Quotations about   doctrine

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Had the doctrines of Jesus been preached always as pure as they came from his lips, the whole civilized world would now have been Christian. I rejoice that in this blessed country of free inquiry and belief, which has surrendered its creed and conscience to neither kings nor priests, the genuine doctrine of one only God is reviving, and I trust that there is not a young man now living in the United States who will not die an Unitarian.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) American political philosopher, polymath, statesman, US President (1801-09)
Letter to Benjamin Waterhouse (26 Jun 1822)
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Added on 15-Jun-22 | Last updated 15-Jun-22
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But when you frequent places of public worship, as I would have you go to all the different ones you meet with, remember that, however erroneous, they are none of them objects of laughter and ridicule. Honest error is to be pitied, not ridiculed. The object of all the public worships in the world is the same; it is that great eternal Being who created everything. The different manners of worship are by no means subjects of ridicule. Each sect thinks its own the best; and I know no infallible judge, in this world, to decide which is the best.

Lord Chesterfield (1694-1773) English statesman, wit [Philip Dormer Stanhope]
Letter to his son (16 Feb 1748)
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Added on 11-Feb-21 | Last updated 11-Feb-21
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Nothing so outrages the feelings of the church as a moral unbeliever — nothing so horrible as a charitable Atheist.

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) American lawyer, agnostic, orator
“Thomas Paine” (1870)
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A dogma is the hand of the dead on the throat of the living.

Lemuel K. Washburn (1846-1927) American freethinker, writer
Is the Bible Worth Reading and Other Essays (1911)
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Added on 19-Jan-21 | Last updated 19-Jan-21
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I had been religiously educated as a Presbyterian; and tho’ some of the Dogmas of that Persuasion, such as the Eternal Decrees of God, Election, Reprobation, &c. appear’d to me unintelligible, others doubtful, & I early absented myself from the Public Assemblies of the Sect, Sunday being my Studying-Day, I never was without some religious Principles; I never doubted, for instance, the Existence of the Deity, that he made the World, & govern’d it by his Providence; that the most acceptable Service of God was the doing Good to Man; that our Souls are immortal; and that all Crime will be punished & Virtue rewarded either here or hereafter; these I esteem’d the Essentials of every Religion, and being to be found in all the Religions we had in our Country I respected them all, tho’ with different degrees of Respect as I found them more or less mix’d with other Articles which without any Tendency to inspire, promote or confirm Morality, serv’d principally to divide us & make us unfriendly to one another.

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) American statesman, scientist, philosopher
Autobiography, Part 2 (1785)
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Added on 19-Nov-20 | Last updated 19-Nov-20
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The one and only test of a valid religious idea, doctrinal statement, spiritual experience, or devotional practice was that it must lead directly to practical compassion. If your understanding of the divine made you kinder, more empathetic, and impelled you to express this sympathy in concrete acts of loving-kindness, this was good theology. But if your notion of God made you unkind, belligerent, cruel, or self-righteous, or if it led you to kill in God’s name, it was bad theology. Compassion was the litmus test for the prophets of Israel, for the rabbis of the Talmud, for Jesus, for Paul, and for Muhammad, not to mention Confucius, Lao-tsu, the Buddha, or the sages of the Upanishads.

Karen Armstrong (b. 1944) British author, comparative religion scholar
The Spiral Staircase: My Climb Out of Darkness (2004)
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Added on 12-Oct-20 | Last updated 12-Oct-20
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I think vital Religion has always suffer’d, when Orthodoxy is more regarded than Virtue. And the Scripture assures me, that at the last Day, we shall not be examin’d what we thought, but what we did; and our Recommendation will not be that we said Lord, Lord, but that we did GOOD to our Fellow Creatures.

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) American statesman, scientist, philosopher
Letter to his parents, Josiah and Abiah Franklin (13 Apr 1738)
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Franklin cites Matt. 26 in the letter, but it should be Matt. 25:31-46.
Added on 1-Oct-20 | Last updated 8-Jul-21
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You both seem concern’d lest I have imbib’d some erroneous Opinions. Doubtless I have my Share, and when the natural Weakness and Imperfection of Human Understanding is considered, with the unavoidable Influences of Education, Custom, Books and Company, upon our Ways of thinking, I imagine a Man must have a good deal of Vanity who believes, and a good deal of Boldness who affirms, that all the Doctrines he holds, are true; and all he rejects, are false. And perhaps the same may be justly said of every Sect, Church and Society of men when they assume to themselves that Infallibility which they deny to the Popes and Councils. I think Opinions should be judg’d of by their Influences and Effects; and if a Man holds none that tend to make him less Virtuous or more vicious, it may be concluded he holds none that are dangerous; which I hope is the Case with me.

