Quotations about   sin

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There is no sin punished more implacably by nature than the sin of resistance to change. For change is the very essence of living matter. To resist change is to sin against life itself.

Anne Morrow Lindbergh (1906-2001) American writer, pilot
The Wave of the Future (1940)
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Added on 27-Apr-22 | Last updated 27-Apr-22
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A little sin is a big sin when committed by a big man.

Abraham Ibn Ezra
Abraham Ibn Ezra (1092-1167) Spanish Jewish poet, philosopher, Biblical exegete [ר׳ אַבְרָהָם בֶּן מֵאִיר אִבְּן עֶזְרָא‎]
Sefer ha-Yashar (c. 1160)

Commentary on Genesis 32.9. Alternate translation:

Therefore, a minor sin committed by a great personality is considered a major transgression.
[tr. Strickman and Silver (1988)]

Added on 8-Mar-22 | Last updated 8-Mar-22
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All things being equal, those who have more power are liable to sin more; no theorem in geometry is more certain than this.

[Caeteris paribus, on trouvera tousjours que ceux qui ont plus de puissance sont sujets à pécher davantage; et il n’y a point de théorème de géométrie qui soit plus asseuré que cette proposition.]

Gottfried Leibniz
Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716) German mathematician, philosopher, diplomat, polymath
Letter to Ernst, Landgrave of Hessen-Rheinfels (9 Jul 1688) [tr. Fasnacht (1952)]
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Quoted by John Dalberg, Lord Acton (and thus often attributed to him).

Acton's quotation was in his Inaugural Lecture on History, Cambridge (11 Jun 1895). In the lecture, after mentioning the academic precept "never be surprised by the crumbling of an idol or the disclosure of a skeleton; judge talent at its best and character at its worst; suspect power more than vice," he footnotes this Leibniz quotation (in its source French, with the Latin introduction). This was in turn translated into English in G. E. Fasnacht, Acton's Political Philosophy, ch. 6 (1952), after which it became erroneously cited by others to Acton.

The source letter (in which Leibniz is discussing the Jesuits) is collected in Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, Sämtliche Schriften und Briefe, Series 2, vol. 2, p. 278 (2009), reprinted in Stephen Voss, The Leibniz Arnauld Correspondence (2016) (the Source noted), which offers this alternate translation:

Other things being equal, one will always find that those who have more power are subject to sin more. And there is no theorem of Geometry more sure than this proposition.
[tr. Voss (2016)]

Added on 1-Mar-22 | Last updated 1-Mar-22
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After the first blush of sin comes its indifference; and from immoral it becomes, as were unmoral, and not quite unnecessary to that life which we have made.

Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) American philosopher and writer
“On the Duty of Civil Disobedience” (1849)
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Added on 3-Feb-22 | Last updated 3-Feb-22
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Few love to hear the sins they love to act.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
Pericles, Act 1, sc. 1 (1607)
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Added on 3-Nov-21 | Last updated 3-Nov-21
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There are crimes I don’t commit mainly because I don’t want to find out I could.

James Richardson (b. 1950) American poet
Vectors: Aphorisms and Ten-Second Essays #124 (2001)
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Added on 13-Jul-21 | Last updated 13-Jul-21
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“And sin, young man, is when you treat people like things. Including yourself. That’s what sin is.”

“It’s a lot more complicated than that –”

“No. It ain’t. When people say things are a lot more complicated than that, they means they’re getting worried that they won’t like the truth. People as things, that’s where it starts.”

“Oh, I’m sure there are worse crimes –”

“But they starts with thinking about people as things …”

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Carpe Jugulum [Granny Weatherwax, Rev. Mightily Oats] (1998)
Added on 11-May-21 | Last updated 11-May-21
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Christ died for our sins. Dare we make his martyrdom meaningless by not committing them?

Jules Feiffer (b. 1929) American cartoonist, authork, satirist
Little Murders, Act 1 (1967)
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Motto of "The First Existential Church."
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A society which reverences the attainment of riches as the supreme felicity will naturally be disposed to regard the poor as damned in the next world, if only to justify making their life a hell in this.

R. H. Tawney (1880-1962) English writer, economist, historian, social critic [Richard Henry Tawney]
Religion and the Rise of Capitalism, ch. 4: The Puritan Movement, sec. 4 “The New Medicine for Poverty” (1926)
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Originally delivered as Holland Lectures, Kings College (Feb-Mar 1922).
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We have a tendency to condemn people who are different from us, to define their sins as paramount and our own sinfulness as being insignificant.

