Atheist Quotes -- (Observations concerning Religion. Warning:
computer keyboard may become warm to touch. Sulphurous odour is temporary and a
normal emanation from this page.)
Back to Observations by Topic
1079. All religions arise from the claims of special insight or "revelation" on the part of fallible human beings. The messages are rare, arbitrary, and conflicting; they vary widely according to location and time. A serious God -- one with modest intelligence and a half-decent marketing department -- would hardly let belief in his existence -- if it mattered -- depend on such a tenuous and unlikely strategy. The conclusions are clear: "God" is incompetent, capricious, or indifferent. If he is there at all.
1068. Religion is a useful -- but flawed -- coping mechanism; it is like an enabling drug with dangerous side-effects.
1063. Religion is a kind of formalized insanity in which suppositions are transformed into facts. The trouble is -- any insanity sufficiently common and widespread is viewed as completely normal.
1054. Religion is the curse of mankind. It claims certainty about matters which are unknowable, and provides a sanctuary for those who seek ready-made -- but mindless -- solutions to the real problems of existence.
1050. Morality has nothing to do with God -- and everything to do with social interaction. There is no "morality" for a lone castaway on an uninhabited island. His decision to eat poisonous berries instead of coconuts may be considered unfortunate, or foolish -- but is neither moral nor immoral. It affects no one but himself. With the addition of another castaway -- or a troop of monkeys -- the potential for morality -- or immorality -- is introduced.
1047. When there is more reverence for religious fantasies than observable facts, you know we're dealing with a major flaw in circuitry design.
1046. Far too much reverence is accorded to religious belief. It is as if all the inmates in the asylum had joined in a conspiracy to respect each others' delusions.
1045. Religion shows the danger of allowing wishful thinking to dress up and parade as received wisdom.
1032. Trying to personalize the great mystery by calling it "God" is like naming your car "Bessie" -- because then you don't feel like such an idiot when you talk to it. Nothing changes. "Bessie" is still a car -- and you are still an idiot.
1028. When ideas -- whether religious or secular -- are considered too "blasphemous" to be expressed -- we know that somebody's illusion is being threatened.
1027. Laws against blasphemy always suggest inadequacy -- the need to proclaim certainty in the absence of evidence.
1025. Facts have never required the protection of anti-blasphemy laws.
1024. "Blasphemy" is found in matters of comforting but vulnerable belief; the forbidding of criticism is invariably a sign of weakness and insecurity.
1012. Religion should be like nudity: an indulgence unlikely to be fatal in the privacy of the home -- permissible, in seclusion, among small groups of like-minded eccentrics -- considered scandalous and uncivilized in the public sphere --unheard of in the workplace -- and utterly irrelevant in any government deliberation, discussion, or decision.
1005. God, Equality, and the Easter Bunny have a lot in common.
1001. Science questions everything in search of answers; religion provides answers for everything -- but refuses to be questioned.
999. Political correctness is the new humanist religion. It dispenses with some old ideals -- the anthropomorphic monarch in the sky, and the reward of an afterlife -- in order to focus on the new: human equality -- including the equality of ideas and cultures -- and human dignity. It is currently experiencing the inevitable skirmish with reality: human beings are neither equal, nor inherently dignified.
997. God is the great Jester: into a hierarchical world of cruel competition, he has thrust his favourite creature -- cursed with unquenchable, unattainable dreams of justice and equality.
994. Certainty is at once the great strength -- and the great weakness -- of religion: for the believer, certainty in the absence of evidence is the solid rock of faith; for the skeptic – it is the treacherous quicksand of stupidity.
993. At its core, religion is utilitarian: irrational belief is a potent force for tribal unity. As the need for aggressive nationalism declines, we expect religious belief to become less fervent.
992. Morality is not divinely revealed, but socially derived. It represents an adjudication between the desires of the individual and the requirements of the tribe. That adjudication may have some universal elements essential to survival, but it may also vary according to beliefs and circumstances. The moral values inspired by the belief that a good harvest depends upon the appeasement of the Gods with human sacrifice differ from those which arise from a belief in the efficacy of a well-designed irrigation system. The values of the tribe under constant threat of attack are unlikely to be identical to those of the tribe which co-exists peacefully with its neighbours. Morality is, essentially, utilitarian rather than holy.
990. The two faces of religion: hopeful illusion -- and dangerous certainty. In the theatre of the absurd, it may wear the mask of comedy -- or of tragedy.
988. Religion is a dirty trick of evolution. Blind and irrational belief in the "divine" has been useful in fostering the unity and determination of primitive tribes. Now -- modern tribes are still burdened with the inherited stupidity which resists reason, and sanctions conflicts potentially fatal to the human project.
986. The difference between what is believed and what is known accounts for a world of stupidity.
962. "Freedom of religion" does not allow adherents to dictate how others should view their faith.
960. One of the great strengths of a religion is its certainty: it is a communal, unifying force; it provides assurance to adherents that they are in possession of truth where others are in error. But certainty is also a great weakness when it concerns matters which are entirely speculative; dogma divorced from reality is coercive, and is the seed of apostasy. Christianity, which has passed its period of greatest certainty, is less coercive than Islam, which often defends its absurdities with violence.
