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It was one of the rules which above all others made Doctr. Franklin the most amiable of men in society, “never to contradict any body.” if he was urged to announce an opinion, he did it rather by asking questions, as if for information, or by suggesting doubts.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) American political philosopher, polymath, statesman, US President (1801-09)
Letter to Thomas Jefferson Randolph (24 Nov 1808)
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Referring to Benjamin Franklin.
 
Added on 31-Oct-22 | Last updated 31-Oct-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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I felt fairly sure that the Almighty, whatever name tag He had on at the moment, could handle a few questions from people sincerely looking for answers. Hell, He might even like it.

Jim Butcher (b. 1971) American author
Changes, ch. 14 (2010)
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Added on 20-Jan-22 | Last updated 20-Jan-22
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The key to any progress is to ask the question Why? All the time. Why is that child poor? Why was there a war? Why was he killed? Why is he in power? And of course questions can get you into a lot of trouble, because society is trained by those who run it to accept what goes on. Without questions we won’t make any progress at all.

Tony Benn
Tony Benn (1925-2014) British politician, writer, diarist
Interview in Raoul Martinez, Creating Freedom: The Lottery of Birth (2013)
 
Added on 23-Nov-21 | Last updated 23-Nov-21
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Science is in far greater danger from the absence of challenge than from the coming of any number of even absurd challenges.

Isaac Asimov (1920-1992) Russian-American author, polymath, biochemist
“The Role of the Heretic,” Foreword to Donald W. Goldsmith (ed.), Scientists Confront Velikovsky (1977)
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Added on 3-Nov-21 | Last updated 3-Nov-21
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No simplicity of mind, no obscurity of station, can escape the universal duty of questioning all that we believe.

William Kingdon Clifford (1845-1879) English mathematician and philosopher
“The Ethics of Belief,” Part 1 “The Duty of Inquiry,” Contemporary Review (Jan 1877)
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Added on 1-Nov-21 | Last updated 1-Nov-21
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He must be a man of little faith, who would fear to subject his own religion to the same critical tests to which the historian subjects all other religions. We need not surely crave a tender or merciful treatment for that faith which we hold to be the only true one. We should rather challenge it for the severest tests and trials, as the sailor would for the good ship to which he trusts his own life, and the lives of those who are dear to him. In the Science of Religion, we can decline no comparisons, nor claim any immunities for Christianity, as little as the missionary can, when wrestling with the subtle Brahmin, or the fanatical Mussulman, or the plain speaking Zulu.

Max Müller (1823-1900) German-British philologist, Orientalist, religious studies founder
Chips from a German Workshop, vol. 1, Preface (1866)
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Added on 9-Oct-20 | Last updated 16-Oct-20
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This is how humans are: We question all our beliefs, except for the ones we really believe, and those we never think to question.

Orson Scott Card
Orson Scott Card (b. 1951) American author
Speaker for the Dead (1986)
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Added on 25-Aug-20 | Last updated 25-Aug-20
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One of the greatest of joys known to man is to take such a flight into ignorance in search of knowledge. The great pleasure of ignorance is, after all, the pleasure of asking questions. The man who has lost this pleasure or exchanged it for the pleasure of dogma, which is the pleasure of answering, is already beginning to stiffen.

Robert Lynd (1892-1970) American sociologist [Robert Slaughton Lynd]
The Pleasure of Ignorance, ch. 1 (1921)
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Added on 29-Jan-20 | Last updated 29-Jan-20
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But your spiritual teachers caution you against enquiry — tell you not to read certain books; not to listen to certain people; to beware of profane learning; to submit your reason, and to receive their doctrines for truths. Such advice renders them suspicious counsellors. By their own creed, you hold your reason from their God. Go! ask them why he gave it.

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 4-Sep-19 | Last updated 4-Sep-19
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Albert grunted. “Do you know what happens to lads who ask too many questions?”

