Quotations about   persecution

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Abuse is a proof that you are felt. If they praise you, you will work no revolution.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
Journal (1855)
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Added on 16-Aug-19 | Last updated 16-Aug-19
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Persecution for the expression of opinions seems to me perfectly logical. If you have no doubt of your premises or your power, and want a certain result with all your heart, you naturally express your wishes in law, and sweep away all opposition. To allow opposition by speech seems to indicate that you think the speech impotent, as when a man says that he has squared the circle, or that you do not care wholeheartedly for the result, or that you doubt either your power or your premises.

But when men have realized that time has upset many fighting faiths, they may come to believe even more than they believe the very foundations of their own conduct that the ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas — that the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market, and that truth is the only ground upon which their wishes safely can be carried out.

That, at any rate, is the theory of our Constitution. It is an experiment, as all life is an experiment. Every year, if not every day, we have to wager our salvation upon some prophecy based upon imperfect knowledge. While that experiment is part of our system, I think that we should be eternally vigilant against attempts to check the expression of opinions that we loathe and believe to be fraught with death, unless they so imminently threaten immediate interference with the lawful and pressing purposes of the law that an immediate check is required to save the country.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. (1841-1935) American jurist, Supreme Court Justice
Abrams v. United States, 250 U.S. 616 (1919) [dissent]
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Added on 23-Apr-19 | Last updated 23-Apr-19
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The essence of the Epistles of Paul is that Christians should rejoice at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believe. The projection of a social gospel, in my opinion, is the true witness of a Christian life. This is the meaning of the true ekklesia — the inner, spiritual church. The church once changed society. It was then a thermostat of society. But today I feel that too much of the church is merely a thermometer, which measures rather than molds popular opinion.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) American clergyman, civil rights leader, orator
Playboy interview (Jan 1965)
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Added on 15-Oct-18 | Last updated 15-Oct-18
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Everyone loves a witch hunt as long as it’s someone else’s witch being hunted.

Walter Kirn (b. 1962) American novelist, literary critic, essayist
Twitter (10 Jan 2011)
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Added on 26-Aug-17 | Last updated 5-Sep-17
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KING ARTHUR: Shut up!

DENNIS: Oh, now we see the violence inherent in the system. Come and see the violence inherent in the system! Help! Help! I’m being repressed!

KING ARTHUR: Bloody peasant!

DENNIS: Oh, what a giveaway! Did you hear that? Did you hear that, eh? That’s what I’m on about! Did you see him repressing me? You saw him, didn’t you?

Monty Python (contemp.) British comedy troupe
Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
Added on 17-Jun-16 | Last updated 17-Jun-16
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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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I know your race. It is made up of sheep. It is governed by minorities, seldom or never by majorities. It suppresses its feelings and its beliefs and follows the handful that makes the most noise. Sometimes the noisy handful is right, sometimes wrong; but no matter, the crowd follows it. The vast majority of the race, whether savage or civilized, are secretly kind-hearted and shrink from inflicting pain, but in the presence of the aggressive and pitiless minority they don’t dare to assert themselves. Think of it! One kind-hearted creature spies upon another, and sees to it that he loyally helps in iniquities which revolt both of them. Speaking as an expert, I know that ninety-nine out of a hundred of your race were strongly against the killing of witches when that foolishness was first agitated by a handful of pious lunatics in the long ago. And I know that even to-day, after ages of transmitted prejudice and silly teaching, only one person in twenty puts any real heart into the harrying of a witch. And yet apparently everybody hates witches and wants them killed. Some day a handful will rise up on the other side and make the most noise — perhaps even a single daring man with a big voice and a determined front will do it — and in a week all the sheep will wheel and follow him, and witch-hunting will come to a sudden end.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
The Mysterious Stranger, ch. 9 (1916)
Added on 5-May-16 | Last updated 5-May-16
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The history of the Jews also shows that oppression and persecution are far more efficacious in binding a nation together than community of interest and national prosperity. Increase of wealth divides rather than unites a people; but suffering shared in common binds it together with hoops of steel.

William Ralph Inge (1860-1954) English prelate [Dean Inge]
“Patriotism,” Outspoken Essays: First Series (1915)
Added on 18-Jan-16 | Last updated 18-Jan-16
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There is nothing so despicable as a secret society that is based upon religious prejudice and that will attempt to defeat a man because of his religious beliefs. Such a society is like a cockroach — it thrives in the dark. So do those who combine for such an end.

William Howard Taft (1857-1930) US President (1909-13) and Chief Justice (1921-1930)
Speech, Young Men’s Hebrew Association, New York (20 Dec 1914)
Added on 27-Jul-15 | Last updated 27-Jul-15
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Of all the animosities which have existed among mankind, those which are caused by a difference of sentiments in religion appear to be the most inveterate and distressing, and ought to be deprecated. I was in hopes that the enlightened and liberal policy, which has marked the present age, would at least have reconciled Christians of every denomination so far that we should never again see the religious disputes carried to such a pitch as to endanger the peace of society.

George Washington (1732-1799) American military leader, Founding Father, US President (1789-1797)
Letter to Edward Newenham (30 Oct 1792)
Added on 6-May-15 | Last updated 6-May-15
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If I could conceive that the general government might ever be so administered as to render the liberty of conscience insecure, I beg you will be persuaded, that no one would be more zealous than myself to establish effectual barriers against the horrors of spiritual tyranny, and every species of religious persecution.

