Quotations about   divine judgment

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The recklessness of their ways destroyed them all.

[Αὐτῶν γὰρ σφετέρῃσιν ἀτασθαλίῃσιν ὄλοντο.]

Homer (fl. 7th-8th C. BC) Greek author
The Odyssey [Ὀδύσσεια], Book 1, l. 7ff (c. 700 BC) [tr. Fagles (1996)]
    (Source)

Original Greek. Alternate translations:

  • "O men unwise, / They perish’d by their own impieties!" [tr. Chapman (1616)]
  • "They lost themselves by their own insolence." [tr. Hobbes (1675), l. 9]
  • "They perish’d self-destroy’d / By their own fault." [tr. Cowper (1792)]
  • "For they in their own wilful folly perished." [tr. Bigge-Wither (1869)]
  • "For through the blindness of their own hearts they perished." [tr. Butcher/Lang (1879)]
  • "They died of their own souls' folly." [tr. Morris (1887)]
  • "For through their own perversity they perished." [tr. Palmer (1891)]
  • "For they perished through their own sheer folly." [tr. Butler (1898)]
  • "For they perished through their own deeds of sheer recklessness." [tr. Butler (1898), rev. Kim/McCray/Nagy/Power (2018)]
  • "For through their own blind folly they perished." [tr. Murray (1919)]
  • "For their own recklessness destroyed them all." [tr. Fitzgerald (1961)]
Added on 7-Apr-21 | Last updated 7-Apr-21
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Anyway, if you stop tellin’ people it’s all sorted out after they’re dead, they might try sorting it all out while they’re alive.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Good Omens (1990) [with Neil Gaiman]
Added on 1-Dec-20 | Last updated 1-Dec-20
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Satchelmouth was by no means averse to the finger-foxtrot and the skull fandango, but he’d never murdered anyone, at least on purpose. Satchelmouth had been made aware that he had a soul and, though it had a few holes in it and was a little ragged around the edges, he cherished the hope that some day the god Reg would find him a place in a celestial combo. You didn’t get the best gigs if you were a murderer. You probably had to play the viola.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Soul Music (1994)
Added on 13-Mar-20 | Last updated 13-Mar-20
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“The moving finger writes, and having writ, moves on” — and only then do you find out if it goosed you in passing.

Robert A. Heinlein (1907-1988) American writer
Farnham’s Freehold, ch. 21 (1964)
    (Source)

See Omar Khayyám.
Added on 7-Aug-17 | Last updated 7-Aug-17
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The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all your Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it.

Omar Khayyám (1048-1123) Persian poet, mathematician, philosopher, astronomer
Rubáiyát, 71 [tr. FitzGerald]

A reference to Daniel 5 in the Bible.
Added on 31-Jul-17 | Last updated 31-Jul-17
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Man has three friends on whose company he relies. First, wealth — which goes with him only while good fortune lasts. Second, his relatives — they go only as far as the grave and leave him there. The third friend, his good deeds, go with him beyond the grave.

The Talmud (AD 200-500) Collection of Jewish rabbinical writings
(Attributed)

I could not find an actual citation for this quotation, but the story (the explanation of a parable, in which a man is summoned before a king, and while his dearest friend will not go with him, and his second best friend will only go to the palace gates, his least-loved friend goes with him before the throne) shows up with different translation in multiple sources:
  • The Talmud: SelectionsPart 5 "Civil and Criminal Laws -- the Holy Days" - "The Day of Atonement" [tr. Polano (1876)].
  • Isaac Aboav, Lamp of Light [Menorat Hamoar] [14th C], Fifth Lamp "Teshuvah," Sec. 2 [ch. 3]  in Leonard Kravitz and Kerry Olitzky, <i>Journey of the Soul: Traditional Sources on the</i> Teshuvah (1995).
  • Talmudic and Other Legends [tr., comp. Weiss (1888 ed.), "Man's Three Friends" (Pirke R. Eliezer).
Added on 15-Jun-17 | Last updated 15-Jun-17
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“Far better that they are dead and with God, who will know how to deal with them. That is, after all,” Miss Mead said gravely, “what God is for.”

