Quotes

I’ve run across fantastic collections of quotes that help illustrate the beliefs and opinions put forth in this Search for truth. This page of quotes about religion, spirituality, science, etc. will grow and perhaps eventually expand into multiple, themed pages of quotations. I will not include quotes that are mean-spirited, sarcastic, or those that seem to have been written for the sole purpose of insulting certain beliefs (such as religious fundamentalism).

Agnosticism quotes

It’s not been uncommon in history for agnosticism and agnostics to be denigrated for their position. Both theists and atheists have alleged that agnostics are just “sitting on the fence” and refuse to commit themselves on an issue of vital importance. Such attacks have, by and large, been the product of ignorance as to what agnosticism really is. (Clarence Darrow on agnosticism)

All great religions, in order to escape absurdity, have to admit a dilution of agnosticism. It is only the savage, whether of the African bush or the American gospel tent, who pretends to know the will and intent of God exactly and completely. (H.L. Mencken on agnosticism and religion)

The Old Testament is responsible for more atheism, agnosticism, disbelief—call it what you will—than any book ever written; it has emptied more churches than all the counterattractions of cinema, motor bicycle and golf course. (A. A. Milne on agnosticism and religion)

Agnosticism is a perfectly respectable and tenable philosophical position; it is not dogmatic and makes no pronouncements about the ultimate truths of the universe. It remains open to evidence and persuasion; lacking faith [the fundamentalist version of "faith," that is], it nevertheless does not deride faith. Atheism, on the other hand, is as unyielding and dogmatic about religious belief as true believers are about heathens. (Sydney J. Harris on agnosticism and atheism)

Quotes about famous apologists

C.S. Lewis is one of the most popular of modern Christian apologists, but his popularity is based upon a reputation that isn’t entirely deserved. His arguments in defense of Christianity are largely superficial and unconvincing to anyone except those who are already believers or who aren’t especially skilled when it comes to critical thinking. (Austin Cline, writer; from article C.S. Lewis on Faith and Religion: Do People Drift Out of Christianity?)

Atheism quotes

It’s not uncommon for an atheist to be very knowledgeable about scriptures – much more knowledgeable than believers tend to assume and often more knowledgeable than believers themselves. As a consequence, atheists will often find themselves quoting and arguing scripture at some length with believers. (Austin Cline, writer; from article Goodman on Quoting Scripture)

When the Devil quotes Scriptures, it’s not, really, to deceive, but simply that the masses are so ignorant of theology that somebody has to teach them the elementary texts before he can seduce them. (Paul Goodman, Spring and Summer 1956, sct. 6, Five Years [1966])

Freethought quotes

Freethinkers are those who are willing to use their minds without prejudice and without fearing to understand things that clash with their own customs, privileges, or beliefs. This state of mind is not common, but it is essential for right thinking; where it is absent, discussion is apt to become worse than useless. (Leo Tolstoy on freethought)

Quotes about logic and reason

Not many people study the nature of logic — it’s a complicated subject and often difficult to understand. Ignorance of logic, however, is just as detrimental to good reasoning as ignorance of grammar is detrimental to good use of language. Unfortuantely, few people understand these connections. (Austin Cline, writer; from article Richard Chenevix Trench on Logic and Reason: Why Logic and Reason are Inseparable)

It can be very difficult to reason with people who are themselves unfamiliar to reason well – or even what sound reasoning really looks like. Critical thinking and reasoning skills aren’t taught explicitly in most schools, so most people are unfamiliar with things like logic and fallacies. So how does one reason with people who don’t understand how to reason? (Austin Cline, writer; from article Tiruvalluvar on Reasoning: Why It’s Difficult to Reason with Unreasonable People)

Reasoning with a drunkard is like going under water with a torch to seek for a drowning man. (Tiruvalluvar, The Sacred Kural)

Quotes about losing faith

We have to be continually reminded of what we believe. Neither this belief nor any other will automatically remain alive in the mind. It must be fed. And as a matter of fact, if you examined a hundred people who had lost their faith in Christianity, I wonder how many of them would turn out to have reasoned out of it by honest argument? Do not most people simply drift away? (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity)

On the use of human reasoning ability in religion

In matters of the intellect follow your reason as far as it will take you, without regard to any other consideration… and do not pretend that conclusions are certain which are not demonstrated or demonstrable. That I take to be the agnostic faith, which if a man keep whole and undefiled, he shall not be ashamed to look the universe in the face, whatever the future may have in store for him. (Thomas Henry Huxley [1825 - 1895], Reflection #142, Aphorisms and Reflections.)

