Monday, November 12, 2012

Atheist quotes

Here's a list of especially interesting atheist and agnostic quotes. It's not always clear whether the following persons considered themselves an atheist,. agnostic or something else. Since some people refuse to be labeled. Nor is it clear what they would have meant by the term "atheism" and "agnosticism." There's also the distinction between strong/hard/positive atheism and weak/soft/negative atheism. The former believing no gods exist. The later merely lacking a belief in a deity.

I had motives for not wanting the world to have a meaning; consequently I assumed that it had none and was able without any difficulty to find satisfying reasons for this assumption…. Those who detect no meaning in the world generally do so because, for one reason or another, it suits their books that the world should be meaningless. …

For myself as, no doubt, for most of my contemporaries, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation. The liberation we desired was …liberation from … a certain system of morality.  We objected to the morality because it interfered with our sexual freedom…. There was one admirably simple method in our political and erotic revolt: We could deny that the world had any meaning whatsoever. Similar tactics had been adopted during the eighteenth century and for the same reasons.
-Aldous Huxley (Ends and Means, 270-273)
[Source HERE]

"In speaking of the fear of religion, . . . , I am talking about . . . the fear of religion itself. I speak from experience, being strongly subject to this fear myself. . . . I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn't just that I don't believe in God and, naturally, hope that I'm right in my belief. It's that I hope there is no God! I don't want there to be a God; I don't want the universe to be like that. . . . My guess is that this cosmic authority problem is not a rare condition and that it is responsible for much of the scientism and reductionism of our time. One of the tendencies it supports is the ludicrous overuse of evolutionary biology to explain everything about life, including everything about the human mind...This is a somewhat ridiculous situation …. [I]t is just as irrational to be influenced in one’s beliefs by the hope that God does not exist as by the hope that God does exist."
- Thomas Nagel (well known American philosopher)

[Source HERE or HERE or HERE]

Socially, when I moved from theism to atheism, and science as a worldview, I guess, to be honest, I just liked the people in science, and the scientists, and their books, and just the lifestyle, and the way of living. I liked that better than the religious books, the religious people I was hanging out with—just socially. It just felt more comfortable for me. …In reality I think most of us arrive at most of our beliefs for non-rational reasons, and then we justify them with these reasons after the fact.
- Michael Shermer
founder of The Skeptics Society, and Editor in Chief of its magazine Skeptic

I am an atheist, out and out. It took me a long time to say it. I've been an atheist for years and years, but somehow I felt it was intellectually unrespectable to say one was an atheist, because it assumed knowledge that one didn't have. Somehow, it was better to say one was a humanist or an agnostic. I finally decided that I'm a creature of emotion as well as of reason. Emotionally I am an atheist. I don't have the evidence to prove that God doesn't exist, but I so strongly suspect that he doesn't that I don't want to waste my time.
- Isaac Asimov (well known writer of both fiction and non-fiction)
in the magazine Free Inquiry, Spring 1982, page 9
[ Source page 429]

‘Evolution is promoted by its practitioners as more than mere science. Evolution is promulgated as an ideology, a secular religion—a full-fledged alternative to Christianity, with meaning and morality. I am an ardent evolutionist and an ex-Christian, but I must admit that in this one complaint—and Mr [sic] Gish is but one of many to make it—the literalists are absolutely right. Evolution is a religion. This was true of evolution in the beginning, and it is true of evolution still today.
‘… Evolution therefore came into being as a kind of secular ideology, an explicit substitute for Christianity.’
- Michael Ruse (well known for his work on the relationship between science and religion)


Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door. The eminent Kant scholar Lewis Beck used to say that anyone who could believe in God could believe in anything. To appeal to an omnipotent deity is to allow that at any moment the regularities of nature may be ruptured, that miracles may happen.
- Professor Richard Lewontin (one of the world’s leaders in evolutionary biology)
[ Source HERE or HERE [source]

"The seemingly sudden appearance of skeletonized life has been one of the most perplexing puzzles of the fossil record. How is it that animals as complex as trilobites and brachiopods could spring forth so suddenly, completely formed, without a trace of their ancestors in the underlying strata? If ever there was evidence suggesting Divine Creation, surely the Precambrian and Cambrian transition, known from numerous localities across the face of the earth, is it."
– Peter Douglas Ward, On Methuselah’s Trail: Living Fossils and the Great Extinctions (New York: W. H. Freeman, 1992), 29. [American paleontologist and professor of Biology who is a well known opponent of Intelligent Design]
See the above link to an interesting article on the controversy over the quote.

I'm an atheist because I think of the universe as a natural, material system. I think of it, on the basis of my own extremely limited experience, as an infinitely replete but morally indifferent thing. It isn't bent on saving me, or damning me: It just is. I find comfort in that, as well as pain; wonder as well as loathing. That's my experience, and my atheism is a reflection of that experience. But it's not an argument; it's an interpretation.

I have taken a leap of atheist faith.

Religious people sometimes try to give proofs of the truth of their faith...But for many people, belief comes before arguments, originating in family, social and institutional context, in desire and need. The arguments are post-hoc rationalizations. This can be true of atheism as well. For me, it's what I grew up with. It gets by in my social world, where professions of religious faith would be considered out of place. My non-faith is fundamentally part of how I connect with others and the world.

