments of others only as they shall square with or differ from his
own; that it is time enough for the rightful purposes of civil government
for its officers to interfere when principles break out into overt acts
against peace and good order; and finally, that truth is great and will
prevail if left to herself, that she is the proper and sufficient
antagonist to error, and has nothing to fear from the conflict, unless by
human interposition disarmed of her natural weapons, free argument and
debate, errors ceasing to be dangerous when it is permitted freely to
"History I believe furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people
maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade
of ignorance, of which their political as well as religious leaders
will always avail themselves for their own purpose."
"To penetrate and dissipate these clouds of darkness, the
general mind must be strengthened by education."
"The care of every man's soul belongs to himself. But what if he neglect
the care of it? Well what if he neglect the care of his health or his
estate, which would more nearly relate to the state. Will the magistrate
make a law that he not be poor or sick? Laws provide against injury from
others; but not from ourselves. God himself will not save men against
But a short time elapsed after the death of the great reformer of the Jewish religion, before his principles were departed from by those who professed to be his special servants, and perverted into an engine for enslaving mankind, and aggrandizing their oppressors in Church and State."
"...If we did a good act merely from the love of God and a belief that is
pleasing to him, whence arises the morality of the Atheist? It is idle to
say, as some do, that no such thing exists. We have the same evidence of
the fact as of most of those we act on, to wit: their own affirmations,
and their reasonings in support of them. I have observed, indeed, generally
that while in Protestant countries the defections from the Platonic
Christianity of the priests is to Deism, in Catholic countries they are to
Atheism. Diderot, D'Alembert, D'Holbach, Condorcet are known to have been
among the most virtuous of men. Their virtue, then, must have had some
other foundation than love of God."
"They [preachers] dread the advance of science as witches do the approach
of daylight and scowl on the fatal harbinger announcing the subversions
of the duperies on which they live."
"I have recently been examining all the known superstitions of the world,
and do not find in our particular superstition (Christianity) one redeeming
feature. They are all alike founded on fables and mythology."
"Creeds have been the bane of the Christian church
... made of Christendom a slaughter-house."
"The Athanasian paradox that one is three and three but one, is so
incomprehensible to the human mind, that no candid man can say he has
any idea of it, and how can he believe what presents no idea? He who
thinks he does, only deceives himself He proves, also, that man, once
surrendering his reason, has no remaining guard against absurdities
the most monstrous, and like a ship without a rudder, is the sport of
every wind. With such persons, gullibility, which they call faith,
takes the helm of reason, and the mind becomes a wreck."
"Spiritual leadership should remain spiritual leadership and the
temporal power should not become too important in any church."
"[In regard to the Trinity]; "Tom, had you and I been 40 days with Moses,
and beheld the great God, and even if God himself had tried to tell us
that three was one . . . and one equals three, you and I would never
have believed it. We would never fall victims to such lies."
"The divinity of Jesus is made a convenient cover for absurdity. Nowhere
in the Gospels do we find a precept for Creeds, Confessions, Oaths,
Doctrines, and whole carloads of other foolish trumpery that we find in
"The question before the human race is, whether the God of nature
shall govern the world by his own laws, or whether priests and kings
shall rule it by fictitious miracles?"
"Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits
it for every noble enterprize, every expanded prospect."
"The purpose of separation of church and state is to keep
forever from these shores the ceaseless strife that has
soaked the soil of Europe in blood for centuries."
"Experience witnesseth that ecclesiastical establishments, instead of
maintaining the purity and efficacy of religion, have had a contrary
operation. During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment
of Christianity been on trial. What has been its fruits? More or less,
in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility
in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution."
"[I]t may not be easy, in every possible case, to trace the line of
separation between the rights of religion and the Civil authority
with such distinctness as to avoid collisions and doubts on unessential
points. The tendency to unsurpastion on one side or the other, or to
a corrupting coalition or alliance between them, will be best guarded
agst. by an entire abstinence of the Gov't from interfence in any way
whatsoever, beyond the necessity of preserving public order, and
protecting each sect agst. trespasses on its legal rights by others."