957. Discussions about the validity of religion must always rest on estimations of likelihood -- since real evidence is unobtainable.
956. Religions are hypotheses suitable for those "dying for evidence."
954. Religion, with evolutionary sanction, embraces an illusion -- and, like tribalism itself, may not be entirely extinguishable. Let us hope that, at least, it can be transformed by doubt: from absolute certainty to something less dangerous -- such as guarded hope.
953. Every child should learn something about three or more religions; in this way, certainty about the truth of any religion will be challenged, and religion will become a force less dangerous to the humane continuance of the human project.
952. Religion has had a useful, unifying rôle in the evolution of tribes: battles are more easily won with fanaticism than with hesitancy. But fanaticism has now outlived its usefulness: religious certainty must be leavened with doubt, and weakened by reason.
951. All religion is rubbish. The problem is that the human brain appears to have evolved with a large Rubbish Reception Centre.
944. Islamophobia is an entirely reasonable response to a very frightening religion.
943. The remedy for Islamophobia will not be found by criminalizing fear, but by making Islam less frightening.
936. People yearn for "certainty" -- but evidence is not, ironically, a prerequisite. The bleakly factual narratives of science are less attractive than the comforting illusions of religion.
934. It's a bit unnerving to encounter intelligent people who are also religious -- one realizes how long and difficult is man's path to sanity.
929. When religion is used to justify oppression and cruelty, polite silence merely approves the evil.
919. Christianity -- with its belief in virgin birth and final resurrection, its self-serving claim of a bizarre, unlikely "divine" decision to save the entirety of mankind by means of a local, temporal crucifixion -- is preposterous madness. That intelligent individuals profess belief is a testament to the desperate human need for an alternative to the truth: that man is merely one among many sentient creatures locked in a scheme of necessary murder, the product of a universe which gives no evidence of meaning or purpose which is consistent with human yearnings. The best thing that may be said for it is that -- unlike Islam -- it has lost much of its intolerant certainty; by choosing the sanest elements, it may be possible to respect the "Christian tradition" without standing in the way of the humane continuance of the human project.
916. Civil servants -- including police officers -- should not wear religious symbols during working hours -- since they suggest that the state approves of a particular religion, or, indeed, of religion in general. Just as individuals should be free to express superstitious beliefs in private, so the state must be free to show -- to the public -- that it does not approve of or cater to unfounded hypotheses about the nature of Divinity. State and Church should remain in separate spheres; it is unwise to suggest that the ordinary stupidity of government might be exacerbated by the malign influence of religious folly.
888. If a tribe becomes too rational — perhaps it will always succumb to the tribe that has the determination that only blind belief can confer. (This Observation is derived from #616. It appeared in some correspondence with Terri Guillemets of the Quote Garden, and found its way to the "Belief" page on her site.)
877. Just as evolution progresses by testing the environment with innovations, so societies explore possibilities for an improved continuance. Environments change, and with them, the viability of ideas. Unquestioning religious commitment has benefited tribal cultures in the past; it is uncertain whether such insular devotions will function in a world which, increasingly, seems to require global interaction and co-operation. We also question the viability of political correctness -- a modern religion which is more and more often exposed as a dogma at odds with the facts.
876. Fundamentalist Islam must be criticized with relentless determination, for it stands in stark opposition to any humane continuance of the human project.
861. Religions often insist on the fiction that there is a divine being morbidly obsessed with expressions of human sexuality. Modern secular societies have decided that homosexuality -- found in many animal species -- is a morally neutral variation. This shift has been recent and rapid -- only time will tell whether the old fiction was crucially necessary -- or unhelpfully stupid. Our prediction is that, if and when a societal collapse occurs, it will not be traceable to the rejection of a "divine plan" for sexual mores.
826. Islamic free speech is like the thunder of unicorns racing across an imaginary plain.
823. A religious view of the world is best adopted quickly, and without much subsequent reflection. With reflection, the constant need to explain away the awkward facts of existence is likely to become tiresome and dispiriting.
821. Freedom from religion is as important as freedom of religion.
791. The universe is a great mystery -- but there seems to be an irresistible impulse to explain it in human terms -- with distinctly human Gods inordinately preoccupied with their precious human creations. Objectively, this inclination seems to betray an infantile self-absorption. Why should the universe care more about homo sapiens than elephants, or jaguars, or some other life form elsewhere in its undefined vastness? Isn't it about time we grew up?
789. The phrase "freedom of religion" has become, unjustifiably, the byword for a modern taboo against criticism of any religion. The taboo is recognized both by unbelievers -- who may regard criticism as bad manners --an unkind assault on cherished illusions -- and believers -- who doubtless see criticism of any religion as setting a precedent dangerous to their own assumptions. The power of superstition should never be underestimated.
781. Speculation about divinity is relatively harmless. The problems begin when speculation pretends that it is revelation, and assumes the mantle of absolute truth.
779. We recommend paying careful attention to the musings of the Pope. It is important to see how the other half believes, so that dangerous follies can be avoided.
765. Islam and freedom of speech cannot co-exist; the battle may, at great cost, be postponed, but it cannot be avoided.
761. Islam upholds the sensibilities of the seventh century as a source of all wisdom. This explains why the countries in which it dominates are primitive, oppressive, and unpleasant.
