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But if nature does not ratify law, then all the virtues may lose their sway. For what becomes of generosity, patriotism, or friendship? Where will the desire of benefitting our neighbours, or the gratitude that acknowledges kindness, be able to exist at all? For all these virtues proceed from our natural inclination to love mankind.

[Atqui si natura confirmatura ius non erit, uirtutes omnes tollantur. Vbi enim liberalitas, ubi patriae caritas, ubi pietas, ubi aut bene merendi de altero aut referendae gratiae uoluntas poterit existere? Nam haec nascuntur ex eo quod natura propensi sumus ad diligendos homines, quod fundamentum iuris est.]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
De Legibus [On the Laws], Book 1, ch. 15 / sec. 43 (1.15/1.43) [Marcus] (c. 51 BC) [tr. Barham/Yonge (1878)]

(Source (Latin)). Alternate translations:

If nature does not ratify law, all the virtues lose their sway. What becomes of generosity, patriotism, or friendship? Where should we find the desire of benefitting our neighbours, or the gratitude that acknowledges kindness? For all these virtues proceed from our natural inclination to love and cherish our associates.
[tr. Barham (1842)]

And if Nature is not to be considered the foundation of Justice, that will mean the destruction [of the virtues on which human society depends]. For where then will there be a place for generosity, or love of country, or loyalty, or the inclination to be of service to others, or to show gratitude for favours received? For these virtues originate in our natural inclination to love our fellow-men, and this is the foundation of Justice.
[tr. Keyes (1928)]

That is why every virtue is abolished if nature is not going to support justice. What room will there be for liberality, patriotism, and devotion; or for the wish to serve others or to show gratitude? These virtues are rooted in the fact that we are inclined by nature to have a regard for others; and that is the basis of justice.
[tr. Rudd (1998)]

If nature will not confirm justice, all the virtues will be eliminated. Where will there be a place for liberality, for love of country, for piety, for the desire to do well by others or return kindness? These all arise because we are inclined by nature to love other humans, and that is the foundation of justice.
[tr. Zetzel (1999)]

And if right has not been confirmed by nature, they may be eliminated. In fact, where will liberality be able to exist, where affection for the fatherland, where piety, where the will either to deserve well of another or to or to return a service? These things originate in this, that we are inclined by nature to to cherish human beings; that is the foundation of right.
[tr. Fott (2013)]

Added on 9-Mar-23 | Last updated 9-Mar-23
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A man who parades his piety is one who, under an atheist king, would be an atheist.

[Un dévot est celui qui, sous un roi athée, serait athée.]

Jean de La Bruyère (1645-1696) French essayist, moralist
The Characters [Les Caractères], ch. 13 “Of the Fashion [De la mode],” § 21 (1688)

La Bruyère notes in the original this refers to a "faux dévot."

(Source (French)). Alternate translations:

An Hypocrite is one that will be an Atheist under a King that is so.
[Bullord ed. (1696)]

A Devote is one, that under a King who was an Atheist, would be a Devote.
[Curll ed. (1713)]

A Devoto is one, that under an atheistical King wouild be an Atheist.
[Browne ed. (1752)]

A pious person is one who, under an atheistical king, would be an atheist.
[tr. Van Laun (1885)]

A pious hypocrite is one who, under an atheistic king, would be an atheist.
[tr. Stewart (1970)]

Added on 8-Nov-22 | Last updated 8-Nov-22
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The garb of religion is the best cloak for power.

William Hazlitt (1778-1830) English writer
“On the Clerical Character,” Conclusion (7 Feb 1818)
Added on 3-Mar-22 | Last updated 3-Mar-22
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True character arises from a deeper well than religion. It is the internalization of moral principles of a society, augmented by those tenets personally chosen by the individual, strong enough to endure through trials of solitude and adversity. The principles are fitted together into what we call integrity, literally the integrated self, wherein personal decisions feel good and true. Character is in turn the enduring source of virtue. It stands by itself and excites admiration in others. It is not obedience to authority, and while it is often consistent with and reinforced by religious belief, it is not piety.

E. O. Wilson (1929-2021) American biologist, naturalist, writer [Edward Osborne Wilson]
Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge, ch. 11 “Ethics and Religion” (1998)
Added on 14-Jan-22 | Last updated 14-Jan-22
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Wisdom is by far the greatest part of joy,
and reverence toward the gods must be safeguarded.
The mighty words of the proud are paid in full
with mighty blows of fate, and at long last
those blows will teach us wisdom.

