Quotations about   divine punishment

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Once, when a religionist denounced me in unmeasured terms, I sent him a card saying, “I am sure you believe that I will go to hell when I die, and that once there I will suffer all the pains and tortures the sadistic ingenuity of your deity can devise and that this torture will continue forever. Isn’t that enough for you? Do you have to call me bad names in addition?”

Isaac Asimov (1920-1992) Russian-American author, polymath, biochemist
I, Asimov, ch. 73 “Letters” (1979)
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Added on 19-Aug-21 | Last updated 19-Aug-21
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My word, how mortals take the gods to task!
All their afflictions come from us, we hear.
And what of their own failings? Greed and folly
double the suffering in the lot of man.

[ὢ πόποι, οἷον δή νυ θεοὺς βροτοὶ αἰτιόωνται.
ἐξ ἡμέων γάρ φασι κάκ’ ἔμμεναι· οἱ δὲ καὶ αὐτοὶ
σφῇσιν ἀτασθαλίῃσιν ὑπὲρ μόρον ἄλγε’ ἔχουσιν.]

Homer (fl. 7th-8th C. BC) Greek author
The Odyssey [Ὀδύσσεια], Book 1, l. 32ff (1.32) [Zeus] (c. 700 BC) [tr. Fitzgerald (1961)]
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Original Greek. Alternate translations:

O how falsely men
Accuse us Gods as authors of their ill!
When, by the bane their own bad lives instill,
They suffer all the mis’ries of their states,
Past our inflictions, and beyond their fates.
[tr. Chapman (1616)]

Ha! how dare mortals tax the Gods, and say,
Their harms do all proceed from our decree,
And by our setting; when by their crimes they
Against our wills make their own destiny?
[tr. Hobbes (1675), l. 37ff]

Perverse mankind! whose wills, created free,
Charge all their woes on absolute degree;
All to the dooming gods their guilt translate,
And follies are miscall'd the crimes of fate.
[tr. Pope (1725)]

Alas! how prone are human-kind to blame
The Pow’rs of Heav’n! From us, they say, proceed
The ills which they endure, yet more than Fate
Herself inflicts, by their own crimes incur.
[tr. Cowper (1792), l. 41ff]

Mortals, ye Powers, upbraid us with their voice,
And brand us for the fount of all their ill,
Who, of their own acts, not of fate but choice,
Heap to themselves much toil and sorrow still.
[tr. Worsley (1861), st. 6]

Why! what reproach,
Ye gods! do mortals cast on deities!
To us all their calamities they trace,
While they, themselves, through their own senseless acts,
Feel pangs their destiny had ne'er decreed.
[tr. Musgrave (1869)]

Oh heavens! how mortals now to blame the gods!
From us they say spring ills! but they themselves
By their own folly bring unfated woes.
[tr. Bigge-Wither (1869)]

Lo you now, how vainly mortal men do blame the gods! For of us they say comes evil, whereas they even of themselves, through the blindness of their own hearts, have sorrows beyond that which is ordained.
[tr. Butcher/Lang (1879)]

Lo, how men blame the gods! From us, they say, spring troubles. But through their own perversity and more than is their due they meet with sorrow.
[tr. Palmer (1891)]

See now, how men lay blame upon us gods for what is after all nothing but their own folly.
[tr. Butler (1898)]

Oh my, how mortals hold us gods responsible! For they say that their misfortunes come from us. But they get their sufferings, beyond what is fated, by way of their own acts of recklessness.
[tr. Butler (1898), rev. Kim/McCray/Nagy/Power (2018)]

Look you now, how ready mortals are to blame the gods. It is from us, they say, that evils come, but they even of themselves, through their own blind folly, have sorrows beyond that which is ordained.
[tr. Murray (1919)]

It vexes me to see how mean are these creatures of a day towards us Gods, when they charge against us the evils (far beyond our worst dooming) which their own exceeding wantonness has heaped upon themselves.
[tr. Lawrence (1932)]

What a lamentable thing it is that men should blame the gods and regard us as the source of their troubles, when it is their own wickedness that brings them sufferings worse than any which Destiny allots them.
[tr. Rieu (1946)]