760. Islam is full of bad ideas -- one of the worst of which is that it is an infallible source of wisdom in all matters, and hence is beyond criticism. Thus it stands resolutely against the great constant reality of the universe: change.
759. Science, dealing with facts, makes no claim of knowledge with respect to ultimate intent, motivation, or meaning; religion, without a scintilla of evidence, does. Clearly, this is a case in which ignorance is preferable to arrogance.
756. There is no direct evidence for any religion. There are reports of self-proclaimed human intermediaries, accounts by gullible contemporaries, and exhortations by those with obvious self-interest. It's a wonderful example of the triumph of grand conceptual fiction over the plodding plainness of facts.
751. These are the great unflattering truths that religion teaches us: big, absurd lies about imaginary deities represent a powerful force for cultural unity -- and blind irrational faith confers some competitive advantage in tribal conflicts.
749. Religion is a very special kind of insanity -- a kind that has conferred, historically, a competitive advantage in human tribal conflict, and hence has the sanction of the evolutionary process. Like tribalism itself, it represents an inherited human instinct. Now, when tribes possess nuclear weapons, the question arises: is that same insanity no longer an advantage, but a mortal threat to the species as a whole?
748. To claim an equivalency of virtue between the cultures of secular western democracies, and those under the influence of Islam, is a declaration of intellectual and moral bankruptcy.
732. The most sinister evils are those committed in piety, and justified by reverence.
731. Religious certainty -- as illustrated by ancient human sacrifice, the Christian Inquisition, and Sharia Law -- is a profound vulnerability -- a source of great moral evil -- at the heart of the human enterprise.
717. The Koran contains many barbaric ideas which are incompatible with modern Western secular precepts -- and, indeed, with any humane continuance of the human project. The politically correct, always desperate to find an affirming equality -- especially where it does not exist -- seem to think that this fact should not be mentioned. Perhaps they believe that ignored facts turn into pumpkins at midnight. But bad ideas, uncriticized, are neither transformed into jack-o'- lanterns nor neutralized as pies. It is important to give voice to passionate criticism of the unacceptable elements in the religion of Islam.
683. "Moderate" Muslims seem remarkably silent -- nor have they responded to the horrors committed in the name of Islam by seeking to establish a central interpretative authority to disavow the barbarous and aggressive supporting religious texts. This seems telling. By their silence, they give consent; by their inaction, they betray the absence of a functioning moral compass.
678. It would be great progress if belief in Sharia law could be replaced by a conviction that the earth is flat. Some follies are more dangerous than others.
677. Islam is a religion which lacks any redeeming element of humility.
671. God is the convenient answer -- a black box of silence resistant to supplementary questions or further discussion.
670. Religion -- an intellectual colouring book for adults.
669. Religion -- the refuge of those for whom thinking is too much of a challenge.
668. How Gods reflect their creators! The Gods of primitive, ignorant, and vulnerable societies seem immediate, arbitrary, and cruel -- requiring significant appeasement and sacrifice in return for a mitigation of their fury. In modern societies -- more knowledgeable and self-sufficient -- God is more like an elderly benevolent uncle living in a distant city; in the right mood, he might be good for a new red bicycle, or a crucial, reassuring win for the home team.
648. The notion that religions represent the word of "God" -- as discovered by self-proclaimed special human intermediaries -- is laughably absurd. Yet the belief has persisted even into modern times. A different idea -- that Gods and religions represent -- merely-- human theories and suppositions about reality -- satisfies the detached intellect, but does not feed, apparently, a deep emotional hunger. Is it too much to suggest that an early infantile illusion -- a perception of parental perfection, power, and benevolence -- is mirrored in the yearning for "God?"
647. It seems likely that the idea of "God" has its seeds in the infantile illusion of parental perfection that is gradually -- and reluctantly -- abandoned in the process of maturation. The need for that illusion persists: "God" provides a comforting, caressing circularity -- a womb of benevolent certainty to replace that which has been lost.
640. Faith has a hypnotic fascination -- it is a light of promised permanence -- of certainty beyond fact and reason. But it can be beacon, or flame -- a saving grace, or a pact with the devil.
639. Religion requires a submission of the intellect in exchange for emotional reassurance. It pretends that the universe is not the vast indifference which it appears, but a benign contrivance reflecting an obsession with the human project, and each single member of the human race .
638. Religion: a cultural glue of mythic tradition, the adhesive strength of which relies on the claim that it is "above" reason, and exempt from rational analysis.
635. Our Gods -- despite their supreme powers, remote abodes, and divine disdain for regular and effective communication -- are all quite recognizably human. This should give some clue as to who was created by whom.
628. Laws against blasphemy provide the opportunity for private evil to strut and prance in the cloak of pious public outrage.
627. An evil impulse is most safely and conveniently disguised as the outrage of righteous piety.
625. God is the universe; we are but his transient, fleeting flashes of self-perception.
624. The inspirational value of religion as myth is far overshadowed by the harm and destruction caused when it is perceived as truth.
622. When faith needs so many suicide bombers to defend it, you know it's having serious mental health issues.
621. Saving mankind: most responsible manufacturers would just fix the design flaws; arranging for the crucifixion of a close relative would be near the bottom of the ideas list.
