Atheists and Agnostics Compendium

Quotes

I live in hazard and infinity. The cosmos stretches around me, meadow on meadow of galaxies, reach on reach of dark space, steppes of stars, oceanic darkness and light. There is no god in it, no particular concern or particular mercy. Yet everywhere I see a living balance, a rippling tension, an enormous yet mysterious simplicity, an endless breathing of light. And I comprehend that being is understanding that I must exist in hazard but that the whole is not in hazard. Seeing and knowing this is being conscious: accepting it is being human.

John Fowles

*****

We seem to find, not only in all religions, but also in practically all philosophies, some belief that man is not quite alone in the universe. This so-called belief is not really an intellectual judgment so much as a craving.

[In the desire for a divine] Friend behind phenomena, it seems to me that perhaps we are under the spell of a very old ineradicable instinct.

We are gregarious animals; our ancestors have been such for countless ages. We cannot help looking out on the world as gregarious animals do; we see it in terms of humanity and of fellowship. Students of animals under domestication have shown us how the habits of a gregarious creature, taken away from his kind, are shaped in a thousand details by reference to the lost pack which is no longer there.

It is a strange and touching thing, this eternal hunger of the gregarious animal for the herd of friends who are not there. And it may be, it may very possibly be, that, in the matter of this Friend behind phenomena, our own yearning and our own almost ineradicable instinctive conviction are in origin the groping of a lonely-souled gregarious animal to find its herd or its herd-leader in the great spaces between the stars
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Gilbert Murray

*****

As I grow older I grow calm. If I fear that we are running through the world’s resources at a pace that we cannot keep. I do not lose my hopes. I do not pin my dreams for the future to my country or even to my race. I think it probable that civilization somehow will last as long as I care to look ahead – perhaps with smaller numbers, but perhaps bred to greatness and splendor by science. I think it not improbable that man, like the grub that prepares a chamber for the winged thing it never has seen but is to be – that man may have cosmic destinies that he does not understand. And so beyond the vision of battling races and an impoverished earth I catch a dreaming glimpse of peace.

Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes 1943
in The Mind and Faith of Justice Holmes by Max Lerner, Little Brown & Co

*****

.The Pale Blue Dot – a picture of the Earth taken by Voyager 1 from a distance of more than 4 billion miles

That's home. That's us. On it, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever lived, lived out their lives. The aggregate of all our joys and sufferings, thousands of confident religions, ideologies and economic doctrines, every saint and sinner in the history of our species, lived there on a mote of dust, suspended in a sunbeam.

Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our
obscurity – in all this vastness – there is no hint that help will come
from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. It is up to us. This distant image of our tiny world underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly and compassionately with one another and to preserve and cherish that pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known.

Carl Sagan (1934-1996)

*****

Atheism is nothing more than a commitment to the most basic standard of intellectual honesty: One’s convictions should be proportional to one’s evidence. Pretending to be certain when one isn’t--indeed, pretending to be certain about propositions for which no evidence is even conceivable--is both an intellectual and a moral failing.

Sam Harris

*****

The hasty appeal to the supernatural is a couch upon which the intellect slothfully reclines.

Immanuel Kant Inaugural Dissertation 1770

*****

The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people are so full of doubts.

Bertrand Russell

*****

Good people will do good things, and bad people will do bad things. But for good people to do bad things – that takes religion

Steven Weinberg.

*****

We all ought to understand we're on our own. Believing in Santa Claus doesn't do kids any harm for a few years but it isn't smart for them to continue waiting all their lives for him to come down the chimney with something wonderful. Santa Claus and God are cousins.
Christians talk as though goodness was their idea but good behavior doesn't have any religious origin. Our prisons are filled with the devout.
I'd be more willing to accept religion, even if I didn't believe it, if I thought it made people nicer to each other but I don't think it does.

Andy Rooney, TV commentator, born 1919

*****

Some people dismiss evolution as being trial and error.  But they’ve got it exactly backwards: evolution is error and trial.

 Genetic changes, or errors, occur naturally in all species, and the changed individual then competes for survival.  Most changes are harmful, and those changed individuals do not survive the trials of living.  But occasionally, changes improve an individual’s ability to survive, and they are passed on to succeeding generations of the population.  That’s evolution.

Richard Dawkins

*****

For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.

Carl Sagan

*****

We must respect the other fellow's religion, but only in the same sense and to the extent that we respect his theory that his wife is beautiful and his children smart.

H.L. Mencken, writer, editor, and critic (1880-1956)

 

 

 

This quotation is from the book Aristos by John Fowles.

He is the author of The French Lieutenant's Woman and other novels.

 

 

Gilbert Murray (1866-1957) was a famous scholar of ancient Greek civilization. His well-known book "Five Stages of Greek Religion" (1925) remains a classic and has been reprinted many times. It is still in print today.

In Murray's book "Humanist Essays," a collection of his short pieces, at the end of an essay on stoic philosophy he concludes with this quotation.

It anticipates by a half century today's sociobiological description of human nature.