Welcome, The Atheist Empire is proud to present Great Minds; a collection of quotes by some of humanities greatest minds concerning religion, spirituality and gods.
Greatest Quotes: all the best quotes arranged by topic for quick reference
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Thomas Jefferson, (1743-1826) 3rd American president, author, scientist, architect, educator, and diplomat. Deist, avid separationist.
"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."
"I do not find in orthodox Christianity one redeeming feature."
"Religions are all alike - founded upon fables and mythologies."
"To talk of immaterial existences is to talk of nothings. To say that the human soul, angels, God, are immaterial, is to say they are nothings, or that there is no God, no angels, no soul. I cannot reason otherwise: but I believe I am supported in my creed of materialism by Locke, Tracy, and Stewart. At what age of the Christian church this heresy of immaterialism, this masked atheism, crept in, I do not know. But a heresy it certainly is. Jesus told us indeed that 'God is a spirit,' but he has not defined what a spirit is, nor said that it is not matter. And the ancient fathers generally, if not universally, held it to be matter: light and thin indeed, an etherial gas; but still matter." [letter to John Adams, August 15, 1820]
"Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burned, tortured, fined, and imprisoned, yet we have not advanced one inch toward uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half of the world fools and the other half hypocrites." [Notes on Virginia]
"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 civil as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purposes" [Letter to von Humboldt, 1813].
"The day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the Supreme Being as His father, in the womb of a virgin will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter." [Letter to John Adams, April 11, 1823]
"In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own" [Letter to H. Spafford, 1814].
"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."[in a letter to S. Kercheval, 1810]
"...an amendment was proposed by inserting the words, 'Jesus Christ...the holy author of our religion,' which was rejected 'By a great majority in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and the Mohammedan, the Hindoo and the Infidel of every denomination.'" [ From Jefferson's biography]
James Madison, (1751-1836) American president and political theorist. Popularly known as the "Father of the Constitution." More than any other framer he is responsible for the content and form of the First Amendment.
also see 'First Amendment' section of the 'Law & Government' section
"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."
"In no instance have . . . the churches been guardians of the liberties of the people."
"Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise." [April 1, 1774]
"...the number, the industry, and the morality of the priesthood, and the devotion of the people, have been manifestly increased by the total separation of the church from the State" [Letter to Robert Walsh, Mar. 2, 1819]
"Every new and successful example, therefore, of a perfect separation between the ecclesiastical and civil matters, is of importance; and I have no doubt that every new example will succeed, as every past one has done, in showing that religion and Government will both exist in greater purity the less they are mixed together" [Letter to Edward Livingston, July 10, 1822].
John Adams 1735-1826, 2d President of the United States
"This would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it." [ in a letter to Thomas Jefferson]
"The divinity of Jesus is made a convenient cover for absurdity."
"The government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion."
"Let the human mind loose. It must be loose. It will be loose. Superstition and dogmatism cannot confine it."
"But how has it happened that millions of fables, tales, legends, have been blended with both Jewish and Christian revelation that have made them the most bloody religion that ever existed."
"Have you considered that system of holy lies and pious frauds that has raged and triumphed for 1500 years."
"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."
Charles Darwin, English naturalist (1809-1882)
From the age of forty he was, to use his own words, a complete disbeliever in Christianity. He professed himself an Agnostic, regarding the problem of the universe as beyond our solution,
"For myself," he wrote, "I do not believe in any revelation. As for a future life, every man must judge for himself between conflicting vague probabilities."
Abraham Lincoln, American president (1809-1865).
In 2000 Years of Disbelief by James A. Haught, Lincoln is mentioned on pages 125 through 127. From the material presented it would seem that Lincoln as a young man was an avid anti-christian and most likely an atheist. In his later years, he came to believe in God, but still was anti-religious in the sense that he rejected organized religion. Some selections from Haught:
John T. Stuart, Lincoln's first law partner: "He was an avowed and open infidel, and sometimes bordered on Atheism...He went further against Christian beliefs and doctrines and principles than any man I ever heard."
Joseph Lewis quoting Lincoln in a 1924 speech in New York:
"The Bible is not my book nor Christianity my profession. I could never give assent to the long, complicated statements of Christian dogma."