[πολλῷ τὸ φρονεῖν εὐδαιμονίας
πρῶτον ὑπάρχει. χρὴ δὲ τά γ᾽ εἰς θεοὺς
μηδὲν ἀσεπτεῖν. μεγάλοι δὲ λόγοι
μεγάλας πληγὰς τῶν ὑπεραύχων
γήρᾳ τὸ φρονεῖν ἐδίδαξαν.]

Sophocles (496-406 BC) Greek tragic playwright
Antigone, l. 1348ff [Chorus] (441 BC) [tr. Fagles (1982), l. 1466ff]

Final lines of the play. Original Greek. Alternate translations:

Wisdom is first of the gifts of good fortune:
'Tis a duty, to be sure, the rites of the Gods
Duly to honor: but words without measure, the
Fruit of vain-glory, in woes without number their
Recompense finding,
Have lesson'd the agéd in wisdom.
[tr. Donaldson (1848)]

Of happiness the chiefest part
Is a wise heart:
And to defraud the gods in aught
With peril's fraught.
Swelling words of high-flown might
Mightily the gods do smite.
Chastisement for errors past
Wisdom brings to age at last.
[tr. Storr (1859)]

Wise conduct hath command of happiness
Before all else, and piety to Heaven
Must be preserved. High boastings of the proud
Bring sorrow to the height to punish pride: --
A lesson men shall learn when they are old.
[tr. Campbell (1873)]

Wisdom is provided as the chief part of happiness, and our dealings with the gods must be in no way unholy. The great words of arrogant men have to make repayment with great blows, and in old age teach wisdom.
[tr. Jebb (1891)]

Wisdom alone is man's true happiness.
We are not to dispute the will of heaven;
For ever are the boastings of the proud
By the just gods repaid, and man at last
Is taught to fear their anger and be wise.
[tr. Werner (1892)]

Wisdom is the supreme part of happiness; and reverence towards the gods must be inviolate. Great words of prideful men are ever punished with great blows, and, in old age, teach the chastened to be wise.
[tr. Jebb (1917)]

There is no happiness where there is no wisdom;
No wisdom but in submission to the gods.
Big words are always punished
And proud men in old age learn to be wise.
[tr. Fitts/Fitzgerald (1939), l. 1039ff]

Of happiness the crown
And chiefest part
Is wisdom, and to hold
The gods in awe.
This is the law
That, seeing the stricken heart
Of pride brought down,
We learn when we are old.
[tr. Watling (1947), Exodos, l. 1027ff]

Our happiness depends
on wisdom all the way.
The gods must have their due.
Great words by men of pride
bring greater blows upon them.
So wisdom comes to the old.
[tr. Wyckoff (1954)]

Of happiness, far the greatest part is wisdom,
and reverence towards the gods.
Proud words of arrogant man, in the end,
Meet punishment, great as his pride was great,
Till at last he is schooled in wisdom.
[tr. Kitto (1962)]

Wisdom is supreme for a blessed life,
And reference for the gods
Must never cease. Great words, sprung from arrogance.
Are punished by great blows.
So it is one learns, in old age, to be wise.
[tr. Woodruff (2001)]

By far is having sense the first part
of happiness. One must not act impiously toward
what pertains to gods. Big words
of boasting men,
paid for by big blows,
teach having sense in old age.
[tr. Tyrell/Bennett (2002)]

The most important thing in man’s happiness is good judgement and he must not treat with disdain the works of the gods.
The arrogant pay for their big proud words with great downfalls and it’s only then, in their old age that they gain wisdom!
[tr. Theodoridis (2004)]

The most important part of true success
is wisdom -- not to act impiously
towards the gods, for boasts of arrogant men
bring on great blows of punishment --
so in old age men can discover wisdom.
[tr. Johnston (2005)]

Knowledge truly is by far the most important part of happiness, but one must neglect nothing that the gods demand. Great words of the over-proud balanced by great falls taught us knowledge in our old age.
[tr. Thomas (2005)]
Added on 11-Mar-21 | Last updated 11-Mar-21
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I think vital Religion has always suffer’d, when Orthodoxy is more regarded than Virtue. And the Scripture assures me, that at the last Day, we shall not be examin’d what we thought, but what we did; and our Recommendation will not be that we said Lord, Lord, but that we did GOOD to our Fellow Creatures.

