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My Top 11 Favorite Atheist Quotes

March 30, 2009

These are my current ten eleven favorite quotes regarding atheism and religion.

“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.”
–Thomas Jefferson

“Why should I allow that same God to tell me how to raise my kids, who had to drown His own?”
— Robert G. Ingersoll

“An atheist is a man who has no invisible means of support.”
— John Buchan

“Leave the matter of religion to the family altar, the church, and the private schools, supported entirely by private contributions. Keep the church and the state forever separated.”
— Ulysses S. Grant

“Creationists make it sound like a ‘theory’ is something you dreamt up after being drunk all night.”
— Isaac Asimov

“In no instance have . . . the churches been guardians of the liberties of the people.”
— James Madison

“I am against religion because it teaches us to be satisfied with not understanding the world.”
— Richard Dawkins

“Isn’t it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?”
— Douglas Adams

“I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”
— Stephen Roberts

“Since the Bible and the church are obviously mistaken in telling us where we came from, how can we trust them to tell us where we are going?”
— Anonymous

And what is currently my very favorite quote:

“We godless lack that certainty, and we know the world is a complex place that requires compromise and is not ruled by a moral force — virtue is subject to negotiation, and is found in working together with others to find mutually satisfactory solutions. Good is not absolute, it is an emergent property that arises from successful networks of individuals. It is also something that is measured by evidence: we look at the good that people do, not the promises that they make and never keep, or the lies that dovetail nicely into dogma. Competence is a virtue. Intent is meaningless without action.”
— PZ Myers

What are your favorite quotes?

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160 Comments
  1. March 30, 2009 8:46 am

    What a great list.

  2. March 30, 2009 9:52 am

    I like anything Ingersol said… and I always liked the joke:

    What’s the difference between an atheist and an agnostic?

    I don’t know and I don’t care.

    • casey permalink
      June 30, 2009 3:29 am

      “What’s the difference between an atheist and an agnostic?

      I don’t know and I don’t care.”

      Well…technically, it should be “I don’t believe and I don’t know,” but that wouldn’t be as funny. You could keep the answer if you changed the question to, “What’s the difference between an agnostic and an apatheist?” But that wouldn’t be as funny either.

      • him permalink
        July 2, 2009 6:14 pm

        wow you clearly are the comedian in your family aren’t you? instead of making two bad suggestions, you could have spent time developing a competent reply.

        • casey permalink
          July 3, 2009 7:44 am

          A little reading comprehension goes a long way, pal.

      • July 3, 2009 4:25 am

        Or better yet “what’s worse, ignorance or apathy”.

      • bees-wax permalink
        July 7, 2009 12:58 pm

        no-one likes a smart-arse

      • Allison Teronde permalink
        July 18, 2009 3:21 pm

        For the record, I completely understood what you meant.

  3. Shamelessly Atheist permalink
    March 30, 2009 2:10 pm

    My favorite ones come from Mark Twain:

    “Man has been here 32,000 years. That it took a hundred million years to prepare the world for him is proof that that is what it was done for. I suppose it is. I dunno. If the Eiffel tower were now representing the world’s age, the skin of paint on the pinnacle-knob at its summit would represent man’s share of that age; & anybody would perceive that that skin was what the tower was built for. I reckon they would. I dunno.”

    “There are those who scoff at the school boy, calling him frivolous and shallow. Yet it was the schoolboy who said, “Faith is believing what you know ain’t so.””

    • Raven permalink
      July 2, 2009 6:23 am

      I’m not Atheist but My Favorite quote is:
      To you I’m Atheist, to God I am the loyal Opposition!

  4. Mark permalink
    March 31, 2009 7:40 pm

    Good list!

    My favorite quote would be…

    “Religion is all bunk!”, by Thomas Edison

    • April 1, 2009 1:36 am

      I think he sums it up rather well.

  5. April 2, 2009 5:31 pm

    I have a large list of quotes in a text file here feel free to grab a copy (I just added some of yours to my list).

    • April 2, 2009 7:56 pm

      Awesome. Great list!

  6. April 9, 2009 11:07 am

    By far my favorite all time atheist quote:

    “I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”

    Stephen Henry Roberts (1901-71)

    • Ryan permalink
      July 12, 2009 11:32 am

      I thought that was a Richard Dawkins quote.

      • Jamiroquatheist permalink
        November 10, 2009 1:20 pm

        I’m pretty sure he said it (or something like it) on the Colbert Report. That’s where I first heard it. But it’s a definite possibility he borrowed it.

        • Spencer permalink
          November 25, 2009 3:46 pm

          No, that was Stephen Roberts. Richard Dawkins’ quote was similar, but not the same.

          “We are all atheists about most of the gods that society has ever created. Some of us just go one god further” – Richard Dawkins

          “I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.” – Stephen Roberts

  7. April 12, 2009 8:01 am

    Ahh but all Atheists agree with God.

    God said do not lie, steal, disobey your parents, use God’s name in vain, bear false witness, and commit adultery or murder. You don’t like liars, thieves, murderers and adulterers.

    The problem is your accuser/prosecutor knows that you have broken the very laws you agree with.

    “Satan the accuser” – Revelation 12:10

    Have you ever told a lie?……Guilty!
    Have you ever stolen anything at all?………Guilty!
    Have you ever used God’s name as a cuss word?……..Guilty!
    Have you ever looked with lustful eyes? Same as Adultery (Matthew 5:28)…….Guilty!

    • April 12, 2009 7:31 pm

      Awww, aren’t you cute?

      Show me evidence of Satan or God and I’ll worry about being guilty of imagined sins.

      • Hammeroftheirish permalink
        July 15, 2009 8:25 pm

        http://www.everystudent.com/features/isthere.html

        and

        http://www.godandscience.org/

        God is real my friend, and all shall bow on bent knee to him one day. Some will go to Hell doing so.

        modelvolume: May your days be long and your life full. May The Lord your God cover you and protect you. God him self said that you shall have they that wont beleave, they that will hate you for who you are and who you serve. But don’t let that stop you from sharing the Truth of God.

        I may seem like a freak to some of you. But i still love you and pray for you.

        Anyone want to contact me feel free to do so. Hammeroftheirish@yahoo.com

        • FoxDragon permalink
          November 21, 2009 12:46 am

          Isn’t that nice….

          Don’t worry, while your talking to your imaginary friend, we will continue to think and reason for you.

          And hope that the day when your schizophrenia is finally recognized for the insanity that it is comes soon.

          And I mean no offense to the mentally impaired by lumping them into the same category as a ‘believer’.

    • April 13, 2009 7:48 am

      AWK…..Help! I followed ModelVolumes linky and ended up with lustful eyes!!! Now I am going to hell and its her fault, SHE must be Satan.

      Seriously though, unless MV is being Poe, I find it humorous that someone who has a whole site filled with half naked women playing on the sex drive of men would be preaching Matthew 5:28.

      Perfect example of hypocrisy in action

    • The Mentail Sieve permalink
      June 24, 2009 11:24 pm

      “Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned” Luke 6:37

      The problem with throwing out bible passages to atheists is that chances are we probably know the “good book” better than you.

      Besides in order for your argument to be even valid, you must first prove that “all Atheists agree” with those principles, and I bet that though they may be the foundation of many societies, there are some who disagree, even on a conditional level. For example, since I do not believe that God exists, I do not think that there is anything wrong with using his name in vain. In fact, if he doesn’t exist, one would have to be pretty talented to do so.

      Back on the main topic, my personal favorites are the “Homage of Reason” by Jefferson, “The contention that we are all Atheists” by Stephan Roberts, a little one by Epicurus:
      “Is God willing to prevent evil but unable?
      Then he is not omnipotent.
      Is he able but not willing?
      Then he is Malevolent.
      Is he both able and willing?
      The from whence come Evil?
      Is he neither willing nor able?
      Then why call him God?”

      And one by the Television character, Dr. House:
      “If you could reason with religious people there would be no religious people.”

      • Ashley permalink
        July 1, 2009 6:15 pm

        I like the House quote “You talk to God, you’re religious. God talks to you, You’re psychotic.”

    • Proximal permalink
      June 25, 2009 10:56 pm

      Human beings are perfectly capable of being moral without being god-fearing. It is god who agrees with us.

    • June 27, 2009 11:14 am

      Trolling madness with a suspect URL. Good Christian values there.

    • Mickey permalink
      June 30, 2009 4:54 pm

      So does every other religion in the world miss Know-It-All

    • Austin permalink
      July 7, 2009 9:52 am

      Although the bible (notice no capitals) states do not lie, steal, and the like; I agree with that. If you look at the bible as a fiction book, your just looking at the morals and not the miracles. I’ve read books. Most stories have a moral at the end of them. This story, however, has them right in the beginning.

    • BoggyWoggy permalink
      July 9, 2009 10:36 am

      AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! That old statement! I cringe when I read it! Who determines what is good? Aesop told better fables, using talking animals to make the exact same points you list. Thomas Jefferson said, “I never submitted the whole system of my opinions to the creed of any party of men whatever in religion, in philosophy, in politics, or in anything else where I was capable of thinking for myself. Such an addiction is the last degradation of a free and moral agent.”
      -Thomas Jefferson, letter to Francis Hopkinson, March 13, 1789

    • S.S. permalink
      August 9, 2009 9:35 am

      Hate to break your bubble, baby, but god isn’t a name: it’s a title.

      So goddammit is not taking his name in vain so no, I am not guilty of your imagined crime.

      But please, do elucidate: what is your god’s name? It’s not Jehovah nor is it Almighty, Lord or King of Kings.

      Caught you in a lie, didn’t I. Or, are you woefully uninformed and ignorant?

      Worry not, no god will smite thee.

    • FreeAtLast permalink
      September 4, 2009 1:16 pm

      If God commanded that we do not murder, then why did he drown nearly every form of life on this planet? If that is what your God is all about, then I want nothing to do with him-her-it. Since I have never murdered anyone, it seems I am better than God.

    • Timmy permalink
      November 3, 2009 1:37 pm

      When I read this I threw up a little. I am an Atheist, it is physically impossible to agree with a god that I know is not there. I may agree with some of the rules people have made up based on moral law that got written into a book or books attributed to a god or gods, but those rules never originated from a god or gods they originated from evolutionary processes whereby those who work well together survive better than those who do not. Nothing makes sense except in the light of evolution which has withstood the religious rights hogwash for the last 155 plus years and here is the greatest thing. Scientists can never prove a theory is correct, they can only make predictions and modify the theory based on evidence. There are no laws in science, so all the religious right would have to do is find one flaw in evolution, and they have not. All they seem to do is continuously prove they know little if anything about it. The Bible was written by men who’s knowledge of the world would be trumped quite easily by a modern five year old. Think about that when you read it. It is a hodge podge of parables stories, and astrology (Luke 22:10 He replied, “As you enter the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him to the house that he enters,)Ahh but all Atheists agree with God.

      God said do not lie, steal, disobey your parents, use God’s name in vain, bear false witness, and commit adultery or murder. You don’t like liars, thieves, murderers and adulterers.

      The problem is your accuser/prosecutor knows that you have broken the very laws you agree with.

      “Satan the accuser” – Revelation 12:10

      Have you ever told a lie?……Guilty!
      Have you ever stolen anything at all?………Guilty!
      Have you ever used God’s name as a cuss word?……..Guilty!
      Have you ever looked with lustful eyes? Same as Adultery (Matthew 5:28)…….Guilty!