619. Those who know the mind of God also converse agreeably with mermaids, dine on roasted unicorn, and drink the chocolate ambrosia of melted Easter Bunnies.
616. God -- of course -- is not real. He is just an idea, an illusion. But here is the troubling question: Is such an illusion essential to the success of the tribe? Is the competitive universe a place where a rational tribe must always succumb to one driven by a blind -- but determined -- collective insanity?
606. Like some other animals, human beings are essentially tribal in nature. This means they readily absorb not merely the wisdom of their tribe, but also its follies, and irrational beliefs. This is the great problem posed by religion in all societies: it is the thread of irrational belief woven inextricably into the fabric of tribal thinking.
605. A signal deficiency of Islam is its lack of a central interpretive authority. Thus, the contradictions of the written record remain unresolved: Islam may reasonably be interpreted as a peaceful beacon of sweetness and light -- or as an aggressive call to cruelty and barbarism. A related difficulty arises from its failure to distinguish between the temporal and the spiritual. It may be seen as a religion assuming unimpeachable political expertise, or as a political movement claiming divine sanction. It represents that most dangerous of fusions known to mankind -- the melding of religious ideals with political power.
604. No world of rational civility can be achieved until all religions concede that their claimed truths are fallible, partial, and particular -- not perfect, universal, and all-encompassing. Islam, with its determined claims to universal infallibility seems particularly resistant to rational civility.
599. Societies seem to welcome -- perhaps they require -- oppressive religions. As Christianity ebbs, political correctness -- stern, uncompromising, and intolerant -- floods imperiously in.
598. Freedom of religion proclaims the right of citizens to hold foolish and irrational beliefs; it does not protect them from criticism of their irrationality, or denunciation of their folly.
596. Religion is concerned with how the world should work; science with how the world does work.
595. Religion and science are indeed opposites: religion begins with conclusions hoping to find evidence; science begins with evidence hoping to find conclusions.
594. God is theory; the universe is practice.
593. Religion is similar to tradition, except that it claims not merely the sanction of ancient practice, but that of divine origin. Religion is similar to superstition in that both claim the existence of cause and effect relationships for which evidence is lacking.
591. Criticism of Islam is the only choice for anyone with a moral compass.
590. All religions -- because of the assumption of divine sanction -- tend towards intolerance. A theocracy results when the intolerance is unrestricted, and pervades the spheres of politics, science, and economics.
589. When truth is labelled blasphemy, a new dark age of the mind has been proclaimed.
588. Religions are attempts to personalize the universe. A puzzle of "benevolence" mixed with "cruelty" -- no matter how absurd or irrational -- suggests intention -- and thus is preferred to unmotivated impersonality, or blind indifference.
587. After a period of ascendancy, and a period of decline, Islam is in the process of reform -- a return to the barbarism, intolerance, and cruelty of its seventh century roots.
580. Christianity seems to be moving from cruel certainty towards a more benign vagueness, a less dogmatic hopefulness. Islam seems resolutely stuck in the certitudes of the seventh century.
579. Religions are dangerous because they offer the comfort of respectability to those who wish to believe without evidence, and to act without compassion.
578. Perhaps the great triumph of Christianity is that it has been sufficiently deferential to evidence to allow for its decline into obsolescence.
570. Facts require no special protection; it is only some beliefs that claim criticism is unfair and illegitimate.
558. The miraculous – dazzling and fantastical – cannot be denied: the transformation of matter from inanimate to animate – the expanding labyrinthine complexity and the extraordinary variety of life forms – the mysterious development of consciousness. Yet the process itself seems automatic and reactive rather than planned and deliberate. And nowhere is there even a breath of benevolence – except in the yearning of the human imagination
549. The fact that chimpanzees have a sense of fairness suggests that morality is not divinely inspired, but socially derived.
545. The sweep of history reveals a gradual erosion – and submersion -- of the great banks of religious hypotheses in a rising tide of knowledge.
The idea that human and animal sacrifices will ensure a bountiful harvest has given way to the use of fertilizers and irrigation. The notion that the earth occupies a position of centrality in the universe has been superseded by the awareness that it is a small and peripheral planet in a universe of unimaginable size. The concept that man is a separately conceived creation -- half-beast, half-angel -- has succumbed to the theory of evolution and the discovery of universal genetic building blocks. The belief that torture and death are appropriate measures for ensuring religious conformity finds remnants only in Islamic countries where the study of science has been largely neglected.
Currently, it is still believed that "God" -- whose "creation" operates on a pitiless predatory principle, in which the survival of individuals and the species of which they are a part is determined by their fitness in a randomly changing environment -- is primly concerned with the sexual mores and conventions of one particular species: homo sapiens.
542. It’s impossible to overestimate the capacity for stupidity engendered by religion.
536. Religion is like an inefficient kaleidoscope: in order to present a pretty pattern -- many awkward bits of reality have to be left out.
531. Evil is most ruthless and untroubled when it has divine permission and holy sanction.
526. Our opposition to religion might be moderately diminished were all Gods to be renamed as one entity: "Highly Unlikely."
525. Religions are human hypotheses about divine possibilities.
521. All societies create, adopt, or adapt religions. This suggests the usefulness -- not the truthfulness -- of religions.
