Quotations about   punishment

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If you’ve lived a bad life, they send you to Hell. But if you’ve been truly wicked, they give you a tour of Heaven first.

Spider Robinson (b. 1948) American-Canadian author
Callahan’s Lady (1989)
Added on 7-May-18 | Last updated 7-May-18
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To conceive that compulsion and punishment are the proper means of reformation, is the sentiment of a barbarian; civilisation and science are calculated to explode so ferocious an idea. It was once universally admitted and approved; it is now necessarily upon the decline. Punishment must either ultimately succeed in imposing the sentiments it is employed to inculcate, upon the mind of the sufferer, or it must forcibly alienate him against them. The last of these can never be the intention of its employer, or have a tendency to justify its application. […] Yet to alienate the mind of the sufferer, from the individual that punishes, and from the sentiments he entertains, is perhaps the most common effect of punishment.

William Godwin (1756-1836) English journalist, political philosopher, novelist
Enquiry Concerning Political Justice, Vol. 2, bk. 7, ch. 5 (1793)
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Added on 30-Oct-17 | Last updated 30-Oct-17
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No free man shall be taken or imprisoned or dispossessed, or outlawed or exiled, or in any way destroyed, nor will we go upon him, no will we send against him except by the lawful judgement of his peers or by the law of the land.

Other Authors and Sources
Magna Carta, Clause 39 (1215)
Added on 21-Apr-17 | Last updated 21-Apr-17
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There is only one question which really matters: why do bad things happen to good people?

Harold S. Kushner (b. 1935) American author, rabbi
When Bad Things Happen to Good People, ch. 1 (1981)
Added on 3-Mar-17 | Last updated 3-Mar-17
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Don’t threaten a child; either punish or forgive him.

The Talmud (AD 200-500) Collection of Jewish rabbinical writings
Passage
Added on 14-Feb-17 | Last updated 14-Feb-17
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Steal money, you’re sent to prison; steal a country, you’re made a king.

Other Authors and Sources
Japanese proverb
Added on 20-Jan-17 | Last updated 20-Jan-17
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I think Hell is something you carry around with you, not somewhere you go.

gaiman-hell-is-something-you-carry-around-wist_info-quote

Neil Gaiman (b. 1960) British fabulist
(Attributed)
Added on 1-Dec-16 | Last updated 1-Dec-16
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For de little stealin’ dey gits you in jail soon or late. For de big stealin’ dey makes you Emperor and puts you in de Hall o’ Fame when you croaks.

oneill-dey-makes-you-emperor-wist_info-quote

Eugene O'Neill (1888-1953) Irish American playwright, Nobel laureate
The Emperor Jones, 1 (1921)
Added on 23-Nov-16 | Last updated 23-Nov-16
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And from your policy do not wholly banish fear,
For what man living, freed from fear, will still be just?

aeschylus-freed-from-fear-will-still-be-just-wist_info-quote

Aeschylus (525-456 BC) Greek dramatist (Æschylus)
The Eumenides
Added on 3-Nov-16 | Last updated 3-Nov-16
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You have heard the story, haven’t you, about the man who was tarred and feathered and carried out of town on a rail? A man in the crowd asked him how he liked it. His reply was that if it was not for the honor of the thing, he would much rather walk.

Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) American lawyer, politician, US President (1861-65)
(Attributed)

When asked how he liked being president (c. 1861). Quoted in Emanuel Hertz, Lincoln Talks: A Biography in Anecdote (1939).
Added on 19-Sep-16 | Last updated 19-Sep-16
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“You are fettered,” said Scrooge, trembling. “Tell me why?”

“I wear the chain I forged in life,” replied the Ghost. “I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it.”

Dickens - forged in life - wist_info quote

Charles Dickens (1812-1870) English writer and social critic
A Christmas Carol (1843)

Sometimes oddly paraphrased, "We forge the chains we wear in life."
Added on 16-Jun-16 | Last updated 16-Jun-16
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Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.

The Bible (14th C BC - 2nd C AD) Christian sacred scripture
Galatians 6:7 (KJV)
Added on 25-May-16 | Last updated 25-May-16
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The men who convey, and those who listen to calumnies, should, if I could have my way, all hang, the tale-bearers by their tongues, the listeners by their ears.

Plautus (b. c. 254 BC) Roman playright [Titus Macchius Plautus]
Pseudolus, 1.5
Added on 24-May-16 | Last updated 24-May-16
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The common interests
of states and individuals alike demand
that good and evil receive their just rewards.

Euripides (485?-406? BC) Greek tragic dramatist
Hecuba, l. 900 [tr. Arrowsmith (1964)]
Added on 15-Dec-15 | Last updated 15-Dec-15
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HAMLET: Use every man after his desert, and who should ‘scape whipping?