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) American statesman, scientist, philosopher
Letter to Josiah and Abiah Franklin (13 Apr 1738)
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Added on 15-Sep-20 | Last updated 15-Sep-20
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The supreme crime of the church to-day is that everywhere and in all its operations and influences it is on the side of sloth of mind; that it banishes brains, it sanctifies stupidity, it canonizes incompetence.

Upton Sinclair (1878-1968) American writer, journalist, activist, politician
The Profits of Religion, Book Two: “The Church of Good Society,” “The Canonization of Incompetence” (1917)
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Added on 13-Aug-20 | Last updated 13-Aug-20
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The highest truth is daiji, translated as dai jiki in Chinese scriptures. This is the subject of the question the emperor asked Bodhidharma: “What is the First Principle?” Bodhidharma said, “I don’t know.” “I don’t know” is the First Principle.

Shunryū Suzuki (1905-1971) Japanese Zen Buddhist master
Lotus Sutra No. 6 lecture, Tassajara, California (Feb 1968)
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Added on 10-Jul-20 | Last updated 10-Jul-20
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But your spiritual teachers caution you against enquiry — tell you not to read certain books; not to listen to certain people; to beware of profane learning; to submit your reason, and to receive their doctrines for truths. Such advice renders them suspicious counsellors. By their own creed, you hold your reason from their God. Go! ask them why he gave it.

Frances "Fanny" Wright (1795-1852) Scottish-American writer, lecturer, social reformer
A Course of Popular Lectures, Lecture 3 “Of the more Important Divisions and Essential Parts of Knowledge” (1829)
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Added on 4-Sep-19 | Last updated 4-Sep-19
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Now I realize that on any particular decision a very great amount of heat can be generated. But I do say this: life is not made up of just one decision here, or another one there. It is the total of the decisions that you make in your daily lives with respect to politics, to your family, to your environment, to the people about you. Government has to do that same thing. It is only in the mass that finally philosophy really emerges.

Dwight David Eisenhower (1890-1969) American general, US President (1953-61)
Speech, Republican National Committee Luncheon (17 Feb 1955)
Added on 28-May-15 | Last updated 28-May-15
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More important than any belief a man holds is the way he holds it. Any fool or fanatic can embrace a doctrine. Even if true, it remains a dogma unless it is evaluated in the light of its alternatives, and the relevant evidence for them.

Sidney Hook (1902-1989) American philosopher
Political Power and Personal Freedom, ch. 28 “Socialism Without Utopia: A Rejoinder to Max Eastman”(1959)
Added on 17-Apr-15 | Last updated 17-Apr-15
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The doctrines of Jesus are simple, and tend all to the happiness of man.

  1. That there is one only God, and he is all perfect.
  2. That there is a future state of rewards and punishments.
  3. That to love God with all thy heart and thy neighbor as thyself is the sum of religion.

These are the great points on which he endeavored to reform the religion of the Jews. But compare with these the demoralizing dogmas of Calvin.

  1. That there are three Gods.
  2. That good works, or the love of our neighbor, are nothing.
  3. That faith is every thing, and the more incomprehensible the proposition, the more merit in its faith.
  4. That reason in religion is of unlawful use.
  5. That God, from the beginning, elected certain individuals to be saved, and certain others to be damned; and that no crimes of the former can damn them; no virtues of the latter save.

Now, which of these is the true and charitable Christian? He who believes and acts on the simple doctrines of Jesus? Or the impious dogmatists as Athanasius and Calvin? Verily I say these are the false shepherds foretold as to enter not by the door into the sheepfold, but to climb up some other way. They are mere usurpers of the Christian name, teaching a counter-religion made up of the deliria of crazy imaginations, as foreign from Christianity as is that of Mahomet.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) American political philosopher, polymath, statesman, US President (1801-09)
Letter to Benjamin Waterhouse (26 Jun 1822)
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Added on 27-Nov-13 | Last updated 15-Jun-22
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Every religion consists of moral precepts, and of dogmas. In the first they all agree.All forbid us to murder, steal, plunder, bear false witness &ca. and these are the articles necessary for the preservation of order, justice, and happiness in society. In their particular dogmas all differ; no two professing the same. These respect vestments, ceremonies, physical opinions, and metaphysical speculations, totally unconnected with morality, and unimportant to the legitimate objects of society. Yet these are the questions on which have hung the bitter schisms of Nazarenes, Socinians, Arians, Athanasians in former times, and now of Trinitarians, Unitarians, Catholics, Lutherans, Calvinists, Methodists, Baptists, Quakers &c. Among the Mahometans we are told that thousands fell victims to the dispute whether the first or second toe of Mahomet was longest; and what blood, how many human lives have the words “this do in remembrance of me” cost the Christian world!