Lincoln in a letter to Judge J.S. Wakefield, after the death of Willie Lincoln:
"My earlier views of 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."
As a young man Lincoln apparently wrote a manuscript that he planned to publish, which vehemently argued against the divine origin of the Bible and the Christian scheme of salvation. Samuel Hill, a friend and mentor, convinced him to drop it, considering the disastrous consequences it would have on his political career.
William H Herndon, a former law partner, wrote a biography on Lincoln titled: "The true story of a great life". In it Herndon discusses Lincoln's religious views extensively.
Gordon Leidner has collected some quotations from Lincoln's later years in which he invokes God, and he makes the argument that Lincoln became a sincere believer. It seems to me he did come to believe in God, but he never accepted organized Christianity.
"You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time."
Karl Marx, German political philosopher and economist (1818-1883).
"Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, & the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people."
Samuel Clemens "Mark Twain", American author and humorist (1835-1910).
"Faith is believing something you know ain't true."
"'In God We Trust.' I don't believe it would sound any better if it were true."
"It ain't the parts of the Bible that I can't understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand."
"Religion consists in a set of things which the average man thinks he believes and wishes he was certain of."
"There is no other life; life itself is only a vision and a dream for nothing exists but space and you. If there was an all-powerful God, he would have made all good, and no bad." [Mark Twain in Eruption]
"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 contrast" [Reflections on Religion, 1906]
"O Lord our God, help us tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with their little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames of summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it..." ["The War Prayer"]
"[The Bible is] a mass of fables and traditions, mere mythology." ["Mark Twain and the Bible"]
"Man is a marvelous curiosity ... he thinks he is the Creator's pet ... he even believes the Creator loves him; has a passion for him; sits up nights to admire him; yes and watch over him and keep him out of trouble. He prays to
him and thinks He listens. Isn't it a quaint idea." [Letters from the Earth]
"If there is a God, he is a malign thug."
Mr. Clemens was once asked whether he feared death. He said that he did not, in view of the fact that he had been dead for billions and billions of years before he was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it.
"[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, from authorities who have not themselves examined the questions at issue but have taken them at second-hand from other non-examiners, whose opinions about them were not worth a brass farthing." [Autobiography of Mark Twain by Samuel Clemens]
Thomas Edison, American inventor (1847-1931).
"I have never seen the slightest scientific proof of the religious ideas of heaven and hell, of future life for individuals, or of a personal God."
"I do not believe that any type of religion should ever be introduced into the public schools of the United States."
"So far as religion of the day is concerned, it is a damned fake... Religion is all bunk."
Sigmund Freud, Austrian physician and pioneer psychoanalyst (1856-1939).
"It would be very nice if there were a God who created the world and was a benevolent providence, and if there were a moral order in the universe and an after-life; but it is a very striking fact that all this is exactly as we are bound to wish it to be."
"In the long run, nothing can withstand reason and experience, and the contradiction religion offers to both is palpable."
"The whole thing is so patently infantile, so foreign to reality, that to anyone with a friendly attitude to humanity it is painful to think that the great majority of mortals will never be able to rise above this view of life."
Freud certainly regarded belief in God as an illusion that mature men and women should lay aside.
"The idea of God was not a lie but a device of the unconscious which needed to be decoded by psychology. A personal god was nothing more than an exalted father-figure: desire for such a deity sprang from infantile yearnings for a powerful, protective father, for justice and fairness and for life to go on forever. God is simply a projection of these desires, feared and worshipped by human beings out of an abiding sense of helplessness. Religion belonged to the infancy of the human race; it had been a necessary stage in the transition from childhood to maturity. It had promoted ethical values which were essential to society. Now that humanity had come of age, however, it should be left behind." [A History of God]
George Bernard Shaw, Irish-born English playwright (1856-1950).
"The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one."
"No man ever believes that the Bible means what it says; he is always convinced that it says what he means."
Frank Lloyd Wright, American architect (1869-1959).
"I believe in God, only I spell it Nature."
Albert Einstein, German born American threoretical physicist (1879-1955).
From a correspondence between Ensign Guy H. Raner and Albert Einstein in 1945 and 1949. Einstein responds to the accusation that he was converted by a Jesuit priest:
"I have never talked to a Jesuit prest in my life. I am astonished by the audacity to tell such lies about me. From the viewpoint of a Jesuit priest I am, of course, and have always been an atheist."