    • Timmy permalink
      November 3, 2009 1:39 pm

      When I read this I threw up a little. I am an Atheist, it is physically impossible to agree with a god that I know is not there. I may agree with some of the rules people have made up based on moral law that got written into a book or books attributed to a god or gods, but those rules never originated from a god or gods they originated from evolutionary processes whereby those who work well together survive better than those who do not. Nothing makes sense except in the light of evolution which has withstood the religious rights hogwash for the last 155 plus years and here is the greatest thing. Scientists can never prove a theory is correct, they can only make predictions and modify the theory based on evidence. There are no laws in science, so all the religious right would have to do is find one flaw in evolution, and they have not. All they seem to do is continuously prove they know little if anything about it. The Bible was written by men who’s knowledge of the world would be trumped quite easily by a modern five year old. Think about that when you read it. It is a hodge podge of parables stories, and astrology (Luke 22:10 He replied, “As you enter the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him to the house that he enters,) House (Houses of the Zodiac) (Man bearing a pitcher of water= Aquarius which comes after the age of Pieces (two fish , Jesus the fisherman, etc). Is it any wonder the church considered Astrology to be heretical. If anyone knew astrology they could tear the Bible apart.

      Cheers,
      Timmay

      >Ahh but all Atheists agree with God.

      God said do not lie, steal, disobey your parents, use God’s name in vain, bear false witness, and commit adultery or murder. You don’t like liars, thieves, murderers and adulterers.

      The problem is your accuser/prosecutor knows that you have broken the very laws you agree with.

      “Satan the accuser” – Revelation 12:10

      Have you ever told a lie?……Guilty!
      Have you ever stolen anything at all?………Guilty!
      Have you ever used God’s name as a cuss word?……..Guilty!
      Have you ever looked with lustful eyes? Same as Adultery (Matthew 5:28)…….Guilty!

  8. April 16, 2009 8:06 am

    “Atheism is for losers who like being lost.”

    • April 16, 2009 8:09 am

      lmao!

      You wasted your own time for that? How Christian of you, I would have expected more from a pastor.

      “All you atheists are losers and.. and.. you’re not as cool as – Oh look! a talking snake! I totally believe that!”

      • Dana permalink
        July 1, 2009 12:42 pm

        ok you just became my new personal hero.

      • Allison Teronde permalink
        July 18, 2009 3:27 pm

        ahahaha!
        That honestly just made my day.
        I laughed for a good three minutes before I could pull myself together enough to write you a ‘thank you’ comment about that one.

    • The Mental Sieve permalink
      June 24, 2009 11:27 pm

      “You can only lost in the woods if you’re trying to get out.”

    • Austin permalink
      July 7, 2009 9:53 am

      Religion is for those who don’t want to find a path, but instead imagine one.

    • Erin permalink
      July 15, 2009 8:10 pm

      Gosh, I’m not lost. In fact, I just have a completely separate emotional solace i choose to take a plunge in for support in my life. But thanks for the option, God, while I respectfully and most happily decline your existence.

  9. stushie permalink
    April 16, 2009 10:11 am

    ROFLMao

    • lionhearted permalink
      February 28, 2010 7:15 am

      who’s lost? why are you here reading these forums you must have doubt of your own and are searching or you wouldn’t even look at this page let alone comment.

  10. mark permalink
    June 24, 2009 4:26 pm

    Here’s my view on atheism, religion and spirituality. Religious people in my opinion are tricked into being spiritual through frivolous chants, hymns, books and whatever else gives them open-ended answers from the most basic of questions and issues to the most complicated aspects of life. You have to believe its there(faith), to feel it. but what most people don’t realize is you can be spiritual without religion, and without walking around with a tie-dye shirt and a head full of Acid. You just have to believe that there are things so unfathomable to your frame of mind that they can’t properly be perceived, and also believe that their is some kind of energy that people can’t explain that links us, and everything else in the universe together(See works by Stephen Hawking). In other words, you should go with the flow, and not deal with absolutes( good, bad, evil, wrong etc..). Every situation should be dealt with independently and you should ask yourself, is this right or is this wrong? whipping out examples from a book apparently written 2000 years ago, to deal with an issue like cloning or genetic alterations is folly. I realize i’m not being very concise and detailed, but you catch my drift… but that’s how god made me right?

    Mark.

  11. Red permalink
    June 25, 2009 1:12 pm

    “In no instance have . . . the churches been guardians of the liberties of the people.”
    – James Madison

    Is this actually true? What about African-American liberation theology, Korean liberation theology, and Luther’s protests against the catholic church?

    I think we can all agree that a person’s worth is in his or her works. Plenty of churches do humanitarian aid, and even though I am an atheist, I applaud and have respect for Christians who do that.

    Can we agree on that?

    • Eric permalink
      June 26, 2009 3:58 pm

      No, it’s not at all true anymore. When it was said it was far closer to the truth than it is now though. Still, kind of an overshot.

    • June 28, 2009 1:21 pm

      Sorry. However the only time a religion will “guard liberties of the people” is when the liberty in question is to worship that religion’s definition of god.

  12. Monty permalink
    June 25, 2009 5:04 pm

    “Science flies you to the Moon.
    Religion flies you into buildings.”

    • Danielle permalink
      July 7, 2009 12:37 pm

      This is now officially my all time favorite quote

  13. I am god, bowe down to me! permalink
    June 25, 2009 6:24 pm

    i’m guessing modelvolume doesn’t hav blonde hair or a pair of tits but he just couldn’t help but preach to all u sinners hahaha

  14. shaun lindsey permalink
    June 25, 2009 10:46 pm

    Here are some Annoying similarities between Christians and Atheists (IMO):

    1) Christians will relentlessly spit Bible verses at you to prove their religious beliefs, while Atheists will relentlessly spit bible verses at you to disprove the religious beliefs of others.
    2)Christians will throw a huge hissy-fit when their religious beliefs are infringed on(prayer in school, teaching evolution, etc…), while Atheists get all pissed and throw a huge hissy fit when others beliefs are imposed on them (prayer in school, teaching intelligent design, etc…)
    3)Both christians and Atheists alike will argue passionately try to convert you to their beliefs (or lack thereof)
    4)Both christians and Atheist alike smugly feel that they are enlightened to the truth, when in reality, no one really knows………

    I am not claiming that the actions (not the beliefs) of either side are wrong, I am am just annoyed by all the worn-out quotes that the atheists have beaten to death, and I am equally as annoyed by the literal translation of an ancient group of stories put together by misguiding leaders of a misguided commonwealth…..

    just sayin’

    • Austin permalink
      July 7, 2009 10:00 am

      I see where your coming from, but you have a flaw. Atheism is back by science (usually). Christianity is never backed by science. The bible was written before man had even made scientific discoveries. Although both sides preach, I would rather have some preach facts over fiction.

    • S.S. permalink
      August 9, 2009 9:21 am

      This reminds me of an old Star Trek epidsode in which the curious and powerful alien pits two sides against each other: the oblgitory captain, second officer, engineer, red shirts etc. plus a re-reation of humnan history’s passive, thinking, non-violent on one side. On the other the re-creation of human history’s most notorious and evil.

      The one group tries reason and communication, the other uses force and deceit but ultimately the end up in combat with the valient crew being victorious.

      The powerful alien questions the captain, pointing out he and his crew fought as hard to ‘win’ as the other group so they were the same, weren’t there.

      The wise captain, however, asked of the alien what he offered the opposing group to which the alien replied, What they coveted the most … money and power.

      You offered me the lives of my crew —

      Look to motivation.

    • Bubble44 permalink
      November 3, 2009 1:12 am

      Amen to Shaun Lindsey!!! I don’t go around arguing that the Tooth Fairy doesn’t exist. I think that would be a dis-service to little kids who are comforted by the story. I don’t suffer one bit because of Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny, either. If people didn’t need religion, mankind wouldn’t have invented it…so long ago. If you don’t need religion, you’ll miss out on some potluck suppers and Christmas pageants, but that’s about all. People praying in public doesn’t HARM you. Also, if you’re gonna have any understanding of classical fiction at all, you need to have read the bible or you won’t get the allusions. I’ll tell you one thing: it’s a lot easier to talk to a bereaved believer, because the language has a good collection of proper phrases to say. It’s not that easy to talk about the loss of a loved one to an atheist.

      • caseywollberg permalink
        November 3, 2009 7:43 am

        No. Boo to Shaun Lindsey. Read SS’s reply. He had it right. Shaun Lindsey would have been annoyed by the founding fathers.

  15. David permalink
    June 26, 2009 1:27 am

    Where does that leave you Shaun Lindsey?

    I’m sorry but that’s a terrible comparison between apples and oranges, with gross over generalizations.

    One group of people making decisions and policies based on science and reason and an other doing so with an old book and faith on an imaginary friend.

    It sounds like you’re sick of it because you don’t want to deal with it, when in reality you don’t have a choice. We’re likely going to blow ourselves up because of faith, or a holy war.

    I would be very interested to see not only where you stand, but how you feel this should be dealt with, aside from discussion.

    • shaun lindsey permalink
      June 26, 2009 11:36 am

      Well, ideally, it should be dealt with on a personal level where individuals make their own decisions, on what they believe and what they don’t….internally without feeling pressure from religious or atheistic zealots…..so yeah, religion should not effect policy and policy should not effect religion…

      As for where I stand, that is really exclusively my business…..but I will say it is a constantly changing self journey, and since it is so personal I won’t impose my beliefs on anyone through force or debate………but in general, I try to question everything, even logic and scientific “facts”. I may not find all the answers, but at least I know what i am looking for….and to me that is most important.

      Let’s not overlook the fact that my post was not an attack on Atheisim or Christianity, it was simply my observations of how I am annoyed with BOTH sides. It was relevent to the initial article…..because the quotes in that article are so over-used…..They are the words of great men, and they are great quotes….but using them in this context is very similar to christians using bible verses to fire up other believers……

      Like I said this post goes out to both christians and atheists alike, and if it were read by a christian I would not doubt that they too would call my post: “a terrible comparison between apples and oranges, with gross over generalizations.”

      • Mark permalink
        June 26, 2009 3:09 pm

        Well said.

      • HDT permalink
        June 27, 2009 7:43 am

        Bravo. It is far too easy for non-believers to get on their high horse and commit many of the fallacies that believers do.

        Any belief which has not been proven should be questioned at every opportunity. This goes for both people who believe in Gods, and those who don’t.

        • Sel permalink
          December 1, 2009 11:05 am

          The difference though, is that science does not claim to be the be all end all. Science is a theory and is acknowledged by those who practice it and believe in it. Scriptures on the other hand, especially Christianity claims to be the only truth. I’m an agnostic, and I know that not everything I believe is true, and that separates me from someone who believes that their faith is infallible and superior to all others.

      • Aeptah permalink
        July 2, 2009 12:02 pm

        Yes, I agree… very well put.
        I have been agnostic nearly my whole life – I was born an atheist.
        Then someone deemed it necessary to impose Christianity on me. I became agnostic.
        Now, I am more on the atheist side, but like you, I question all… science religion, everything.
        I don’t have “blind faith” in anything. That would be foolish.

        As an atheist, I cetainly do not feel it necessary to try to “convert” anyone to my way of thinking, nor do I spit bible verses. However, I am not going to be preached to by Christian or Atheist.

        I am very much a “live and let live” kind of person.