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) American political philosopher, polymath, statesman, US President (1801-09)
Letter to James Fishback (Sep 1809)
Added on 7-Feb-13 | Last updated 13-Apr-15
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A doctrine insulates the devout not only against the realities around them but also against their own selves. The fanatical believer is not conscious of his envy, malice, pettiness and dishonesty. There is a wall of words between his consciousness and his real self.

Eric Hoffer (1902-1983) American writer, philosopher, longshoreman
The Passionate State of Mind, Aphorism 68 (1955)
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Added on 28-Nov-11 | Last updated 23-Jun-22
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Orthodoxy:

  1. In religion, that state of mind which congratulates itself on being absolutely right, and a belief that all who think otherwise are wholly wrong.
  2. A faith in the fixed — a worship of the static.
  3. The joy that comes from thinking that most everybody is lined up for Limbus with no return ticket.
  4. A condition brought about by the sprites of Humor, according to the rule that whom the gods would destroy they first make mad.
  5. The zenith of selfishness and the nadir of egotism.
  6. Mephisto with a lily in his hand.
  7. A corpse that does not know it is dead.
  8. Spiritual constipation.
  9. That peculiar condition where the patient can neither eliminate an old idea or absorb a new one.
Elbert Hubbard (1856-1915) American writer, businessman, philosopher
The Roycroft Dictionary (1914)
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Added on 18-Nov-11 | Last updated 14-Sep-20
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Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions. Ideas must be distinct before reason can act upon them; and no man ever had a distinct idea of the Trinity. It is the mere Abracadabra of the mountebanks calling themselves the priests of Jesus.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) American political philosopher, polymath, statesman, US President (1801-09)
Letter to Francis Adrian Van der Kemp (30 Jul 1816)
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Added on 28-Feb-11 | Last updated 1-Jun-22
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Dogma: A hard substance which forms in a soft brain; a coprolitic idea.

Elbert Hubbard (1856-1915) American writer, businessman, philosopher
The Roycroft Dictionary (1914)
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Added on 23-Oct-09 | Last updated 14-Sep-20
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To be effective a doctrine must not be understood, but has to be believed in. We can be absolutely certain only about things we do not understand. A doctrine that is understood is shorn of its strength.

Eric Hoffer (1902-1983) American writer, philosopher, longshoreman
The True Believer, ch. 57 (1951)
Added on 20-Oct-09 | Last updated 7-Dec-20
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I attacked the doctrine of eternal pain. I hold it in infinite and utter abhorrence. And if there be a God in this universe who made a hell; if there be a God in this universe who denies to any human being the right of reformation, then that God is not good, that God is not just, and the future of man is infinitely dark. I despise that doctrine, and I have done what little I could to get that horror from the cradle, that horror from the hearts of mothers, that horror from the hearts of husbands and fathers, and sons, and brothers, and sisters. It is a doctrine that turns to ashes all the humanities of life and all the hopes of mankind. I despise it.

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) American lawyer, agnostic, orator
“Reply to Rev. Drs. Thomas and Lorimer,” speech, Chicago (26 Nov 1882)
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Added on 9-Oct-09 | Last updated 2-Feb-16
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I have no reverence for any book that teaches a doctrine contrary to my reason; no reverence for any book that teaches a doctrine contrary to my heart; and, no matter how old it is, no matter how many have believed it, no matter how many have died on account of it, no matter how many live for it, I have no reverence for that book, and I am glad of it.

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) American lawyer, agnostic, orator
“Reply to Rev. Drs. Thomas and Lorimer,” speech, Chicago (26 Nov 1882)
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I will not attack your doctrines nor your creeds if they accord liberty to me. If they hold thought to be dangerous — if they aver that doubt is a crime, then I attack them one and all, because they enslave the minds of men.

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) American lawyer, agnostic, orator
“The Ghosts” (1877)
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When man appears before the Throne of Judgment, the first question he is asked is not: “Have you believed in God?” or “Have you prayed and observed the ritual?” He is asked: “Have you dealt honorably and faithfully in all your dealings with your fellow man?”

The Talmud (AD 200-500) Collection of Jewish rabbinical writings
(Unreferenced)
Added on 17-Jun-09 | Last updated 24-Oct-14
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How can cosmic religious feeling be communicated from one person to another, if it can give rise to no definite notion of a God and no theology? In my view, it is the most important function of art and science to awaken this feeling and keep it alive in those who are receptive to it.

Albert Einstein (1879-1955) German-American physicist
“Religion and Science,” New York Times Magazine (9 Nov 1930)
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Added on 17-Mar-09 | Last updated 21-Feb-21
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If there is a God who will damn his children forever, I would rather go to hell than to go to heaven and keep the society of such an infamous tyrant. I make my choice now. I despise that doctrine. It has covered the cheeks of this world with tears. It has polluted the hearts of children, and poisoned the imaginations of men.