Jimmy Carter (b. 1924) American politician, US President (1977-1981), Nobel laureate [James Earl Carter, Jr.]
“A Statesman And a Man Of Faith,” interview by Don Lattin, San Francisco Chronicle (12 Jan 1997)
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Added on 14-Jan-21 | Last updated 14-Jan-21
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The mind sins, not the body; if there is no intention, there is no blame.

[Mentem peccare, non corpus, et unde consilium abfuerit, culpam abesse.]

Livy (59 BC-AD 17) Roman historian [Titus Livius]
Ab Urbe Condita [From the Founding of the City; The History of Rome], Book 1, ch. 58 (27-9 BC)

Reassurances given to Lucretia, wife of Collatinus, after her rape by Sextus Tarquin. She still kills herself.

Different sources use abfuerit or afuerit. Restated as a legal term, it's usually given as Mens peccat, non corpus, et unde consilium abfuit, culpa abest.

Alt. trans.:
  • "That it is the mind sins, not the body; and that where intention was wanting guilt could not be." [tr. Spillan (1896)]
  • "The mind sins, not the body, and there is no guilt when intent is absent." [tr. Luce]
  • "The mind sins, not the body; and where the power of judgment has been absent, guilt is absent." [Source]
  • "The mind alone was capable of sinning, not the body, and that where there was no such intention, there could be no guilt." [tr. Baker (1823)]
  • "It is the mind that sins, not the body, and where there has been no consent there is no guilt." [tr. Roberts (1905)]
  • "It is the mind that sins, not the body; and that where purpose has been wanting there is no guilt." [tr. Foster (1919)]
  • "It is the will only that is capable of sinning, not the body; and where there is no intention, there can be no guilt." [Source]
Added on 12-Oct-20 | Last updated 12-Oct-20
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Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.

The Bible (14th C BC - 2nd C AD) Christian sacred scripture
Matthew 7:3-5 [NRSV]
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Alt. trans.:
  • [KJV] "And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye."
  • [GNT] "Why, then, do you look at the speck in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the log in your own eye? How dare you say to your brother, 'Please, let me take that speck out of your eye,' when you have a log in your own eye? You hypocrite! First take the log out of your own eye, and then you will be able to see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.
Added on 10-Sep-20 | Last updated 10-Sep-20
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The moral is that it is probably better not to sin at all, but if
some kind of sin you must be pursuing,

Well, remember to do it by doing rather than by not doing.

Ogden Nash (1902-1971) American poet
“Portrait of the Artist as a Prematurely Old Man” (1959)
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Added on 28-Aug-20 | Last updated 1-Sep-20
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It is common knowledge to every schoolboy and even every Bachelor of Arts,

That all sin is divided into two parts.

One kind of sin is called a sin of commission, and that is very important

And it is what you are doing when you are doing something you ortant.

And the other kind of sin is just the opposite and is called a sin of omission and is equally bad in the eyes of all right-thinking people, from Billy Sunday to Buddha,

And it consists of not having done something you shudda.

Ogden Nash (1902-1971) American poet
“Portrait of the Artist as a Prematurely Old Man”
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Added on 14-Aug-20 | Last updated 28-Aug-20
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For the Communists offer one precious, fatal boon: they take away the sense of sin. It may or may not be debatable whether a man can live without God; but, if it were possible, we should pass a law forbidding a man to live without the sense of sin.

Murray Kempton (1917-1997) American journalist.
Part of Our Time: Some Ruins & Monuments of the Thirties, ch. 1 “The Sheltered Life” (1955)
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Added on 12-Jun-20 | Last updated 12-Jun-20
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                        It is the wit,
The policy of sin, to hate those men
We have abus’d.

William Davenant (1606-1668) English poet and playwright [a.k.a. William D'Avenant]
The Just Italian, Act 3, sc. 1 [Sciolto] (1630)
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Natural inclinations are present in things from God, who moves all things. So it is impossible for the natural inclinations of a species to be toward evil in itself. But there is in all perfect animals a natural inclination toward carnal union. Therefore it is impossible for carnal union to be evil in itself.

