Quotations about   heresy

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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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Religious discord has lost her sting; the cumbrous weapons of theological warfare are antiquated: the field of politics supplies the alchymists of our times with materials of more fatal explosion, and the butchers of mankind no longer travel to another world for instruments of cruelty and destruction. Our age is too enlightened to contend upon topics, which concern only the interests of eternity; and men who hold in proper contempt all controversies about trifles, except such as inflame their own passions, have made it a common-place censure against your ancestors, that their zeal was enkindled by subjects of trivial importance; and that however aggrieved by the intolerance of others, they were alike intolerant themselves. Against these objections, your candid judgment will not require an unqualified justification; but your respect and gratitude for the founders of the State may boldly claim an ample apology. The original grounds of their separation from the church of England, were not objects of a magnitude to dissolve the bonds of communion; much less those of charity, between Christian brethren of the same essential principles.

John Quincy Adams (1767-1848) US President (1825-29)
Speech, Plymouth (22 Dec 1802)
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Surely there is no better way to stop the rising of new sects and schisms than to reform abuses; to compound the smaller differences; to proceed mildly, and not with sanguinary persecutions; and rather to take off the principal authors by winning and advancing them, than to enrage them by violence and bitterness.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
“Of Vicissitude of Things,” Essays, No. 58 (1625)
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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)
Added on 28-Apr-16 | Last updated 28-Apr-16
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If these writings of the Greeks agree with the book of God, they are useless and need not be preserved; if they disagree, they are pernicious and ought to be destroyed.

Umar I (c. 583-644) Arab caliph, jurist [Omar, Umar ibn Al-Khattāb, Al-Farooq]
(Attributed)

Ordering the burning of the Library of Alexandria in AD 641, as quoted in Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1776-88). The story is generally considered spurious. More discussion here.Alt. trans.: "They will either contradict the Koran, in which case they are heresy, or they will agree with it, so they are superfluous"
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What havoc has been made of books through every century of the Christian era? Where are fifty gospels, condemned as spurious by the bull of Pope Gelasius? Where are the forty wagon-loads of Hebrew manuscripts burned in France, by order of another pope, because suspected of heresy? Remember the index expurgatorius, the inquisition, the stake, the axe, the halter and the guillotine.

John Adams (1735-1826) American lawyer, Founding Father, statesman, US President (1797-1801)
Letter to John Taylor (15 Apr 1814)
Added on 28-Jan-16 | Last updated 28-Jan-16
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Toward no crime have men shown themselves so cold-bloodedly cruel as in punishing differences of belief.

James Russell Lowell (1819-1891) American diplomat, essayist, poet
Among My Books (1870)
Added on 3-Apr-15 | Last updated 3-Apr-15
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He drew a circle that shut me out —
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But Love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle that took him in.

Edwin Markham (1852-1940) American poet
“Outwitted”, The Shoes of Happiness, and Other Poems (1913)
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It would be almost unbelievable, if history did not record the tragic fact that men have gone to war and cut each other’s throat because they could not agree as to what was to become of them after their throats were cut. Many sins have been committed in the name of religion. Alas! the spirit of proscription is never kind. It is the unhappy quality of religious disputes that they are always bitter. For some reason, too deep to fathom, men contend more furiously over the road to heaven, which they cannot see, than over their visible walks on earth.

Walter P. Stacy (1884-1951) American jurist
State v. Beal, 199 N.C. 278 (1930)
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Added on 3-Oct-14 | Last updated 3-Oct-14
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Every man who attacks my belief, diminishes in some degree my confidence in it, and therefore makes me uneasy; and I am angry with him who makes me uneasy.

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) English writer, lexicographer, critic
Comment (3 Apr 1775)

In James Boswell, The Life of Samuel Johnson (1791)
Added on 11-Apr-14 | Last updated 11-Apr-14
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The religion of one age is the literary entertainment of the next.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
“Character,” Lectures and Biographical Sketches (1883)
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What is blasphemy? I will give you a definition; I will give you my thought upon this subject. What is real blasphemy?
To live on the unpaid labor of other men — that is blasphemy.
To enslave your fellow-man, to put chains upon his body — that is blasphemy.
To enslave the minds of men, to put manacles upon the brain, padlocks upon the lips — that is blasphemy.
To deny what you believe to be true, to admit to be true what you believe to be a lie — that is blasphemy.
To strike the weak and unprotected, in order that you may gain the applause of the ignorant and superstitious mob — that is blasphemy.
To persecute the intelligent few, at the command of the ignorant many — that is blasphemy.
To forge chains, to build dungeons, for your honest fellow-men — that is blasphemy.
To pollute the souls of children with the dogma of eternal pain — that is blasphemy.
To violate your conscience — that is blasphemy.
The jury that gives an unjust verdict, and the judge who pronounces an unjust sentence, are blasphemers.
The man who bows to public opinion against his better judgment and against his honest conviction, is a blasphemer.

