Quotations about   atheism

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The most dangerous type of atheism is not theoretical atheism, but practical atheism — that’s the most dangerous type. And the world, even the church, is filled up with people who pay lip service to God and not life service. And there is always a danger that we will make it appear externally that we believe in God when internally we don’t. We say with our mouths that we believe in him, but we live with our lives like he never existed. That is the ever-present danger confronting religion. That’s a dangerous type of atheism.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) American clergyman, civil rights leader, orator
“Rediscovering Lost Values,” sermon, Second Baptist Church, Detroit (28 Feb 1954)
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Added on 3-Mar-17 | Last updated 20-Jan-19
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As the man put it: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. Any sufficiently advanced alien intelligence is indistinguishable from God — the angry monotheistic sadist subtype. And the elder ones … aren’t friendly. (See? I told you I’d rather be an atheist!)

Charles "Charlie" Stross (b. 1964) British writer
The Fuller Memorandum (2010)

See Clarke..
Added on 7-Feb-17 | Last updated 7-Feb-17
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“Do unto others …” is a good rule of thumb. I live by that. Forgiveness is probably the greatest virtue there is. But that’s exactly what it is -­‐ a virtue. Not just a Christian virtue. No one owns being good. I’m good. I just don’t believe I’ll be rewarded for it in heaven. My reward is here and now. It’s knowing that I try to do the right thing. That I lived a good life. And that’s where spirituality really lost its way. When it became a stick to beat people with. “Do this or you’ll burn in hell.”

You won’t burn in hell. But be nice anyway.

Ricky Gervais (b. 1961) English comedian, actor, director, writer
“Why I’m an Atheist,” Wall Street Journal (19 Dec 2010)
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Added on 4-Aug-16 | Last updated 4-Aug-16
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It is a profound mistake to imagine that Christianity ever intended to dissipate the bewilderment and even the terror, the sense of our own nothingness, which come upon us when we think about the nature of things. It comes to intensify them. Without such sensations there is no religion. Many a man, brought up in the glib profession of some shallow form of Christianity, who comes through reading Astronomy to realise for the first time how majestically indifferent most reality is to man, and who perhaps abandons his religion on that account, may at that moment be having his first genuinely religious experience.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
Miracles (1947)
Added on 20-Apr-16 | Last updated 20-Apr-16
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I am an atheist, out and out. It took me a long time to say it. I’ve been an atheist for years and years, but somehow I felt it was intellectually unrespectable to say one was an atheist, because it assumed knowledge that one didn’t have. Somehow it was better to say one was a humanist or an agnostic. I finally decided that I’m a creature of emotion as well as of reason. Emotionally I am an atheist. I don’t have the evidence to prove that God doesn’t exist, but I so strongly suspect he doesn’t that I don’t want to waste my time.

Isaac Asimov (1920-1992) Russian-American author, polymath, biochemist
Free Inquiry (Spring 1982)
Added on 12-Apr-16 | Last updated 12-Apr-16
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If I were not an atheist, I would believe in a God who would choose to save people on the basis of the totality of their lives and not the pattern of their words. I think he would prefer an honest and righteous atheist to a TV preacher whose every word is God, God, God, and whose every deed is foul, foul, foul.

Asimov - foul foul foul - wist_info quote

Isaac Asimov (1920-1992) Russian-American author, polymath, biochemist
I, Asimov: A Memoir (1994)
Added on 5-Apr-16 | Last updated 5-Apr-16
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No one is more dangerous than someone who thinks he has “The Truth”. To be an atheist is almost as arrogant as to be a fundamentalist. But then again, I can get pretty arrogant.

Tom Lehrer (b. 1928) American mathematician, satirist, songwriter
Interview (June 1996)

When asked if he considered himself atheist or an agnostic.
Added on 4-Feb-16 | Last updated 4-Feb-16
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   “Even if some details of dogma aren’t true — or even all of ’em — think what a consolation religion and the church are to weak humanity!”
   “Are they? I wonder! Don’t cheerful agnostics, who know they are going to die dead, worry much less than good Baptists, who worry lest their sons and cousins and sweethearts fail to get into the Baptist heaven — or what is even worse, who wonder if they may not have guessed wrong — if God may not be a Catholic, maybe, or a Mormon or Seventh-day Adventist instead of a Baptist, and then they’ll go to hell themselves. Consolation? No!”