Shakespeare - whipping - wist_info

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
Hamlet, Act 2, sc. 2, l. 554 (1600)
Added on 23-Nov-15 | Last updated 3-Jun-16
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   “Even if some details of dogma aren’t true — or even all of ’em — think what a consolation religion and the church are to weak humanity!”
   “Are they? I wonder! Don’t cheerful agnostics, who know they are going to die dead, worry much less than good Baptists, who worry lest their sons and cousins and sweethearts fail to get into the Baptist heaven — or what is even worse, who wonder if they may not have guessed wrong — if God may not be a Catholic, maybe, or a Mormon or Seventh-day Adventist instead of a Baptist, and then they’ll go to hell themselves. Consolation? No!”

Sinclair Lewis (1885-1951) American novelist, playwright
Elmer Gantry (1927)
Added on 10-Nov-15 | Last updated 10-Nov-15
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The coldest depth of Hell is reserved for people who abandon kittens.

Robert A. Heinlein (1907-1988) American writer
Friday [Friday Jones] (1982)
Added on 6-Oct-15 | Last updated 6-Oct-15
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The honest Man takes Pains, and then enjoys Pleasures;
the Knave takes Pleasure, and then suffers Pains.

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) American statesman, scientist, philosopher
Poor Richard’s Almanack (May 1755)
Added on 8-May-15 | Last updated 8-May-15
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What has occurred in this case must ever recur in similar cases. Human nature will not change. In any future great national trial, compared with the men of this, we shall have as weak and as strong, as silly and as wise, as bad and as good. Let us, therefore, study the incidents of this, as philosophy to learn wisdom from, and none of them as wrongs to be revenged.

Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) American lawyer, politician, US President (1861-65)
Speech, Washington, DC (10 Nov 1964)
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Added on 4-May-15 | Last updated 4-May-15
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When the gods wish to punish us, they answer our prayers.

Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) Irish poet, wit, dramatist
An Ideal Husband, Act 2 (1895)
Added on 14-Apr-15 | Last updated 14-Apr-15
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One of the oldest Russian proverbs remains as inexorably true in modern America: “No one is hanged who has money in his pocket.” Or, one might say, capital punishment is only for those without capital.

Sydney J. Harris (1917-1986) Anglo-American columnist, journalist, author
Syndicated column, Chicago Daily News (Apr 1971)
Added on 31-Mar-15 | Last updated 31-Mar-15
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Mistrust all in whom the urge to punish is strong!

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) German philosopher and poet
Thus Spoke Zarathustra, “Of the Tarantulas” (1892) [tr. Hollingdale (1961)]
Added on 24-Mar-15 | Last updated 24-Mar-15
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To spare the guilty is to injure the innocent.

Publilius Syrus (d. 42 BC) Assyrian slave, writer, philosopher [less correctly Publius Syrus]
Sententiae [Moral Sayings], # 113 [tr. Lyman (1862)]
Added on 17-Mar-15 | Last updated 15-Feb-17
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Wherever a knave is not punished, an honest man is laughed at.

George Savile, Marquis of Halifax (1633-1695) English politician and essayist
“Of Punishment,” Political, Moral, and Miscellaneous Reflections (1750)
Added on 3-Mar-15 | Last updated 3-Mar-15
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I hear much of People’s calling out to punish the Guilty, but very few are concern’d to clear the Innocent.

Daniel Defoe (1660?-1731) English journalist and novelist
An Appeal to Honour and Justice, Tho’ it be of His Worse Enemies (1715)
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The gods had condemned Sisyphus to ceaselessly rolling a rock to the top of a mountain, whence the stone would fall back of its own weight. They had thought with some reason that there is no more dreadful punishment than futile and hopeless labor.

Albert Camus (1913-1960) Algerian-French novelist, essayist, playwright
“The Myth of Sisyphus”, The Myth of Sisyphus (1942)
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Added on 10-Nov-14 | Last updated 10-Nov-14
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It is an open question whether any behavior based on fear of eternal punishment can be regarded as ethical or should be regarded as merely cowardly.

Margaret Mead (1901-1978) American anthropologist
(Attributed)

Quoted in Redbook (Feb 1971)
Added on 18-Sep-14 | Last updated 18-Sep-14
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If a kid asks where rain comes from, I think a cute thing to tell him is “God is crying.” And if he asks why God is crying, another cute thing to tell him is “Probably because of something you did.”

Jack Handey (b. 1949) American humorist
Deep Thoughts (1992)
Added on 4-Sep-14 | Last updated 4-Sep-14
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What do you tell a man with two black eyes? Nothing, he’s already been told twice.