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) American lawyer, agnostic, orator
Trial of C.B. Reynolds for blasphemy (May 1887)
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According to the theologians, God, the Father of us all, wrote a letter to his children. The children have always differed somewhat as to the meaning of this letter. In consequence of these honest differences, these brothers began to cut out each other’s hearts. In every land, where this letter from God has been read, the children to whom and for whom it was written have been filled with hatred and malice. They have imprisoned and murdered each other, and the wives and children of each other. In the name of God every possible crime has been committed, every conceivable outrage has been perpetrated. Brave men, tender and loving women, beautiful girls, and prattling babes have been exterminated in the name of Jesus Christ.

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) American lawyer, agnostic, orator
“Heretics and Heresies” (1874)
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Added on 18-Jan-12 | Last updated 2-Feb-16
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Monty Python’s usual schoolboy humour is here let loose on a period of history appropriately familiar to every schoolboy in the West, and a faith which could be shaken by such good-humoured ribaldry would be a very precarious faith indeed.

Other Authors and Sources
The British Board Of Film Censors, Report on Life of Brian (1979)
Added on 12-May-11 | Last updated 4-Sep-16
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Heresy is what the minority believe; it is the name given by the powerful to the doctrine of the weak.

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) American lawyer, agnostic, orator
“Heretics and Heresies” (1874)
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Added on 22-Oct-10 | Last updated 2-Feb-16
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Any sufficiently advanced prejudicial piety is indistinguishable from hatred.

George Wiman (contemp.) American blogger, computer technician
Wiman’s Theological Variant on Clarke’s Law, Stupid Evil Bastard, “A Christian asks, ‘I’m the bad guy? How did that happen?'”, Comment (3 May 2009)

Full text.See Clarke.
Added on 19-Apr-10 | Last updated 19-May-15
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A cult is a religion with no power.

Thomas Wolfe (1900-1938) American writer
In Our Time, ch. 2 (1980)
Added on 21-Oct-09 | Last updated 1-Jun-17
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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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The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.
The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference.
The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference.
And the opposite of life is not death, but indifference,
indifference between life and death.

Wiesel - indifference - wist_info quote

Elie Wiesel (b. 1928) Romanian-American novelist, professor, political activist, Nobel Laureate.
“One Must Not Forget,” interview by Alvin P. Sanoff, US News & World Report (27 Oct 1986)
Added on 30-Jul-09 | Last updated 4-Apr-18
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Standing in the presence of the Unknown, all have the same right to think, and all are equally interested in the great question of origin and destiny. All I claim, all I plead for, is liberty of thought and expression. That is all.

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) American lawyer, agnostic, orator
“The Liberty of Man, Woman, and Child” (1877)
Added on 11-Sep-08 | Last updated 4-Feb-16
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I do not say, and I do not believe, that Christians are as bad as their creeds. In spite of church and dogma, there have been millions and millions of men and women true to the loftiest and most generous promptings of the human heart. They have been true to their convictions, and, with a self-denial and fortitude excelled by none, have labored and suffered for the salvation of men. Imbued with the spirit of self-sacrifice, believing that by personal effort they could rescue at least a few souls from the infinite shadow of hell, they have cheerfully endured every hardship and scorned every danger. And yet, notwithstanding all this, they believed that honest error was a crime. They knew that the Bible so declared, and they believed that all unbelievers would be eternally lost. They believed that religion was of God, and all heresy of the devil. They killed heretics in defence of their own souls and the souls of their children. They killed them because, according to their idea, they were the enemies of God, and because the Bible teaches that the blood of the unbeliever is a most acceptable sacrifice to heaven.

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) American lawyer, agnostic, orator
“Heretics and Heresies” (1874)
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No orthodox church ever had power that it did not endeavor to make people think its way by force and flame.