"Its first and most immediate purpose rested on the belief that a
union of government and religion tends to destroy government and degrade
"No tax in any amount, large or small, can be levied to support any
religious activities or institutions, whatever they may be called,
or whatever form they may adopt to teach or practice religion."
"No person can be punished for entertaining or professing religious
beliefs or disbeliefs, for church attendance or nonattendance."
"Neither the fact that the prayer is denominationally neutral nor the fact
that its observance on the part of the students is voluntary can serve
to free it from the limitations of the Establishment Clause."
"The world presents enough problems if you believe it to be a world of law
and order; do not add to them by believing it to be a world of
"Neither a state nor the Federal Government can, openly or secretly,
participate in the affairs of any religious organizations or groups
and vice versa. In the words of Jefferson, the clause against
establishment of religion by law was intended to erect 'a wall of
separation between church and state.'"
"The First Amendment has erected a wall between church and
state. That wall must be kept high and impregnable. We
could not approve the slightest breach."
"I do not believe that any type of religion should ever be
introduced into the public schools of the United States."
"My mind is incapable of conceiving such a thing as a soul. I may be
in error, and man may have a soul; but I simply do not believe it."
"I have never seen the slightest scientific proof of the religious
theories of heaven and hell, of future life for individuals, or of a
"All Bibles are man-made."
"So far as religion of the day is concerned, it
is a damned fake... Religion is all bunk."
"To those seaching for truth - not the truth of dogma and darkness but the
truth brought by reason, search, examination, and inquiry, discipline is
required. For faith, as well intentioned as it may be, must be built on
facts, not fiction - faith in fiction is a damnable false hope."
"One of the proofs of the immortality of the soul is that myriads
have believed it - they also believed the world was flat."
"The Bible is "a mass of fables and traditions, mere mythology."
"It ain't the parts of the Bible that I can't understand
that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand."
"There is nothing in either savage or civilised history that is more
utterly complete, more remorselessly sweeping than the Father of Mercy's
campaign among the Midianites. The official report deals only in masses,
all the virgins, all the men, all the babies. all 'creatures that
breathe,' all houses. all cities. It gives you just one vast picture
...as far as the eye can reach, of charred ruins and storm-swept
desolation... Would you expect this same conscienceless God, this moral
bankrupt, to become a teacher of morals, of gentleness, of meekness, of
righteousness, of purity?"
"The Bible has noble poetry in it... and some good morals
and a wealth of obscenity, and upwards of a thousand lies."
"In religion and politics, people's beliefs and convictions are in
almost every case gotten at second-hand, and without examination."
"Our Bible reveals to us the character of our god with minute and
remorseless exactness... It is perhaps the most damnatory biography that
exists in print anywhere. It makes Nero an angel of light and leading by
"If there is a God, he is a malign thug."
"When the human race has once acquired a supersitition
nothing short of death is ever likely to remove it."
"It is by the fortune of God that, in this country, we
have three benefits: freedom of speech, freedom of thought,
and the wisdom never to use either."
"Strange...a God who could make good children as easily as bad, yet
preferred to make bad ones; who made them prize their bitter life, yet
stingily cut it short; mouths Golden Rules and forgiveness multiplied
seventy times seven and invented Hell; who mouths morals to other people
and has none himself; who frowns upon crimes yet commits them all; who
created man without invitation, then tries to shuffle the responsibility
for man's acts upon man, instead of honorably placing it where it belongs,
upon himself; and finally with altogether divine obtuseness, invites this
poor, abused slave to worship him!"
"A man is accepted into a church for what he
believes and he is turned out for what he knows."
"(The Bible) is full of interest. It has noble poetry in it; and some
clever fables; and some blood-drenched history; and some good morals;
and a wealth of obscenity; and upwards of a thousand lies. This Bible
is built mainly out of fragments of older Bibles that had their day and
crumbled to ruin. So it noticeably lacks in originality, necessarily.
Its three or four most imposing and impressive events all happened in
earlier Bibles; there are only two new things in it: hell, for one,
and that singular heaven I have told you about."