520. Religion is speculation pretending to be revelation.
519. The truth perplexes and challenges. It is little wonder that religion --which offers the comfort of ritual, the assurance of tradition, and the rewards of tribal conformity-- seems significantly more attractive.
518. Religion: people prefer the comfort of false certainty
to the perplexity of real mystery.
517. Religion survives as a most potent cohesive force for tribal unity: ideas claiming evidentiary justification are always subject to factual challenge; but unproven ideas, accepted on faith, are invulnerable to the demands of logic or the doubts of common sense.
516. Because Islam does not recognize the separation of mosque and state, it may be regarded as a political ideology with delusions of divine sanction -- or a religion with delusions of political infallibility. Delusions are always dangerous.
513. The claim of a religion to represent universal and eternal truths is always betrayed by the particularities of its origin. Taking Christianity as an example – the God revealed -- as opposed to the one proclaimed -- is willing to see his son tortured as a part of a propaganda event – an event as cheaply sensationalist as something which might be devised by the proprietor of a struggling travelling circus. God is also, evidently, a gambler – counting on the credulity of the age – for what were the chances that his 'one-shot miracle' would be believed on the basis of such limited and unlikely evidence? Finally, God makes salvation the equivalent of holding a lottery ticket – he cares nothing for the millions of souls born too soon, or the millions born into other cultures, in inconveniently distant locations. The God revealed – a cruel, unjust, capricious, speculator-promoter-publicist -- is scarcely fit to manage a corner convenience store, much less a universe.
510. Islam is an ideology made more dangerous by its claim to a religious -- and therefore infallible -- origin.
503. Religions are human hypotheses about divine beginnings – ideas which gain power only insofar as their imaginative and speculative origins are forgotten, and the reality of the human element becomes lost in the divine ideal. They are like bogus currencies – which circulate as long as their lead coins can maintain a plated sheen of gold – a façade of truth and legitimacy.
502. The universe is a great mystery. You can make up as many happy and flattering stories about the mystery as you want. They are still just stories -- and the mystery is still a mystery.
498. A religion is simply that element of tribalism which refers to origins. It creates cohesion by encouraging a shared mythic belief not vulnerable to rational analysis. It is nothing more nor less than tribal propaganda which claims the mantle of divine sanction, and postures with a halo of theistic infallibility.
495. Only from a free exchange and competition will the best ideas emerge and triumph; those with the worst ideas are the most anxious that freedom be suppressed and competition curtailed. This accounts for the confidence of science, and the defensiveness of religion.
486. In religious faith there is the seed of madness.
484. Of all tribalism, that based on religion is most dangerous. When faith -- the fever borne of factless fantasy -- unleashes, with aggressive certainty, its unreasoning, rabid dogs of war -- negotiation is not possible.
481. Religious tribalism is based on nonsense -- which is not necessarily a disadvantage -- for faith never defers to facts.
November 1, 2015
477. Islam is the elephant in the room. No matter how aggressively it poops on the carpet, everyone pretends not to notice. Instead, the cat is excoriated for its carelessness, and the canary criticized for its thoughtless incontinence.
466. The love affair with central planning has its roots in religion: God -- omnipotent, omniscient, and holier than thou -- is the archetypical central planner.
465. We are not, essentially and intrinsically, rational. The difficulty is to find the least harmful expressions of superstition and primitive tribal emotions. Rooting for the home team and religions without fangs -- reduced to ritual cheering for the home God -- might be acceptable.
464. In a world so often chaotic and unpredictable, it is no surprise that order and certainty are highly prized. Doubtless this accounts for the success of dictators, and the popularity of Gods.
461. The universe is real; "God" is a figment of the human imagination. We hope this clears up the confusion.
446. If there were a God, he would be appalled by the beliefs
and actions of those using him as an excuse.
445. That any adult could believe in Scientology is a testament to the tragic and dangerous gullibility of humankind.
441. Religion is superstition made respectable by tradition.
440. Religion is superstition transformed by success: the same black magic -- but with a veneer of learning, some fancy robes, and a more respectable address.
436. The persistence of religious beliefs suggests that men need myths to live by. The weakness of any myth is that it is not true, but, to be taken seriously, must pretend to be. Great assurance in the pretence inspires confidence in the believers -- but concomitantly fuels the fires of contemptuous piety, and provides holy sanction for the oppression of others.
435. The more religion is necessary, the greater its power; that power which pretends to the mantle of divinity is no less corrupt or corrupting than any other kind.
434. If religion is necessary, then mankind is irredeemably in thrall to absurdity.
430. Some cling to religion as the infallible source of morality; in fact, religions -- which are created by societies -- encapsulate the moral values already established and inherent in those societies. The appeal to religious values is simply an appeal to tradition dressed up as divinity.
428. Religious myths are fine as long as they are seen for what they are -- a traditional entertainment like the songs shared and the familiar ghost stories told in the cosy warmth of a summer evening's campfire. They should not be seen as particularly relevant to fetching water, cooking breakfast, and taking down the tents the next morning.
427. By their works ye shall know them. In the unlikely event there is a causative intelligence behind the universe, it is clear that it has no concern with justice, mercy, the survival of individual creatures -- or even the species of which they are a part. The notion that it might have the slightest interest in the functioning, beliefs, or values of human societies is, quite frankly, ludicrous.
