I’ll keep adding to this site as I go along. You’ll find a great many quotes on the topic of religion, science and critical thinking, but also other things that simply struck me as thought-provoking or beautiful.
If you know a quote that you think belongs onto this list, feel free to add a comment. Enjoy!
The savior who wants to turn men into angels is as much a hater of human nature as the totalitarian despot who wants to turn them into puppets.
– Eric Hoffer
Treat your life as a book, filled with chapters, some dark, some bright, and continue writing each page with broad strokes of honesty working your way towards a beautiful and happy ending. Many characters will remain in those dark chapters forever and a few key players will never leave your side. It’s your life, you get to write it.
– Hemley Gonzalez, CEO of Responsible Charity
Beware the irrational, however seductive. Shun the ‘transcendent’ and all who invite you to subordinate or annihilate yourself. Distrust compassion; prefer dignity for yourself and others. Don’t be afraid to be thought arrogant or selfish…. Picture all experts as if they were mammals. Never be a spectator of unfairness or stupidity. Seek out argument and disputation for their own sake; the grave will supply plenty of time for silence. Suspect your own motives, and all excuses. Do not live for others any more than you would expect others to live for you.
– Christopher Hitchens
If I have seen that from an ethical point of view I am just one person among the many in my society, and my interests are no more important, from the point of view of the whole, than the similar interests of others within my society, I am ready to see that, from a still larger point of view, my society is just one among other societies, and the interests of members of my society are no more important, from that larger perspective, than the similar interests of members of other societies… Taking the impartial element in ethical reasoning to its logical conclusion means, first, accepting that we ought to have equal concern for all human beings.
– Peter Singer
The French have already discovered that the blackness of the skin is no reason a human being should be abandoned […] What else is it that should trace the insuperable line? Is it the faculty of reason or perhaps the faculty of discourse? But a full-grown horse or dog, is beyond comparison a more rational, as well as a more conversable animal, than an infant of a day or a week or even a month of age. But suppose the case were otherwise, what would it avail? The question is not, Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?
– Jeremy Bentham, (Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation, 1789)
Youth is wasted on the young.
Listen to any 16 year-old kid with his first job, going on and on about how the boss is screwing him and the government is screwing him even more (“What’s FICA?!?!” he screams as he looks at his first paycheck).
Then watch that same kid at work, as he drops a hamburger patty on the floor, picks it up, and slaps in on a bun and serves it to a customer.
In that one dropped burger he has everything he needs to understand those black-hearted politicians and corporate bosses. They see him in the exact same way he sees the customers lined up at the burger counter. Which is, just barely.
– David Wong, author at cracked.com
He who seeks the nonexistent will only find frustration.
– Michel Onfray, contemporary french philosopher
The idea of the sacred is simply one of the most conservative notions in any culture, because it seeks to turn other ideas – uncertainty, progress, change – into crimes
– Salman Rushdie, British-Indian writer
If nothing we do matters, then what matters is what we do.
– Joss Whedon
Theology is the art of proving things that don’t exist and that nobody needs anyhow.
– Bernd Vowinkel, German Physician
Cruelty might be very human, and it might be cultural, but it’s not acceptable.
– Jodie Foster (Actress, in her Oscar acceptance speech, 1989)
‘Why is he talking about death on his birthday?’ you might wonder. Can anyone here promise it won’t happen to them? Then I won’t talk about it.
We’re simply in the middle of a cycle. A man who doesn’t know there’s a full stop waiting can’t begin a proper sentence. He’ll blabber on. We don’t have to fear the full stop. It’s your duty to say what you have to say within that. That’s the difference between a good writer, a bad writer, and also one who doesn’t write at all.
– Kamal Haasan (Indian Film Star)
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings.
– Cassius (in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar)
Can you really ask what reason Pythagoras had for abstaining from flesh? For my part I rather wonder both by what accident and in what state of soul or mind the first man did so, touched his mouth to gore and brought his lips to the flesh of a dead creature, he who set forth tables of dead, stale bodies and ventured to call food and nourishment the parts that had a little before bellowed and cried, moved and lived. How could his eyes endure the slaughter when throats were slit and hides flayed and limbs torn from limb? How could his nose endure the stench? How was it that the pollution did not turn away his taste, which made contact with the sores of others and sucked juices and serums from mortal wounds?… It is certainly not lions and wolves that we eat out of self-defense; on the contrary, we ignore these and slaughter harmless, tame creatures without stings or teeth to harm us, creatures that, I swear, Nature appears to have produced for the sake of their beauty and grace. But nothing abashed us, not the flower-like tinting of the flesh, not the persuasiveness of the harmonious voice, not the cleanliness of their habits or the unusual intelligence that may be found in the poor wretches. No, for the sake of a little flesh we deprive them of sun, of light, of the duration of life to which they are entitled by birth and being.