Sinclair Lewis (1885-1951) American novelist, playwright
Elmer Gantry (1927)
Added on 10-Nov-15 | Last updated 10-Nov-15
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The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! “Father, the atheists?” Even the atheists. Everyone! And this Blood makes us children of God of the first class. We are created children in the likeness of God and the Blood of Christ has redeemed us all. And we all have a duty to do good. And this commandment for everyone to do good, I think, is a beautiful path towards peace. If we, each doing our own part, if we do good to others, if we meet there, doing good, and we go slowly, gently, little by little, we will make that culture of encounter: We need that so much. We must meet one another doing good. “But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!” But do good: We will meet one another there.

Francis I (b. 1936) Argentinian Catholic Pope (2013- ) [b. Jorge Mario Bergoglio]
Homily (22 May 2013)
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Added on 5-Oct-15 | Last updated 5-Oct-15
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The trouble about God is that he is like a person who never acknowledges one’s letters and so, in time, one comes to the conclusion either that he does not exist or that you have got the address wrong. I admitted that it was of great moment: but what was the use of going on dispatching fervent messages — say to Edinburgh — if they all came back through the dead letter office: nay more, if you couldn’t even find Edinburgh on the map.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
Letter to Warren Lewis (1 Jul 1921)
Added on 2-Sep-15 | Last updated 2-Sep-15
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I still think the argument from design the weakest possible ground for Theism, and what may be called the argument from un-design the strongest for Atheism.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
Letter to Alan Griffiths (20 Dec 1946)
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Added on 12-Aug-15 | Last updated 12-Aug-15
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When a young man who has been going to church in a routine way honestly realises that he does not believe in Christianity and stops going — provided he does it for honesty’s sake and not just to annoy his parents — the spirit of Christ is probably nearer to him then than it ever was before.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
Mere Christianity, “Let’s Pretend” (1952)
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Added on 22-Jul-15 | Last updated 22-Jul-15
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I doubt that anyone does not really believe in God. People may think they don’t have any belief, but you will usually find that there is a belief in something beyond himself. In any case, I would not judge a man’s character by his belief or unbelief. I would judge his character by his deeds; and no matter what he said about his beliefs, his behavior would soon show whether he was a man of good character or bad.

Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962) First Lady of the US (1933-45), politician, diplomat, activist
“The Wisdom of Eleanor Roosevelt” (1963)
Added on 10-Jun-15 | Last updated 10-Jun-15
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Idolatry is worse than atheism.

Abdal Hakim Murad (b. 1960) British Muslim shaykh, researcher, writer, academic [b. Timothy John Winter]
“Contentions 2,” #37
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Added on 15-May-15 | Last updated 15-May-15
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We are all tattooed in our cradles with the beliefs of our tribe; the record may seem superficial, but it is indelible. You cannot educate a man wholly out of the superstitious fears which were implanted in his imagination, no matter how utterly his reason may reject them.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (1809-1894) American poet, essayist, scholar
The Poet at the Breakfast-Table (1872)
Added on 10-Apr-15 | Last updated 10-Apr-15
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“I believe that the Bible is the literal word of God.” And I say no, it’s not, Dad. “Well, I believe that it is.” Well, you know, some people believe they’re Napoleon. That’s fine. Beliefs are neat. Cherish them, but don’t share them like they’re the truth.

Bill Hicks (1961-1994) American stand-up comedian, social critic, satirist, musician [William Melvin "Bill" Hicks]
Filling Up the Hump (1993)
Added on 10-Apr-15 | Last updated 18-Apr-16
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The Old Testament is responsible for more atheism, agnosticism, disbelief — call it what you will — than any book ever written; it has emptied more churches than all the counterattractions of cinema, motor bicycle and golf course.

A. A. Milne (1882-1956) English poet and playwright [Alan Alexander Milne]
Year In, Year Out (1952)
Added on 29-Jan-15 | Last updated 29-Jan-15
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The superstition in which we grew up,
Though we may recognize it, does not lose
Its power over us — Not all are free
Who make mock of their chains.

Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729-1781) German playwright, philosopher, dramiturg, writer
Nathan the Wise (1779) [tr. Morgan (1955)]

Alt. trans.: "The superstition in which we were brought up never loses its power over us, even after we understand it." [In J. K. Hoyt & Anna L. Ward (eds.), The Cyclopedia of Practical Quotations (1881)]
Added on 23-Jan-15 | Last updated 2-Jun-17
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Christianity has probably the most flexible morals of any religion, because Jesus left no code of law behind him like Moses or Muhammad, and his moral precepts are so different from those of ordinary life that no society has ever made any serious attempt to carry them out, such as was possible in the case of Israel and Islam. But every Christian church has tried to impose a code of morals of some kind for which it has claimed divine sanction. As these codes have always been opposed to those of the gospels a loophole has been left for moral progress such as hardly exists in other religions. This is no doubt an argument for Christianity as against other religions, but not as against none at all, or as against a religion which will frankly admit that its mythology and morals are provisional. That is the only sort of religion that would satisfy the scientific mind, and it is very doubtful whether it could properly be called a religion at all.

