Thinking Quotes

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Alphabetical index

"Nature! We are surrounded and embraced by her:
powerless to separate ourselves from her, and powerless to penetrate beyond her.
Without asking, or warning, she snatches us up into her circling dance, and whirls us on until we are tired, and drop from her arms." (
Huxley, p. 372)
-- Goethe

"Losing an illusion makes you wiser than finding a truth."
-- Ludwig Borne

"I have no possessions that are truly my own. I am like a stranger at a rich man's gate. What I have is borrowed, and even my knowledge is nothing but hand-me-downs, and an occasional oddity I pick up by chance. I pass it on to others like me." (The Creative Loop: How the Brain Makes a Mind, p. 6)

"Evolution has made us creatures of habit, looking for an adaptive niche and staying there. But what distinguishes us from the rest of the animal kingdom is our ability to break out of the trap when it threatens to become a dead end. We may languish for a while in the comfortable niche of intellectual stagnation until the glint of a distant reflection brings home the full impact of our predicament, our foolishness. Hope, finally, lies not in the denial of hopelessness but in our perception of it." (ibid., p. 174)

-- Erich Harth

"If this is preparation for life, where in the world, where in the relationship with our colleagues, where in the industrial domain, where ever again, anywhere in life, is a person given this curious sequence of prepared talks and prepared questions, questions to which the answers are known?" (Speaking at MIT about MIT education from Insisting on the Impossible: The Life of Edwin Land, p. 5)

"[N]ot many undergraduates come through our present educational system retaining [the hope of greatness]. Our young people, for the most part--unless they are geniuses--after a very short time in college give up any hope of being individually great. They plan, instead, to be good. They plan to be effective. They plan to do their job. They plan to take their healthy place in the community... while people must cooperate, the first function of democracy, its peculiar gift, is to develop each individual into everything that he might be. But I submit to you that when in each man the dream of personal greatness dies, democracy loses the real of its future strength." (ibid., p. 9)

"Why do I want to believe what I believe?... Science, to put it somewhat vulgarly, is a technique to keep yourself from kidding yourself." (ibid., p. 12)

"...from this day forward until the day you are buried, do two things each day. First, master a difficult old insight, and second, add some new piece of knowledge to the world each day." (ibid., p. 12)

-- Edwin Land

"I should never stand alone in this desert world, but that manna would drop from heaven, if I would but rise with every rising sun to gather it." (as quoted on page 238 of Emerson: The Mind on Fire)

"The Greeks saw everything in forms which we are trying to ascertain as law, and classify as cause." (p. 239)

-- Margaret Fuller

"Analogies and metaphors have often proved pivotal in expanding our thoughts both within and without science, and so one should not discourage the attempt to synthesize apparent opposites. However, citizens of the New Age often forget that, when they involve science, analogies should be tempered by experiment and calculation."
-- Tony Rothman & George Sudarshan in Doubt & Certainty (p. 61)

"We shall not cease from explorations
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time."
-- T. S. Eliot from Four Quartets as quoted in Doubt & Certainty (p. 1)

"If acorns start growing into theologians, or if women begin turning into pillars of salt, then we may wish to hypothesize about a supernatural influence. But until such time as nature becomes hopelessly unintelligible and unpredictable, we need look no further than nature itself for explanations."
-- George H. Smith

"It is in the admission of ignorance and the admission of uncertainty that there is a hope for the continuous motion of human beings in some direction that doesn't get confined, permanently blocked, as it has so many times before in various periods in the history of man." (The Meaning of It All, p. 34)

"[When a young person loses faith in his religion because he begins to study science and its methodology] it isn't that [through the obtaining of real knowledge that] he knows it all, but he suddenly realizes that he doesn't know it all." (p. 36)

"Scientific views end in awe and mystery, lost at the edge in uncertainty, but they appear to be so deep and so impressive that the theory that it is all arranged as a stage for God to watch man's struggle for good and evil seems inadequate." (p. 39)

"in any organization there ought to be the possibility of discussion... fence sitting is an art, and it's difficult, and it's important to do, rather than to go headlong in one direction or the other. It's just better to have action, isn't it than to sit on the fence? Not if you're not sure which way to go, it isn't." (p. 100)

"By honest I don't mean that you only tell what's true. But you make clear the entire situation. You make clear all the information that is required for somebody else who is intelligent to make up their mind." (p. 106)

-- Richard P. Feynman

"Not only is there nothing to be gained by believing an untruth, but there is everything to lose when we sacrifice the indispensable tool of reason on the altar of superstition."
-- Freedom From Religion Foundation

"There is a theory which states that if ever anyone ever discovers exactly what the universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another theory which states that this has already happened."
-- Douglas Adams

"Away with the one who is always seeking, for he never finds anything; for he is seeking where nothing can be found. Away with the one who is always knocking, for he knocks where there is no one to open; away with the one who is always asking, for he asks of one who does not hear."
-- Tertullian (A Christian leader in the early 3rd century--compare to Matt. 7:7)

"Habit may lead us to belief and expectation but not to the knowledge, and still less to the understanding, of lawful relations." (as quoted in Einstein, History, and Other Passions, p. 200)
-- David Hume

"To assert that the earth revolves around the sun is as erroneous as to claim that Jesus was not born of a virgin."
-- Cardinal Bellarmine (1615, during the trial of Galileo)

"If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it people will eventually come to believe it."
-- Joseph Goebbels

"This I believe:
That the free, exploring mind of the individual human is the most valuable thing in the world.

