Quotations about   torture

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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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Whether you believe that life evolved over billions of years or God made everything, you can’t justify torturing an animal for a shampoo.

Ricky Gervais (b. 1961) English comedian, actor, director, writer
Twitter (15 Mar 2012)
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Added on 28-Jul-16 | Last updated 28-Jul-16
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You’re supposed to look at that figure of Christ on the cross and think, “How could a man suffer like that and forgive?” Not, “Romans are pussies — he still has his eyes.”

William "Bill" Maher (b. 1956) American comedian, political commentator, critic, television host.
Real Time with Bill Maher, “New Rules” (13 May 2011)

Discussing Christians who support torturing terrorists.
Added on 1-Jun-16 | Last updated 1-Jun-16
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If you torture the data long enough, Nature will confess.
Coase - torture the data - wist_info quote

Ronald Coase (1910-2013) British economist, academic, author
(Attributed)

Criticizing econometricians. Cited as early as 1977. Variants:
  • "If you torture data long enough, it will confess to anything you'd like."
  • "If you torture the data long enough, it will confess to anything."
Added on 25-Apr-16 | Last updated 25-Apr-16
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SIMON: What happens if they board us?
ZOE: If they take the ship, they’ll rape us to death, eat our flesh, and sew our skins into their clothing. And if we’re very, very lucky, they’ll do it in that order.

Joss Whedon (b. 1964) American screenwriter, author, producer [Joseph Hill Whedon]
Firefly, 1×01 “Serenity” (pilot) (20 Dec 2002)
Added on 26-Feb-15 | Last updated 26-Feb-15
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The rack, or question, to extort a confession from criminals, is a practice of a different nature; […] an engine of the state, not of law.

William Blackstone (1723-1780) British jurist, judge, politician
Commentaries on the Laws of England, Book 4 “Of Public Wrongs,” ch. 25 “Arraignment” (1769)
Added on 17-Dec-14 | Last updated 17-Dec-14
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The disappearance of a sense of responsibility is the most far-reaching consequence of submission to authority.

Stanley Milgram (1933-1984) American social psychologist
Obedience To Authority, ch. 1 (1974)
Added on 20-May-14 | Last updated 20-May-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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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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Added on 15-Feb-12 | Last updated 9-Feb-16
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Pain will force even the truthful to speak falsely.

Publilius Syrus (d. 42 BC) Assyrian slave, writer, philosopher [less correctly Publius Syrus]
Sententiae [Moral Sayings], # 232 [tr. Lyman (1862)]
Added on 12-Dec-11 | Last updated 20-Feb-17
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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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No orthodox church ever had power that it did not endeavor to make people think its way by force and flame.

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) American lawyer, agnostic, orator
Trial of C.B. Reynolds for blasphemy (May 1887)
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Added on 19-Jun-08 | Last updated 9-Feb-16
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You cannot change the conclusion of the brain by torture; nor by social ostracism. But I will tell you what you can do by these, and what you have done. You can make hypocrites by the million. You can make a man say that he has changed his mind; but he remains of the same opinion still. Put fetters all over him; crush his feet in iron boots; stretch him to the last gasp upon the holy rack; burn him, if you please, but his ashes will be of the same opinion still.

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) American lawyer, agnostic, orator
“The Liberty of Man, Woman, and Child” (1877)
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Added on 29-Feb-08 | Last updated 4-Feb-16
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