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) Italian friar, philosopher, theologian
Summa Contra Gentiles, Book 3, ch. 126, argument 3 [tr. Dominican (1923)]
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Alt. trans.: "Natural inclinations are put into things by God, who is the prime mover of all. Therefore it is impossible for the natural inclination of any species to be directed to an object in itself evil. But in all full-grown animals there is a natural inclination to sexual union, which union therefore cannot be in itself evil."
Added on 27-May-20 | Last updated 27-May-20
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RESPECTABILITY, n. The social status of people whose sins haven’t quite caught up with them.

Edmund H. Volkart (1919-1992) American sociologist, researcher, editor
The Angel’s Dictionary: A Modern Tribute to Ambrose Bierce (1986)
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Satchelmouth was by no means averse to the finger-foxtrot and the skull fandango, but he’d never murdered anyone, at least on purpose. Satchelmouth had been made aware that he had a soul and, though it had a few holes in it and was a little ragged around the edges, he cherished the hope that some day the god Reg would find him a place in a celestial combo. You didn’t get the best gigs if you were a murderer. You probably had to play the viola.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Soul Music (1994)
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For the holy are susceptible too to evil, even as you and I, signori; they too are helpless before sin without God’s aid. … And the holy can be fooled by sin as quickly as you or I, signori. Quicker, because they are holy.

William Faulkner (1897-1962) American novelist
“Mistral,” These 13 (1931)
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Man is a reasoning animal. Therefore, man’s highest good is attained if he has fulfilled the good for which nature designed him at birth. And what is it which this reason demands of him? The easiest thing in the world — to live in accordance with his nature. But this has turned into a hard task by the general madness of mankind; we push one
another into vice.

Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC-AD 65) Roman statesman, philosopher, playwright [Lucius Annaeus Seneca]
Letters to Lucilius, Letter 41 (c. 65 AD)
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Added on 18-Sep-19 | Last updated 18-Sep-19
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The arrogance of some Christians would close heaven to them if, to their misfortune, it existed.

Simone de Beauvoir (1908-1986) French author, existentialist philosopher, feminist theorist
All Said and Done (1972)
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That which we call sin in others, is experiment for us.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
“Experience,” Essays: Second Series (1844)
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Added on 4-Sep-18 | Last updated 4-Sep-18
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A just man is not one who does no ill,
But he, who with the power, has not the will.

Philemon (c. 362 BC – c. 262 BC) Athenian poet and playwright
Sententiæ, II

Attributed in John Booth, Epigrams, Ancient and Modern (1863). .
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Ambition hath one heel nailed in hell, though she stretch her finger to touch the heavens.

John Lyly (c. 1553-1606) was an English writer [also Lilly or Lylie]
Midas: A Comedy, Act 2, sc. 1 [Sophronia] (1592)
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Sometimes misquoted as "nailed in well." Sometimes misattributed to Lao-tzu.
Added on 23-Aug-17 | Last updated 5-Sep-17
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For my own part, I consider the best and most finished type of man to be the person who is always ready to make allowances for others, on the ground that never a day passes without his being in fault himself, yet who keeps as clear of faults as if he never pardoned them in others.

[Atque ego optimum et emendatissimum existimo, qui ceteris ita ignoscit, tamquam ipse cotidie peccet, ita peccatis abstinet tamquam nemini ignoscat.]

Pliny the Younger (c. 61-c. 113) Roman politician, writer [Gaius Plinius Caecilius Secundus]
Epistles [Epistulae], Book 8, Letter 22 “To Geminus” [tr. J.B.Firth (1900)]
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Alt. trans.: "The highest of characters, in my estimation, is his, who is as ready to pardon the moral errors of mankind, as if he were every day guilty of some himself; and at the same time as cautious of committing a fault as if he never forgave one."
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If God didn’t want women to be looked at, he would have made ’em ugly — that’s reasonable, isn’t it? God isn’t a cheat; He set up the game Himself — He wouldn’t rig it so that the marks can’t win, like a flat joint wheel in a town with the fix on. He wouldn’t send anybody to Hell for losing in a crooked game.

Robert A. Heinlein (1907-1988) American writer
Stranger in a Strange Land, ch. 27 [Patty] (1961)
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‘Tis no Sin to be tempted, but to be overcome.

William Penn (1644-1718) English real estate entrepreneur, philosopher, statesman
Some Fruits of Solitude, #450 (1693)
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See Shakespeare.
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He who holds the ladder is as guilty as the thief.