      • casey permalink
        July 3, 2009 8:04 am

        This position of, “Atheists are just like Christians because they argue and make me feel bad,” is so stupid and petulant, and I wish you wouldn’t “impose” it upon me so forcefully. You say you are a “live and let live” kind of person as though people who engage in meaningful debate are not (and as though you are not, yourself, engaging in debate right now!). No, debate will not convince everyone to change their minds–but it does help people who are reasonable to reconsider their views. That’s the point of debate. As I’ve said elsewhere on this thread, to argue against argument is absurd to begin with and the premise that debate is an imposition is incorrect. Now, go cry to your momma that the bad man has imposed his own views upon you. Or…support your argument against argument with a better argument.

  16. Zedge permalink
    June 26, 2009 12:47 pm

    Not a quote ’till some one else repeats it , just something like to say: “Belief is like a hospital where people go when they are sick of thinking”

  17. June 26, 2009 3:04 pm

    those aren’t that bad, quotes don’t mean you should believe or disbelief, but rather think

  18. Julia permalink
    June 26, 2009 8:53 pm

    i have 2 favorite quotes that are both from the lovely katharine hepburn…

    – “I’m an atheist, and that’s it. I believe there’s nothing we can know except that we should be kind to each other and do what we can for other people.”

    – “Our Constitution was not intended to be used by … any group to foist its personal religious beliefs on the rest of us.”

  19. Kharos permalink
    June 27, 2009 2:25 am

    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. (George Bernard Shaw)

    I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it. (Mark Twain)

  20. Kari D permalink
    June 27, 2009 6:49 am

    “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are nothing like your Christ.” – Gandhi

    One of my favorite quotes.

  21. Sky permalink
    June 27, 2009 9:42 am

    “Can I come and teach genetics in your church?”

  22. June 27, 2009 1:30 pm

    God HATES Christians!

  23. June 27, 2009 9:58 pm

    Good giant quotes there. The God world out there made the mankind blindly nod and nod and nod and nothng else. To live LIFE is to leave gods and ghosts.

    • Friday permalink
      July 1, 2009 5:27 am

      That is lovely! Where is that quote from..is it yours? I want to borrow it.

  24. Nick permalink
    June 28, 2009 1:03 am

    I loved all the quotes besides the last one. The last is a disgusting statement of subjectivism, throwing away the reason atheists are usually so proud to have. Morality is ABSOLUTE and OBJECTIVE. But don’t use God to find those morals, use reason.

    • jibbons permalink
      June 29, 2009 4:50 pm

      Morality is Absolute and Objective, just like you statement.

    • S.S. permalink
      August 9, 2009 11:10 am

      “Morality is ABSOLUTE and OBJECTIVE.”

      ABSOLUTE: Perfect in quality or nature; complete — not mixed; pure. Not limited by restrictions or exceptions; unconditional.

      Morality is perfect in quality or nature? No.
      Morality is complete/pure/not mixed? No.
      Morality is unconditional? No.

      If I’m wrong, please show me where. Morality is partial, hidden and – like your scheduled flight – subject to change.

      OBJECTIVE: Of or having to do with a material object; having actual existence or reality.Uninfluenced by emotions or personal prejudices.

      I have never held a moral in my hand; morals are not material and have no actual existence in reality. ‘Morals’ is a word, like love, that we use to express an idea which is basically the definition of SUBJECTIVE.

      SUBJECTIVE: Proceeding from or taking place within a person’s mind such as to be unaffected by the external world — Particular to a given person; personal.

      Morals are clearly subjective since they change from person to person, culture to culture and religion to religion. In this life, this world, nothing is absolute.

  25. June 28, 2009 2:38 am

    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.
    – Ferdinand Magellan

    I always like a dog so long as he isn’t spelled backward.
    – G.K. Chesterton

  26. June 28, 2009 7:54 am

    I don’t know what is better… the list of quotes here, or all the funny comments left after somoene tried to trash it.

    Thanks for this site – I’m finding it refreshing (cause it’s always good to see other people posting about things you agree with), and entertaiing!

    • whoareyouish permalink
      July 1, 2009 7:53 pm

      I agree reading this page after stumbling it I feel quite refreshed and amused. I have always struggled with wanting to believe because it seemed right but it never has settled right with me. I would have to go with the agnostic title for myself

  27. Scott permalink
    June 28, 2009 11:01 am

    “The more I study religions the more I am convinced that man never worshipped anything but himself.”
    -Sir Richard Burton

  28. Heather permalink
    June 28, 2009 11:15 am

    Ah the comments are interesting samanthamj! I always wonder how it is that people who are likely to be offended by this sort of thing find themselves on these sites anyway??

    One of my personal favourites comes from Forster’s “A Room With A View”. Mr Emerson is one of my favourite characters ever in one of my favourite books.

    “We know that we come from the winds, ad that we shall return to them; that all life is perhaps a knot, a tangle, a blemish in the eternal smoothness. But why should this make us unhappy? Let us rather love one another, and work and rejoice. I don’t believe in this world sorrow.”

    Also love the Douglas Adams one, and pretty much anything by him. :)

  29. Itakru permalink
    June 28, 2009 11:26 am

    One thing I’ve never understood about monotheistic religions in general. . . .

    How does one “omnipotent” being go about running the world without being expected to go mad in the first five minutes, unless he either doesn’t exist or cares only when it REALLY, REALLY, REALLY matters? Polytheistic beliefs make a little more sense to me, but not by much. :/

    • The Mental Sieve permalink
      July 2, 2009 7:22 pm

      Two of the most common explanations I have received:

      1) God is omnipresent, omnipotent, and omniscient. So since it is everywhere all the time knowing all things, it’s a matter of course. (so he simply has a mind with IMMENSE capabilities)

      2) God is outside he universe, and outside time. So the universe is like a book, and we are characters in the book. And he could read however fast or slow, or however haphazardly, but would eventually get it all done. To us, that means he is everywhere all the time. This explanation is a favorite of many theologian and Christian Scholars that I have read, such as the vaunted C.S. Lewis.

  30. nate permalink
    June 28, 2009 1:27 pm

    “going to church is like jerking off, personally id rather jerk off”

  31. sarah permalink
    June 28, 2009 11:35 pm

    Okay I just have some things I’d really like to share with you.

    I am an Atheist, and let me just say that I love life. I’m a good person purely because I want to be good, not because I’m trying to protect myself from going to a so-called “Hell,” or because some ancient person told me to.

    You all need to stop arguing and let people believe what they want to believe. It’s really not a big deal, I mean really. Why do you care?

    I just go by what I know for certain. And I know for certain that religion is the most contradictory and hypocritical thing I can think of.

    “Thou shalt not kill” is completely pointless, because religion has been the cause of a TON of wars. My favorite quote, “fighting for peace is like screwing for virginity” (George Carlin) kind of sums it up. And sacrifices? What is the point?

    That whole “thou shalt not steal” thing, well all those fancy old churches with gold and fancy stuff that everyone is amazed at, you know? Well where do you think they got that gold? It was stolen from the natives when they got there.

    Why would anyone want to follow the same ideas and principles as those who hanged others for saying that the Earth was not the center of the universe?

    I don’t know. Those are just things that I have thought about. I have gotten into many arguments with religious people and have reached the point where I say screw it because I know they won’t listen anyways.

    If you are religious, be open-minded. Don’t go into an argument already telling yourself that what the other person is telling you is wrong, because that is totally pointless.

    Peace and love everyone.

    • casey permalink
      July 3, 2009 8:20 am

      There are at least two reasons to continue arguing, Sarah.

      1) Some will listen. They are reasonable people but have been indoctrinated and are just waiting to be exposed to this debate.

      2) Some take their silly notions seriously enough to do terrible things based upon them. Some of them will listen, too.

      The point is to discredit bad ideas that have taken root in society. If no one does this, new generations will continue to be indoctrinated in those bad ideas and when it comes time for them to get the assistance they need in examining those beliefs critically, the arguments won’t be there, because you would have had us abandon these victims to their fates. Some of them will just lead confused lives in which they miss out on realizing some greater potential. Some of them will go on to become extremists. This debate has serious noble implications; it isn’t just a “so what” proposition, as you are making it out to be.

  32. Nick permalink
    June 29, 2009 8:03 pm

    “In the beginning, God created the universe. This has made a lot of people very unhappy and is widely regarded as a bad move”
    -Douglass Adams

  33. GobbaGobba permalink
    June 29, 2009 9:32 pm

    I myself am pastafarian, and I challenge you to a battle of tired quotes.

  34. June 29, 2009 11:10 pm

    Here’s one of my favorite quotes:

    “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, country singer/songwriter

    • August 22, 2009 3:46 pm

      THAT WAS HILARIOUS !!!one1!1one!!

      • August 23, 2009 8:15 pm

        Sorry, this is the CORRECTED permalink ;-)

        Thanks!

  35. Uncle Tom permalink
    June 29, 2009 11:19 pm

    Arguing with an evangelical Christian is like wrestling in the mud with a pig – you both end up filthy, and the pig had the time of his life. Of course, the same can be said about arguing with an atheist. The only statement they can agree on is “I’m right and you’re wrong.”

    The real problem is all of our tiny little egos battering against one another, clamoring for recognition and validation, like a vast cloud of sperm cells racing to the finish line. And then what? One is absorbed into the egg, the rest die to nourish the growing life form, and voila! Life goes on.

    God or no god, religion or no religion – how pointless. What matters is how we act every day toward ourselves and one another. Why do all major religions profess the same fundamental moral code that atheists subscribe to? Why has every recorded civilization throughout history been organized around some form of religion? Could it be that all humans are hard-wired to recognize and honor moral absolutes? Could there be a “god-gene” (or, if you prefer, “good-gene”) within our DNA, each of us interpreting it in our own, unique fashion?

    Let’s not take ourselves too seriously. We may gather here and spew diatribes as a recreational endeavor, but when we set aside the keyboard & mouse to conduct our affairs, what matters is the sort of energy we are dispersing. Do we act the part of cynical adults with our bloated egos pushing and shoving to be heard above the din, or can we grow just a little bit beyond adulthood, to the childlike wisdom Christ alluded to?

    “A child-like man is not a man whose development has been arrested; on the contrary, he is a man who has given himself a chance of continuing to develop long after most adults have muffled themselves in the cocoon of middle-aged habit and convention.” – Aldous Huxley

    I have known people like this. Whether they are Christian, atheist, or pastafarian is irrelevant. What is remarkable about them is the positive energy they provide to the world. And they don’t give a tinker’s damn about being right.

    • casey permalink
      June 30, 2009 3:15 am

      @ Uncle Tom

      You started out all wrong, for one thing. Theists and atheists can agree on a lot of things besides, “I’m right and you’re wrong.” If they couldn’t, then they wouldn’t be able even to begin an argument (and we know they can do that).

      I find your sermon a bit condescending. For example, “Let’s not take ourselves too seriously.” Indeed. We shouldn’t get so emotionally attached to a position that we see arguments against it as a personal attack, and get upset. There is a good, you might say “serious” reason to “spew diatribes” that has little to do with it being a “recreational endeavor”–quite the contrary to your bit of conventional wisdom, “God or no god, religion or no religion–how pointless.” It is not pointless, by any means. The myth that no one can change anyone’s mind through argumentation is proved false in my own person, and those of several people I know, authors I’ve read, etc.

      Being a decent person who is not a sophist and maintains a healthy suspicion of ego because he is self-aware and does not take himself too seriously–who is, in a word, childlike–does not mean dismissing the tool of argumentation as a mere game with no real point.

      “And they don’t give a tinker’s damn about being right.”

