Quotations about   freethinking

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My opinion is that there would never have been an infidel, if there had never been a priest. The artificial structures they have built on the purest of all moral systems, for the purpose of deriving from it pence and power, revolts those who think for themselves, and who read in that system only what is really there.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) American political philosopher, polymath, statesman, US President (1801-09)
Letter to Margaret Bayard Smith (6 Aug 1816)
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Added on 25-Jul-22 | Last updated 25-Jul-22
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We cannot have a society half slave and half free; nor can we have thought half slave and half free. If we create an atmosphere in which men fear to think independently, inquire fearlessly, express themselves freely, we will in the end create the kind of society in which men no longer care to think independently or to inquire fearlessly.

Henry Steele Commager (1902-1998) American historian, writer, activist
“What Ideas Are Safe?” Saturday Review (5 Nov 1949)
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Reprinted in Freedom and Order (1966).
Added on 23-Mar-22 | Last updated 23-Mar-22
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Our secularism is hard-won, the product of centuries of political, intellectual, and sometimes physical courage. Secularism is the institutionalization of doubt, or more precisely of respect for doubt. It is harder to love doubt than to love freedom. So we are grudging about our secularism, and some of us are a little ashamed of it. Maybe it takes Rushdie’s nightmare and Khomeini’s rage to remind us how precious it is, and how fiercely it must be guarded.

Hendrik Hertzberg (b. 1943) American journalist, editor, speech writer, political commentator
“TRB from Washington,” The New Republic (20 Mar 1989)
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Added on 25-Feb-22 | Last updated 25-Feb-22
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Heresy is only another word for freedom of thought.

Graham Greene (1904-1991) English novelist [Henry Graham Greene]
“Freedom of Thought,” speech accepting the Jerusalem Prize (6 Apr 1981)
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Added on 28-Jul-21 | Last updated 28-Jul-21
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What is originality? Undetected plagiarism. This is probably itself a plagiarism, but I cannot remember who said it before me. If originality means thinking for oneself, and not thinking differently from other people, a man does not forfeit his claim to it by saying things which have occurred to others.

William Ralph Inge (1860-1954) English prelate [Dean Inge]
London Evening Standard (1927)

Parallel to this, in James Marchant, ed., Wit and Wisdom of Dean Inge (1927), Inge is cited as saying, "Originality, I fear, is too often only undetected and frequently unconscious plagiarism."

The sentiment is, appropriately, not original with Inge; see here for more discussion and earlier uses.
Added on 14-Sep-20 | Last updated 14-Sep-20
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That is the whole trouble with being a heretic. One must usually think out everything for oneself.

Aubrey Menen (1912-1989) English writer
The Duke of Gallodoro (1952)
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Added on 5-Aug-20 | Last updated 5-Aug-20
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Be not afraid! In admitting a creator, refuse not to examine his creation; and take not the assertions of creatures like yourselves, in place of the evidence of your senses and the conviction of your understanding.

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 20-Sep-19 | Last updated 20-Sep-19
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The freethinking of one age is the common sense of the next.

Matthew Arnold (1822-1888) English poet and critic
God and the Bible (1875)

See Beecher.
Added on 28-Apr-16 | Last updated 24-Jan-22
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My opinion is that there would never have been an infidel, if there had never been a priest. The artificial structures they have built on the purest of all moral systems, for the purpose of deriving from it pence and power, revolts those who think for themselves, and who read in that system only what is really there.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) American political philosopher, polymath, statesman, US President (1801-09)
Letter to Mrs. Samuel H. Smith [Margaret Bayard Smith] (6 Aug 1816)
Added on 9-May-11 | Last updated 13-Apr-15
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The first thing I want to teach is disloyalty. … This will beget independence — which is loyalty to one’s best self and principles, and this is often disloyalty to the general idols and fetishes.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
Mark Twain’s Notebook [ed. Paine (1935)]
Added on 9-Oct-09 | Last updated 26-Jan-19
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Few people are capable of expressing with equanimity opinions which differ from the prejudices of their social environment. Most people are even incapable of forming such opinions.

[Wenige sind imstande, von den Vorurteilen der Umgebung abweichende Meinungen gelassen auszusprechen; die Meisten sind sogar unfähig, überhaupt zu solchen Meinungen zu gelangen.]

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.
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 21-Feb-21
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