Mort thought for a moment. “No,” he said eventually, “what?”

There was silence.

Then Albert straightened up and said, “Damned if I know. Probably they get answers, and serve ’em right.”

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Mort (1987)
 
Added on 22-Jul-15 | Last updated 22-Jul-15
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HARKEN: [In an interrogation room] You fought with Captain Reynolds in the war?
ZOE: Fought with a lot of people in the war.
HARKEN: And your husband?
ZOE: Fight with him sometimes, too.
HARKEN: Is there any particular reason you don’t wish to discuss your marriage?
ZOE: Don’t see that it’s any of your business, is all. We’re very private people.
WASH: [In a different interrogation room] The legs! [Laughs] Oh yeah, definitely have to say it was her legs. You can put that down. Her legs, and right where her legs — meet her back. That — actually, that whole area. That, and — and above it. […] Have you seen what she wears? Forget about it. Have you ever been with a warrior woman?

Tim Minear (b. 1963) American screenwriter and director
Firefly, 1X03 “Bushwhacked” (27 Sep 2002)
 
Added on 30-Apr-15 | Last updated 30-Apr-15
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I am driven to express my faith by a series of skepticisms.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
Journal (1845)
 
Added on 11-Jul-14 | Last updated 11-Jul-14
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They had Gebert down there, slapping him around and squealing and yelling at him. If you’re so sure violence is inferior technique, you should have seen that exhibition; it was wonderful. They say it works sometimes, but even if it does, how could you depend on anything you got that way? Not to mention that after you had done it a few times any decent garbage can would be ashamed to have you found in it.

Rex Stout (1886-1975) American writer
The Red Box, ch. 14 [Archie] (1937)

Describing a police interrogation.
 
Added on 6-Mar-14 | Last updated 6-Mar-14
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Do not be frightened from this inquiry by any fear of its consequences. If it ends in a belief that there is no god, you will find incitements to virtue in the comfort and pleasantness you feel in its exercise, and the love of others which it will procure you. If you find reason to believe there is a God, a consciousness that you are acting under his eye, and that he approves you, will be a vast additional incitement; if that there be a future state, the hope of a happy existence in that increases the appetite to deserve it; if that Jesus was also a god, you will be comforted by a belief of his aid and love.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) American political philosopher, polymath, statesman, US President (1801-09)
Letter to Peter Carr (10 Aug 1787)
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Added on 27-Jun-13 | Last updated 2-Aug-22
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I have seen several entirely sincere people who thought they were (permanent) Seekers after Truth. They sought diligently, persistently, carefully, cautiously, profoundly, with perfect honesty and nicely adjusted judgment — until they believed that without doubt or question they had found the Truth.

That was the end of the search. The man spent the rest of his life hunting up shingles wherewith to protect his Truth from the weather. If he was seeking after political Truth he found it in one or another of the hundred political gospels which govern men in the earth; if he was seeking after the Only True Religion he found it in one or another of the three thousand that are on the market. In any case, when he found the Truth he sought no further; but from that day forth, with his soldering-iron in one hand and his bludgeon in the other he tinkered its leaks and reasoned with objectors.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
“What is Man?” (1906)
 
Added on 28-May-08 | Last updated 26-Jan-19
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If a man, holding a belief which he was taught in childhood or persuaded of afterwards, keeps down and pushes away any doubts which arise about it in his mind, purposely avoids the reading of books and the company of men that call in question and discuss it, and regards as impious those questions which cannot easily be asked without disturbing it — the life of that man is one long sin against mankind.

William Kingdon Clifford (1845-1879) English mathematician and philosopher
“The Ethics of Belief,” Part 1 “The Duty of Inquiry,” Contemporary Review (Jan 1877)
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Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 10-Jan-20
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The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day.

Albert Einstein (1879-1955) German-American physicist
Memoirs of William Miller, quoted in Life (2 May 1955)
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Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 21-Feb-21
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