"Of the delights of this world, man cares most for sexual
intercourse, yet he has left it out of his heaven"
"You have noticed that the human being is a curiosity. In times
past he has had (and worn out and flung away) hundreds and hundreds
of religions; today he has hundreds and hundreds of religions, and
launches not fewer than three new ones every year. I could enlarge
on that number and still be within the facts."
"During many ages there were witches. The Bible said so. The Bible
commanded that they should not be allowed to live. Therefore the Church,
after doing its duty in but a lazy and indolent way for 800 years,
gathered up its halters, thumbscrews, and firebrands, and set about its
holy work in earnest. She worked hard at it night and day during nine
centuries and imprisoned, tortured, hanged, and burned whole hordes and
armies of witches, and washed the Christian world clean with their foul
blood. Then it was discovered that there was no such thing as witches,
and never had been. One does not know whether to laugh or to cry."
"I bring you this stately matron named Christendom, returning bedraggled,
besmirched, and dishonored from pirate raids in Kiao-Chow, Manchuria,
South Africa, and the Phillipines, with her soul full of meanness, her
pocket full of boodle, and her mouth full of pious hypocrisies. Give
her soap and a towel, but hide the looking-glass."
"Let me make the superstitions of a nation and I
care not who makes its laws or its songs either."
"it is believed by everyone that when he was in heaven he was stern, hard,
resentful, jealous and cruel, but that when he came down to earth, he
became the opposite... sweet, gentle merciful, forgiving. He was a
thousand billion times crueler than ever he was in the Old Testament...
Meek and gentle? By and by we will examine that popular sarcasm by the
light of the hell which he invented."
"What a man misses mostly in heaven is company."
"Go to Heaven for the climate, Hell for the company."
"...Man is a marvelous curiosity. When he is at his very very best he is
a sort of low grade nickel-plated angel; at his worst he is unspeakable,
unimaginable; and first and last and all the time he is a sarcasm. Yet
he blandly and in all sincerity calls himself the 'noblest work of God.'"
"I cannot conceive of a personal God who would directly influence the
actions of individuals, or would directly sit in judgment on creatures of
his own creation. I cannot do this in spite of the fact that mechanistic
causality has, to a certain extent, been placed in doubt by modern
science. [He was speaking of Quantum Mechanics and the breaking down of
determinism.] My religiosity consists in a humble admiratation of the
infinitely superior spirit that reveals itself in the little that we,
with our weak and transitory understanding, can comprehend of reality.
Morality is of the highest importance -- but for us, not for God."
"If people are good only because they fear punishment,
and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed."
"I cannot conceive of a God who rewards and punishes his creatures, or
has a will of the kind that we experience in ourselves. Neither can I nor
would I want to conceive of an individual that survives his physical
death; let feeble souls, from fear or absurd egoism, cherish such
thoughts. I am satisfied with the mystery of the eternity of life and
with the awareness and a glimpse of the marvelous structure of the
existing world, together with the devoted striving to comprehend a
portion, be it ever so tiny, of the Reason that manifests itself in nature."
"The idea of a personal God is an anthropological
concept which I am unable to take seriously."
"The foundation of morality should not be made dependent on myth nor tied
to any authority lest doubt about the myth or about the legitimacy of the
authority imperil the foundation of sound judgment and action."
"I do not believe in immortality of the individual, and I consider ethics
to be an exclusively human concern with no superhuman authority behind
"I have repeatedly said that in my opinion the idea of a personal God
is a childlike one, but I do not share the crusading spirit of the
professional atheist whose fervor is mostly due to a painful act of
liberation from the fetters of religious indoctrination received in
youth. I prefer an attitude of humility corresponding to the weakness of
our intellectual understanding of nature and of our own being."
"A man's ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy,
education, and social ties and needs; no religious basis is necessary.
Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear
of punishment and hope of reward after death."
