Quotations about   dogma

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It is a truism that almost any sect, cult, or religion will legislate its creed into law if it acquires the political power to do so, and will follow it by suppressing opposition, subverting all education to seize early the minds of the young, and by killing, locking up, or driving underground all heretics. This is equally true whether the faith is Communism or Holy-Rollerism; indeed it is the bounden duty of the faithful to do so. The custodians of the True Faith cannot logically admit tolerance of heresy to be a virtue.

Robert A. Heinlein (1907-1988) American writer
“Concerning Stories Never Written” (Oct 1952)
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Added on 2-Sep-17 | Last updated 2-Sep-17
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Progress is impossible without change; and those who cannot change their minds, cannot change anything.

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) British playwright and critic
Everybody’s Political What’s What? (1950 ed.)
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Added on 27-Jul-17 | Last updated 27-Jul-17
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Revolutions, as a long and bitter experience reveals, are apt to take their colour from the régime which they overthrow. Is it any wonder that the creed which affirms the absolute rights of property should sometimes be met with a counter-affirmation of the absolute rights of labour, less anti-social, indeed, and inhuman, but almost as dogmatic, almost as intolerant and thoughtless as itself.

R. H. Tawney (1880-1962) English writer, economist, historian, social critic [Richard Henry Tawney]
The Acquisitive Century, ch. 3 “The Acquisitive Society” (1920)
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Added on 19-Jan-17 | Last updated 19-Jan-17
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It’s said that science will dehumanize people and turn them into numbers. That’s false, tragically false. Look for yourself. This is the concentration camp and crematorium at Auschwitz. This is where people were turned into numbers. Into this pond were flushed the ashes of some four million people. And that was not done by gas. It was done by arrogance, it was done by dogma, it was done by ignorance. When people believe that they have absolute knowledge, with no test in reality, this is how they behave. This is what men do when they aspire to the knowledge of gods.

Jacob Bronowski (1908-1974) Polish-English humanist and mathematician
The Ascent of Man, Ep. 11 “Knowledge or Certainty” (1973)
Added on 16-Jan-17 | Last updated 16-Jan-17
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God offers to every mind its choice between truth and repose. Take which you please — you can never have both.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
“Intellect,” Essays: First Series (1841)
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Added on 11-Nov-16 | Last updated 11-Nov-16
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Now any dogma, based primarily on faith and emotionalism, is a dangerous weapon to use on others, since it is almost impossible to guarantee that the weapon will never be turned on the user.

Isaac Asimov (1920-1992) Russian-American author, polymath, biochemist
Foundation, Part 5 “The Merchant Princes,” Sec. 13 (1951)
Added on 5-Jul-16 | Last updated 5-Jul-16
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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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At least two thirds of our miseries spring from human stupidity, human malice, and those great motivators and justifiers of malice and stupidity, idealism, dogmatism and proselytizing zeal on behalf of religious or political idols.

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963) English novelist, essayist and critic
Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow (1952)
Added on 5-Nov-14 | Last updated 5-Feb-16
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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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Sir, I think all Christians, whether Papists or Protestants, agree in the essential articles, and that their differences are trivial, and rather political than religious.

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) English writer, lexicographer, critic
Comment (1763)

In James Boswell, The Life of Samuel Johnson (1791)
Added on 4-Apr-14 | Last updated 4-Apr-14
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A dogmatical spirit inclines a man to be censorious of his neighbors. Every one of his opinions appears to him written, as it were, with sunbeams, and he grows angry that his neighbors do not see it in the same light. He is tempted to disdain his correspondents as men of low and dark understandings because they do not believe what he does.

Isaac Watts (1674-1748) English theologian and hymnodist
The Improvement of the Mind, ch. 1 (1741)
Added on 28-Feb-14 | Last updated 28-Feb-14
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The present state of civilized nations and their past history bear witness on the same side. So far as any nation recognises, or has recognised, the great truth, that every dictum, every belief, must be tested and tried to the uttermost, and swept ruthlessly away if it be not in accordance with right reason, so far is that nation prosperous and healthy; and so far as a nation has allowed itself to be hood-winked and fettered, and the free application of its intellect, as the criterion of all truth, restricted, so far is it sinking and rotten within. There is one restriction, and only one, so far as I know, placed upon our supreme arbiter. It is, that it shall be actuated by an uncompromising and unswerving love of truth. With that, the human intellect is the nearest in personification of the Divine; without that, it is, in my apprehension, the worst of conceivable devils.