      Are you sure you’re right? If you yourself don’t give a tinker’s damn about it, then why bother stating your case? I think it would be more accurate to say, “they don’t give a tinker’s damn about being *perceived* as right.” That is, they aren’t sophists. But people like Aldous Huxley (whom you quote in this context) cared about being right (the opposite of sophistry), and about convincing others, as surely as they presented arguments in favor of their positions. An earnest desire to be right is not egotistical, it is humble–and argumentation is a tool to that end.

  36. Uncle Tom permalink
    June 30, 2009 8:21 pm

    Casey, thanks for paying attention to my late night banter. You made several good points, and in retrospect I certainly wish I had chosen my words more carefully. For example: “The only statement they SEEM to agree on …” might have been more representative of my thoughts than what I wrote. And yes, there was a condescending tone; yet the piece was meant to be an admonishment, not a sermon. As I said, I pounded it out late at night and consequently landed wide of the intended target in several areas. In fact, sometimes I’m not sure what my point is, but feel compelled to share some of my thoughts anyway. Responses like yours help me to narrow my focus.

    Perhaps I was merely trying to encourage folks to find some common ground between what appear to be opposing viewpoints in an argument that may have been going on since the first two neanderthals uttered grunts toward one another and pointed to the sky. All humans share far too many traits & beliefs to get hung up on the few insignificant notions they disagree on – god/religion being a primary example of such trivia – and yet there seems to be an overwhelming compulsion to focus on, and of course battle one another over, those tiny few topics on which we differ – to the detriment of our common good. My theory is that this focus on differences rather than common interests is solely a manifestation of ego – that artificial self that tells us we are separate from others, thus denying our common bond rather than celebrating and nurturing it.

    Atheists correctly fault religions for having a tarnished history and for their seeming lack of a logical basis for their beliefs; atheists can also be faulted for not explaining why rational beings such as they say we are have such a profound desire to create and sustain religions. (As I pointed out, virtually every major civilization throughout history seems built around some sort of theistic notion, and several centuries of steady progress in science & technology hardly seem to have curtailed this obsession.) So why can’t both sides of this argument celebrate the fact that the goals of atheism and religion are identical: to improve themselves and the world? Or, if you disagree that these are common goals, restate them as you desire – but seek common ground, not differences.

    As a recovered fundamentalist, I laugh at my first impressions of John Lennon’s “Imagine” – and at the same time rejoice in the fact that today I can understand exactly what he was saying, and completely agree with his admonition about joining the dreamers; ” … so the world can live as one.”

    You say there is value in argumentation – I can certainly agree that there is value in the exchange of ideas and thoughts on an open forum like this – which is why I tossed my $0.02 worth in. Whether we refer to it as debate, argument, sophistry or “recreational endeavor” is perhaps less important than our motives. Are we in it to expand our understanding of our own and each others’ viewpoints and therefore grow closer to the ideal, or are we in it to demonstrate to the world that our way of thinking is the only one that is valid and logical? The former nourishes the spirit, the latter the ego.

    I wish to be right only to the extent that I try constantly to align my beliefs with the philosophical ideal of objective reality. This requires an ongoing critical review of one’s beliefs combined with the willingness at all times to let go of beliefs or actions that do not produce positive outcomes. But integral to that quest is the recognition that others, too, may be seeking the same goals. Therefore it is essential that I recognize the right of others to come to their own conclusions – especially when they disagree with my own.

    • casey permalink
      June 30, 2009 10:52 pm

      I am all for finding common ground. But in order to find common ground we must agree. In order to agree we must convince those who hold false beliefs to change them. This is what debate is for. If you value objective reality as you say then you can understand this. Don’t get too hung up on a hatred of ego–that itself is a manifestation of ego.

      You claim that the god question is trivial. It is not. Not when gods whisper in the ears of suicide bombers, of murderers of abortion providers, and of parents who piously let their children die of treatable diseases, etc. You also claim that “atheists” should be held accountable for an explanation of the origin of religion among members of a rational species. There are several problems with this. For one, atheists are people who hold no belief in gods; they do not comprise a sect that subscribes to a particular belief system. As such, it is incorrect to lay this supposed knowledge gap at the feet of all atheists. Second, no one with any sense claims that humans are a purely rational species. Thirdly, there are very compelling published explanations for the biological, evolutionary, sociological, and neurological origins of religious belief. One must merely Google the phrase, “origins of religion,” to be greeted with a plethora of information on the subject.

      “Are we in it to expand our understanding of our own and each others’ viewpoints and therefore grow closer to the ideal, or are we in it to demonstrate to the world that our way of thinking is the only one that is valid and logical? The former nourishes the spirit, the latter the ego.”

      I would say that the best way to nourish the ego is to claim to know what you cannot know, without evidence, and then complain when you aren’t taken seriously. There are several theories of truth, Tom. The one you claim to subscribe to says that there is a correspondence between what can be independently verified and what is true. The one you claim to subscribe to says that this is and can be the only “way of thinking…that is valid and logical.” And yet you show disdain for this as too nourishing of the ego. It is quite the opposite, in fact.

      I too hope “the world can live as one.” But that dream is impossible so long as there are those prepared to impose their own subjective “truth” upon others, whether through violent or political means. So long as every wild, undisciplined opinion is treated as equally factual, society will find itself set upon by petty tyrants of all stripes, and will be party to all the accompanying pitfalls and horrors. Can you not see the utility of debate in bringing the pompous ego into submission to objective reality?

      Ingersol did. The Founders did. In the times of these great men and women, debate was not viewed with derision as it is these days. To the contrary, it was highly regarded. We need to get back to that attitude toward free inquiry and the marketplace of ideas (where bad ideas are allowed to fail), or we will continue to trample on our values like a mob of ignorant brutes, rather than see them flower as they deserve.

  37. Leave Grant out of this one permalink
    June 30, 2009 10:21 pm

    “Leave the matter of religion to the family altar, the church, and the private schools, supported entirely by private contributions. Keep the church and the state forever separated.”
    – Ulysses S. Grant
    That quote has nothing to do with atheism. Really when you get down to it this quote is the complete opposite of an atheist quote but, it shows Grant supported a state where there was religious freedom unhindered by the state. Grant didn’t give a crap about what people believes where. He only cared when those views hindered by others.
    “I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”
    – Stephen Roberts
    This is by far the best quote of them all because it isn’t imposing views but just stating a belief.
    Not that it is a true oxymoron but, when people try to impose atheist views on people with quotes by Jefferson and Buchan they are forgetting the reason why these people wrote these things in the first place. They where rebels against the institution of religion that was imposing a belief system, that resulted in the deaths of millions of people. Particularly the Catholic Church who was the instigator of numerous European wars. But, also the Protestants who in England killed thousands of Catholics. These people were killed because people were trying to impose belief systems. Atheism is more than just a lack of belief in God. Actually if really read the works written by the people who you where quoting you would understand this. So you may “think” you know the Holy Books, but you should know that if you where a real atheist you would know knowledge of why god doesn’t exist isn’t what an atheist is being about.
    It’s just really disappointing that some people have to attack atheists for their beliefs because it only fuels them and also when atheists try to impose theirs on others. There’s more to both religion then just God. Just go to Church or read a Book by one of these people you are quoting and you will realize it.

    • June 30, 2009 11:10 pm

      http://rationalwiki.com/wiki/No_True_Scotsman

    • casey permalink
      June 30, 2009 11:13 pm

      Why did you choose to “impose” your incorrect views upon me? I’m utterly offended!

      You’re so wrong it hurts. Atheism is the lack of beliefs in gods (contrary to what you claim). You claim it is something more? Then you need to explain yourself. And what do you mean by “imposing atheist views?” How is making an argument an imposition? It isn’t. Your statements about the Founders are also counter-factual. These men were enthusiastic products of the Enlightenment. They “imposed” religious freedom upon this new nation not merely to avoid religiously motivated murders, but to encourage free inquiry and the free exchange of ideas. They also “imposed” freedom of speech and freedom of the press for the same reason. Now I have “imposed” the facts upon you. You’re welcome.

    • S.S. permalink
      August 9, 2009 10:30 am

      I eschew titling my thoughts so it’s with hesitation that I lay claim to being atheist, agnostic, pantheist — whatever. But I find I must as a response, not an attack, to theists.

      I have never stood on a soapbox and declared my belief system; I have never tried to sway another to think as I do — “believe” as I do. Non-believers tend to mind their own business and offer the same courtesy to others but when the others attempt to force their beliefs, force change and to continuously make false statments (like this is a Christian nation founded on Christian beliefs — it isn’t and one bit of information can be checked by reading Article 11 of the U.S. Treaty with Tripoli) then most do respond.

      In responding, defending, it may twisted to be seen as atheists trying to convert theists but, it’s not. We reach a point where false statements and misquoting demand the record be set straight.

      The ‘believers’ force the issue then when ‘non-believers’ have enough and balk they are painted as trying to force their beliefs. A-theists simply don’t believe; they aren’t organized, they’re indiviuduals who find commonality in their thoughts as often as disparity. A-theism could never be a church except in the most loose form.

      It’s sort of like coming into a conversation halfway and asserting misconceptions as fact, isn’t it. I write in response but in no way am I trying to change anyones mind — all I want is for my views to be seen as valid as the next; to be understood.

      It is through misunderstanding most of our conflicts arise. So keep your belief’s and leave me to mine.

      Force the nation’s laws to reflect your religion, vote in a president who claims to speak on behalf of your god, and you bring up out of the murk of apathy an army of individuals ready to set the record straight.

      We aren’t out for converts; we are but continuously bringing truth and fact back to the surface where, one day, it will remain.

    • casey permalink
      November 8, 2009 1:22 pm

      “Just go to Church or read a Book by one of these people you are quoting and you will realize it.”

      You’re extremely presumptuous.

  38. joeroe permalink
    July 1, 2009 1:17 am

    I think that having to explain my disbelief in religion is ridiculous. I tell someone that I do not believe in God and they look at me as if I just insulted them. Then, they say ‘why not’ and challenge me to present information that God does not exist. Why should I explain why something does not exist? Why can’t this situation be the Christian (or theist of some sort) having to explain them self? If I make a claim to something that has no solid basis in scientific thought (“I can accurately read your mind”), then I am going to have to back up my claim.

    Calling someone stupid for believing in God is counter-intuitive. Throwing bible verses that are contradictory is counter-intuitive; logic and reason without blame or claim is most effective. I would love to be proven wrong in the non-existence of a God, but it will not happen. There never has been, and there never will be, any experiment that could be tested under similar circumstances that yielded ANY evidence of proof positive. The only successful results have been nails in the coffin of the overtly irrelevant church. A punk band puts it humorously:

    “It’s not that I don’t believe in Jesus Christ.
    It’s just I care about other things.
    The world could certainly use some miracles,
    Until then I’ll put my faith in human being.”
    NOFX – Pods and Gods

  39. Paolo permalink
    July 1, 2009 1:18 am

    Don’t forget Marx (Karl, not Groucho):

    Religion … is the opium of the people.

  40. July 1, 2009 3:56 am

    God is Love Matthew 3:16

    • July 1, 2009 10:55 am

      Have you read the OT? Your god may be all about love now, unless he’s all about torturing you forever(how is that love, exactly?), but in the OT your god was a petulant child who killed 99% of the world because of his own mistakes. Actually, in the OT your “god” makes a lot of mistakes he has to cover up.