426. Religious conviction is exceedingly dangerous because it is rooted in the air, founded on unsubstantial wisps of faith. It towers to the sky with the weightless bricks of fancy. It is not subject to the logic of common discourse; it remains, inviolable, apart from the realm of facts. It is dangerous precisely because it pretends, falsely, to the immutability and infallibility of the divine.
411. Mankind -- and the other animals -- show that the universe is capable of consciousness, and wants to think. That makes the universe a very interesting place; it does not suggest benevolence, omnipotence, or life after death.
410. If man was made in the image of God, God must have started as a single-celled organism.
403. People tend to believe in the traditional Gods of the societies of which they are a part -- Gods of a time and a place. The existence of Gods temporal, geographical, and multiple carries the obvious implication that they are created by groups of men, seeking to reassure themselves that they are worthy of being created by a God.
394. Were the notion of "God" to be retired, and human beings urged to act according to the best and noblest aspirations of mankind, we think there would be no diminution in human morality, or human worth.
388. It has been argued that atheism is also a faith, since no proof can be provided that God does not exist. If that is admitted, then it still seems that the faith most reasonable is that which postulates the fewest unlikely entities, and which engages in the least speculation about theistic capabilities, motives, desires, and benevolence.
384. A certainty divine is what men crave --
That they, with conscience clear, may misbehave. (The Alexander Pope version of # 381)
382. Almost everything wrong with religion could be cured with a massive injection of uncertainty, a giant dose of doubt.
381. Men crave certainty, since certainty encourages dashing, bold initiatives, and approves the ruthless confidence of the heroic quest. In the real world, certainty is rare, but it is provided in abundance by religion. Thus it is that religion sanctions awful absurdities and calculated cruelties which would otherwise -- in the real world – be fatally beset by a hesitant anxiety -- a troubled and reluctant doubt.
380. Some ideas are better than others; ideas should be judged according to the best evidence available. The danger of religious beliefs is that their claim for acceptance is based not on merit, but on a sacred -- and manifestly unverifiable -- origin.
378. It is a sobering thought that madness – either of hope or despair -- may be a near necessity of the human condition. One either embraces the false hope offered by religion, or one despairs because life is only what it is –a short burst of meaningless sentience in an indifferent universe. The only escape would appear to be a mirroring indifference, the refuge – whether natural or deliberate – of a complacent mindlessness.
377. The Young Jihadist: Old dark beliefs besiege the unschooled
Which once in place, seep error like a stain;
And when the mind's with reckless folly filled --
Then madness gapes, and blood's in terror spilled.
375. Fond faith thrives best in rich deceptive soil --
Where knaves sow dreams that witless fools embroil.
374. Laws Against Blasphemy: How
truth, and laws of science stand serene!
Their sole defence -- but facts in reason's theme.
Yet anxious faiths and Gods of priestly scheme --
'Gainst such deceits --'tis ruled -- shall none blaspheme!
369. Faith confuses hope with reality. The faithful become dangerous when they insist that others share their confusion. (Cf. Dr. Johnson: Hope is necessary in every condition. Mencken: Men get into trouble by taking their visions and hallucinations too seriously.)
365. Islam is a religion as yet untamed by reason.
364. Religion is essentially tribal in nature. It has little to do with individual rationality, and much to do with the emotional comfort provided by "groupthink."
363. The more absurd the tribal (or religious) myth, the greater the sacrifice of rationality required for belief. The greater the sacrifice of rationality, the greater appears the power of the tribe. Thus absurdity begets not weakness, but strength.
362. The flower of absurd belief is usually rooted in the soil of fear, and fear is its chief means of propagation.
361. Religious commitment is a barometer of tribal power, and tribal control.
356. While science has shed considerable light on dark prejudices, and social views have altered accordingly, religion clings, like a rather desperate limpet, to a rock of 'certitudes' made untenable in the rising tide of knowledge.
354. Some ideas are better than others. This simple truth strikes at the heart of many popular beliefs; multiculturalism and religion come quickly to mind.
345. Where science advances, and gains ground, religion should make graceful retreat. (Cf. #139. Where there are gaps in knowledge, religion tends to seep in.)
340. Faith is a belief lacking factual support. (This and the next nine observations are derived from # 330)
339. Faith is a loyalty in defiance of fact.
338. Faith transforms absurdity into virtue.
337. Faith is perversity by another name.
333. Where religion is concerned, the reward for absurdity is reverence.
330. The paradox of perversity is that it is as often admired as condemned. It may be seen as a folly in defiance of facts, but also as a virtue of loyalty in the face of adversity. In sports, the determined loyalty of the fan devoted to a consistently losing team is revered rather than ridiculed. In religion, the more absurd the belief, the greater the faith that is required; the greater the faith, the more virtuous the believer. (This observation gives rise to some of the more succinct expressions above.)
328. Most people prefer simple clarity to accurate complexity. Doubtless this accounts for much of the appeal of religious explanations of the world.
325. Islam is a religion easy to fear, but very hard to love.
320. The promise of paradise is a rose with many thorns.
317. All Gods suffer from the same fatal flaw: they are created in the image of man. Thus they are invariably tainted with a human pettiness which renders them unworthy of worship.