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)
Added on 7-Feb-14 | Last updated 7-Feb-14
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Our particular principles of religion are a subject of accountability to our god alone. I enquire after no man’s and trouble none with mine; nor is it given to us in this life to know whether yours or mine, our friend’s or our foe’s, are exactly the right.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) American political philosopher, polymath, statesman, US President (1801-09)
Letter to Miles King (26 Sep 1814)
Added on 26-Sep-13 | Last updated 13-Apr-15
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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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My own belief is no rule for another.

John Wesley (1703-1791) English cleric, Christian theologian and evangelist, founder of Methodism
Sermon #39, “Catholic Spirit,” 1.11
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Added on 3-Aug-09 | Last updated 17-Jul-15
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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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Human beings are perhaps never more frightening than when they are convinced beyond doubt that they are right.

Sir Laurens Jan van der Post (1906-1996) Afrikaner author, conservationist, statesman, humanitarian [a.k.a. Laurens van der Post]
The Lost World of the Kalahari, ch. 3 (1958)
Added on 6-May-09 | Last updated 9-May-16
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Let the human mind loose. It must be loose. It will be loose. Superstition and dogmatism cannot confine it.

John Adams (1735-1826) American lawyer, Founding Father, statesman, US President (1797-1801)
Letter to John Quincy Adams (13 Nov 1816)
Added on 1-Aug-08 | Last updated 29-Mar-17
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Formerly there were those who said: You believe things that are incomprehensible, inconsistent, impossible because we have commanded you to believe them; go then and do what is unjust because we command it. Such people show admirable reasoning. Truly, whoever is able to make you absurd is able to make you unjust. If the God-given understanding of your mind does not resist a demand to believe what is impossible, then you will not resist a demand to do wrong to that God-given sense of justice in your heart. As soon as one faculty of your soul has been dominated, other faculties will follow as well. And from this derives all those crimes of religion which have overrun the world.

[Il y a eu des gens qui ont dit autrefois: Vous croyez des choses incompréhensibles, contradictoires, impossibles, parce que nous vous l’avons ordonné; faites donc des choses injustes parce que nous vous l’ordonnons. Ces gens-là raisonnaient à merveille. Certainement qui est en droit de vous rendre absurde est en droit de vous rendre injuste. Si vous n’opposez point aux ordres de croire l’impossible l’intelligence que Dieu a mise dans votre esprit, vous ne devez point opposer aux ordres de malfaire la justice que Dieu a mise dans votre coeur. Une faculté de votre âme étant une fois tyrannisée, toutes les autres facultés doivent l’être également. Et c’est là ce qui a produit tous les crimes religieux dont la terre a été inondée.] 

Voltaire (1694-1778) French writer [pseud. of Francois-Marie Arouet]
Questions sur les miracles (1765)

Alt trans.: "Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities."

Added on 11-Jun-08 | Last updated 17-Jul-15
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The man who does not do his own thinking is a slave, and is a traitor to himself and to his fellow-men.

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) American lawyer, agnostic, orator
“The Liberty of Man, Woman, and Child” (1877)
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Added on 12-Feb-08 | Last updated 4-Feb-16
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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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Added on 14-Aug-07 | Last updated 17-Jul-14
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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)
Added on 6-Jul-04 | Last updated 21-May-14
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The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right; the spirit of liberty is the spirit which seeks to understand the mind of other men and women; the spirit of liberty is the spirit which weighs their interests alongside its own without bias; the spirit of liberty remembers that not even a sparrow falls to earth unheeded; the spirit of liberty is the spirit of Him who, near two thousand years ago, taught mankind that lesson it has never learned but never quite forgotten; that there may be a kingdom where the least shall be heard and considered side by side with the greatest.

Hand - spirit of liberty - wist_info quote

Learned Hand (1872-1961) American jurist
“The Spirit of Liberty,” speech, “I Am an American Day,” New York (21 May 1941)
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Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 6-Jan-16
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The greater the ignorance the greater the dogmatism.

Sir William Osler (1849-1919) Canadian physician
Montreal Medical Journal (1902)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 9-May-16
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