J.B.S. Haldane (1892-1964) English geneticist [John Burden Sanderson Haldane]
“Daedalus, or Science and the Future,” speech, Cambridge (24 Feb 1923)
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Added on 12-Dec-14 | Last updated 12-Dec-14
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My practice as a scientist is atheistic. That is to say, when I set up an experiment I assume that no god, angel, or devil is going to interfere with its course; and this assumption has been justified by such success as I have achieved in my professional career. I should therefore be intellectually dishonest if I were not also atheistic in the affairs of the world.

J.B.S. Haldane (1892-1964) English geneticist [John Burden Sanderson Haldane]
Fact and Faith, Preface (1934)
Added on 7-Nov-14 | Last updated 7-Nov-14
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GEORGE: There is presumably a calendar date — a moment — when the onus of proof passed from the atheist to the believer, when, quite suddenly, secretly, the noes had it.

Tom Stoppard (b. 1937) Czech-English playwright and screenwriter
Jumpers, Act 1 (1972)
Added on 26-Sep-14 | Last updated 26-Sep-14
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“There are no atheists in foxholes” isn’t an argument against atheism, it’s an argument against foxholes.

James Morrow (b. 1947) American author, humanist
Towing Jehovah, Part 2, “Famine” (1994)
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Paraphrase of this passage: "'There are no atheists in foxholes, people say, and it's so true, it's so fucking true.' Cassie swallowed, savoring the aftertaste of the Cheerios. 'No ... no, I'm being too hard on myself. That maxim, it's not an argument against atheism -- it's an argument against foxholes.'"
Added on 9-Sep-14 | Last updated 9-Sep-14
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The thorough skeptic is a dogmatist. He enjoys the delusion of complete futility.

Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947) English mathematician and philosopher
“Mathematics and the Good,” The Philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead, ed. Paul A. Schilpp (1941)
Added on 1-Aug-14 | Last updated 1-Aug-14
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I was told that the Chinese said they would bury me by the Western Lake and build a shrine to my memory. I have some slight regret that this did not happen as I might have become a god, which would have been very chic for an atheist.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Autobiography (1968)
Added on 17-Mar-14 | Last updated 17-Mar-14
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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 (1901-1971) Australian academic, author, historian
(Attributed)
Added on 10-Mar-14 | Last updated 10-Mar-14
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What use is it to us to hear it said of a man that he has thrown off the yoke, that he does not believe there is a God to watch over his actions, that he reckons himself the sole master of his behavior, and that he does not intend to give an account of it to anyone but himself? Does he think that in that way he will have straightway persuaded us to have complete confidence in him, to look to him for consolation, for advice, and for help, in the vicissitudes of life? Do such men think that they have delighted us by telling us that they hold our souls to be nothing but a little wind and smoke — and by saying it in conceited and complacent tones? Is that a thing to say blithely? Is it not rather a thing to say sadly — as if it were the saddest thing in the world?

Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) French scientist and philosopher
Pensées (1670)
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And if you seek a preservative against these snares, I say, strive earnestly to learn something, not only of the results, but of the methods of science, and then apply those methods to all statements which offer themselves for your belief. If they will not stand that test, they are nought, let them come with what authority they may.

T. H. Huxley (1825-1895) English biologist [Thomas Henry Huxley]
“Science and Religion,” lecture (Dec 1858)
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Quoted in The Government School of Mines, The Builder (Jan 1859)
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When man comes to the realization that he is not the “favorite” of God; that he was not specifically created, that the universe was not made for his benefit, and that he is subject to the same laws of nature as all other forms of life, then, and not until then, will he understand that he must rely upon himself, and himself alone, for whatever benefits he is to enjoy; and devote his time and energies to helping himself and his fellow men to meet the exigencies of life and to set about to solve the difficult and intricate problems of living.

Joseph Lewis (1889-1968) American activist, publisher, educator
“An Atheist Manifesto” (1954)
Added on 17-Feb-14 | Last updated 17-Feb-14
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The opposite of the religious fanatic is not the fanatical atheist but the gentle cynic who cares not whether there is a god or not.