Oh for shame, how the mortals put the blame upon us
gods, for they say evils come from us, but it is they, rather,
who by their own recklessness win sorrow beyond what is given.
[tr. Lattimore (1965)]

Men are so quick to blame the gods: they say
that we devise their misery. But they
themselves -- in their depravity -- design
grief greater than the griefs that fate assigns.
[tr. Mandelbaum (1990)]

Ah how shameless -- the way these mortals blame the gods.
From us alone, they say, come all their miseries, yes,
but they themselves, with their own reckless ways,
compound their pains beyond their proper share.
[tr. Fagles (1996)]

Mortals! They are always blaming the gods
For their troubles, when their own witlessness
Causes them more than they were destined for!
[tr. Lombardo (2000), l. 37ff]

Strange to behold, what blame these mortals can bring against godhead! For their ills, they assert, are from us, when they themselves by their mad recklessness have pain far past what is fated.
[tr. Merrill (2002)]

What a lamentable thing it is that men should blame the gods and regard us as the source of their troubles, when it is their own transgressions which bring them suffering that was not their destiny.
[tr. DCH Rieu (2002)]

This is not good! See how mortals find fault with us gods!
They say it is from us that all evil things come, yet it is by their
own recklessness that they suffer hardship beyond their destiny.
[tr. Verity (2016)]

This is absurd,
that mortals blame the gods! They say we cause
their suffering, but they themselves increase it
by folly.
[tr. Wilson (2017)]

My oh my, the way mortals will fasten blame on the gods!
From us, they say, evils come, yet they themselves
through their own blind recklessness have ills beyond
their fated lot.
[tr. Green (2018)]

It’s disgraceful how humans blame the gods.
They say their tribulations come from us,
when they themselves, through their own foolishness,
bring hardships which are not decreed by Fate.
[tr. Johnston (2019), l. 41ff]

Added on 14-Apr-21 | Last updated 8-Dec-21
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I’ve seen the meanness of humans till I don’t know why God ain’t put out the sun and gone away.

Cormac McCarthy (b. 1933) American novelist, playwright, screenwriter
Outer Dark, ch. 17 (1968)
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Added on 3-Feb-20 | Last updated 3-Feb-20
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It was said that God, in order to test mankind which had become swelled with pride as in the time of Noah, had commanded the wise men of that age, among them the Blessed Leibowitz, to devise great engines of war such as had never before been upon the Earth, weapons of such might that they contained the very fires of Hell, and that God had suffered these magi to place the weapons in the hands of princes, and to say to each prince: “Only because the enemies have such a thing have we devised this for thee, in order that they may know that thou hast it also, and fear to strike. See to it, m’Lord, that thou fearest them as much as they shall now fear thee, that none may unleash this dread thing which we have wrought.” But the princes, putting the words of their wise men to naught, thought each to himself: If I but strike quickly enough, and in secret, I shall destroy these others in their sleep, and there will be none to fight back; the earth shall be mine.

Such was the folly of princes, and there followed the Flame Deluge.

Walter M. Miller Jr. (1923-1996) American science fiction writer
A Canticle for Leibowitz, “Fiat Homo,” ch. 6 (1959)
Added on 30-Jan-17 | Last updated 30-Jan-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)
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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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Whom Fortune wishes to destroy she first makes mad.

[Stultum facit fortuna, quem vult perdere.]

 

Publilius Syrus (d. 42 BC) Assyrian slave, writer, philosopher [less correctly Publius Syrus]
Sententiae [Moral Sayings], # 911

From an ancient Greek proverb (5th century BC or earlier)

Added on 1-Oct-08 | Last updated 20-Feb-17
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Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of Truth and Knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods.

[Wer es unternimmt, auf dem Gebiet der Wahrheit und der Erkenntnis als Autoritat aufzutreten, scheitert am Gelachter der Gotter.]

Albert Einstein (1879-1955) German-American physicist
“Neun Aphorismen” (23 May 1953), Essays Presented to Leo Baeck on the Occasion of His Eightieth Birthday (1954) [Einstein Archives 28-962]
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Original German. Alternate translation: "He who endeavors to present himself as an authority in matters of truth and cognition, will be wrecked by the laughter of the gods."
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 21-Feb-21
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