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) American lawyer, agnostic, orator
“The Liberty of Man, Woman, and Child” (1877)
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In my religion there would be no exclusive doctrine; all would be love, poetry and doubt.

Cyril Connolly (1903-1974) English intellectual, literary critic and writer.
The Unquiet Grave (1945)
Added on 11-Dec-07 | Last updated 17-Jul-20
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If you want a war, nourish a doctrine. Doctrines are the most frightful tyrants to which men are ever subject, because doctrines get inside a man’s reason and betray him against himself. Civilized men have done their fiercest fighting for doctrines. The reconquest of the Holy Sepulcher, “the balance of power,” “no universal dominion,” “trade follows the flag,” “he who holds the land will hold the sea,” “the throne and the altar,” the revolution, the faith — these are the things for which men have given their lives. What are they all? Nothing but rhetoric and phantasms.

William Graham Sumner (1840-1910) American minister, sociologist, anthropologist.
“War” (1903), War and Other Essays [ed. A. Keller (1911)]
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To punish a man because he has committed a crime, or because he is believed, though unjustly, to have committed a crime, is not persecution. To punish a man, because we infer from the nature of some doctrine which he holds, or from the conduct of other persons who hold the same doctrines with him, that he will commit a crime, is persecution, and is, in every case, foolish and wicked.

Thomas Babington Macaulay (1800-1859) English writer and politician
“Hallam’s Constitutional History,” Edinburgh Review (Sep 1828)
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Review of Henry Hallam, The Constitutional History of England, from the Accession of Henry VII to George II (1827).
Added on 26-Jul-07 | Last updated 16-Jan-20
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On the necessary points, unity. On the questionable points, liberty. In everything, love.

[In necessariis unites, in non necessariis libertas, in omnibus caritas.]

Rupertus Meldenius (1582-1651) German writer [pseud. of Peter Meiderlin]
Paraenesis votiva pro Pace Ecclesiae ad Theologos Augustanae Confessionis (1626)

Also translated as "essentials" and "non-essentials."

Paraphrase of final lines of the work: Verbo dicam: Si nos servaremus IN necesariis Unitatem, IN non-necessariis Libertatem, IN UTRISQUE Charitatem, optimo certe loco essent res nostrae. ["In a word, were we to observe unity in essentials, liberty in incidentals, and in all things charity, our affairs would be certainly in a most happy situation."]

Commonly attributed to St Augustine, but also to John Wesley, Richard Baxter, and several others. See discussion here and here.  
Added on 14-Oct-05 | Last updated 8-Apr-19
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Too rigid scruples are concealed pride.

[Zu strenge Ford’rung ist verborgner Stolz.]

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) German poet, statesman, scientist
Iphigenia auf Tauris, Act 4, sc. 4, l. 120 (1787)
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In necessary things, unity; in disputed things, liberty; in all things, charity.

Richard Baxter
Richard Baxter (1615-1691) English Puritan clergyman and writer
Motto

See Rupertus Meldenius.
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 24-Feb-16
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When I, a thoughtful and unblessed Presbyterian, examine the Koran, I know that beyond any question every Mohammedan is insane; not in all things, but in religious matters. When a thoughtful and unblessed Mohammedan examines the Westminster Catechism, he knows that beyond any question I am spiritually insane. I cannot prove to him that he is insane, because you never can prove anything to a lunatic — for that is a part of his insanity and the evidence of it. He cannot prove to me that I am insane, for my mind has the same defect that afflicts his. All Democrats are insane, but not one of them knows it; none but the Republicans and Mugwumps know it. All the Republicans are insane, but only the Democrats and Mugwumps can perceive it. The rule is perfect: in all matters of opinion our adversaries are insane.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
Christian Science, ch. 5 (1907)
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Often misattributed to Oscar Wilde.
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 11-Jul-16
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History warns us, however, that it is the customary fate of new truths to begin as heresies and to end as superstitions; and, as matters now stand, it is hardly rash to anticipate that, in another twenty years, the new generation, educated under the influences of the present day, will be in danger of accepting the main doctrines of the ‘Origin of Species’ with as little reflection, and it may be with as little justification, as so many of our contemporaries, twenty years ago, rejected them. Against any such a consummation let us all devoutly pray; for the scientific spirit is of more value than its products, and irrationally held truths may be more harmful than reasoned errors.

T. H. Huxley (1825-1895) English biologist [Thomas Henry Huxley]
“The Coming of Age of The Origin of Species,” lecture, Royal Institution (19 Mar 1880)
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First printed in Nature: A Weekly Illustrated Journal of Science (6 May 1880).
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