(Other Authors and Sources)
German proverb
Added on 3-Mar-17 | Last updated 3-Mar-17
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What once were vices, are now the manners of the day.

Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC-AD 65) Roman statesman, philosopher, playwright [Lucius Annaeus Seneca]
Moral Letters to Lucilius [Epistulae morales ad Lucilium], Letter 109
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Sin is a queer thing. It isn’t the breaking of divine commandments. It is the breaking of one’s own integrity.

lawrence-sin-is-a-queer-thing-wist_info-quote

David Herbert "D. H." Lawrence (1885-1930) English novelist
Studies in Classic American Literature, ch. 8 (1923)
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Children will imitate their fathers in their vices, seldom in their repentance.

Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892) British Baptist preacher, author [Charles Haddon (C.H.) Spurgeon]
Spurgeon’s Sermons, 3rd Series, Sermon 21, “Manasseh” (1883)
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We begin to notice, besides our particular sinful acts, our sinfulness; begin to be alarmed not only about what we do, but about what we are. This may sound rather difficult, so I will try to make it clear from my own case. When I come to my evening prayers and try to reckon up the sins of the day, nine times out of ten the most obvious one is some sin against charity; I have sulked or snapped or sneered or snubbed or stormed. And the excuse that immediately springs to my mind is that the provocation was so sudden and unexpected; I was caught off my guard, I had not time to collect myself.

Now that may be an extenuating circumstance as regards those particular acts: they would obviously be worse if they had been deliberate and premeditated. On the other hand, surely what a man does when he is taken off his guard is the best evidence for what sort of a man he is? Surely what pops out before the man has time to put on a disguise is the truth? If there are rats in a cellar you are most likely to see them if you go in very suddenly. But the suddenness does not create the rats: it only prevents them from hiding. In the same way the suddenness of the provocation does not make me an ill-tempered man; it only shows me what an ill-tempered man I am. The rats are always there in the cellar, but if you go in shouting and noisily they will have taken cover before you switch on the light.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
Mere Christianity, “Let’s Pretend” (1952)
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And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

The Bible (14th C BC - 2nd C AD) Christian sacred scripture
Luke 18:9-14 [KJV]
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Many a man is saved from being a thief by finding everything locked up.

howe-saved-from-being-a-thief-wist_info-quote

Edgar Watson "Ed" Howe (1853-1937) American journalist and author [E. W. Howe]
Ventures in Common Sense, 4.29 (1919)
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The devil’s voice is sweet to hear

Stephen King (b. 1947) American author
Needful Things (1991)
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Fashions in sin change.

Hellman - fashions in sin change - wist_info quote

Lillian Hellman (1906-1987) American playwright, screenwriter
Watch on the Rhine (1941)
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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."
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An evil-speaker differs from an evil-doer only in the want of opportunity.

[Maledicus a malefico non distat nisi occasione.]

Quintilian (39-90) Roman orator [Marcus Fabius Quintilianus]
De Institutione Oratorio, Book 12, ch. 9, l. 9
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Pleasure’s a sin, and sometimes sin’s a pleasure.

Byron - pleasures a sin - wist_info quote

George Gordon, Lord Byron (1788-1824) English poet
Don Juan, Canto 1, st. 133 (1818)
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One of the temptations of upper-middle class life is to create sharp edges of our moral sensitivities that allows comfortable confusions about sin and virtue. The difference between rich and poor is not that the rich sin more than the poor, it is that the rich find it easier to call sin a virtue. When the poor sin, they call it sin; when they see holiness, they identify it as such. This intuitive clarity is often absent from the wealthy, and that absence easily leads to the atrophy of the moral sense.

Henri Nouwen (1932-1996) Dutch Catholic priest and writer
Encounters with Merton (2004)
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Get in line in that processional,
Step into that small confessional.
There the guy who’s got religion’ll
Tell you if your sin’s original.
If it is, try playin’ it safer,
Drink the wine and chew the wafer.
Two, four, six, eight,
Time to transubstantiate!