311. An admission of ignorance is better than a false claim to understanding. Those with certain knowledge of God and his wishes are unlikely to disperse the oppressive mists of error, or blaze new trails to truth.
303. If you must have a God, then create one. Just don't take him too seriously: one man's dream is another man's nightmare.
301. If the complexity of the universe demands, as explanation, an intelligent creator -- then, by the same reasoning -- so does the intelligent creator.
281. Man prefers to see himself as the agreeable culmination of a grand plan. That he might be the chance result of persistent rolls of the dice in randomly varying circumstances gives insufficient scope for smugness and self-congratulatory preening.
280. Laughter and piety do not make good neighbours.
277. We look forward to that day of enlightenment when freedom from religion may contend on equal footing with the freedom of religion.
274. Religion represents a transaction in which emotional comfort is purchased with the coin of intellectual dishonesty.
268. Entranced by the concepts of order and perfection, most see God as the original central planner, and must exercise a willful blindness to the imperfections of the result. In fact, life evolves by a blind striving, with a repetitive focus on what works. Some order is thereby achieved, but it is not always pretty.
261. So many Gods -- so little time.
247. Beware of the word "sacred." It is the handmaiden of bamboozlement.
243. Being on the side of the angels allows for many a pact with the devil. (A re-statement of # 242: The nobler the ideal, the greater the evil which can be justified in its pursuit.)
The Alexander Pope Version:
With angels some do take their public
Let noble ends approve their devil’s hands.
241. Most creatures are locked in a scheme of necessary murder; this reality tends to inhibit our expressions of gratitude to an infinitely wise and beneficent creator.
238. Religion is like the cheater’s response to a jigsaw puzzle of overwhelming size and daunting complexity. From the vast jumble of pieces, some few are selected, some trimmed with a hopeful eye, and others constructed anew and painted to match. These are then arranged to resemble a scene of tolerable order and comforting attractiveness. The myriad of unused elements -- and the tell-tale clippings -- are classified as superfluous or heretical, and are buried in the back lot of the pacified mind.
237. Religion represents a wonderful marriage of persistence and alchemy: lies, repeated often enough, acquire the lustre of truth.
236. Islamic terrorism is the noxious flower of a flawed seed.
226. There is little doubt that elephants believe in a God with large ears and a big trunk.
225. Beware those who claim to know the "mind" of "God;" they are deluded or evil, fools or liars.
215. Religion is so naked an emperor, that it is a wonder it continues to parade its hypothetical finery without near-universal derision; one must conclude that the streets are lined with crowds of foolish or fearful adults, and that there is a regrettable paucity of clear-sighted and unintimidated children.
207. Suppositions about "God" pose the greatest threat to human happiness – and human survival.
206."God" is a blank slate onto which varied human beliefs are inscribed; thus he is as multi-faceted as he is unreliable.
205. "God" represents the attempt to preserve the illusion of permanence.
198. The human mind, too divine for death, flatters itself with expectations of immortality.
193. Mankind cannot abide a mystery: it must be dispersed with a causal narrative. Many seem not to care whether the explanation is rational, and scientific, or imaginative and religious.
191. "God" represents a leaping to conclusions in the absence of facts.
190. Leaving difficult questions to God is a guaranteed method for perpetuating ignorance and misery.
189. Islam is a religion overtaken by politics.
188. Islam is a religion overtaken by politics. The lust for power -- wedded to holy sanction -- spawns the fanatical violence of unreason.
186. God is a construct of the human imagination – just like living within one’s means, grateful children, and happy birthdays after forty.
184. It is a mark of the peculiar perversity of mankind that most prefer to see the enormous random cruelty of existence – not as an arbitrary, capricious element intrinsic to the condition of sentience -- but as something within the purview of a deliberating consciousness – a circumstance ascribable to an omniscient, omnipotent, and beneficent creator.
178. Religion is just superstition wearing a better suit of clothes. Or: Religion is just superstition wearing a Sunday suit and ritual tie.
177. "God" is man’s attempt to construct an endpoint for infinity.
174. Belief in God is but a whistling in the dark; harmless enough, perhaps -- until it is wedded to the notion that all should carry the same tune.
165. The sacredness of religion, and the sanctity of tradition – these things – being beyond rational criticism – are what enable atrocity with an untroubled heart.
151. Religious belief is not so much a sign of inferior intelligence, as of vulnerable temperament.
145. There is no rational road to religion.
144. Surely religion must be the first and most striking example of what we now call the Stockholm Syndrome. Though held captive in a universe that is best characterized as profoundly indifferent -- or easily seen as manifestly unfair, and demonstrably cruel -- millions are infused with a spirit of gratitude and adoration; nor yet do they stint in their praise of the creator whom they imagine to be responsible for their unalterable fate.
139. Where there are gaps in knowledge, religion tends to seep in.
138. Religion shows that the price of contentment is folly.
137. Religion is the great salesman of snake oil, the pious pitchman of healing nostrum, the pretending purveyor of chimerical panacea: it speaks of an oasis where, to the horizon, stretches only an unbroken sea of sand, of a voice where there is only silence, and of truth where there is only unfathomable mystery.