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) American lawyer, agnostic, orator
Trial of C.B. Reynolds for blasphemy (May 1887)
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How has the church in every age, when in authority, defended itself? Always by a statute against blasphemy, against argument, against free speech. And there never was such a statute that did not stain the book that it was in and that did not certify to the savagery of the men who passed it.

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) American lawyer, agnostic, orator
Trial of C.B. Reynolds for blasphemy (May 1887)
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Give any orthodox church the power, and to-day they would punish heresy with whip, and chain, and fire. As long as a church deems a certain belief essential to salvation, just so long it will kill and burn if it has the power.

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) American lawyer, agnostic, orator
“Heretics and Heresies” (1874)
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You cannot change the conclusion of the brain by torture; nor by social ostracism. But I will tell you what you can do by these, and what you have done. You can make hypocrites by the million. You can make a man say that he has changed his mind; but he remains of the same opinion still. Put fetters all over him; crush his feet in iron boots; stretch him to the last gasp upon the holy rack; burn him, if you please, but his ashes will be of the same opinion still.

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) American lawyer, agnostic, orator
“The Liberty of Man, Woman, and Child” (1877)
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Why should man be afraid to think, and why should he fear to express his thoughts? Is it possible that an infinite Deity is unwilling that a man should investigate the phenomena by which he is surrounded? Is it possible that a god delights in threatening and terrifying men? What glory, what honor and renown a god must win on such a field! The ocean raving at a drop; a star envious of a candle; the sun jealous of a fire-fly.

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) American lawyer, agnostic, orator
“Heretics and Heresies” (1874)
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Men and women have been burned for thinking there is but one God; that there was none; that the Holy Ghost is younger than God; that God was somewhat older than his son; for insisting that good works will save a man without faith; that faith will do without good works; for declaring that a sweet babe will not be burned eternally, because its parents failed to have its head wet by a priest; for speaking of God as though he had a nose; for denying that Christ was his own father; for contending that three persons, rightly added together, make more than one; for believing in purgatory; for denying the reality of hell; for pretending that priests can forgive sins; for preaching that God is an essence; for denying that witches rode through the air on sticks; for doubting the total depravity of the human heart; for laughing at irresistible grace, predestination and particular redemption; for denying that good bread could be made of the body of a dead man; for pretending that the pope was not managing this world for God, and in the place of God; for disputing the efficacy of a vicarious atonement; for thinking the Virgin Mary was born like other people; for thinking that a man’s rib was hardly sufficient to make a good-sized woman; for denying that God used his finger for a pen; for asserting that prayers are not answered, that diseases are not sent to punish unbelief; for denying the authority of the Bible; for having a Bible in their possession; for attending mass, and for refusing to attend; for wearing a surplice; for carrying a cross, and for refusing; for being a Catholic, and for being a Protestant; for being an Episcopalian, a Presbyterian, a Baptist, and for being a Quaker.

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) American lawyer, agnostic, orator
“Heretics and Heresies” (1874)
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I know a number of highly sensitive and intelligent people in my own communion who consider as a heresy my faith that God’s loving concern for his creation will outlast all our willfulness and pride. No matter how many eons it takes, he will not rest until all of creation, including Satan, is reconciled to him, until there is no creature who cannot return his look of love with a joyful response of love […] Some people feel it to be heresy because it appears to deny man his freedom to refuse to love God. But this, it seems to me, denies God his freedom to go on loving us beyond all our willfulness and pride. If the Word of God is the light of the world, and this light cannot be put out, ultimately it will brighten all the dark corners of our hearts and we will be able to see, and seeing, will be given the grace to respond with love — and of our own free will.

Madeleine L'Engle (1918-2007) American writer
The Irrational Season (1977)
Added on 19-Sep-07 | Last updated 14-Nov-15
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It is contended by many that ours is a Christian government, founded upon the Bible, and that all who look upon the book as false or foolish are destroying the foundation of our country. The truth is, our government is not founded upon the rights of gods, but upon the rights of men. Our Constitution was framed, not to declare and uphold the deity of Christ, but the sacredness of humanity. Ours is the first government made by the people and for the people. It is the only nation with which the gods have had nothing to do. And yet there are some judges dishonest and cowardly enough to solemnly decide that this is a Christian country, and that our free institutions are based upon the infamous laws of Jehovah.

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) American lawyer, agnostic, orator
“Individuality” (1873)
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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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