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) American statesman, scientist, philosopher, aphorist
Letter to Josiah and Abiah Franklin (13 Apr 1738)

His parents. Franklin cites Matt. 26 in the letter, but it should be Matt. 25:31-46.
Added on 1-Oct-20 | Last updated 20-Mar-23
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I don’t kno as i want tew bet enny money, and giv odds, on the man, who iz alwus anxious tew pray out loud, every chance he kan git.

[I don’t know as I want to bet any money, and give odds, on the man who is always anxious to pray out loud, every chance he can get.]

Josh Billings (1818-1885) American humorist [pseud. of Henry Wheeler Shaw]
Everybody’s Friend, Or; Josh Billing’s Encyclopedia and Proverbial Philosophy of Wit and Humor, “Mollassis Kandy” (1874)
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In self-examination, take no account of yourself by your thoughts and resolutions in the days of religion and solemnity; examine how it is with you in the days of ordinary conversation and in the circumstances of secular employment.

Jeremy Taylor (1613-1667) English cleric and author

Quoted in The Friends' Intelligencer (24 Jun 1882).
Added on 18-Jul-17 | Last updated 18-Jul-17
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[Dr. John] Campbell is a good man, a pious man. I am afraid he has not been in the inside of a church for many years; but he never passes a church without
pulling off his hat. This shews that he has good principles.

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) English writer, lexicographer, critic
Comment (1 Jul 1763)

In James Boswell, The Life of Samuel Johnson (1791).
Added on 24-Feb-17 | Last updated 24-Feb-17
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The man of business goes on Sunday to the church with the regularity of the village blacksmith, there to renounce and abjure before his God the line of conduct which he intends to pursue with all his might during the following week.

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) British playwright and critic
Fabian Essays in Socialism, “The Basis of Socialism: Economic” (1889)
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To most Christians, the Bible is like a software license. Nobody actually reads it. They just scroll to the bottom and click, “I agree.”

Maher - Bible I Agree - wist_info quote

William "Bill" Maher (b. 1956) American comedian, political commentator, critic, television host.
Added on 8-Jun-16 | Last updated 8-Jun-16
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Prayer is not a pious decoration of life but the breath of human existence.

Henri Nouwen (1932-1996) Dutch Catholic priest and writer
The Wounded Healer (1972)
Added on 11-Mar-16 | Last updated 11-Mar-16
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It is a great deal better to live a holy life than to talk about it. We are told to let our light shine, and if it does, we won’t need to tell anybody it does. Light-houses don’t ring bells and fire cannon to call attention to their shining — they just shine.

Moody - light-houses - wist_info quote

Dwight Lyman "D. L." Moody (1837-1899) American evangelist and publisher

Sometimes quoted, "they just shine on."
Added on 27-Jan-16 | Last updated 27-Jan-16
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Piety practised in solitude, like the flower that blooms in the desert, may give its fragrance to the winds of heaven, and delight those unbodied spirits that survey the works of God and the actions of men; but it bestows no assistance upon earthly beings, and however free from taints of impurity, yet wants the sacred splendour of beneficence.

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) English writer, lexicographer, critic
The Adventurer, #126 “Praises of Solitude”
Added on 2-May-14 | Last updated 2-May-14
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It will presumably be thought better, indeed one’s duty, to do away with even what is close to one’s heart in order to preserve the truth, especially when one is a philosopher. For one might love both, but it is nevertheless a sacred duty to prefer the truth to one’s friends.

[ἀληθείας καὶ τὰ οἰκεῖα ἀναιρεῖν, ἄλλως τε καὶ φιλοσόφους ὄντας: ἀμφοῖν γὰρ ὄντοιν φίλοιν ὅσιον προτιμᾶν τὴν ἀλήθειαν.]

Aristotle (384-322 BC) Greek philosopher
Nicomachean Ethics [Ἠθικὰ Νικομάχεια], Book 1, ch. 6 (1.6, 1096a.15) (c. 325 BC) [tr. Crisp (2000)]

This is actually not given as a general guideline for living life, but specifically about offering a philosophical argument in opposition that offered by friends. (Source (Greek)). Alternate translations:

Still perhaps it may appear better, nay to be our duty where the safety of the truth is concerned, to upset if need be even our own theories, specially as we are lovers of wisdom: for since both are dear to us, we are bound to prefer the truth.
[tr. Chase (1847), ch. 3]