Kerry Greenwood (b. 1954) Australian author and lawyer
Urn Burial (1996)
Added on 29-May-17 | Last updated 29-May-17
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God will judge us by our own thoughts and deeds, not by what others say about us.

Anne Brontë (1820-1849) British novelist, poet [pseud. Acton Bell]
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, ch. 39 “A Scheme of Escape” (1848)
Added on 16-Mar-17 | Last updated 16-Mar-17
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You wanted God’s ideas about what was best for you to coincide with your ideas, but you also wanted him to be the almighty Creator of heaven and earth so that he could properly fulfill your wish. And yet, if he were to share your ideas, he would cease to be the almighty Father.

Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) Danish philosopher, theologian
Eighteen Upbuilding Discourses (1843) [tr. Hong]
Added on 18-Jan-17 | Last updated 18-Jan-17
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If Allah took mankind to task by that which they deserve, He would not leave a living creature on the surface of the earth.

Muhammad (570-632) Arabian merchant, prophet, founder of Islam [Mohammed]
Qur’an, 35.45 (AD 670?) [tr. Pickthall (1953)]
Added on 21-Dec-15 | Last updated 21-Dec-15
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Those whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make famous.

Joyce Carol Oates (b. 1938) American author
“Down the Road,” New Yorker (27 Mar 1985)

See Euripides.
Added on 6-Sep-11 | Last updated 14-Nov-17
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VENKMAN: This city is headed for a disaster of Biblical proportions.

MAYOR: What do you mean, “Biblical”?

RAY: What he means is Old Testament, Mr. Mayor, real wrath-of-God type stuff. Fire and brimstone coming down from the sky! Rivers and seas boiling!

EGON: Forty years of darkness! Earthquakes, volcanoes …

WINSTON: The dead rising from the grave!

VENKMAN: Human sacrifice! Dogs and cats living together! Mass hysteria!

Dan Aykroyd (b. 1952) Canadian comedian
Ghostbusters [with Harold Ramis] (1984)
    (Source)
Added on 18-May-10 | Last updated 11-Feb-20
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For when the One Great Scorer comes
To write against your name,
He marks — not that you won or lost —
But how you played the game.

Grantland Rice (1880-1954) American sportswriter
“Alumnus Football,” l. 63ff (1908)

For more information on variations in this poem and quotation from it, see here.
Added on 11-Feb-10 | Last updated 10-Oct-17
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Of course God will forgive me; that’s his job.

[Bien sûr, il me pardonnera; c’est son métier.]

Heinrich Heine (1797-1856) German poet and critic
Last Words (1856)

Quoted in German in Alfred Meißner, "Heinrich Heine. Erinnerungen," Letzte Worte auf dem Totenbett (1856). Quoted in Bros. Goncourt (ed.) Journal (23 Feb 1863). Quoted in French in Sigmund Freud, The Joke and Its Relation to the Unconscious (1905) [tr. J Crick (2003)].

Alt trans.: "Why, of course, he will forgive me; that's his business. [Gott wird mir verzeihen, das ist sein Beruf.]

See Catherine the Great.
Added on 10-Jun-09 | Last updated 25-Oct-17
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I cannot imagine a God who rewards and punishes the objects of his creation, whose purposes are modeled after our own — a God, in short, who is but a reflection of human frailty. Neither can I believe that the individual survives the death of his body, although feeble souls harbor such thoughts through fear or ridiculous egotism. It is enough for me to contemplate the mystery of conscious life perpetuating itself through all eternity, to reflect upon the marvelous structure of the universe which we can dimly perceive, and to try humbly to comprehend even an infinitesimal part of the intelligence manifested in nature.