It is the strange thing about this church: It is obsessed with sex. Absolutely obsessed with it. Now they will say- they will say we with our permissive society and our rude jokes are obsessed. No, we have a healthy attitude. We like it; it’s fun, it’s jolly. Because it is a primary impulse it can be dangerous and dark and difficult – It’s a bit like food in that respect, only even more exiting. The only people who are obsessed with food are anorexics and the morbidly obese. And that, in erotic terms, is the catholic church in a nutshell.
– Stephen Fry, in a speech at The Intelligence^2 Debate
My country is the world, and my religion is to do good.
– Thomas Paine
Imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, ‘This is an interesting world I find myself in, an interesting hole I find myself in, fits me rather neatly, doesn’t it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!’
This is such a powerful idea that as the sun rises in the sky and the air heats up and as, gradually, the puddle gets smaller and smaller, it’s still frantically hanging on to the notion that everything’s going to be alright, because this world was meant to have him in it, was built to have him in it; so the moment he disappears catches him rather by surprise. I think this may be something we need to be on the watch out for.
– Douglas Adams (English author)
Those who believe absurdities will commit atrocities.
People who should be shot:
1. Fascist thugs
2. Religious fundamentalists
3. People who write lists telling you who should be shot
– Banksy (British Graffiti-artist)
(With reference to a correspondent) The young specialist in English Lit, […] lectured me severely on the fact that in every century people have thought they understood the Universe at last, and in every century they were proved to be wrong. It follows that the one thing we can say about our modern “knowledge” is that it is wrong.
[…] My answer to him was, “[…] when people thought the Earth was flat, they were wrong. When people thought the Earth was spherical they were wrong. But if you think that thinking the Earth is spherical is just as wrong as thinking the Earth is flat, then your view is wronger than both of them put together.”
– Isaac Asimov, The Relativity of Wrong, Kensington Books, New York, 1996, p 226.
George Bush says he speaks to god every day, and Christians love him for it. If George Bush said he spoke to God through his hair dryer, they would think he was mad. I fail to see how the addition of a hair dryer makes it any more absurd.
– Sam Harris
In Consiliis Nostris Fatum Nostrum Est.
[engl.: “In our decisions lies our fate”]
– Inscription on the gate of Pan’s Labyrinth
If you wind up with a boring, miserable life because you listened to your mom, your dad, your teacher, your priest or some guy on TV telling you how to do your shit, then you deserve it.
– Frank Zappa
A Boss in Heaven is the best excuse for a boss on earth.
– Mikhail Bakunin
How hard is it to decide to be in a good mood
And then just be in a good mood?
That’s all I have to say because it’s a straight up fact
You control your emotions it’s as simple as that
– Scroobius Pip
If you can’t forgive and forget
How is this:
Forget forgivin’ and just accept that that’s it
See that’s how it’s gotta be –
Then you can fall in love, get on with your life and be free
– Scroobius Pip
I will say that the world is overly full with beautiful things, but nevertheless poor, very poor in beautiful moments and revealments of these things. But that, perhaps is the strongest charm of life: there is a gold-enwrought veil of beautiful possibilities over it, auspicious, reluctant, bashful, mocking, pitiful, seductive. Indeed, life is a broad!
– Friedrich Nietzsche, Die Fröhliche Wissenschaft
The unexamined life is not worth living.
I’ve been told that God works in mysterious ways. I disagree. God works in ways that actually resemble blind random chance extremely closely. So closely in fact, that god appears to be a totally unnecessary factor in the equation.
– Elwood Herring
What a great sport, the hunt. To kill creatures more beautiful than you will ever be. To shoot birds that fly higher than your dreams. To kill a lot of buffalos. Every once in a while you clean your rifle and accidentally blow your head off. Good.
– Kinky Friedman (Texan musician, author, and politician, 1944-present)
Those who desire to give up freedom in order to gain security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one.
– Benjamin Franklin
It is only the dullness of the eye that makes any two things seem alike.
– Walter Pater
He who doesn’t move won’t feel his shackles.
– Rosa Luxemburg (1871-1919, German politician known for her Marxism and antimilitarianism)
If I were a seabird… but how could you be a seabird? If you were a seabird your brain would be tiny and stupid and you would love half-rotted fish guts and tweaking the eyes out of little grazing animals; you would know no poetry and you could never appreciate flying as fully as the human on the ground yearning to be you.
If you wanted to be a seabird, you deserved to be one.
– Zakalwe (Iain Banks, Use of Weapons)
In all the human societies, […] in every age and every stage, there has seldom if ever been a shortage of eager young males prepared to kill and die to preserve the security, comfort and prejudices of their elders, and what you call heroism is just an expression of this simple fact; there is never a scarcity of idiots.