"I have repeatedly said that in my opinion the idea of a personal God is a childlike one.You may call me an agnostic, but I do not share the crusading spirit of the professional atheist whose fervor is mostly due to a painful act of liberation from religious indoctrination received in youth."
[Freethought Today, November 2004]
"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." [From a letter Einstein wrote in English, dated 24 March 1954. It is included in Albert Einstein: The Human Side, edited by Helen Dukas and Banesh Hoffman, published by Princeton University Press.
"If this being is omnipotent, then every occurrence, including every human action, every human thought, and every human feeling and aspiration is also His work; how is it possible to think of holding men responsible for their deeds and thoughts before such an almighty Being? In giving out punishment and rewards He would to a certain extent be passing judgment on Himself. How can this be combined with the goodness and righteousness ascribed to Him?" [Albert Einstein, Out of My Later Years (New York: Philosophical Library, 1950), p. 27.]
"During the youthful period of mankind's spiritual evolution, human fantasy created gods in man's own image who, by the operations of their will were supposed to determine, or at any rate influence, the phenomenal world... The idea of God in the religions taught at present is a sublimation of that old conception of the gods. Its anthropomorphic character is shown, for instance, by the fact that men appeal to the Divine Being in prayers and plead for the fulfillment of their wishes... In their struggle for the ethical good, teachers of religion must have the stature to give up the doctrine of a personal God, that is, give up that source of fear and hope which in the past placed such vase power in the hands of priests." [Albert Einstein, reported in Science, Philosophy and Religion: A Symposium, edited by L. Bryson and L. Finkelstein. Quoted in: 2000 Years of Disbelief. by James Haught]
"Thus I came...to a deep religiosity, which, however, reached an abrupt end at the age of 12. Through the reading of popular scientific books I soon reached a conviction that much in the stories of the Bible could not be true....Suspicion against every kind of authority grew out of this experience...an attitude which has never left me." [The Quotable Einstein]
Ernest Hemingway, American author (1899-1961).
"All thinking men are atheists." [A Farewell to Arms]
On page 144 of Paul Johnson's book Intellectuals, it states that despite being raised in a strict Congregationalist houshold, Ernest "did not only not believe in God but regarded organized religion as a menace to human happiness", "seems to have been devoid of the religious spirit", and "ceased to practise religion at the earliest possible moment."
Isaac Asimov, Russian-born American author (1920-1992).
"I am an atheist, out and out. It took me a long time to say it. I've been an atheist for years and years, but somehow I felt it was intellectually unrespectable to say that one is an atheist, because it assumed knowledge that one didn't have. Somehow it was better to say one was a humanist or agnostic. I don't have the evidence to prove that God doesn't exist, but I so strongly suspect that he doesn't that I don't want to waste my time."
"Creationists make it sound like a 'theory' is something you dreamt up after being drunk all night."
Gene Roddenberry, Creator of Star Trek (1921-1991).
"I condemn false prophets, I condemn the effort to take away the power of rational decision, to drain people of their free will--and a hell of a lot of money in the bargain. Religions vary in their degree of idiocy, but I reject them all. For most people, religion is nothing more than a substitute for a malfunctioning brain."
"We must question the story logic of having an all-knowing all-powerful God, who creates faulty Humans, and then blames them for his own mistakes."
Carl Sagan, American astronomer and author (1934-1997).
In a March 1996 profile by Jim Dawson in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Sagan talked about his then-new book The Demon Haunted World and was asked about his personal spiritual views:
"My view is that if there is no evidence for it, then forget about it," he said. "An agnostic is somebody who doesn't believe in something until there is evidence for it, so I'm agnostic."
When asked how he would explain a "genuine mystical experience," Sagan responded: "Your question presupposes the existence of a genuine mystical experience and I'm not sure what that is. People have vivid hallucinations. How do you distinguish between altered states of consciousness?"
"It is said that men may not be the dreams of the Gods, but rather that the Gods are the dreams of men."
"Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence."
Asked soon after Carl's death:
"Didn't [Sagan] want to believe?" She responded, "He didn't want to believe. He wanted to know."
[Ann Druyan (Carl Sagan's wife)]
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