And this I would fight for:
The freedom of the mind to take any direction it wishes, undirected.

And this I must fight against:
Any idea, religion, or government which limits or destroys the individual."
John Steinbeck

"Millions long for immortality who don't know what to do on a Sunday afternoon."
-- Susan Ertz

"Religion is a major weapon in the war against reality."

"Help preserve your child's belief in Santa Claus. Tell him or her that Santa will send them to hell if they don't believe in him."

"Like all religions, the Holy Religion of the Invisible Pink Unicorn is based upon both Logic and Faith. We have Faith that She is Pink; we Logically know that She is Invisible, because we can't see Her."

"Although it is said that faith can move mountains, experience shows that dynamite works better."

"If the Bible is mistaken in telling us where we came from, how can we trust it to tell us where we're going?"

"Christianity is an appeal to selfishness. It is a promise of a great reward in the future which is bought with faith, obedience, time, effort, and money in the present."

"Christians believe that the most wonderful thing that can happen to them is to go to Heaven, but few of them are in a hurry to make the trip."

"The pig is taught by sermons and epistles to think that God has snout and bristles."

"I am treated as evil by those who feel persecuted because they are not allowed to force me to believe as they do."

The scientist yearns to find and eventually know the truth;
The religious man wants the truth to fit his preconceived mold. So, as a result...
The scientist alters his perception to conform to the facts;
The religious man tries to change the facts to conform to his beliefs.

"To become educated is to move from cocksure ignorance to thoughtful uncertainty."

"[I believe in] more of a pantheistic god--a sense of wonder and mystery about the universe--certainly not a meddling God who lets millions die of starvation around the world, but moves my lost keys to the desk after I pray."

-- Sources unknown

"It may be that our role on this planet is not to worship God, but to create him."
-- Arthur C. Clarke

"This I surely know, if I wrestle with dung, win or lose, I am always defiled." (as quoted in Blind Watchers of the Sky, p. 39)
-- Rollenhagen (friend of Tycho Brahe)

"It will yet be the proud boast of women that they never contributed a line to the Bible."
-- George W. Foote

"To be patriotic, hate all nations but your own; to be religious, all sects but your own; to be moral, all pretenses but your own."
-- Lionel Strachey (1864-1927) British writer, translator, humorist

"Faith is a cop-out. It is intellectual bankruptcy. If the only way you can accept an assertion is by faith, then you are conceding that it can't be taken on its own merits."
-- Dan Barker Former evangelist, author, critic

"No man ever believes that the Bible means what it says; he is always convinced that it says what he means."

"I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. Life is no 'brief candle' to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for a moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations."

"People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don't believe in circumstances. The people who get on in the world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and if they can't find them, make them."

-- George Bernard Shaw

"The Bible is the greatest hoax in all history. The leading characters of the Old Testament would today be in the penitentiary and those of the New would be under observation in psychopathic wards."
-- Charles Smith (1887-1964) U.S. attorney, author

"It was, after all, Christianity itself which tutored the Western mind to believe that it should know the truth and the truth would make it free. But now that the student has learned to prize the truth, he has discovered, with pain both to himself and his teacher, that it can only be gained at the cost of rejecting the one who first instilled in him the love of it."
-- Van A. Harvey

"Organized religion: The world's largest pyramid scheme."
-- Bernard Katz

"The theory that you should always treat the religious convictions of other people with respect finds no support in the Gospels."
-- Arnold Lunn (1888-1974), British author

"[T]he only real moral crime that one man can commit against another is the attempt to create, by his words or actions, an impression of the contradictory, the impossible, the irrational, and thus shake the concept of rationality in his victim."

"If I were to speak your kind of language, I would say that man's only moral commandment is: Thou shalt think. But a 'moral commandment' is a contradiction in terms. The moral is the chosen, not the forced; the understood, not the obeyed. The moral is the rational, and reason accepts no commandments."