    • S.S. permalink
      August 9, 2009 10:38 am

      If a god can stand to represent an idea (i.e. love which doesn’t actually exist but is, instead, a word that itself represents a feeling) then it can also stand for other concepts which we wish to make significant. So god could also be hate, envy, kindness … all human states (the christian god is very human).

      A god is a receptacle designed to contain items or matter or, in this case, the emotional spectrum of the human experience.

      Can you see how some may come to understand that gods are constructed by man, for man, to hold those things which matter?

      And in time, what matters changes …. and so do the gods.

  41. Friday permalink
    July 1, 2009 5:42 am

    My own top 11, all at once:

    If you could reason with religious people there would be no religious people.

    God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent – it says so right here on the label. If you have a mind capable of believing all three of these attributes simultaneously, I have a wonderful bargain for you. No checks, please. Cash and in small bills.

    History does not record anywhere at any time a religion that has any rational basis. Religion is a crutch for people not strong enough to stand up to the unknown without help. But, like dandruff, most people do have a religion and spend time and money on it and seem to derive considerable pleasure from fiddling with it.

    One man’s religion is another man’s belly laugh.

    If you pray hard enough, you can make water run uphill. How hard? Why, hard enough to make water run uphill, of course!

    Theology is never any help; it is searching in a dark cellar at midnight for a black cat that isn’t there.

    There is an old, old story about a theologian who was asked to reconcile the Doctrine of Divine Mercy with the doctrine of infant damnation. ‘The Almighty,’ he explained, ‘finds it necessary to do things in His official and public capacity which in His private and personal capacity He deplores.’

    Whores perform the same function as priests, but far more thoroughly.

    Faith strikes me as intellectual laziness.

    The nice thing about citing god as an authority is that you can prove anything you set out to prove.

    A religion is sometime a source of happiness, and I would not deprive anyone of happiness. But it is a comfort appropriate for the weak, not for the strong. The great trouble with religion – any religion – is that a religionist, having accepted certain propositions by faith, cannot thereafter judge those propositions by evidence. One may bask at the warm fire of faith or choose to live in the bleak certainty of reason- but one cannot have both.

    And many many more, thanks always to the awesome Robert A. Heinlein.
    >^.^<

  42. DonkeyKong permalink
    July 1, 2009 9:04 am

    “When I do good, I feel good; when I do bad, I feel bad. That’s my religion.”
    Abraham Lincoln.

  43. Uncle Tom permalink
    July 1, 2009 9:57 am

    “In order to agree we must convince those who hold false beliefs to change them.”

    Who decides which beliefs are correct and which are false? Actions can be readily judged positive or negative, according to universally recognized moral codes – beliefs or lack thereof are not so easily categorized. What’s clear to me is clear to me – not necessarily everyone. That’s what I meant by allowing others to find their own objective reality.

    “You claim that the god question is trivial. It is not.”

    Since the existence or non-existence of god(s) has been debated from the beginning of human experience, and since we lack empirical evidence one way or another, then yes – I’d say it is a trivial matter. That does not mean actions based on belief or disbelief are trivial; far from it, as you have clearly pointed out. That has been my point from the beginning – it is not what we believe, but how we act, that is the test of truth we should be focusing on.

    Many religious people use their religion as a foundation for a life of humility and good deeds – is it productive to vehemently discredit their beliefs on the basis of some esoteric argument, or to insist on proving them wrong? Or are atheists able to celebrate the enlightened actions of such people while accepting the fact that their belief system seems profoundly illogical and allowing that belief to stand? Conversely, can Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists accept an unwillingness to believe in the supernatural as a basis for achieving morality & enlightenment, and resist the common assertion that atheism is tantamount to evil, without evidence of evil actions?

    When and if such mutual acceptance becomes commonplace, most of the manifestations of evil that we all abhor will cease to occur. That appears to be the point of John Lennon’s song, “Imagine”.

    “… atheists are people who hold no belief in gods; they do not comprise a sect that subscribes to a particular belief system.”

    Not a sect, per se, but definitely “a particular belief system.” Nihilists claimed to believe in nothing – but that is problematic, since the statement “I believe in ***” is, by definition, a belief. Or, to follow my own advice and lighten things up, “Everybody has to believe in something. I believe I’ll have another beer.”

    “I would say that the best way to nourish the ego is to claim to know what you cannot know, without evidence, and then complain when you aren’t taken seriously.”

    … or perhaps to discount what others “know” based on rules of logic that others do not recognize as valid. The apostle Paul described faith as “substance” and “evidence”. Certainly one must recognize the vast number of profoundly changed lives on the basis of religious conversions – and yet atheists continue to claim that religions have no factual evidence for their existence. Is a profoundly changed life “factual evidence”? Or must we all play by the rules that atheists have determined to be fair?

    “There are several theories of truth, Tom. The one you claim to subscribe to says that there is a correspondence between what can be independently verified and what is true. The one you claim to subscribe to says that this is and can be the only “way of thinking…that is valid and logical.” And yet you show disdain for this as too nourishing of the ego. It is quite the opposite, in fact.”

    The manifestation of ego I refer to is the insistence that my personal quest for objective reality must be universally acknowledged to be the only one that is “valid & logical”. It is the statement, “I’m right and you’re wrong, and here’s why” as opposed to “you may have a point.” The former is ego-based and counterproductive; the latter opens the door to finding common ground.

    You are correct about humans being irrational; therefore how logical is it to insist that irrational beings think rationally? Or to claim that I, as an irrational human, have somehow acquired the ability to think in a purely logical fashion? Of course that is the traditional philosophical dilemma – how do we, as humans, determine what this objective truth may be when all of us are viewing the world through a distorted lens? Personally I believe in letting go of the quest to prove myself right and the other wrong and simply present my ideas as best I can, in order to help clarify my own view and the views of others, as I have attempted on this page. It is the act of placing guideposts along the way and allowing fellow travelers to decode each guidepost as they choose, as opposed to attempting to wrest control of the vehicle from the hands of such travelers.

    That is why I think the focus has to be on our actions and not our beliefs. Our actions must be consistently put to the test – am I creating suffering by what I do, or am I relieving suffering? Actions, much more than beliefs, can be universally defined as good or evil – indeed, the strongest argument atheists advance is that the actions of religious people clearly indicate the fallacy of their beliefs. And of course the robed philosopher declared that you’ll know whether people are good or evil “by their fruits”.

    We are all familiar with, and abhor, religious justifications for evil actions throughout history. But let me present the case of an old woman who has been comforted for all of her life by her Catholic beliefs, and has done her best to produce good works because of that belief system. Along comes a proselytizing atheist who, through arguments based on logic and evidence, convinces her to abandon her lifelong faith. The woman is left without the crutch that has supported her for all her life, and is diminished in that sense.

    Were the actions of that atheist compassionate, or evil? Did they produce benefits or suffering for that woman? Were these actions based on an egotistical desire to convince others of the superiority of one’s own beliefs, or to help the woman find a better way of life, when the one she had was working quite well?

    Of course this allegory can be distorted and declared invalid. My point was and is to encourage open-mindedness and critical thinking. If something I’ve written here has encouraged anyone to re-examine their own beliefs in some small way, as others’ words have encouraged me, then I have achieved my goal.

    Thanks again for your feedback and thoughtful insights.

    • S.S. permalink
      August 9, 2009 10:49 am

      You said, “and yet atheists continue to claim that religions have no factual evidence for their existence.”

      Really? That is a rather broad statement to make about a bunch of cats — I have never claimed this nor have I heard anyone else say such a thing. Religions have no factual evidence as proof for the existance of their god perhaps but to say atheists claim religions have no factual evidence for their existence strikes me as false.

      But then, I have no factual evidence of this …. then again, neither, it seems, do you.

  44. The Mental Sieve permalink
    July 1, 2009 12:26 pm

    While largely irrelevant to the question of whether one believes or does not believe in a deity, and the question of whether the existence of such a deity can be proven are not, for those of you who claim that Morals are objective and universal. I would simply ask you to please back up your claim, or at least further explain what you mean by that?

    • joeroe permalink
      July 1, 2009 2:13 pm

      Those claiming that morals are objective and universal have clearly never been educated on the issue of morals and objectivity. Morals are extremely subjective to the culture adhering to them. It it highly immoral to eat beef in India because the cow is sacred; it is highly immoral to eat pig in the middle east because it is considered a dirty meet. In Jewish culture it is immoral to mix meats and cheeses. The list goes on. Morals are relative to the culture observing them. Some ‘morals’ are universal because they are adhered to by a majority of cultures, but not every culture adheres to perceived ‘universal’ morals. Most cultures agree that killing someone is wrong, unless for a specific reason; they believe this not out of an agreement on morals but out of an observance of what is fair or not. Some would say that ‘do not steal’ is a universal moral, but what about cultures who do not know what the idea of ownership is?

      The notion of fairness has been observed in lesser animals, such as dogs and chimpanzees. If you make two dogs do the same trick, but only reward one of them, the dog not being rewarded will see this and stop doing the trick [1]. The notion of fairness is not a divinely appointed sense, but rather an evolutionary trait most likely developed to benefit animals that live together.

      [1] http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2008/12/dogenvy/

      • Uncle Tom permalink
        July 1, 2009 7:53 pm

        Joeroe:

        “Those claiming that morals are objective and universal have clearly never been educated on the issue of morals and objectivity.”

        “Some ‘morals’ are universal because they are adhered to by a majority of cultures, but not every culture adheres to perceived ‘universal’ morals.”

        I don’t believe I or anyone on this page advanced the notion that every religion or culture has the exact same code of ethics. Indeed, in Michigan these days it is considered highly immoral to purchase an imported automobile. I was speaking of general concepts like kindness, compassion, fairness, respect for one another, respect for life, etc. These are the fundamental “morals” I referred to, and they are quite consistent among major religions and cultures, as well as most atheists. And as you pointed out, they can easily be understood in terms of the evolution of human societies.

        “Most cultures agree that killing someone is wrong, unless for a specific reason; they believe this not out of an agreement on morals but out of an observance of what is fair or not. Some would say that ‘do not steal’ is a universal moral, but what about cultures who do not know what the idea of ownership is?”

        There are precious few such cultures, and perhaps we can learn a great deal from them. But for the rest of us, that thing about not taking what’s not ours is fairly consistent.

        Whether we refer to it as fairness or morality, we are talking about codified standards of acceptable behavior – standards that are universally accepted not just in humans but in one degree or another in many animal societies as well.

        Pork/no pork is as trivial a matter as god/no god. What matters is whether we are causing suffering or not.

        • The Mental Sieve permalink
          July 2, 2009 12:10 am

          I asked this because through my own studies, I have seen many different kinds of morals, and many different moral systems, and subscribe to the theory that the development of moral systems in society is largely dependent upon mode of economic production.

          Likewise the concept of fairness is in no way tied to morality, rather, it is used to express the expected norms of society upon which one will make decisions about the future.

          I agree with Joeroe that morals are inherently subjective. They are like tastes. A food might taste better to me or worse to you, and a similar taste might be generally preferred in our culture, but even if that taste is fairly popular around the world, how can one call it a universally good taste?

          Now, if you would like to propose universal morals, I’m open to suggestion, but I have never heard of any satisfactory ones to date.

          “What matters is whether we are causing suffering or not.” -Uncle Tom

          As the culmination of your point, I can assume that this is your universal moral suggestion. It seems like a fairly Utilitarian concept, fine.

          Now let me be the Nihilist’s advocate here a bit. How do you define suffering? Once you know whether you are causing suffering or not, what happens? Is suffering “Bad,” or “Good,” or something else? If it is necessarily bad or good, why? For that matter, on what qualifications are you making that value judgment? And if you can do that, under what qualifications are you making that judgment for other people?