Albert Einstein (1879-1955) German-American physicist
“What I Believe,” Forum and Century (Oct 1930)
    (Source)

Einstein crafted and recrafted his credo multiple times in this period, and specifics are often muddled by differing translations and by his reuse of certain phrases in later writing. The Forum and Century entry appears to be the earliest. Some important variants:

I cannot conceive of a God who rewards and punishes his creatures, or has a will of the kind that we experience in ourselves. Neither ca I nor would I want to conceive of an individual that survives his physical death; let feeble souls, from fear or absurd egoism, cherish such thoughts. I am satisfied with they mystery of the eternity of life and with the awareness and a glimpse of the marvelous structure of the existing world, together with the devoted striving to comprehend a portion, be it ever so tiny, of the reason that manifests itself in nature.

— "The World As I See It [Mein Weltbild] [tr. Bargmann (1954)]


I cannot conceive of a God who rewards and punishes his creatures, or has a will of the type of which we are conscious in ourselves. An individual who should survive his physical death is also beyond my comprehension, nor do I wish it otherwise; such notions are for the fears or absurd egoism of feeble souls. Enough for me the mystery of the eternity of life, and the inkling of the marvellous structure of reality, together with the single-hearted endeavor to comprehend a portion, be it never so tiny, of the reason that manifests itself in nature.

— "The World As I See It [Mein Weltbild] [tr. Harris (1934)]


To me it suffices to wonder at these secrets and to attempt humbly to grasp with my mind a mere image of the lofty structure of all there is.

[Es ist mir genug, diese Geheimnisse staunend zu ahnen und zu versuchen, von der erhabenen Struktur des Seienden in Demut ein mattes Abbild geistig zu erfassen.]

Reduced variant in "My Credo Mein Glaubensbekenntnis]" (Aug 1932)
Added on 8-Oct-08 | Last updated 21-Feb-21
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If a man really believes that God once upheld slavery; that he commanded soldiers to kill women and babes; that he believed in polygamy; that he persecuted for opinion’s sake; that he will punish forever, and that he hates an unbeliever, the effect in my judgment will be bad. It always has been bad. This belief built the dungeons of the Inquisition. This belief made the Puritan murder the Quaker.

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) American lawyer, agnostic, orator
Interview, The Sunday Union, New Haven, Conn. (10 Apr 1881)
    (Source)
Added on 18-Sep-08 | Last updated 4-Feb-16
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A man’s ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties and needs; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hopes of reward after death.

Albert Einstein (1879-1955) German-American physicist
“Religion and Science,” New York Times Magazine (9 Nov 1930)
    (Source)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 21-Feb-21
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Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged; and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.

The Bible (14th C BC - 2nd C AD) Christian sacred scripture
Matthew 7:1-2 (KJV)

Alt. trans.:
  • "Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get."(NRSV)
  • "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." (NIV)
  • "Do not judge others, so that God will not judge you, for God will judge you in the same way you judge others, and he will apply to you the same rules you apply to others." (GNT)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 3-Jun-16
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But regardless of whether Hitler or the mass murderer of your choice sincerely regretted his actions in his last moments and made it to Heaven, with all due respect, what difference does it make to you? Apart from the awkward silence if you happen to bump into him there, I mean.

John Russell (contemp.) ("jr")
Belief-L (24 Nov. 1999)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 10-Feb-19
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At the Day of Judgment, we shall not be asked what we have read, but what we have done; not how well we have spoken, but how holy we have lived.

[Certe adveniente die judicii, non quæretur a nobis quid legimus, sed quid fecimus; nec quam bene diximus, sed quam religiose viximus.]

Thomas à Kempis (c. 1380-1471) German monk, author
The Imitation of Christ, Book 1, ch. 3 (c. 1418)

Alt trans.: "At the Day of Judgement, we shall not be asked what we have read, but what we have done; not how eloquently we have spoken, but how holily we have lived."
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 14-Sep-16
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