The idea that the atheist comes to her view of the world through rationality and argumentation, while the believer relies on arbitrary emotional commitments, is false. This accounts for the sense that atheists such as Christopher Hitchens or Dawkins are arrogant: Their line of thinking often takes the form of disqualifying others on the grounds that they are irrational. But the atheist too, is deciding to believe in conditions of irremediable uncertainty, not merely following out a proof. Religious people have often offloaded the burden of their choices on institutions and relied on the Church's authorities and dogmas. But some atheists are equally willing to offload their beliefs on "reason" or "science" without acknowledging that they are making a bold intellectual commitment about the nature of the universe, and making it with utterly insufficient data. Religion at its best treats belief as a resolution in the face of doubt. I want an atheism that does the same, that displays epistemological courage.
Irrational Atheism by atheist Crispin Sartwell who teaches philosophy at Dickinson College

That man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they were achieving;  that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs are but the outcomes of accidental collocations of atoms;  that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the grave;  that all the labors of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of man’s achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins—all these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand.  Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only in the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul’s habitation henceforth be safely built. -(Bertrand Russell, “A Free Man’s Worship”)

"Some philosophers have contended that the existence of evil is logically inconsistent with the existence of the theistic God. No one, I think, has succeeded in establishing such an extravagant claim. Indeed, granted incompatibilism, there is a fairly compelling argument for the view that the existence of evil is logically consistent with the existence of the theistic God." - Atheist Philosopher William L. Rowe in his essay "The Problem of Evil and Some Varieties of Atheism"

Agnostic Quotes

"I agree with most philosophers of religion that theists face no serious logical problem of evil."- Agnostic Philosopher Paul Draper in his essay "Pain and Pleasure: An Evidential Problem for Theists"

Charles Darwin died the 19th of April 1882. In 1879 John Fordyce wrote asking if Charles Darwin believed in God, and if theism and evolution were compatible. Darwin replied "It seems to me absurd to doubt that a man may be an ardent Theist & an evolutionist." In the same letter Darwin wrote, "But as you ask, I may state that my judgment often fluctuates. Moreover whether a man deserves to be called a theist depends on the definition of the term: which is much too large a subject for a note. In my most extreme fluctuations I have never been an atheist in the sense of denying the existence of a God.— I think that generally (& more and more so as I grow older) but not always, that an agnostic would be the most correct description of my state of mind." Darwin wrote his reply letter May 7th 1879, only a few years before his death.

See James Bishop's blogpost:

90 Atheist Quotes Every Christian & Atheist Needs to Read


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  3. You are doing Aldous a disservice. Aldous Huxley was neither an atheist or agnostic, but a believer in the perennial philosophy, a type of spirituality/mysticism that disavows any singular religion contains the whole truth. He questioned philosophies of meaninglessness as well as philosophies of exclusivist religious meaning.

    "The desire to justify a particular form of political organization and, in some cases, of a personal will to power has played an equally large part in the formulation of PHILOSOPHIES postulating the existence of MEANING in the world. CHRISTIAN PHILOSOPHERS have found no difficulty in justifying imperialism, war, the capitalistic system, the use of torture, the censorship of the press, and ecclesiastical tyrannies of every sort from the tyranny of Rome to the tyrannies of [Calvin's] Geneva and [Puritan] New England. In all cases they have shown that the meaning of the world was such as to be compatible with, or actually most completely expressed by, the iniquities I have mentioned above -- iniquities which happened, of course, to serve the personal or sectarian interests of the philosophers concerned. In due course, there arose philosophers who denied not only the right of Christian special pleaders to justify iniquity by an appeal to the meaning of the world, but even their right to find any such meaning whatsoever. In the circumstances, the fact was not surprising. One unscrupulous distortion of the truth tends to beget other and opposite distortions. Passions may be satisfied in the process; but the disinterested love of knowledge suffers eclipse." Aldous Huxley, Ends and Means

    Also, Christian apologists keep lying about Darwin's and Wallace's theory having arisen due to a desire to free people's sexual impulses, and they often claim Julian Huxley said something along those lines but they have never been able to substantiate such a saying from Julian:

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    2. Hi Edward. I'm honored that a well known critic of Christianity has commented on one of my blogs. I think the last time we interacted was Here. I didn't realize you posted more comments until long after you did, so I didn't bother to respond thinking you'd moved on. If you'd like to address some of those things here, I wouldn't mind. But select those issues most important to you first.

      Regarding your comments here, I clearly qualified my posting these quotes with the following caveat, "It's not always clear whether the following persons considered themselves an atheist,. agnostic or something else. Since some people refuse to be labeled. Nor is it clear what they would have meant by the term "atheism" and "agnosticism." So, I think that covers my quotation of Aldous Huxley. Thanks for the further info on Aldous' views (assuming they're accurate).

      Regarding quotes by Darwin, Wallace and Julian Huxley, I agree that Christians apologists often abuse quotes and aren't careful in making proper disclaimers or in giving the contexts of such quotes whenever possible. I believe Christians should be the most truthful, precise, accurate, and fair people in the world in dialogue. It's unfortunately that we often are not. I apologize (in both senses *g*) on their behalf.

      BTW, I just posted a blog I'm currently working on which you might be interested in:

      Why Many Scientists are Atheists