-- Ayn Rand

"Heresy is only another word for freedom of thought."
-- Graham Greene

"All religions are founded on the fear of the many and the cleverness of the few."
-- Marie Henri Beyle (1783-1842)

"I count religion but a childish toy,
And hold there is no sin but ignorance."
-- Christopher Marlowe

"In those parts of the world where learning and science has prevailed, miracles have ceased; But in those parts of it as are barbarous and ignorant, miracles are still in vogue."
-- Ethan Allen in Reason the Only Oracle of Man

"Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away."
-- Philip K. Dick

Whatever a man prays for, he prays for a miracle.
Every prayer reduces itself to this:
"Great God, grant that twice two be not four."
-- Ivan Turgenev (1818-1883) Russian author

"Anyone who engages in the practice of psychotherapy confronts every day the devastation wrought by the teachings of religion."
-- Nathaniel Branden, Ph.D. Psychologist, author The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem

"In the long run nothing can withstand reason and experience, and the contradiction religion offers to both is only too palpable."
-- Sigmund Freud

"Religion is not insanity but it is born of the stuff which makes for insanity. ...all religions perform the function of delusion."
-- George Dorsey

Eskimo: "If I did not know about God and sin, would I go to hell?"
Priest: "No, not if you did not know."
Eskimo: "Then
why did you tell me?"

(Annie Dillard in Pilgrim at Tinker Creek)

"The trouble with born-again Christians is that they are an even bigger pain the second time around."
--Herb Caen

"Christians, it is needless to say, utterly detest each other. They slander each other constantly with the vilest forms of abuse and cannot come to any sort of agreement in their teaching. Each sect brands its own, fills the head of its own with deceitful nonsense, and makes perfect little pigs of those it wins over to its side."
-- Celsus (2nd Century C.E.)

"Human beings never think for themselves, they find it too uncomfortable. For the most part, members of our species simply repeat what they are told--and become upset if they are exposed to any different view. The characteristic human trait is not awareness but conformity, and the characteristic result is religious warfare. Other animals fight for territory or food; but, uniquely in the animal kingdom, human beings fight for their 'beliefs.' The reason is that beliefs guide behavior, which has evolutionary importance among human beings. But at a time when our behavior may well lead us to extinction, I see no reason to assume we have any awareness at all. We are stubborn, self-destructive conformists. Any other view of our species is just a self-congratulatory delusion."
-- Michael Crichton in The Lost World

"One sees what one wants to see when there is in mind a pre-conceived notion." (Great Feuds in Science, p. 74)

"A fervently believed idea, even if wrong, dies hard." (p. 76)

"Disputes among natural philosophers are of use to science, as the quarrels of the great, and the clamors of the little, are necessary to freedom of thought and the advancement of learning." (a modified quote from Voltaire, p. 79)

-- Hal Hellman

"What is the nature of God? His nature is entirely dependent upon the age or culture that has reinvented him."
-- Solomon Skink

"The world does not owe us a living, we owe the world a living, our own."
Forrest Church (A Chosen Faith : An Introduction to Unitarian Universalism, p. 15)

"The Age of Reason was responsible for making more people into infidels than any other book except the Bible."
-- Gordon Stein

"Skeptic does not mean him who doubts, but him who investigates or researches, as opposed to him who asserts and thinks that he has found."
Miguel de Unamuno

"Armies of Bible scholars and theologians have for centuries found respected employment devising artful explanations of the Bible often not really meaning what it says."
-- J.S. Bullion, Jr.

"If you think education is expensive, try ignorance."
-- Derek Bok Ex-president of Harvard

"The truth which makes men free is for the most part the truth which men prefer not to hear."
-- Herbert Agar (A Time for Greatness [1942])

"Every man thinks God is on his side.
The rich and powerful know he is."
-- Jean Anouilh (1910- ) French dramatist, playwright

"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 into question or 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."
W. K. Clifford

"the object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it down again on something solid."
G. K. Chesterton (as quoted on page 182 of A Chosen Faith)

"Here lies the power...: helping ourselves and others to see some of the possibilities inherent in viewpoints other than one's own; encouraging the free interchange of ideas; welcoming fresh approaches to the problems of life; urging the fullest, most vigorous use of critical self-examination."
-- Adlai Stevenson (as quoted on page 81 of
A Chosen Faith)

"Truth in matters of religion is simply the opinion that has survived."
-- Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) Anglo-Irish author

"For emotional reasons, connected with my affection for my parents, I was a reluctant atheist, but giving up religion brought peace of mind because intellectual conflict was resolved."
-- J. J. C. Smart

"Should one continue to base one's life on a system of belief that--for all its occasional wisdom and frequent beauty--is demonstrably untrue?"
-- Charles Templeton, former right-hand man to
Billy Graham in Farewell to God

"The invisible and the non-existent look very much alike."
-- Delos B. McKown, Ph.D. U.S. professor, philosopher, author, Former clergyman

"The old faiths light their candles all about, but burly Truth comes by and puts them out."
-- Lizette Reese

"People fare best when they look not to moral rules and principles, not to priests and churches, and not to creeds, but to the actual results of what they do."
-- Richard Taylor

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