"What I see in Nature is a magnificent structure that we can comprehend
only very imperfectly, and that must fill a thinking person with a
feeling of "humility." This is a genuinely religious feeling that
has nothing to do with mysticism"
"I cannot imagine a God who rewards and punishes the objects of his
creation, whose purposes are modeled after our own -- a God, in short,
who is but a reflection of human frailty. Neither can I believe that
the individual survives the death of his body, although feeble souls
harbor such thoughts through fear or ridiculous egotisms."
"Although I cannot believe that the individual survives the death of his
body, feeble souls harbor such thought through fear or ridiculous egotism."
"It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions,
a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a
personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly.
If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the
unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our
science can reveal it."
"The mystical trend of our time, which shows itself particularly in
the rampant growth of the so-called Theosophy and Spiritualism, is for me
no more than a symptom of weakness and confusion. Since our inner
experiences consist of reproductions, and combinations of sensory
impressions, the concept of a soul without a body seem to me to be empty
and devoid of meaning."
"Life is but a momentary glimpse of the wonder of
this astonishing universe, and it is sad to see
so many dreaming it away on spiritual fantasy."
"(When asked merely if they accept evolution, 45 percent of Americans
say yes. The figure is 70 percent in China.) When the movie "Jurassic
Park" was shown in Israel, it was condemned by some Orthodox rabbis
because it accepted evolution and because it taught that dinosaurs lived
a hundred million years ago--when, as is plainly stated at every Rosh
Hashonhan and every Jewish wedding ceremony, the Universe is less than
6,000 years old."
"In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a
really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they actually
change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again.
They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because
scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens
every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened
in politics or religion."
"One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we've been bamboozled
long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We're no
longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured
us. it is simply too painful to acknowledge -- even to ourselves -- that
we've been so credulous. (So the old bamboozles tend to persist as the
new bamboozles rise.)"
"At the extremes it is difficult to distinguish
pseudoscience from rigid, doctrinaire religion."
"If you want to save your child from polio, you
can pray or you can inoculate....Try science."
"The idea that God is an oversized white male with a flowing beard who
sits in the sky and tallies the fall of every sparrow is ludicrous. But
if by "God" one means the set of physical laws that govern the universe,
then clearly there is such a God. This God is emotionally unsatisfying...
it does not make much sense to pray to the law of gravity."
"Is it fair to be suspicious of an entire profession because of a few bad
apples? There are at least two important differences, it seems to me.
First, no one doubts that science actually works, whatever mistaken and
fraudulent claim may from time to time be offered. But whether there are
*any* miraculous cures from faith-healing, beyond the body's own ability
to cure itself, is very much at issue. Secondly, the expose' of fraud and
error in science is made almost exclusively by science. But the exposure of
fraud and error in faith-healing is almost never done by other
"Many statements about God are confidently made by theologians on
grounds that today at least sound specious. Thomas Aquinas claimed
to prove that God cannot make another God, or commit suicide, or
make a man without a soul, or even make a triangle whose interior
angles do not equal 180 degrees. But Bolyai and Lobachevsky were
able to accomplish this last feat (on a curved surface) in the
nineteenth century, and they were not even approximately gods."
"Think of how many religions attempt to validate themselves with prophecy.
Think of how many people rely on these prophecies, however vague, however
unfulfilled, to support or prop up their beliefs. Yet has there ever been
a religion with the prophetic accuracy and reliability of science?"
"I would love to believe that when I die I will live again, that
some thinking, feeling, remembering part of me will continue. But
as much as I want to believe that, and despite the ancient and
worldwide cultural traditions that assert an afterlife, I know of
nothing to suggest that it is more than wishful thinking."
"Skeptical scrutiny is the means,
in both science and religion,
by which deep thoughts can be
winnowed from deep nonsense."
"You can't convince a believer of anything; for
their belief is not based on evidence, it's based
on a deep seated need to believe."
"If we long to believe that the stars rise and set for us, that we are the
reason there is a Universe, does science do us a disservice in deflating
our conceits?....For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it
really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and
"Finding the occasional straw of truth awash in a great ocean of confusion
and bamboozle requires intelligence, vigilance, dedication and courage.
But if we don't practice these tough habits of thought, we cannot hope to
solve the truly serious problems that face us -- and we risk becoming a
nation of suckers, up for grabs by the next charlatan who comes along."