Every sect, as far as reason will help them, make use of it gladly; and where it fails them, they cry out, “It is a matter of faith, and above reason.” (John Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding [1690])

Debates about religion often end up becoming debates about reason and faith — in particular, whether faith is a valid means for acquiring knowledge and what the limits of reason might be. Religious believers often say that faith is important, but this seems to be contradicted by the extent to which they rely on reason. What’s the point of only using reason when it seems agreeable, then switching to faith as soon as reason is inconvenient? (Austin Cline, writer; from article John Locke on Reason and Faith: Why Resort to Faith with Reason Fails?)

Revelation, divine

No one will deny or dispute the power of the Almighty to make such a communication [the Bible], if he pleases. But admitting, for the sake of case, that something has been revealed to a certain person, and not revealed to any other person, it is a revelation to that person only. When he tells it to a second person, a second to a third, a third to a fourth, and so on, it ceases to be a revelation to all those persons. It is revelation to the first person only, and hearsay to every other person, and consequently they are not obliged to believe it.

It is a contradiction in terms and ideas, to call anything a revelation that comes to us at second-hand, either verbally or in writing. Revelation is necessarily limited to the first communication — after this, it is only an account of something which that person says was a revelation made to him; and though he may find himself obliged to believe it, it cannot be incumbent on me to believe it in the same manner; for it was not a revelation to me, and I have only his word for it that it was made to him.
(Thomas Paine on divine revelation)

Science and religion quotes

Science and the scientific method is very important for modern society. This has upset many people because the methodology of science can act like an acid on traditional beliefs: the almost ruthless questioning is difficult to hold up against and, under the pressure of scientific inquiry, many traditional beliefs have had to be abandoned. (Carl Sagan on science and religion)

Quotes about secularism, its necessity in democratic society

The religions that reject evolution as a valid scientific theory also reject the secular standards of reasoning that make evolution clearly superior as a theory to creationism. … The distinctly democratic problem with teaching creationism stems from the fact that it… is only believable on the basis of religious faith. … In a religiously diverse society, secular standards of reasoning accommodate greater agreement upon a common education than religious faith. The case for teaching secular but not religious standards of reasoning does not rest on the claim that secular standards are neutral among all religious beliefs. The case rests instead on the claim that secular standards constitute a better basis upon which to build a common education for citizenship than any set of sectarian religious beliefs — better because secular standards are both a fairer and firmer basis for peacefully reconciling our differences. (Amy Gutman, Democratic Education [1987])

Simplicity quotes

The intellectual life may be kept clean and healthful, if man will live the life of nature, and not import into his mind difficulties which are none of his. No man need be perplexed in his speculations. Let him do and say what strictly belongs to him, and, though very ignorant of books, his nature shall not yield him any intellectual obstructions and doubts. Our young people are diseased with the theological problems of original sin, origin of evil, predestination, and the like. These never presented a practical difficulty to any man, — never darkened across any man’s road, who did not go out of his way to seek them. These are the soul’s mumps, and measles, and whooping-coughs, and those who have not caught them cannot describe their health or prescribe the cure. A simple mind will not know these enemies. It is quite another thing that he should be able to give account of his faith, and expound to another the theory of his self-union and freedom. This requires rare gifts. Yet, without this self-knowledge, there may be a sylvan strength and integrity in that which he is. “A few strong instincts and a few plain rules” suffice us. (Ralph Waldo Emerson, Spiritual Laws)

Quotes about skepticism

I wish to propose for the reader’s favourable consideration a doctrine which may, I fear, appear wildly paradoxical and subversive. The doctrine in question is this: that it is undesirable to believe a proposition when there is no ground whatever for supposing it true. (Bertrand Russell, Introduction to Sceptical Essays)

Does a man of sense run after every silly tale of hobgoblins or fairies, and canvass particularly the evidence? I never knew anyone, that examined and deliberated about nonsense who did not believe it before the end of his enquiries. (David Hume, Letters)

Resources: Quotes on religion, spirituality, science, etc.

Skeptic’s point of view

Separate collection of true spiritual quotes

The growing collection of true spiritual quotes is available here for genuine spiritual seekers who have the right password. I sincerely hope you enjoy it.

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