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The Catholic Church is an institution I am bound to hold divine — but for unbelievers a proof of its divinity might be found in the fact that no merely human institution conducted with such knavish imbecility would have lasted a fortnight.

Hilaire Belloc (1870-1953) Franco-British writer, historian [Joseph Hilaire Pierre René Belloc]
Remark to William Temple
    (Source)

Quoted in Robert Speaight, The Life of Hilaire Belloc (1957). Variant: "The Catholic Church is an institution I am bound to hold divine, but for unbelievers, here is proof of its divinity, that no merely human institution run with such knavish imbecility would have lasted a fortnight."
 
Added on 12-Jul-21 | Last updated 12-Jul-21
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Many much-learned men have no intelligence.

[Πολλοὶ πολυμαθέες νοῦν οὐκ ἔχουσιν.]

Democritus (c. 460 BC - c. 370 BC) Greek philosopher
Frag. 64 (Diels) [tr. Freeman (1948)]
    (Source)

Diels citation "64. (190 N.) DEMOKRATES. 29."; collected in Joannes Stobaeus (Stobaios) Anthologium III, 4, 81. Freeman notes this as one of the Gnômae, from a collection called "Maxims of Democratês," but because Stobaeus quotes many of these as "Maxims of Democritus," they are generally attributed to the latter.

Alternate translations:

  • "There are many who know many things, yet are lacking in wisdom." [tr. Bakewell (1907)]
  • "Many who have learned much possess no sense." [tr. Barnes (1987)]
  • "Many who have learned a lot do not have a mind." [tr. @sentantiq (2018)]
  • "Many, though widely read, possess no sense." [Source]
 
Added on 5-Jan-21 | Last updated 23-Feb-21
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The most that experience seems tew do for us, is tew sho us, what kussid phools every boddy but we, hav made of themselfs.

[The most that experience seems to do for us is to show us what cussed fools everybody but we have made of themselves.]

Josh Billings (1818-1885) American humorist, aphorist [pseud. of Henry Wheeler Shaw]
Everybody’s Friend, Or; Josh Billing’s Encyclopedia and Proverbial Philosophy of Wit and Humor, “Mollassis Kandy” (1874)
    (Source)
 
Added on 28-May-20 | Last updated 28-May-20
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I have no time to scold, and I learned thirty years ago it was foolish to scold. I have enough trouble overcoming my own limitations without fretting over the fact God has not seen fit to distribute evenly the gift of intelligence.

John Wanamaker (1838-1922) American merchant, marketer, philanthropist, Postmaster General
Quoted in Herbert Adams Gibbons, John Wanamaker, Vol. 2 (1926)
    (Source)

Variant paraphrase: "It's foolish to scold people. I have enough trouble overcoming my own limitations without fretting over the fact that God didn't see fit to distribute brains equally."
 
Added on 7-May-20 | Last updated 7-May-20
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Many journalists have fallen for the conspiracy theory of government. I do assure you that they would produce more accurate work if they adhered to the cock-up theory.

Bernard Ingham (b. 1932) British journalist, civil servant, press secretary
Quoted in The Observer (17 Mar 1985)

Often paraphrased, "Cock-up before conspiracy." Cf. Hanlon.
 
Added on 1-May-20 | Last updated 1-May-20
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Nothing is more humiliating than seeing fools succeed where one has failed.

[Rien n’est humiliant comme de voir les sots réussir dans les entreprises où l’on échoue.]

Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880) French writer, novelist
Sentimental Education, Part 1, ch. 5 (1869) [tr. Baldick (1964)/Wall (2004)]
    (Source)

Alt. trans.:
  • "Nothing is more humiliating than to see idiots succeed in enterprises we have failed in."
  • "There is nothing so humiliating to see as blockheads succeed in undertakings in which we ourselves fail." [Ranout ed. (1922)]
  • "There is nothing so humiliating as to see blockheads succeed in undertakings in which we fail." [tr. Bouvard ed. rev. (2003)]
 
Added on 30-Jan-20 | Last updated 30-Jan-20
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I don’t think the boy of lively mind is hurt much by going to college. If he encounters mainly jackasses, then he learns the useful lesson that this is a jackass world.

H. L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
“Editorial,” The American Mercury (April 1926)
    (Source)

Reprinted in Prejudices: Sixth Series (1927).
 
Added on 12-Jul-17 | Last updated 18-Jul-17
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Far more numerous was the herd of such,
Who think too little, and who talk too much.

John Dryden (1631-1700) English poet, dramatist, critic
Absalom and Achitophel, l. 533 (1681)
 
Added on 28-Dec-16 | Last updated 28-Dec-16
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I suppose he’s entitled to his opinion, but I don’t suppose it very hard.

Isaac Asimov (1920-1992) Russian-American author, polymath, biochemist
“Seven Steps to Grand Master,” Nebula Awards 22 (1988) [ed. G. Zebrowski]
 
Added on 7-Jun-16 | Last updated 7-Jun-16
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I have never made but one prayer to God, and very short one: “O Lord, make my enemies ridiculous.” And God granted it.

Voltaire (1694-1778) French writer [pseud. of Francois-Marie Arouet]
Letter to M. Damilaville (16 May 1767)
 
Added on 21-Apr-15 | Last updated 21-Apr-15
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Added on 27-Mar-15 | Last updated 14-Apr-21
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At any given moment, public opinion is a chaos of superstition, misinformation, and prejudice.

Gore Vidal (1925-2012) American novelist, dramatist, critic
“Sex and the Law,” Partisan Review (Summer 1965)
 
Added on 27-Nov-12 | Last updated 28-Jan-20
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In the first place, God made idiots. That was for practice. Then he made school boards.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
Following the Equator, ch. 25 (1898)
 
Added on 31-Oct-12 | Last updated 26-Jan-19
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Hain’t we got all the fools in town on our side? And ain’t that a big enough majority in any town?

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, ch. 26 (1884)
 
Added on 10-Jun-10 | Last updated 26-Jan-19
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Brute force plays a much larger part in the government of the world than it did before 1914, and what is especially alarming, force tends increasingly to fall into the hands of those who are enemies of civilization. The danger is profound and terrible; it cannot be waved aside with easy optimism. The fundamental cause of the trouble is that in the modern world the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt.

Russell - stupid cocksure - wist_info

Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
“The Triumph of Stupidity,” New York American (1933-05-10)
    (Source)

Often paraphrased, "The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure, and the intelligent are full of doubt." See also Yeats and Bukowski.

More examination of this quotation: The Best Lack All Conviction While the Worst Are Full of Passionate Intensity – Quote Investigator.
 
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 10-Apr-23
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Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
(Attributed)
 
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 26-Jan-19
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If fifty million people say a foolish thing, it is still a foolish thing.

[Si 50 millions de personnes disent une bêtise, c’est quand même une bêtise.]

Anatole France (1844-1924) French poet, journalist, novelist, Nobel Laureate [pseud. of Jaques-Anatole-François Thibault]
(Spurious)

Sometimes also misattributed to Bertrand Russell. The closest to this specific quotation comes from W. Somerset Maugham. More information about this quotation, including the source of this misattribution and an analogous phrase France did use: If Fifty Million People Say a Foolish Thing, It Is Still a Foolish Thing – Quote Investigator.
 
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 14-Apr-21
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