Eric Hoffer (1902-1983) American writer, philosopher, longshoreman
The True Believer, Part 3, ch. 13 “United Action and Self-Sacrifice” (1951)
Added on 3-Feb-14 | Last updated 3-Feb-14
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The most preposterous notion that H. sapiens has ever dreamed up is that the Lord God of Creation, Shaper and Ruler of all the Universes, wants the saccharine adoration of His creatures, can be swayed by their prayers, and becomes petulant if He does not receive their flattery. Yet this absurd fantasy, without a shred of evidence to bolster it, pays all the expenses of the oldest, largest, and least productive industry in all history.

Robert A. Heinlein (1907-1988) American writer
Time Enough for Love, “Intermission” (1973)
Added on 27-Jan-14 | Last updated 27-Jan-14
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When believers and unbelievers live in the same manner — I distrust the religion.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
Journal (1864)
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The staircase that leads to God. What does it matter if it is make-believe, if we really climb it? What difference does it make who builds it, or if it is made of marble or word, of brick, stone, or mud? The essential thing is that it be solid and that in climbing it we feel the peace that is inaccessible to those who do not climb it.

Joseph Joubert (1754-1824) French moralist
Pensées (1838) [ed. Auster (1983)]
Added on 12-Aug-13 | Last updated 13-May-16
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I had rather believe all the fables in the legends and the Talmud and the Alcoran, than that this universal frame is without a mind.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
“Of Atheism,” Essays, No. 16 (1625)
Added on 4-Jun-10 | Last updated 16-May-16
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What separates me from most atheists is a feeling of utter humility toward the unattainable secrets of the harmony of the cosmos. The fanatical atheists are like the slaves who are still feeling the weight of their chains which they have thrown off after hard struggle. They are creatures who — in their grudge against traditional religion as the “opium of the masses” — cannot hear the music of the spheres. I prefer the attitude of humility corresponding to the weakness of our intellectual understanding of nature and our own being. Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.

Albert Einstein (1879-1955) German-American physicist
(Spurious / Synthetic)

This quotation is actually a synthesis of several Einstein quotes. It is sometimes attributed as a whole to "Science, Philosophy and Religion, A Symposium" (1941), but only a part is found there. Nor is it found at all  in the also sometimes cited "Religion and Science," New York Times Magazine (9 Nov 1930)

The "utter humility" portion is attributed as a letter from Einstein to Joseph Lewis (18 Apr 1953).  It was quoted in Walter Isaacson, Einstein (2007).The “fanatical” through “spheres” portion is in a letter (7 Aug 1941) discussing responses to his essay “Science and Religion” (1941) per Max Jammer, Einstein and Religion: Physics and Theology (1999)

The “weakness of our intellectual understanding” phrase is attributed to a letter to Guy H. Raner Jr. (28 Sep 1949), quoted in the Isaacson work as well as by Michael R. Gilmore in Skeptic, Vol. 5, No. 2.

The lame/blind phrase is attributed to a letter to Eric Gutkind (3 Jan 1954). It was earlier used by Einstein (1941) at the Symposium cited above.

This synthetic quotation is a good example of the difficulties in quoting Einstein, who is used as a polemical bludgeon by a variety of groups, and is often poorly or incorrectly cited online, compounded by his re-use the same turns of phrase multiple times in his correspondence and papers.
Added on 31-Jul-09 | Last updated 16-Mar-17
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Nearly every people have created a god and the god has always resembled his creators. He hated and loved what they hated and loved, and he was invariably found on the side of those in power. Each god was intensely patriotic, and detested all nations but his own.

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) American lawyer, agnostic, orator
“The Gods” (1876)
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Sometimes quoted, "Nearly every people have created a god ..."Full text.
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Reason, Observation and Experience — the Holy Trinity of Science — have taught us that happiness is the only good; that the time to be happy is now, and the way to be happy is to make others so. This is enough for us. In this belief we are content to live and die. If by any possibility the existence of a power superior to, and independent of, nature shall be demonstrated, there will then be time enough to kneel. Until then, let us stand erect.

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) American lawyer, agnostic, orator
“The Gods” (1876)
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Added on 11-Apr-08 | Last updated 2-Feb-16
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Give a man a fish, and you’ll feed him for a day. Give him a religion, and he’ll starve to death while praying for a fish.

Other Authors and Sources
Timothy Jones
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