"I maintain there is much more wonder in science than in
pseudoscience. And in addition, to whatever measure this term has any
meaning, science has the additional virtue, and it is not an
inconsiderable one, of being true."
"You see, the religious people -- most of them -- really think this planet
is an experiment. That's what their beliefs come down to. Some god or
other is always fixing and poking, messing around with tradesmen's wives,
giving tablets on mountains, commanding you to mutilate your children,
telling people what words they can say and what words they can't say,
making people feel guilty about enjoying themselves, and like that.
Why can't the gods let well enough alone? All this intervention speaks
of incompetence. If God didn't want Lot's wife to look back, why didn't
he make her obedient, so she'd do what her husband told her? Or if he
hadn't made Lot such a shithead, maybe she would have listened to him
more. If God is omnipotent and omniscient, why didn't he start the
universe out in the first place so it would come out the way he wants?
Why's he constantly repairing and complaining? No, there's one thing
the Bible makes clear: The biblical God is a sloppy manufacturer. He's
not good at design, he's not good at execution. He'd be out of business
if there was any competition."
"There was no deathbed conversion," Druyan says. "No appeals to God,
no hope for an afterlife, no pretending that he and I, who had been
inseparably for twenty years, were not saying goodbye forever."
"Didn't he want to believe?" she was asked.
"Carl never wanted to believe," she replies fiercely. "He wanted to KNOW."
"What I have done is to show that it is possible for the way the universe
began to be determined by the laws of science. In that case, it would
not be necessary to appeal to God to decide how the universe began.
This doesn't prove that there is no God, only that God is not necessary."
"It's been suggested that if the supernaturalists really had the powers
they claim, they'd win the lottery every week. I prefer to point out
that they could also win a Nobel Prize for discovering fundamental
physical forces hitherto unknown to science. Either way, why are they
wasting their talents doing party turns on television?"
"Certainly I see the scientific view of the world as incompatible with
religion, but that is not what is interesting about it. It is also
incompatible with magic, but that also is not worth stressing. What is
interesting about the scientific world view is that it is true,
inspiring, remarkable and that it unites a whole lot of phenomena
under a single heading."
"It is often said, mainly by the "no-contests", that although there is no
positive evidence for the existence of God, nor is there evidence against
his existence. So it is best to keep an open mind and be agnostic. At first
sight that seems an unassailable position, at least in the weak sense of
Pascal's wager. But on second thoughts it seems a cop-out, because the same
could be said of Father Christmas and tooth fairies. There may be
fairies at the bottom of the garden. There is no evidence for it, but you
can't *prove* that there aren't any, so shouldn't we be agnostic with
respect to fairies?"
"In childhood our credulity serves us well. It helps us to pack, with
extraordinary rapidity, our skulls full of the wisdom of our parents and
our ancestors. But if we don't grow out of it in the fullness of time,
our ... nature makes us a sitting target for astrologers, mediums, gurus,
evangelists, and quacks. We need to replace the automatic credulity
of childhood with the constructive skepticism of adult science."
"They express a preference for 'natural' methods of population
limitation, and a natural method is exactly what they are going
to get. It is called starvation."
"Science offers us an explanation of how complexity (the difficult) arose
out of simplicity (the easy). The hypothesis of God offers no worthwhile
explanation for anything, for it simply postulates what we are trying to
explain. It postulates the difficult to explain, and leaves it at that.
We cannot prove that there is no God, but we can safely conclude the He
is very, very improbable indeed."
"The trouble is that God in this sophisticated, physicist's sense
bears no resemblance to the God of the Bible or any other religion. If a
physicist says God is another name for Planck's constant, or God is a
superstring, we should take it as a picturesque metaphorical way of
saying that the nature of superstrings or the value of Planck's constant
is a profound mystery. It has obviously not the smallest connection with
a being capable of forgiving sins, a being who might listen to prayers,
who cares about whether or not the Sabbath begins at 5pm or 6pm, whether
you wear a veil or have a bit of arm showing; and no connection whatever
with a being capable of imposing a death penalty on His son to expiate
the sins of the world before and after he was born. "
"If you have a faith, it is statistically overwhelmingly likely that it
is the same faith as your parents and grandparents had. No doubt soaring
cathedrals, stirring music, moving stories and parables, help a bit.