  45. anonymous permalink
    July 1, 2009 12:29 pm

    two thumbs up

  46. alex permalink
    July 1, 2009 2:42 pm

    well maybe there is a God, if there is, its definatly me, because one day i was praying and suddenly i realised i was talking to myself… i kinda changed that quote, i didnt make it, its cool though :P

  47. July 1, 2009 8:39 pm

    Although I agree with what Jefferson is quoted as saying, I don’t think it’s correct to play him off as an atheist. He was a self-proclaimed Christian, albeit a much different type of Christian than the average one we see today (in fact, I think he would fit the definition of a “real Christian” if there is one).

  48. joeroe permalink
    July 1, 2009 10:54 pm

    To UncleTom

    Maybe I came off a little too crass; I was addressing moral fixity as a topic discussed and I was not singling any specific poster out. I just saw a lot of talk about a set of universal morals, and to a higher degree I think it is fascinating that so many cultures can come to similar notions of the application of fairness. Whether these ideas are independently formulated or collectively considered is beyond me.

    The point I was trying to make is that even the WORD ‘morals’ carries an inherent subjectivity. Collectivist cultures view the application of respect very differently than individualist cultures. Forgive me for sounding too harsh in my post, but I think that we may agree that, to a very common degree, a universal moral would be respect for fellow man, as you mentioned. I find the semantics unnecessary, but different cultures apply respect differently, and one culture’s view of respect is the others’ definition of disrespect.

    So for the sake of my own clarity, as I have not had much exposure to the notion of universal morality, does the concept of universal morality you speak of apply to the notion of fairness or the application of the fairness? I think perhaps I assumed that it applied to only the application of fairness and not the notion of it in entirety.

  49. Uncle Tom permalink
    July 2, 2009 7:53 am

    Sisyphus, you must be delighted with the chatter here! And everyone who stumbles upon this site, as I did, is no doubt enjoying himself as well – or herself, as the case may be.

    Casey, Joe & Mental, you have all inadvertently illustrated the suggestion I have made consistently, and that is we care more about defining our differences than we do about finding commonality. I’m certainly not saying that in a derogatory fashion; it is human nature and I’m certainly doing the same here. But if we recognize this function within ourselves we may be able to rise above it.

    All of you have referred to the universality of the laws about murder – the taking of human life is widely regarded as wrong, except in certain circumstances. The atheist correctly points out that the historic right to take a life as claimed by religions is hypocritical and a violation of a fundamental notion of right and wrong.

    But is murder the only law we can declare as being inherently regarded by all humans to be wrong? What about the atheist’s assertion that the concept of eternal suffering as a consequence for negative behaviors is itself a sound logical argument against the notion of religion? It would seem that atheists, in saying this, are identifying suffering (however we may define suffering) as one of those universally recognized wrongs.

    My admonition is that all of us focus more on what we have in common than on how we differ. That no two humans think exactly alike is an unassailable truth, and is proven constantly. Same with differences in morality between individuals, tribes and cultures. However, if we can all agree on some broad definition of suffering, then perhaps we can work together to reduce or end suffering. Instead, we quibble about the exact definition of suffering while at the same time ignoring or even causing it in the process. We spend decades or centuries exercising and displaying our intellectual talents in regard to debate without ever bringing about any sort of positive change in the world – indeed, that might be a fair definition of human history.

    “You can’t say that civilization don’t advance, however, for in every war they kill you in a new way.” – Will Rogers

    An excellent example is the ongoing debate about waterboarding or other forms of torture as perpetrated by the US government. Politicians and military leaders on both sides of the issue, along with many bystanders I’ve had discussions with, get caught up in the intellectual debates about the definition of torture, the insane notion that it’s OK because our enemies do worse things, etc. – all the while ignoring the simple fact that torture creates suffering, and the inflicting of suffering violates a universally recognized moral law.

    And Sisyphus, that last paragraph may stir up an even greater hornet’s nest. But that is not my intention. Debate, discussion, argument – these are useful endeavors to some extent, but only if they help us to define and improve our personal moral code and thereby bring about more constructive behaviors in ourselves.

    At the end of the day what matters is how many people we have helped vs. how many we have harmed. If, for me, that ratio is greater than one, then I feel I’ve had a pretty good day.

    • The Mental Sieve permalink
      July 2, 2009 10:39 am

      I’m sorry for confusing you, Uncle Tom. When I asked those questions it was not my intent to squabble over definitions, nor highlight our differences, but rather the opposite. And as the question about the universality of morals (Kantian or otherwise) is not really related to the question of the existence of a deity, it is simply be chance that you are still on the less-represented side.

      Now, you seem to have come to the conclusion (correct me if I’m wrong) of two universal morals, that one ought not to cause suffering, and that one ought not to take a human life.

      Now, what my questions were meant to do is to give your arguments better systematic clarity, so that all of us may understand exactly what your position is. This will hopefully facilitate meaningful dialogue and agreement, after all, if we don’t understand your argument, it is impossible for us to agree with it. So again, let me reiterate my questions and explain why I ask them and I hope you’ll agree to answer them.

      How do you define _______? This is simply to establish an operating definition. I don’t care how your definition to the word compares to that of a dictionary. I care about understanding your use of the word. This is rather important as there are multiple “official” definitions for and kinds of suffering, so we need to know which of those you are talking, about, and if not one of those, then what your definition is for the sake of this debate.

      Once you know whether you are __________ or not, what happens? I want to know what the consequences of following or not following the now-defined moral precept, be they social, physical, mental, spiritual, legal, whatever.

      Is _______ “Bad,” “Good,” or something else? Since we are discussing moral imperatives, there is a value judgment made. I simply wish you to make it explicit as to the value judgment you make of said moral. This is a “what” question.

      If it is necessarily bad or good, why? Now I wish you to explicitly explain the reason behind your judgment in the previous question. This is a “why” question.

      For that matter, on what qualifications are you making that value judgment? I’m not asking you here what diplomas you have or anything, but rather in what contexts do you intend your judgment to stand for yourself. Answering this question might entail explaining why you feel that the moral applies to you.

      And if you can do that, under what qualifications are you making that judgment for other people? In this question I want to know under what contexts do you intend your judgment to stand for others. Answering this question might entail explaining why you feel that the moral applies to others (regardless of answer to the previous question).

      Now if you cannot answer all six questions, that’s fine, and if we then take issue with some of the answers because they are not perfect or we disagree, that is normal. If one was to come up with a perfectly universal objective moral, necessarily we would all agree on the answers to those six questions also. But regardless of whether we agree or disagree with your questions (and really, we can’t argue with no 1, so just 2-6) it will hopefully at least help us know what we are debating about!

      On the whole though, I must disagree to your admonishment, that people quibble over small differences and that nothing new or better has come of it. There are systems in pace, but since there are differences to squabble over, we know they are not perfect, but that does not mean we are not trying to solve those problems in the search of a more perfect unifying theory.

  50. casey permalink
    July 2, 2009 12:52 pm

    Tom, objectivity is different from subjectivity. You are conflating the two. There is no such thing as personal objectivity. It is objectivity that both unites people and humbles them. Saying let’s not argue about it is a way both to promote ego and to diminish unity. You have consistently ignored this fact. You asked me who decides what view is correct. It is not a “who” but a “what” and the answer is independently verifiable fact–an ego-less entity.

  51. casey permalink
    July 2, 2009 1:02 pm

    “We spend decades or centuries exercising and displaying our intellectual talents in regard to debate without ever bringing about any sort of positive change in the world.”

    This is demonstrably false! It is debate that solves problems. You seriously need to study history (especially U.S. history, in which debate has played an immensely positive, *central* role) and think about how science progresses. It seems you are just nursing an ideology here. That’s an ego problem, man. Let it go. As someone once said, you are entitled to your own opinions but not your own facts.

  52. casey permalink
    July 2, 2009 1:21 pm

    “Pork/no pork is as trivial a matter as god/no god. What matters is whether we are causing suffering or not.”

    Here’s the problem. You are getting all bent out of shape over the “suffering” that could be caused by an argument, but you say nothing about the fact that such an argument is made in the name of reducing real suffering in the world. God/no god is not a trivial question as I’ve already made clear–and you conceded the point. Belief in many cases leads directly to suffering. REAL suffering and abuses like Jihad, AIDs epidemics, child abuse, “honor” killings, imposition of religion in public institutions, etc. But you take the side of the apologist, saying in effect that these abuses are to be preferred over offending someone in an argument! That’s poisonous reasoning, my friend. See how far your ego will carry you if you let it get too attached to an idea?

    It simply isn’t true that everyone is correct. And some peoples’ mistakes in reasoning cause a great deal of suffering. Wouldn’t it be good if we could all be united in exposing those mistakes as mistakes, instead of excusing them because peoples’ egos are attached to them? (Who’s the one defending inflated egos? You are.)

    You may say I’m a dreamer, Tom, but I’m not the only one. The number of people who submit their egos to objective reality is growing. And exposure to these debates is a part of that process.

    • casey permalink
      July 2, 2009 1:27 pm

      In other words, I think your interpretation of Lennon’s lyrics is less hopeful than mine.

    • casey permalink
      July 2, 2009 2:06 pm

      I mean, seriously, not once does he warble, “Imagine no debating,” but he does pine for a world with “nothing to kill or die for, and no religion too.” How about, “Imagine there’s no heaven…no hell below us…above us only sky?” That’s a particular view he’s talking about and he’s hoping for it to become dominant, pervasive, and ultimately all-inclusive. And again, for the purpose of persuasion, debate has always been the tool of choice (and necessity) in free societies, and it has been used to great effect. It is certainly better than (and different from) forced conversion. Can we agree on that at least?

  53. casey permalink
    July 2, 2009 2:24 pm

    A friend just inspired me to make another point. If you want to argue that argumentation causes suffering, then perhaps you should volunteer to give up your freedom of expression by living under a theocratic regime somewhere. That might change your tune (or at least your thinking!). You’ll come to experience the suffering caused by a lack of the free exchange of ideas. Freedom of speech goes hand in hand with debate; you can’t have one without the other. An argument against argumentation is absurd on its face, and it is ultimately an argument against freedom.

  54. casey permalink
    July 2, 2009 2:35 pm

    Why is it that there seems to be a correlation between a failure to produce good arguments and a particular argument that argumentation solves nothing and causes suffering? Ego, perhaps?

  55. jrod permalink
    July 2, 2009 8:01 pm

    I am against religion not for the sake of beliefs, logic, origin or science. I am against religion for one UNDENIABLE FACT: More war, death, and destruction has occurred from religion than any other force on this planet. Not forgetting the fact that they all seem to advocate “peace” and “love”. This is religion’s hypercritical B.S. that cannot be ignored and is it’s most condemning evidence as being a bad thing.

    Anybody that looks to the sky (or book) and says that a “voice” tells me to kill you (hurt, or otherwise interfere with my life) because you don’t believe what I say is the truth, although his so teachings say not to do so, but I’m going to do it anyway, REALLY scare me.

  56. Uncle Tom permalink
    July 2, 2009 9:04 pm

    Whew. Casey, I must have offended you somehow. If I did, please forgive me. And Mental, I’m not at all confused, but neither do I feel compelled to respond to your questions. Any attempt to do so could result in me confusing myself – as you may have noticed, I can run away with words. Let me just say that I don’t believe I’ve heard anyone say they don’t know how to define suffering. Even most animals know what it is, and choose to avoid it.