And yet, where the interests of truth are at actual stake, we ought, perhaps, to sacrifice even that which is our own -- if, at least, we are to lay any claim to a philosophic spirit. Both are dear to us alike, but truth must be religiously preserved.
[tr. Williams (1869)]

Yet it will perhaps seem the best, and indeed the right course, at least when the truth is at stake, to go so far as to sacrifice what is near and dear to us, especially as we are philosophers. For friends and truth are both dear to us, but it is a sacred duty to prefer the truth.
[tr. Welldon (1892)]

In the interests of truth we ought to sacrifice even what is nearest to us, especially as we call ourselves philosophers. Both are dear to us, but it is a sacred duty to give the preference to truth.
[tr. Peters (1893)]

Yet it would perhaps be thought to be better, indeed to be our duty, for the sake of maintaining the truth even to destroy what touches us closely, especially as we are philosophers or lovers of wisdom; for, while both are dear, piety requires us to honour truth above our friends.
[tr. Ross (1908)]

Still perhaps it would appear desirable, and indeed it would seem to be obligatory, especially for a philosopher, to sacrifice even one's closest personal ties in defense of the truth. Both are dear to us, yet 'tis our duty to prefer the truth.
[tr. Rackham (1934)]

Yet it would seem better, perhaps, and something we should do, at any rate when the preservation of the truth is at stake, to confute even what is properly our own, most of all because we are philosophers. For while we love both our friends and the truth, it is a pious thing to accord greater honor to the truth.
[tr. Reeve (1948)]

Yet it would perhaps be thought better, and also our duty, to forsake even what is close to us in order to preserve the truth, especially as we are philosophers; for while both are dear, it is sacred to honor truth above friendship.
[tr. Apostle (1975), ch. 4]

Yet surely it would be thought better, or rather necessary (above all for philosophers), to refute, in defence of truth , even views to which one is attached; since both are dear, it is right to give preference to the truth.
[tr. Thomson/Tredennick (1976)]

Still, it presumably seems better, indeed only right, to destroy even what is close to us if that is the way to preserve truth. And we must especially do this when we are philosophers, lovers of wisdom; for though we love both the truth and our friends, piety requires us to honor the truth first.
[tr. Irwin/Fine (1995)]

But perhaps it might be held to be better, in fact to be obligatory, at least for the sake of preserving the truth, to do away with even one's own things, especially for those who are philosophers. For although both are clear, it is a pious thing to honor the truth first.
[tr. Bartlett/Collins (2011)]

Added on 15-Dec-08 | Last updated 14-Dec-21
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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)
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Prayer does not change God, but changes him who prays.

Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) Danish philosopher, theologian
Works of Love (1847)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 9-Jan-20
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A tyrant must put on the appearance of uncommon devotion to religion. Subjects are less apprehensive of illegal treatment from a ruler whom they consider god-fearing and pious. On the other hand, they do less easily move against him, believing that he has the gods on his side.

Aristotle (384-322 BC) Greek philosopher
Politics [Πολιτικά], Book 5, ch. 11 / 1314b.39

Alt. trans.:

  • "Also he should appear to be particularly earnest in the service of the Gods; for if men think that a ruler is religious and has a reverence for the Gods, they are less afraid of suffering injustice at his hands, and they are less disposed to conspire against him, because they believe him to have the very Gods fighting on his side. At the same time his religion must not be thought foolish." [tr. Jowett (1885)]

  • "And, moreover, always to seem particularly attentive to the worship of the gods; for from persons of such a character men entertain less fears of suffering anything illegal while they suppose that he who governs them is religious and reverences the gods; and they will be less inclined to raise insinuations against such a one, as being peculiarly under their protection: but this must be so done as to give no occasion for any suspicion of hypocrisy." [tr. Ellis (1912)]

  • "And further he must be seen always to be exceptionally zealous as regards religious observances (for people are less afraid of suffering any illegal treatment from men of this sort, if they think that their ruler has religious scruples and pays regard to the gods, and also they plot against him less, thinking that he has even the gods as allies), though he should not display a foolish religiosity." [tr. Rackham (1932)]

  • "Further, he must always show himself to be seriously attentive to the things pertaining to the gods. For men are less afraid fo being treated in some respect contrary to the law by such persons, if they consider the ruler a god-fearing sort who takes thought for the gods, and they are less ready to conspire against him as one who has the gods too as allies. In showing himself of this sort, however, he must avoid silliness." [tr. Lord (1984)]
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 12-Feb-21
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