Elmore Leonard (1925-2013) American novelist and screenwriter
Darryl, Be Cool (1999)
Added on 8-Apr-14 | Last updated 8-Apr-14
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The trouble ain’t that there is too many fools, but that the lightning ain’t distributed right.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
(Attributed)
    (Source)

Found in Merle Johnson, More Maxims of Mark (1927), and generally considered authentic.
Added on 16-Jan-13 | Last updated 26-Jan-19
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The God of Hell should be held in loathing, contempt and scorn. A God who threatens eternal pain should be hated, not loved — cursed, not worshiped. A heaven presided over by such a God must be below the lowest hell. I want no part in any heaven in which the saved, the ransomed and redeemed will drown with shouts of joy the cries and sobs of hell — in which happiness will forget misery, where the tears of the lost only increase laughter and double bliss.

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) American lawyer, agnostic, orator
“The Great Infidels” (1881)
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Added on 25-Jan-12 | Last updated 2-Feb-16
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If God made us, he will not destroy us. Infinite wisdom never made a poor investment, Upon all the works of an infinite God, a dividend must finally be declared. Why should God make failures? Why should he waste material? Why should he not correct his mistakes, instead of damning them? The pulpit has cast a shadow over even the cradle. The doctrine of endless punishment has covered the cheeks of this world with tears. I despise it, and I deny it.

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) American lawyer, agnostic, orator
“What Must We Do To Be Saved?” Sec. 1 (1880)
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Added on 19-Oct-11 | Last updated 21-Aug-14
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The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821-1881) Russian novelist
The House of the Dead (1862) [tr. Garnett (1957)]
Added on 9-Feb-11 | Last updated 27-Feb-17
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I attacked the doctrine of eternal pain. I hold it in infinite and utter abhorrence. And if there be a God in this universe who made a hell; if there be a God in this universe who denies to any human being the right of reformation, then that God is not good, that God is not just, and the future of man is infinitely dark. I despise that doctrine, and I have done what little I could to get that horror from the cradle, that horror from the hearts of mothers, that horror from the hearts of husbands and fathers, and sons, and brothers, and sisters. It is a doctrine that turns to ashes all the humanities of life and all the hopes of mankind. I despise it.

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) American lawyer, agnostic, orator
“Reply to Rev. Drs. Thomas and Lorimer,” speech, Chicago (26 Nov 1882)
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Added on 9-Oct-09 | Last updated 2-Feb-16
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Morality turns on whether the pleasure precedes or follows the pain. Thus it is immoral to get drunk because the headache comes after the drinking. But if the headache came first and the drunkenness afterwards, it would be moral to get drunk.

Samuel Butler (1835-1902) English novelist, satirist, scholar
The Note-Books of Samuel Butler, “Morality” (1912)

Full text.

Added on 19-Feb-09 | Last updated 5-Sep-19
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Is it necessary that Heaven should borrow its light from the glare of Hell? Infinite punishment is infinite cruelty, endless injustice, immortal meanness. To worship an eternal gaoler hardens, debases, and pollutes even the vilest soul. While there is one sad and breaking heart in the universe, no good being can be perfectly happy.

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) American lawyer, agnostic, orator
“The Great Infidels” (1881)
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Added on 10-Jul-08 | Last updated 2-Feb-16
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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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DILBERT: Lately, the only think keeping me from being a serial killer is my distaste for manual labor.

Scott Adams (b. 1957) American cartoonist
Dilbert (11 Jan. 2001)
Added on 12-May-04 | Last updated 10-Oct-19
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Happiness is not a reward — it is a consequence. Suffering is not a punishment — it is a result.

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) American lawyer, agnostic, orator
“The Christian Religion,” Part 2, The North American Review (Nov 1881)
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Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 20-Jul-16
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Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged; and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.

The Bible (14th C BC - 2nd C AD) Christian sacred scripture
Matthew 7:1-2 (KJV)

Alt. trans.:
  • "Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get."(NRSV)
  • "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." (NIV)
  • "Do not judge others, so that God will not judge you, for God will judge you in the same way you judge others, and he will apply to you the same rules you apply to others." (GNT)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 3-Jun-16
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Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
A Little Book in C Major (1916)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 1-Dec-14
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There are in nature neither rewards nor punishments — there are consequences.

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) American lawyer, agnostic, orator
“The Christian Religion” (1881)
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And I know of the Future Judgment,
How dreadful soe’er it be,
That to sit alone with my Conscience
Will be Judgment enough for me.

Charles William Stubbs (1845-1912) British cleric (Bishop of Truro)
“The Judgment of Conscience,” st. 13, Bryhtnoth’s Prayer and Other Poems (1899)
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Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 29-May-14
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