    I’m a firm believer in an open and free exchange of ideas. That’s why I’m here. But the word debate (or argument), for me, implies opposing sides, which means an “I’m right – you’re wrong” approach. I believe that is a form of war using words instead of guns, and I believe a less confrontational approach produces more positive results. Not a statement of fact – just my opinion. Nevertheless, as Casey pointed out, sometimes some good has come of it, so perhaps it has value. I’m just not comfortable with it.

    Of course I understand the difference between objective & subjective – I also know that no human is capable of absolute objectivity. That is not to say there is no such thing as objective reality – only that it is impossible for any human to precisely define it, since as I pointed out, each of us views the world through a distorted lens. It’s not that absolutes do not exist – but that none of us is free enough of subjectivity to recognize it.

    That, as I stated, is the ultimate philosophical question: what is truth? What is this objective reality that no one can define because we all have distorted vision? And the biggest question, how on earth do we determine what is real and what is not, or what is true and what is not? Or, to come back to this page, what should I believe and why? Some of the posts I have read seem to indicate that the writer assumes he or she is able to accurately define this objective reality through the use of unassailable logic and fact. But as we have all pointed out, there is no such thing as unassailable logic and fact. Not everyone agrees on the proper use of logic or what constitutes fact. And so we’re back where we started.

    Seems to me if I really want to answer these questions for myself, I will constantly throw my ideas out into the forum and seek input from others, as a balance and check against simply coming up with outrageous ideas and then convincing myself that they are correct. I realize that I cannot possibly define this objective reality by myself because I can only see through the eyes of subjectivity. Two or more people may see things a little more clearly. Larger groups sometimes see things even more clearly – though not always of course.

    But in order for this collaborative process to work it is essential that I be willing to create some form of test for the feedback I receive, and the test I choose is this: does this action create suffering, or does it relieve suffering? Does it improve my life and the lives of others, or does it only serve to swell up my ego and make me “right” and the other “wrong”? Because if that is the case I’m exactly like the jihadists, the inquisitioners, etc. – I believe that I and not they know what truth is, and I have a duty to impose my version of truth to others. In that sense I am elevating my own intellect above theirs; I am playing god and defeating my purpose because I am thus creating suffering rather than relieving it.

    I wrote my first entry after reading a number of posts with which I agreed significantly. Mark described an energy force that links all people. Red said that “a person’s worth is in his or her works” and referred to churches that do humanitarian aid. Shaun Lindsey wrote about people making personal decisions about what is right or wrong, Aeptah said “live and let live,” and Kari D offered up one of my favorite Gandhi quotes. So, I tried to summarize and generalize what I liked most about all of the ideas expressed, without identifying the specific statements I agreed with, or objecting to those I did not. In doing so I was trying to find common ground, and not get involved with the “yeah, but” stuff that seems to be going on now.

    I have not felt compelled to ask anyone on this page to clarify their statements or define their terms, and I certainly did not feel compelled in that first post to tell anyone they were wrong (though I have since, and I do regret doing so).

    If you find cause to agree with any of my drivel – as it is written – then good. If not, that’s fine. Just discard it, as I discarded the ideas herein that I found no use for. If something I’ve written here makes you think a little about your own beliefs, then that’s wonderful.

    I’m glad to have been a part of this page. I’ll be going now. I wish you all the best.

    • casey permalink
      July 3, 2009 12:23 am

      “Whew. Casey, I must have offended you somehow. If I did, please forgive me.”

      No, not at all. It is your habit to be offended by disagreements, not mine. Like any sensible person, I don’t take debates personally. I suspect this projection is a bit of sophistry on your part.

      “I don’t believe I’ve heard anyone say they don’t know how to define suffering. Even most animals know what it is, and choose to avoid it.”

      Yes, and some people-animals are such sissies that they seek to avoid the “suffering” of being on the “losing” side of a debate, and will not admit there is a difference between that and real suffering. I submit that you really don’t know how to define suffering. Or you do, but you aren’t being honest–because you just hate “losing” so much that you won’t admit “losing” is not a part of that definition.

      “But the word debate (or argument), for me, implies opposing sides, which means an “I’m right – you’re wrong” approach.”

      No. It implies a “this proposition is right, while this other proposition is wrong,” approach. People who get their persons confused with their propositions are bound to get their feelings hurt, but it is they who are making the mistake. It is not an indictment against debate in any way. You are merely engaging in intellectual thumb-sucking.

      “Nevertheless, as Casey pointed out, sometimes some good has come of it, so perhaps it has value. I’m just not comfortable with it.”

      The fact that the prospect of “losing” an argument makes you personally uncomfortable is not a good argument against debate. In fact, it is not the argument you are making. The argument you are making is that debate causes “suffering,” but your definition of suffering here necessarily includes “losing” an argument, which you just admitted is merely something you are “not comfortable with”. And, Tom, that is just not worthy to be compared with the real suffering people aim to alleviate in the world by engaging in the free exchange of ideas (which necessarily involves debate).

      “Not everyone agrees on the proper use of logic or what constitutes fact. And so we’re back where we started.”

      This is not exactly true. There are rules to logic, and that makes it objective. The disagreement over what constitutes fact exists because there are people who reject the possibility of objectivity. But that doesn’t put us “back where we started,” it just means they are missing something very important.

      “Two or more people may see things a little more clearly. Larger groups sometimes see things even more clearly – though not always of course.”

      Exactly. Independent verification is what makes the ideal of objectivity graspable. It is also the fly in the ointment to the argument that objectivity is not possible. Those who believe in multiple realities fail to explain away the phenomenon of independent verification.

      “But in order for this collaborative process to work it is essential that I be willing to create some form of test for the feedback I receive…”

      Here’s where you get really wacky. I thought you were going to endorse the scientific method, peer review, etc. Instead you went absolutely insane…

      “…and the test I choose is this: does this action create suffering, or does it relieve suffering?”

      This is your test for “objective” truth? Really? Then your claim that you understand the difference between objectivity and subjectivity is highly suspect, to say the least. If something “causes” suffering, it does not qualify as truth? On the other hand, if something “relieves” suffering, it is necessarily true? So, no comforting illusions in your world–illusion is fact if it makes you feel better. Ridiculous, man; absolutely insane. And you claim to be opposed to inflated egos? You’re positively revering the ego.

      “Does it improve my life and the lives of others, or does it only serve to swell up my ego and make me “right” and the other “wrong”?”

      More of your problem of conflating the ego with intellectual propositions that exist quite independent of it. I sense that you are also getting confused about propositions and actions, speaking as though they are the same thing and are a result of the same processes. They are not.

      “Because if that is the case I’m exactly like the jihadists, the inquisitioners, etc. – I believe that I and not they know what truth is, and I have a duty to impose my version of truth to others. In that sense I am elevating my own intellect above theirs; I am playing god and defeating my purpose because I am thus creating suffering rather than relieving it.”

      Garbage. Nonsense. You have a habit of making outrageous comparisons. I asked earlier whether you agree that persuasion through debate is superior to and different from forced conversion. This is apparently your answer, that they are the same thing. I guess that helps you to sleep at night–which of course makes it a true proposition. You live in a strange world, Tom.

      “In doing so I was trying to find common ground, and not get involved with the “yeah, but” stuff that seems to be going on now.”

      Right, I get it, you can’t be bothered with people who disagree with you. Forget being persuaded by good arguments. Your tremendous ego won’t allow it, right, Tom?

      “I certainly did not feel compelled in that first post to tell anyone they were wrong (though I have since, and I do regret doing so).”

      Save your regrets, Tom. Normal people with a healthy balance of self-esteem and self-awareness are not offended when they encounter disagreement. They are likely to see it as an opportunity to learn something, maybe even change their minds. I know, that’s strange to you, but it happens.

      “If something I’ve written here makes you think a little about your own beliefs, then that’s wonderful.”

      And that’s one of the most conceited statements I’ve ever read. Why, Tom? Why would anything you’ve written make people “thing a little about” (by which you mean, reconsider) their own positions? You haven’t offered anything resembling a robust argument (that is, you haven’t made any good points). And besides, I thought you wished to alleviate suffering, not cause it. Remember that your definition of “suffering” includes the experience of encountering arguments that challenge your own position. Or are you the only one who suffers when they “lose.”

      By the way, I put scare quotes around “lose,” because I don’t consider a lost argument to be a loss for a person (you apparently do), only a loss for a proposition. If that proposition deserves to fail, and a person can be persuaded of this in a debate, then that is a positive win for everyone. It is your position (and not mine) that a loss for a proposition is a loss for a person–and therefore arguments should be avoided–to alleviate “suffering.” I think I have demonstrated that this position is extremely flawed.

      You take debate personally because you have an inflated ego (one that expands to engulf propositions that would exist even if you didn’t), and then you project this personal problem onto all humanity (another symptom of your inflated ego) to make the argument that argument causes “suffering” and inflates the ego! In your case, that’s probably true. In general though it is preposterous, as I have shown. I suggest you listen to some Alan Watts and smoke some weed, relax a little bit…and get your panties out of that bind you’ve got them in.

      • casey permalink
        July 3, 2009 12:31 am

        Italics ftw!

  57. Phinizy permalink
    July 2, 2009 9:09 pm

    “The source of man’s unhappiness is his ignorance of Nature.”
    -Baron d’Holbach

    • jrod permalink
      July 3, 2009 12:08 am

      I like that one from him, I also like this one too:

      “Can theology give to the mind the ineffable boon of conceiving that which no man is in a capacity to comprehend? Can it procure to its agents the marvellous faculty of having precise ideas of a god composed of so many contradictory qualities?”

  58. jrod permalink
    July 3, 2009 12:11 am

    This one as well:

    “What has been said of [God] is either unintelligible or perfectly contradictory; and for this reason must appear impossible to every man of common sense.”

  59. July 3, 2009 3:16 am

    after reading these quotes, I was thinking about it for quite a long time.. :)

  60. Nicolai permalink
    July 3, 2009 11:30 am

    “We should take care not to make intellect our God; It has of course, powerful muscles, but no personality. It cannot lead; it can only serve.” Albert Einstein

  61. jrod permalink
    July 4, 2009 1:19 am

    “Lighthouses are more helpful than churches.”
    Benjamin Franklin

  62. jrod permalink
    July 4, 2009 1:20 am

    “The way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason.”
    Benjamin Franklin

  63. bees-wax permalink
    July 7, 2009 1:15 pm

    am i allowed to be an atheist in respect to organised religion, but a spiritual agnostic?

    also, no-one has looked at the ‘geographical lottery’ angle – if any religion’s one-true-god truly loved all mankind, why would so many of them be born into countries where there was so little (if any) chance that they would come to love ‘Him'(Her/It)?

    • July 7, 2009 1:36 pm

      If you believe in some sort of creator you are not an atheist. Being against organized religion doesn’t make you an atheist. Atheism is a lack of god-belief.

    • Phlox permalink
      July 7, 2009 1:57 pm

      When you say you’re a “spiritual agnostic” – does it mean, you believe, but you don’t know what it is you believe?

  64. Ellen permalink
    July 7, 2009 2:06 pm

    I have several:

    And if there _WERE_ a God, I think it very unlikely that He would have such an uneasy vanity as to be offended by those who doubt His existence. – Bertrand Russell

    Remember, Jesus would rather constantly shame gays than let orphans have a family. – Steven Colbert

    When one person suffers from a delusion, it is called insanity. When many people suffer from a delusion, it is called religion. – Robert Pirsig

    In Christianity neither morality nor religion come into contact with reality at any point. – Friedrich Nietzsche

    Religion is the opiate of the masses. – Karl Marx

    And last, but certainly not least….