– Diziet Sma (Iain Banks, Use of Weapons)
I’m not a bad guy! I work hard, and I love my kids. So why should I spend half my Sunday hearing about how I’m going to Hell?
– Homer Simpson
All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.
– Edmund Burke (1729 – 1797)
Satisfaction is the Death of Desire
– (Title of an album by the American Hardcore-band Hatebreed)
And those who danced were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.
I learn a lot from teaching, and that’s the whole point. I mean, you go through a book with your class, you think you’ve read it a few times…The fifty-first time you always still notice something you wouldn’t have noticed before. You never do read the same book twice.
– Christopher Hitchens
Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.
– Mark Twain
Pressed against her face
I could feel her insecurity
Her mother’s been a drunk
And her father was obscurity
But nothing ever came
From a life that was a simple one
So pull yourself together, girl
And have a little fun!
– Flogging Molly, The Devil’s Dance Floor
We’ve done nothing wrong –
But we’ve done nothing
We can’t look away –
But we’re just looking
It’s second nature to say
We’ve done nothing wrong!
– Jimmy Eat World, Nothing Wrong
Life in Lubbock, Texas, taught me two things: One is that God loves you and you’re going to burn in hell. The other is that sex is the most awful, filthy thing on earth and you should save it for someone you love.
– Butch Hancock (American country/folk songwriter, 1945 – present)
Believing there is no God gives me more room for belief in family, people, love, truth, beauty, sex, Jell-O and all the other things I can prove and that make this life the best life I will ever have.
– Penn Jillette, American illusionist and writer (1955 – present)
Normality is a paved road: It’s comfortable to walk, but no flowers grow on it.
– Vincent van Gogh (Dutch Painter, 1853 – 1890)
Colonel Cathcart was a brave man, and he never hesitated to volunteer his men for even the most dangerous of missions.
– Joseph Heller, Catch-22 (Novel)
Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the grey twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.
– Theodore Roosevelt
I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet. The proper function of a man is to live, not to exist.
– Jack London
A tyrant must put on the appearance of uncommon devotion to religion. Subjects are less apprehensive of illegal treatment from a ruler whom they consider to be God-fearing and pious.
– Aristotle, 343 B.C.
I do have a heroic memory of him from my boyhood, and it happens to concern water. We were at a swimming-pool party, held at the local golf and country club that was almost but not quite out of our social orbit, when I heard a splash and saw the Commander fully clothed in the shallow end, pipe still clamped in his mouth. I remember hoping that he had not fallen in, in front of all these people, because of the gin. Then I saw that he was holding a little girl in his arms. She had been drowning, quietly, just outside her depth, until someone had squealed an alarm and my father had been the speediest man to act. I remember two things about the aftermath. The first was the Commander’s “no fuss; anyone would have done it” attitude to those who slapped him on the back in admiration. That was absolutely in character, and to be expected. But the second was the glare of undisguised rage and hatred from the little girl’s father, who should have been paying attention and who had instead been quaffing and laughing with his pals. That hateful look taught me a lot about human nature in a short time.
– Christopher Hitchens about his Father, in Hitch-22
So far as I can remember, there is not one word in the Gospels in praise of intelligence.
– Bertrand Russell
Give a man a fish, and you’ll feed him for a day.
Give him a religion, and he’ll starve to death while praying for a fish.
– Timothy Jones
I am somehow less interested in the weight and convolutions of Einstein’s brain than in the near certainty that people of equal talent have lived and died in cotton fields and sweatshops.
– Stephen Jay Gould
I’m not someone who would tell you that a non-human animal has just as much value as a human one. I’m not sure what that even means, or how productive that argument could be. However, that rationale has been greatly exploited, hugely over-emphasized and nefariously expanded to mean that the genocide of animals is morally permissible. We don’t need to use animals in this way to survive, so points made about us being more important than them are moot.
– Jacob Shwartz-Lucas
You do not need the Bible to justify love, but no better tool has been invented to justify hate.
– Richard A. Weatherwax
When we make a child afraid, we stop learning dead in its tracks.
– John Holt
[…] in the eye of everyone save the believer religious faith is necessarily subjective, being incommunicable by any kind of proof or evidence. It may of course be true; but the ascertainment of such a truth lies beyond the means by which laws are made in a reasonable society. Therefore it lies only in the heart of the believer, who is alone bound by it. No one else is or can be so bound, unless by his own free choice he accepts its claims. The promulgation of law for the protection of a position held purely on religious grounds cannot therefore be justified. It is irrational, as preferring the subjective over the objective. But it is also divisive, capricious and arbitrary.
– Lord Justice Laws (29th April 2010) refused permission to Gary McFarlane to have his case heard before the Court of Appeal. Mr McFarlane, a relationships counsellor from Bristol, was sacked by the Relate Relationship organisation after he refused to provide sexual counselling to homosexual couples because of his Christian beliefs.