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Rationalist Quotes

Look here for ancient and modern wit about mysticism, religion, paranormal phenomena, UFOs, and other similar amazing inventions of the human intellect.

Edited by Massimo Pigliucci - University of Tennessee

Warning: Some of these quotes are from the competition, and are here to illustrate their ridiculous modus operandi, not because we endorse them. This icon will warn you about these otherwise for us out of character quotations. Just so you don't get lost!




"If I am a fool, it is, at least, a doubting one; and I envy no one the certainty of self-approved wisdom."

Lord Byron (1788-1824), English poet


"Caution in judgment is nowadays to be recommended to each and every one: if we gained only one incontestable truth every ten years from each of our philosophical writers the harvest we reaped would be sufficient."
G.C. Lichtenberg (1742-1799), German physicist


"There is a kind of courtesy in skepticism. It would be an offense against polite conventions to press our doubts too far."
George Santayana (1863-1952), US philosopher


"The skeptic does not mean he who doubts, but he who investigates or researches, as opposed to he who asserts and thinks that he has found."
Miguel de Unamuno (1864-1936), Spanish philosopher


"Has creation a final purpose at all, and if so why is it not attained immediately, why does perfection not exist from the very beginning?"

German philosopher Friedrich Schelling


"I can see no evidence of beneficient design, or indeed design of any kind, in the details"

Charles Darwin


"If I were granted omnipotence, and millions of years to experiment in, I should not think Man much to boast of as the final result of all my efforts"

Bertrand Russell


"The believers in cosmic purpose make much of our supposed intellingence but their writings make one doubt it"

Bertrand Russell


"In a Jewish theological seminar there was an hours-long discussion about proofs of the existence of God. After some hours, one rabbi got up and said, 'God is so great, he does not even need to exist'"

Victor Weisskopf


"The idea of the sacred is quite simply one of the most conservative notions in any culture, because it seeks to turn other ideas - uncertainty, progress, change - into crimes"

Salman Rushdie, Herbert Reade Memorial Lecture, Feb. 6, 1990


"Is it not strange that the descendants of those Pilgrim Fathers who crossed the Atlantic to preserve their own freedom of opinion have always proved themselves intolerant of the spiritual liberty of others"

General Robert E. Lee, letter to his wife, Dec. 27, 1856


"All of you who can give $100 come up to the front of the altar - no change please - hold those bills high, I want everyone to see your faith!"

Reverend Ike, 1970, quoted in The Pessimist's Journl of Very, Very Bad Days, Little, Brown, 1989


"Atheists abound in these days and witchcraft is called into question. If neither possession nor withcraft [exist], why should we think that there are devils? If no devils [exist], no God [exists]"

The Trial of Mr. Darrell, quoted in Richard Olsen, Skeptic, Winter 1992


"Science remains the author of our major problem, in its gift of tremendous power that has been terribly abused; but for the wise use of this power we need more, not less, of the objective dispassionate scientific spirit. For our philosophical purposes we need more of its integrity and its basic humility, its respect at once for the fact and the mystery"

The Uses of the Past, Herbert J. Muller, Mentor Books, 1952


"Religion can no longer rest its claims on a dogmatic supernaturalism, because any dogma that is irreconcilable with tested knowledge must be rejected. [..] a sentence [..] sums up the dark and deadly pages of Chistian history: 'If we believe absurdities, we shall commit atrocities'"

The Uses of the Past, Herbert J. Muller, Mentor Books, 1952


"Science doesn't merely empower us, as in seeding better technologies; it also helps prevent trouble in the first place. Knowledge can be like a vaccine, immunizing you against false fears and bad moves"

How Brains Think, William H. Calvin, Basic Books, NY, 1996


"We need to start teaching truths, we need to start teaching what the Bible says, rather than what science says, because science is going to change. Science changes every day, and for us to start believing in something that changes every day, over something that's stood fast over 3,000 years; that's hideous, and we don't need to do that"

Danny Phillips, on KMRT-TV The (Jesus) Train, 1996


"All things in the universe change, but things do not merely change, nor do they just die out. New things are produced out of the things which perish. The old dies out, the new is born and develops"

Thoughts on Man, Konosuke Matsushita, 1982


"In general, separateness, mortality and renewal have always been the friends of evolutionary progress. The corollary is that universality, immortality and persistency can only have been its enemies"

Leaps of Faith, Nicholas Humphrey, Basic Books, 1996



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