    The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully. – Richard Dawkins

  65. Coltaine permalink
    July 7, 2009 4:59 pm

    Religion is what pandemies, global warming and terrorism are today. It’s public control, however due to the increase in people who’re really casual believers or non-believing they needed something new to keep people in check.

    Don’t worry though, it’s all done for your own good, since humans are totally incapable of living together without strict control from someone higher up.

  66. jrod permalink
    July 8, 2009 9:06 pm

    Over the years I have found many people claiming to be atheist, in reality, fall under the category of an agnostic or deist. Here are some definitions:

    Atheist: The assertion that deities do not exist. A person who has no belief in a God or Goddess. Just as a newborn has no concept of a deity, some adults also have no such belief. The term “Atheist” is derived from the Greek words “a” which means “without” and “Theos” which means “God.” A person can be a non-Theist by simply lacking a belief in God without actively denying God’s existence. This is the definition of Atheism used by many Atheists. The atheist perceives that history, in every branch of science, in the plainly observable realities of life and in the processes of common sense there is no place for the picture of a God; the idea doesn’t fit in with a calmly reasoned and realistic view of life. The atheist, therefore denies the assumptions of theism because they are mere assumptions and are not proved; whereas the contrary evidences, against the idea of theism, are overwhelming.

    Agnostic: Is that god’s existence can neither be proved nor disproved, on the basis of current evidence. Agnostics note that some theologians and philosophers have tried to to prove that God exists. Others have attempted to prove that God does not exist. Agnostics feel that neither side has convincingly succeeded at their task. There are usually 2 types of an agnostic: 1. Agnostic theists: those who believe that a deity probably exists. 2. Agnostic atheists: those who believe that it is very improbable (but not entirely impossible) that a deity exists.

    Deist: Deism is a belief in God through one’s own reasoning, the study of nature and one’s accumulated experiences. Deism doesn’t accept that any holy book is the word of God. Nor do most Deists accept revelation or miracles. Most Deists do not believe that God intervenes or interferes. Most Deists believe that God created the universe, “wound it up” and then disassociated himself from his creation. They believe that a practical system of ethics and a moral code can be derived from reason without the need to appeal to religious revelation and church dogma. Most Deists believe humans are too innately noble to require supernatural coercion and threats of eternal damnation to behave morally. They believe that one cannot “access” God through any organized religion, set of beliefs, rituals, sacraments or other practice.

    Theism: Theism doesn’t inherently mean very much. Basically, theism isn’t anything more than believing in the existence of at least one god. Why or how one has such a belief is no more relevant to the definition of theism than why or how one lacks belief in gods is relevant to the definition of atheism. (In other words, if you are apart of any religious group or in a religion, you are a theist)

    Personally, I find myself floating between the agnostic/deist areas.

    • July 23, 2009 12:57 pm

      I would say most atheists are in the category of agnostic atheists (any sane person should be agnostic, in addition to whatever branch of theology they decide to fall into).

    • casey permalink
      October 13, 2009 6:52 pm

      Please stop spreading these incorrect definitions.

      Jon, above, had it right.

      The term “agnosticism” was invented by Thomas Huxley to counter the philosophy of gnosticism (a claim to spiritual knowledge). Huxley asserted that spiritual claims could not be in any way known, for the plain fact that there is no observable evidence to support them, thus “agnosticism” (without knowledge). An agnostic holds that evidence is required for knowledge claims. Belief is a different matter altogether. Agnosticism, then, is not the noncommittal position directly between theism and atheism, since those two terms deal with belief, not knowledge, while agnosticism and gnosticism deal with knowledge, not belief. This is why Jon implied the existence of agnostic atheists and agnostic theists. The popular imagination conjures up this false definition for agnosticism out of thin air, sloppily conflating two completely different concepts, possibly because they desire a fancy sounding word to stand in for the condition of not knowing what one believes. It’s too bad they have decided to appropriate a word that already has a perfectly good definition, since it muddles the debate so terribly.

      Atheism, for its part, does not require a declaration of certitude about the non-existence of gods (as Jon pointed out, most atheists are agnostic atheists), as it is defined (and this is the only valid definition) as merely the non-belief in gods. That is, atheism is NOT, as you claim, an assertion of knowledge of the non-existence of gods. That would be called gnostic atheism (or strong atheism), which is typically reserved for specific, ostensibly falsifiable god-claims by those who take such a position. But note that the claim of knowledge does not reside in the atheism, but in the gnosticism. Atheism covers only the lack of belief.

      Please keep these concepts straight from now on.

  67. Gert permalink
    July 9, 2009 2:58 pm

    “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.”
    –Professor Richard Dawkins

  68. Astrid permalink
    July 19, 2009 6:23 pm

    I´m an atheist, thank God!

  69. July 20, 2009 1:30 am

    I know that once I understood the fear and ignorance required to believe in an entity that was more threat than comfort, once I paid close attention to a reality that is far more impressive than any “god” I’ve ever heard of, I was given an opportunity to take responsibility for all that I am and all that My life is about. I find myself being truly appreciative of the chance to make every day important. I am a happier, more peaceful member of the most advanced life form that we have ever known. Folks that know me well, don’t get it sometimes but they see a man that loves life, lives life, loves others, loves self, unconditionally. Today I am a happy, well informed enthusiastic human being enjoying the only life I’ll ever have. We don’t get chances to do it again. We find that everyday is valuable, every life, really, very important and awesome.

    • jrod permalink
      August 14, 2009 9:25 pm

      I agree, it seems most believing god followers have more of a caviler take on life and that their “reward” for all their faith and praying will somehow materialize in the afterlife with (insert faith here) god/s. The don’t really have much of a scope of reality that people that don’t know or don’t believe in the existence of god have. They feel that this life, the only one we got, is frivolous.

  70. Skrubber permalink
    September 19, 2009 1:08 pm

    My favorite-

    The invisible and the non-existent look very much the same.

    I forget who this comes from.

  71. Mark P. permalink
    September 19, 2009 1:20 pm

    My favorite quote…

    The American brand of Christianity is unraveling while its hypocrisy is being weighed by the minds of our younger folks and discovering that questioning religious doctrine is a trait of human nature, not the voice of Satan.

    It’s my quote and how I honestly feel. :)

  72. October 13, 2009 10:12 am

    Thanks for the quotes, and thanks for the replies to them. The conversation buzzing beneath this page of quotes was quite enjoyable. I’d love to have a sit-down with Casey, one smart bastard.

    Casey 1, Uncle Tom 0.

  73. casey permalink
    October 13, 2009 7:01 pm

    @ saw

    “I’d love to have a sit-down with Casey, one smart bastard.”

    Well, I’m afraid I don’t come off nearly as smart in person. But I am good for sharing a few pints. ;) Thanks for the compliment.

  74. October 24, 2009 2:22 pm

    Finally some decent quotes, thank God.

  75. Agon Krasniqi permalink
    November 7, 2009 10:23 pm

    It is a fact that muslims and christians hate atheists and they think that we are stupid, and they think too that if u don’t believe in something supernatural you are not a human being, you deserve to die and god will punish you, and you will go to hell etc… Ok, we believe, but not in things that we’ve never seen, we believe in facts, we believe in evolution, we believe in science. “I’ve never seen god, I’ve never heard him speaking to me or to another person. That day that I’ll see god with my own eyes i will start believing him” (my own quote).

    My favorite quote is “god didn’t create human mind, human mind created god”

    Let me make a question.
    “time never stops and if it never stops that means that time before never stopped, so when did god created himself? or what(who) was in the universe before god?, or who created god?, If god was forever it was a time(day) before that forever because time never stopped, its like saying if you were born today it was a yesterday ?
    these are the question I’ve created in my head, and no one can answer me…
    so i just believe in facts and things that I’ve seen with my eyes.

    i wan’t to share this with you because i think you guys are much more comprehensible than other people where i live.

    I’m just 16 years old and when i talk with other people about supernatural beliefs they just say “your to little, for you it looks interesting, you think you look more cooler to not believe in god and blla blla blla”

    sorry for my English and my expressions i could not express very good myself because i live in Kosovo and here we don’t speak english… :S

  76. casey permalink
    November 8, 2009 1:00 pm

    @Agon

    Good questions, my friend. You’re never “too little” to think for yourself–but the enemies of reason will always feel threatened by independent thought. That’s why they try to discourage it by calling it something else (trying to “be cool,” being “angry at God,” etc.). I think, deep down, they’re just jealous of you–of us–because we don’t have to hide from the truth. Please take heart in the fact that you are not alone (I’ll bet there are a lot of atheists and freethinkers like you where you live–see if you can find them!). And, by the way, your English is fine–much better, for example, than my Albanian, Serbian, Bosnian, and Croatian combined!

  77. Agon Krasniqi permalink
    November 8, 2009 1:58 pm

    @casey
    Thank you very much, I’ll try to find atheist in my city.

    I don’t care that others think that I’m stupid and mindless, but the thing that kills me is that muslims and christians believe in god but they don’t believe in Santa Claus or aliens, and if you look in the real way, Santa Claus, god, aliens etc are the same, ILLUSIONS THAT HUMAN MIND CREATED. If god exists so do and Santa Claus and alliens and everything thats supernatural.
    I don’t like delusional people, because they just support They own Gods.
    And if you don’t believe in God, he will send you to hell, you will be punished, burned etc…
    I don’t like religions because i think religion just separate people.
    Ok, They say I’m stupid but not to stupid to notice that religion in these days is 100% full POLITIC.

  78. casey permalink
    November 8, 2009 4:19 pm

    “They say I’m stupid…”

    You know you’re intelligent when the abysmally stupid call you stupid.

  79. John Kane permalink
    December 6, 2009 10:31 am

    I used to have a day dream that I would be “born again” with full knowledge of the stock market and, thus, I would become incrediably rich. Now that I am older I still have that same day dream but I think now about how I would put that money to use to debunk and disassemble religion. Of course I would have to hire a staff of like thinkers. Maybe there would be some to be found here on this site – and maybe not because people hired from these ranks might spend all their time talking about religion / faith and not, in fact, accomplishing the debunking and disassembling the world desperately needs. We need quiet, effective activists as a follow up to the great new literature by Dawkins, Harris, Baigent, Ehrman, and others. We need more exposure of real history, as opposed to theology. We need more humor. When people in general can poke fun at religion and the religious, the tide will have turned. Comments?

  80. Aly permalink
    December 24, 2009 1:31 am

    “Don’t pray in my school, and I won’t think in your church” —Unknown—-

    That has to be one of my favorites and here is my list:

    “The world holds two classes of men – intelligent men without religion, and religious men without intelligence.”
    — Abu Ala Al-Ma’arri

    “Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the the universe.” – Albert Einstein

    “Don’t pray in my school, and I won’t think in your church” – Unknown

    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
    —Karl Marx—

    “There are no atheists in foxholes” isn’t an argument against atheism, it’s an argument against foxholes
    —James Morrow—-

    There once was a time when all people believed in God and the church ruled. This time was called the Dark Ages.
    —Richard Lederer (Anguished English)—

    Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence

    —Carl Sagan—

    The Government of the United States is in no sense founded on the Christian religion.
    –John Adams, 2nd President of the United States–

    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

    –written by Thomas Jefferson

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