George Washington (1732-1799) American military leader, Founding Father, US President (1789-1797)
Letter to the United Baptist Chamber of Virginia (May 1789)
Added on 29-Apr-15 | Last updated 29-Apr-15
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Persecution is not an original feature in any religion; but it is always the strongly marked feature of all religions established by law. Take away the law-establishment, and every religion re-assumes its original benignity.

Thomas Paine (1737-1809) American political philosopher and writer
The Rights of Man (1791)
Added on 28-Apr-15 | Last updated 28-Apr-15
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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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I believe we are descendid from the Puritins, who nobly fled from a land of despitism to a land of freedim, where they could not only enjoy their own religion, but prevent everybody else from enjoyin his.

[I believe we are descended from the Puritans, who nobly fled from a land of despotism to a land of freedom, where they could not only enjoy their own religion, but prevent everybody else from enjoying his.]

Artemus Ward (1834-1867) American humorist, editor, lecturer [pseud. of Charles Farrar Browne]
“Is Introduced at the Club,” The Complete Works of Artemus Ward (1898)
Added on 2-Sep-14 | Last updated 2-Sep-14
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It always pains me greatly to discover how some Christian communities, and even consecrated persons, can tolerate different forms of enmity, division, calumny, defamation, vendetta, jealousy and the desire to impose certain ideas at all costs, even to persecutions which appear as veritable witch hunts. Whom are we going to evangelize if this is the way we act?

Francis I (b. 1936) Argentinian Catholic Pope (2013- ) [b. Jorge Mario Bergoglio]
Evangelii Gaudium, sec. 100 (24 Nov 2013)
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Added on 20-Aug-14 | Last updated 20-Aug-14
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I may be arrested, I may be tried and thrown into jail, but I never will be silent.

Emma Goldman (1869-1940) Lithuanian-American anarchist, activist
“Address to the Jury,” Mother Earth (Jul 1917)
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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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Compulsion in religion is distinguished peculiarly from compulsion in every other thing. I may grow rich by art I am compelled to follow, I may recover health by medicines I am compelled to take against my own judgment, but I cannot be saved by a worship I disbelieve & abhor.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) American political philosopher, polymath, statesman, US President (1801-09)
Notes on Religion (Oct 1776)
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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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True Christianity never shields itself behind majorities. Nero, and the other persecuting Roman emperors, were amply supported by majorities; and yet the pure and peaceable religion of Christ in the end triumphed over them all; and it was only when it attempted itself to enforce religion by the arm of authority, that it began to wane. A form of religion that can not live under equal and impartial laws ought to die, and sooner or later must die.

John Welch (1805-1891) American politician, jurist
Board of Education of Cincinnati v. Minor, Ohio Supreme Court (1872)
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Added on 21-Jun-11 | Last updated 4-Sep-18
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True Christianity asks no aid from the sword of civil authority.  It began without the sword, and wherever it has taken the sword it has perished by the sword. To depend on civil authority for its enforcement is to acknowledge its own weakness, which it can never afford to do.  It is able to fight its own battles.  Its weapons are moral and spiritual, and not carnal. Armed with these, and these alone, it is not afraid or “ashamed” to be compared with other religions, and to withstand them single-handed.

John Welch (1805-1891) American politician, jurist
Board of Education of Cincinnati v. Minor, Ohio Supreme Court (1872)
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People do these things to other people. Not just in Nazi concentration camps and in Abu Ghraib when it was run by Saddam Hussein. Americans, too, do them when they have permission. When they are told or made to feel that those over whom they have absolute power deserve to be mistreated, humiliated, tormented. They do them when they are led to believe that the people they are torturing belong to an inferior, despicable race or religion. For the meaning of these pictures is not just that these acts were performed, but that their perpetrators had no sense that there was anything wrong in what the pictures show.

Susan Sontag (1933-2004) American essayist, novelist, activist
“Regarding the Torture of Others,” New York Times (23 May 2004)

On the photos of Iraqi prisoners tortured by Americans in Abu Ghraib.
Added on 14-Jan-09 | Last updated 31-May-19
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Religious persecution may shield itself under the guise of a mistaken and over-zealous piety.

Edmund Burke (1729-1797) Anglo-Irish statesman, orator, philosopher
Speech (18 Feb 1788)

Quoted in E. A. Bond (ed.), Speeches ... in the Trial of Warren Hastings, vol. 1 (1859)
Added on 18-Aug-08 | Last updated 7-Jul-16
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For while this year it may be a Catholic against whom the finger of suspicion is pointed, in other years it has been, and may someday be again, a Jew — or a Quaker — or a Unitarian — or a Baptist. It was Virginia’s harassment of Baptist preachers, for example, that helped lead to Jefferson’s statute of religious freedom. Today I may be the victim — but tomorrow it may be you — until the whole fabric of our harmonious society is ripped at a time of great national peril.

John F. Kennedy (1917-1963) US President (1961-63)
Speech, Greater Houston Ministerial Association (12 Sep 1960)
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Added on 27-Sep-07 | Last updated 21-Jul-14
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No loss of flood and lightning, no destruction of cities and temples by hostile forces of nature, has deprived man of so many noble lives and impulses as those which his intolerance has destroyed.

Helen Keller (1880-1968) American author and lecturer
“Optimism,” part 2 (1903)
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Let’s never forget that we ALL have aspects about us which could cause us to find ourselves on the sharp-edged side of the razorwired fence should the winds of mass hysteria, whipped up from public opinion by demagogues, shift.

Other Authors and Sources
Bruce Little, Belief-L
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 13-Apr-14
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