130. Divinity is not enthroned above, in a heaven amid the stars, but in ourselves, the dust of stars which encodes and reflects the creativity and the imagination of the universe.
122. Imagination is the fuel of man’s aspirations, and his greatest gift; it explores both the world of the possible – as in advances which are achievable because of their consonance with reality – and the world of the unreal as in fiction, superstition, and religion. A great danger arises when one is unable – or unwilling -- to distinguish between these two worlds.
109. From the violent response to perceived insult, it is clear that many Muslims have no expectation that respect for their religion will arise freely, from admiration -- but rather must be compelled by threats, fear, and intimidation. Thus is shown the tyrannical nature of their belief.
108. The universe is just God, struggling to create Himself.
106. The insanity of religion – the delusion of life beyond death -- is often preferred to the futility implied by the finite -- in consciousness, in the species, and in the solar system itself. It is unsettling to realize not only that the bulk of mankind is insane, but that it is likely to remain so.
99. After the striving, the fine talk, and the grandeur of dreams – all that remains is an elegance of bones.
93. That life springs from inanimate matter is indeed miraculous; however, the marvels have their cost: life is opportunist, striving, voracious and unthinkingly cruel. Nor can man, as life’s most intelligent and creative form, deny the additional burden of cruelty that is deliberate.
90. We do not expect to be able to stamp out religion entirely; it would probably suffice to make believers sufficiently ashamed of their folly that they would refrain from admitting to it in public.
86. Many wonderful ideals – equality -- religion -- multiculturalism – are no more than convenient fictions. As such, they constitute a vulnerability at the heart of human affairs; for how are we to agree when to accept them as convenient, and when to deride them as fiction?
81. At the heart of religion is deception; the range is from feel-good bamboozlement to wolf in sheep’s clothing.
76. Belief in nonsense is as widespread as the emotions which fuel it: fear, greed, and hope.
69. It is tempting – but unjustifiable -- to see a happy circumstance as the
result of divine manipulation rather than a statistical phenomenon or the blind
working of interacting elements. Thus, the man of ninety, who has survived fire
and flood, disease and misfortune to outlive his birth peers, may see himself
not merely as a fortunate point on the mortality Bell Curve, but as especially
protected by a kindly creator.
Similarly, the religious man may see himself as a creature thoughtfully provided with eyes to see, teeth to chew, and animals to eat, rather than one of many creatures who have evolved in a challenging environment in symbiotic relationships.
61. Muslims are as deluded as the followers of any other religion; what distinguishes them is the considerable faction which has acquired a rather tasteless penchant for blowing up those who disagree with them.
54. Religion is the triumph of hope over reality.
53. Illusion, rather than truth, is the great necessity in life; religion is often part of that necessity.
52. We find it an amusing reflection of the limitations of human imagination that the Gods man creates are recognizably in his own image; we can only suppose that the dolphin God is a wonderful swimmer, the elephant God has a large trunk, and the alien God of the planet Hypothetica is nitrogen based with a just a soupçon of vermouth and a dollop of hydrochloric acid. Our own preferred view is that this universe is an early but rather uninspiring and forgotten experiment–-God has tired of creatures of carbon, and nitrogen, but finds the vermouth intriguing, and has, quite sensibly, moved on to more interesting challenges.
47. While it may not be appropriate in every venue, and on every occasion, mockery is the guardian of reason, the enemy of pretension, and the mirror to folly. No belief, no passion, no commitment should be considered immune from the acerbic test of ridicule.
34. Religion is a construct of the imagination; it may provide the comfort of a familiar narrative, the absorption of a good film, or the communal fervour of a pop star fan club; it will not pay the rent, answer prayers, or provide life after death.
28. As to belief in God, definition is critical. If you say that God is the universe, I too, believe in God, for I have sensory experience of the universe. If you say God is an initiating force beyond the universe, I say that is an interesting but rather unhelpful speculation. If you think God has a “human” mind, and a benignly meddlesome preoccupation with the human race, or particular individuals, I say you are a victim of wishful thinking in the absence of evidence. If you go further, and govern your behaviour on what you imagine to be God’s wishes and intentions, I must pity you as a fool, or fear you as a lunatic.
27. Those who embrace the nonsense of religion must reject the sense of evidence, and the evidence of their senses.
26. No more credence should be given to late-life or 'death-bed' conversions, than to foxhole expressions of piety; both are motivated by fear, and are as believable as the abject confessions of the innocent made under duress.
23. Religion–the belief in things which are manifestly not true–can be comforting in a universe that is less accommodating and more chaotic than we would wish. It is best, however, that the expression of such belief be kept as private as possible; nor should it ever influence behaviour except insofar as it promotes the golden rule and other traditional virtues.
19. The fatwa is indeed a wonderful, albeit somewhat selective device -- useful against novelists, but entirely inappropriate in dealing with mass murderers, suicide bombers, and those advocating the destruction of entire nations.
17. All religion is bunk; it may be helpful bunk, comforting bunk, or, in some cases, necessary bunk. It is still bunk, nonetheless.
12. There is a move under way to ban criticism which the adherents of a religion find offensive, or “blasphemous;” it is unsurprising that that which is most vulnerable to common sense seek protection from its enlightening effects.