But by far the most important variable determining your religion is the
accident of birth. The convictions that you so passionately believe
would have been a completely different, and largely contradictory, set
of convictions, if only you had happened to be born in a different place.
Epidemiology, not evidence."
"Blind faith can justify anything. In a man believes in a different
god, or even if he uses a different ritual for worshipping the same god,
blind faith can decree that he should die - on the cross, at the stake,
skewered on a Crusader's sword, shot in a Beirut street, or blown up in a
bar in Belfast. Memes for blind faith have their own ruthless ways of
propagating themselves. This is true of patriotic and political as well
as religious blind faith."
"Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need
to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of,
even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence."
"I suspect that today if you asked people to justify their belief in God,
the dominant reason would be scientific. Most people, I believe, think
that you need a God to explain the existence of the world, and especially
the existence of life. They are wrong, but our education system is such
that many people don't know it. "
"The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should
expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil
and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference."
"On the contrary, if the universe were just electrons and selfish genes,
meaningless tragedies like the crashing of this bus [full of children
from a Roman Catholic school and for no apparent reason but with wholesale
loss of life] are exactly what we should expect, along with equally
meaningless _good_ [italics in original] fortune. Such a universe would
be neither evil nor good in intention. It would manifest no intentions of
any kind. In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication,
some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky,
and you won't find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The
universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if
there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, and no good, nothing
but blind, pitiless indifference."
"I suspect the reason is that most people [...] have a residue of feeling
that Darwinian evolution isn't quite big enough to explain everything
about life. All I can say as a biologist is that the feeling disappears
progressively the more you read about and study what is known about life
I want to add one thing more. The more you understand the significance of
evolution, the more you are pushed away from the agnostic position and
towards atheism. Complex, statistically improbable things are by their
nature more difficult to explain than simple, statistically probable
"The theory of evolution by cumulative natural selection is the only
theory we know of that is in principle capable of explaining the
existence of organized complexity."
"And it's not just faith itself: it's the idea that faith is a virtue
and the less evidence there is, the more virtuous it is. You can
actually quote, well, Tertullian for example: "It is certain because it
is impossible." Sir Thomas Brown, actually seeking for more difficult
things to believe, because things for which there is mere evidence are
just too easy, and it's no test of his faith. In order to have a test of
your faith, you must be asked to believe really daft things like the
transubstantiation, you know, the blood of Christ turning into wine, and
stuff... That is so manifestly absurd that you've got to be a really
great believer, in the class of the Electric Monk, in order to believe
it..... You're actually showing off your believing credentials by the
ability to believe something like that... If it were an easy thing to
believe, substantiated by facts, then it wouldn't be any great achievement."
"Religion is comparable to a childhood neurosis."
"In the long run, nothing can withstand reason and experience,
and the contradiction religion offers to both is palpable."
"While the different religions wrangle with one another as to which of
them is in possesion of the truth, In our view the truth of religion may be
altogether disregarded...if one attempts to assign religion it's place in
mans evolution, it seems not so much to be a lasting acquisition, as a
parallel to the neurosis which the civilized individual must pass through
on his way from childhood to maturity."
"No, our science is no illusion. But an illusion it would be to
suppose that what science cannot give us we can get elsewhere."
"A great deal is already gained with the first step: the humanization
of nature. Impersonal forces and destinies cannot be approached...
if everywhere in nature there are Beings around us of a kind that we
know in our own society.... we can apply the same methods against these
violent supermen outside that we employ in our own society; we can try
to adjure them, to appease them, to bribe them, and, by so influencing
them, we may rob them of a part of their power
"When a man has once brought himself to accept uncritically all the
absurdities that religious doctrines put before him and even to
overlook the contradictions between them, we need not be greatly
suprised at the weakness of his intellect"
"Neither in my private life nor in my writings, have I ever
made a secret of being an out-and-out unbeliever."