Tom Lehrer (b. 1928) American mathematician, satirist, songwriter
“The Vatican Rag,” That Was the Year That Was (1965)
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‘Why has sex become man’s chief stumbling block?’ But has it? Or is it only the most recognisable of the stumbling blocks? I mean, we can mistake pride for a good conscience, and cruelty for zeal, and idleness for the peace of God et cetera. But when lust is upon us, then, owing to the obvious physical symptoms, we can’t pretend it is anything else. Is it perhaps only the least disguisable of our dangers.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
Letter (27 Sep 1954)
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Admit thy guilt and and seek forgiveness, for the denial of guilt is two iniquities.

Solomon ibn Gabirol (fl. 11th Century) Andalusian poet and Jewish philosopher [a.k.a. Solomon ben Judah, Avicebron]
Choice of Pearls, 109 [tr. Cohen (1925)]
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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)
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The Maker of the universe with stars a hundred thousand light-years apart was interested, furious, and very personal about it if a small boy played baseball on Sunday afternoon.

Sinclair Lewis (1885-1951) American novelist, playwright
Elmer Gantry (1927)
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Laziness is the sin most willingly confessed to, since it implies talents greater than have yet appeared.

James Richardson (b. 1950) American poet
Vectors: Aphorisms and Ten-Second Essays (2001)
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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)
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Thou canst not prevent the birds from flying above they head, but thou canst prevent their building their nests in thy hair.

Martin Luther (1483-1546) German religious reformer
Letter to Hieronymous Weller (1530)
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On temptation, attributed to "a wise oracle."
Added on 30-Sep-15 | Last updated 30-Sep-15
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Whoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if he destroyed an entire world. And whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world.

The Talmud (AD 200-500) Collection of Jewish rabbinical writings
Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:9; Yerushalmi Talmud, Tractate Sanhedrin 37a
    (Source)

Alt. trans.: "Whoever destroys a single life is as guilty as though he had destroyed the entire world; and whoever rescues a single life earns as much merit as though he had rescued the entire world."
Added on 1-Sep-15 | Last updated 20-Dec-19
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Sin? Sin like love was a word hard to define. It came in two bitter but vastly different flavors. The first lay in violating the taboos of your tribe … The other meaning of sin was easier to define because it was not molded by the murky concepts of religion and taboo: Sin is behavior that ignores the welfare of others.

Robert A. Heinlein (1907-1988) American writer
Time Enough For Love (1973)
Added on 7-Jul-15 | Last updated 7-Jul-15
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It is not going in [to the brothel] that is a problem, but not being able to come out.

Aristippus of Cyrene (c. 435 – c. 356 BC) Cyrenaic philosopher, Hedonist
Fragment 59 [Mannebach]
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Added on 5-Jun-15 | Last updated 5-Jun-15
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The secret demerits of which we alone, perhaps, are conscious, are often more difficult to bear than those which have been publicly censured in us, and thus in some degree atoned for.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) American poet
Kavanagh: A Tale, ch. 30 (1849)
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Added on 14-Apr-15 | Last updated 16-Apr-21
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Anything I like is either illegal or immoral or fattening.

Alexander Woollcott (1887-1943) American critic, commentator, journalist, wit
(Attributed)

Apparently a gag attributed by Woollcott to a Frank Rand of St. Louis on his radio show in September 1933; it was then directly attributed to Woollcott in Reader's Digest in Dec. 1933. It is sometimes cited to Woollcott's essay "The Knock at the Stage Door," The North American Review (Sep 1922), but not found there.

Variants:
  • "All the things I like to do are either immoral, illegal, or fattening."
  • "All the things I really like to do are either immoral, illegal or fattening."
  • "Everything I want to do is either illegal, immoral or fattening."
More discussion about this quotation:
Added on 20-Mar-15 | Last updated 25-Feb-22
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HAWKEYE: War isn’t Hell. War is war, and Hell is Hell. And of the two, war is a lot worse.

FR. MULCAHEY: How do you figure, Hawkeye?

HAWKEYE: Easy, Father. Tell me, who goes to Hell?

FR. MULCAHEY: Sinners, I believe.

HAWKEYE: Exactly. There are no innocent bystanders in Hell. War is chock full of them — little kids, cripples, old ladies. In fact, except for some of the brass, almost everybody involved is an innocent bystander.

Burt Prelutsky (b. 1940) American TV screenwriter, author, columnist, critic
M*A*S*H, 5×20 “The General’s Practitioner” (15 Feb 1977)
Added on 19-Mar-15 | Last updated 19-Mar-15
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