"Demons do not exist any more than gods do, being
only the products of the psychic activity of man."
"The more the fruits of knowledge become accessible to men,
the more widespread is the decline of religious belief."
"Today, the theory of evolution is an accepted fact for everyone but
a fundamentalist minority, whose objections are based not on reasoning
but on doctrinaire adherence to religious principles."
"Like my parents, I have never been a regular church member or churchgoer.
It doesn't seem plausible to me that there is the kind of God who
watches over human affairs, listens to prayers, and tries to guide
people to follow His precepts -- there is just too much misery and
cruelty for that."
"As long as men are free to ask what they must, free to
say what they think, free to think what they will,
freedom can never be lost, and science can never regress."
"There must be no barriers to freedom of inquiry. There is no place
for dogma in science. The scientist is free, and must be free to ask any
question, to doubt any assertion, to seek for any evidence, to correct
"On the ordinary view of each species having been
independently created, we gain no scientific explanation..."
"Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is
those who know little, and not those who know much, who so positively
assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science."
"I can hardly see how anyone ought to wish Christianity to be true;
for if so the plain language of the text seems to show that the men who
do not believe, and this would include my Father, Brother and almost all
my best friends, will be everlastingly punished. And this is a damnable
"For myself, I do not believe in any revelation. As
for a future life, every man must judge for himself
between conflicting vague probabilities."
"They know that it is human nature to take up causes whereby a man may
oppress his neighbor, no matter how unjustly. ... Hence they have had
no trouble in finding men who would preach the damnability and heresy
of the new doctrine from the very pulpit..."
"I do not feel obliged to believe that same God who endowed us with sense,
reason, and intellect had intended for us to forgo their use."
"It is surely harmful to souls to make it
a heresy to believe what is proved."
"To command the professors of astronomy to confute their own
observations is to enjoin an impossibility, for it is to
command them not to see what they do see, and not to understand
what they do understand, and to find what they do not discover."
"It vexes me when they would constrain science by the
authority of the Scriptures, and yet do not consider
themselves bound to answer reason and experiment."
"The church says the earth is flat, but I know that it is
round, for I have seen the shadow on the moon, and I have
more faith in a shadow than in the church."
"It is our responsibility as scientists, knowing the great progress which
comes from a satisfactory philosophy of ignorance, the great progress
which is the fruit of freedom of thought, to proclaim the value of this
freedom; to teach how doubt is not to be feared but welcomed and discussed;
and to demand this freedom as our duty to all coming generations."
"The argument that the literal story of Genesis can qualify as science
collapses on three major grounds: the creationists' need to invoke
miracles in order to compress the events of the earth's history into
the biblical span of a few thousand years; their unwillingness to
abandon claims clearly disproved, including the assertion that all
fossils are products of Noah's flood; and their reliance upon distortion,
misquote, half-quote, and citation out of context to characterize the
ideas of their opponents."
"In science, "fact" can only mean "confirmed to such a degree that
it would be perverse to withhold provisional assent." I suppose that
apples might start to rise tomorrow, but the possibility does not
merit equal time in physics classrooms."
"The most important scientific revolutions all include, as their only
common feature, the dethronement of human arrogance from one pedestal
after another of previous convictions about our centrality in the
"Creation science" has not entered the curriculum for a reason so simple
and so basic that we often forget to mention it: because it is false, and
because good teachers understand exactly why it is false. What could be
more destructive of that most fragile yet most precious commodity in our
entire intellectual heritage -- good teaching -- than a bill forcing
honorable teachers to sully their sacred trust by granting equal treatment
to a doctrine not only known to be false, but calculated to undermine any
general understanding of science as an enterprise?"
"Our creationist detractors charge that evolution is an unproved and
unprovable charade-- a secular religion masquerading as science. They
claim, above all, that evolution generates no predictions, never
exposes itself to test, and therefore stands as dogma rather than
disprovable science. This claim is nonsense. We make and test risky
predictions all the time; our success is not dogma, but a highly
probable indication of evolution's basic truth."