JR'S Free Thought Pages
            No Gods  ~ No Masters   


                               Heretics and Godless Skeptics


If a thinking person of a century ago were told that the next hundred years would see a war in which millions of Jews were murdered out of an originally religious hatred; another war, basically over religion, on European soil (the former Yugoslavia); Middle-Eastern countries still under theocratic rule; enormously popular Islamist groups waging a worldwide jihad; millions of Chinese Falun Gong devotees following a self-anointed savior who also claims the ability to levitate and to become invisible;  grotesque arena-sized churches springing up all over the United States; as few as 28 percent of Americans believing evolution is a fact, and 13 percent or fewer believing it occurred through natural selection, unguided by God; the U.S. government dominated by professed evangelical or born-again Christian zealots; Christian fundamentalists holding effective veto power over Supreme Court nominations; and the Oval Office occupied by a man who has affirmed the impossibility of a non-Christian entering heaven*—that thinking person might well feel that all the intellectual progress of the previous three or four centuries had been for naught.

*Speaking of the devil, recent U.S. politics illustrates how the habit of faith spills over o politics, fostering blind faith in the politician who advertises himself as a man of god, regardless of his ignorance, incompetence, moral corruption, and/or criminality.

Surely we must deem false belief as in itself an irreducibly negative force for human progress and regard respect for truth supported by reason and evidence as a fundamental human obligation. We should view willful igno­rance, stupidity and appeals to faith as an offense against humanity and  life itself (can I permit myself to use the uniquely religious expression, "sin?"). And to my mind, to fail to learn about and even feel reverence for what science has discovered—to refuse to see in the 100-trillion-mile, 100-billion-galaxy extent of the observable universe, the strange-beyond-comprehension subatomic universe, and the possibility of other universes (a separate God for each or same one for all?)—to refuse to recognize there the proper objects of our religious attention, if you will, and instead continue to hold barbaric tribal myths as sacred—I call that willful ignorance and stupidity. I call it unpardon­able ingratitude toward the generations of scientists, philosophers and freethinkers over the centuries who have labored often under the threat of persecution or even death,  to discover bit by painstaking bit genuine verifiable knowledge about the world we live in; actual, precious facts that have not only made our lives longer, healthier, safer, and more pleasant and productive but are in and of themselves worthy of profound respect, if not, as I said, reverence.

The problem isn’t that science, secularism and enlightenment ideas have become the modern religion – because they have not. While fundamentally antagonistic toward science and reason, the current anti-modern, postmodern, anti-intellectual and religious intransigence isn’t against a rival belief system or philosophy, so much as against an absence of strongly held values – a spiritual-philosophical void that business seeks to fill with toys, amusements, frivolity and celebrity and idolatry replacing old fashioned ideals with a cool cynicism, irony and disdain for any kind of seriousness and passion for the things that really matter to people and societies, whether religious, political, emotional or intellectual. Television and mass marketing have bred these virtues out of our culture because they were rivals to the cult of consumption; after all, if people start feeling their lives are rich and meaningful enough without having to buy “stuff”, then where will we be?


                Notable Quotes from Heretics and Religious Skeptics

Rowan “Mr. Bean” Atkinson (1955-)

British actor/comedian. Starred in, and co-wrote some of, the richly sacrilegious British TV comedy series Blackadder. Stuttered as a child and still has particular trouble with the letter B (as in belief, benediction, bishop). Led a coalition of prominent actors and writers opposed to Britain's Racial and Religious Hatred Bill (which Muslim groups lobbied for) as a threat to freedom of speech and expression:

"Having  spent a  substantial   part  of my  career  parodying  religious figures from  my own Christian  background,  I  am aghast at the notion that it could, in effect, be made illegal to imply ridicule of a religion or to lampoon religious figures. ... I have always believed that there should be no subject about which one cannot make jokes, religion included. ... For telling a good and incisive religious joke, you should be praised. For telling a bad one, you should be ridiculed and reviled. The idea that you could be prosecuted for the telling of either is quite fantastic. . . . Comedy takes no prisoners."

A bishop addressing Blackadder (Atkinson):

"You fiend! Never have I encountered such corrupt and foul-minded perversity.... Have you ever considered a career in the church?"

Blackadder's servant, Baldrick, describes his Nativity play woes:

"At the last moment, the baby playing Jesus died!" "Oh, dear.... What did you do?" "Got another Jesus!" "Oh, thank goodness. And his name?" "Spot. . . . There weren't any more children, so we had to settle for a dog instead.... Well, it went alright 'til the shepherds came on. See, we hadn't been able to get any real sheep, so we had to stick some wool ...""... on some other dogs." "Yeah. And the moment Jesus got a wiff of 'em, he's away! ... So while the angels are singing 'Peace on Earth, goodwill to all men,' Jesus is trying to get one of the sheep to give him a piggyback ride!" "Oh no! . . . Weren't the children upset?" "Nah, they loved it! They want us to do it again next year for Easter. They want to see us nail up the dog."

Atkinson once recalled a sketch in Not the Nine O'Clock News that showed Muslim worshippers in a mosque bowing to the ground with the voiceover: "And the search goes on for the Ayatollah Khomeini's contact lens."

Sir A. J. (Alfred Jules) Ayer (1910-1989)

British philosopher and author of the classic Language, Truth and Logic (1936), which argued that "unverifiable statementssuch as 'God exists,' 'human life has a distinct purpose,' or 'abortion is evil'are scientifically mean­ingless. . . . They are pure opinion. "3 Succeeded Julian Huxley as pres­ident of the British Humanist Association. While teaching in the United States in 1987, Ayer, then 77, saw boxer Mike Tyson harassing model Naomi Campbell at a party, and demanded that he stop. "Do you know who the fuck I am?" Tyson asked. "I'm the heavyweight champion of the world." "And I am the former Wykeham Professor of Logic," Ayers replied. "We are both pre-eminent in our field. I suggest that we talk about this like rational men."

"To say that 'God exists' is to make a metaphysical utterance which cannot be either true or false.... Not to confuse this view of religious assertions with the view that is adopted by atheists, or agnostics. . . . [Agnostics] hold that the existence of a god is a possibility in which there is no good reason either to believe or nonsensical, then the atheist's assertion is that there is no god is equally nonsensical, since it is only a significant proposition that can be significantly contradicted. As for the agnostic ... he does not deny that the two sentences 'There is a transcendent god' and 'There is no transcendent god' express propositions one of which is actually true and the other false. All he says is that we have no means of telling which of them is true, and therefore ought not to commit ourselves to either. But we have seen that the sentences in question do not express propositions at all. And this means that agnosticism also is ruled out." Later variations on this position include "ignosticism" (see Sherwin Wine) and "apathetic agnosticism" (see John Pariury).

"The 'person' who is supposed to control the empirical world [but] is not himself located in it... is not an intelligible notion at all. We may have a word which is used [the G word], as if it named this 'person,' but ... it cannot be said to symbolize anything.... The mere existence of the noun is enough to foster the illusion that there is a real, or at any rate a possible entity corresponding to it."

"None of those who have compared the world to a vast machine [made by the Great Watchmaker] has ever made any serious attempt to say what the machine could be for. . . . Theists have generally assumed that it had something to do with the emergence of man. This is a view which it is perhaps natural for men to take but hardly one that would be supported by a dispassionate consideration of the scientific evidence. Not only did man make a very late appearance upon the scene in a very small corner of the universe, but it is not even probable that, having made his appearance, he is here to stay. ... So far as scientific evidence goes, the universe has crawled by slow degrees to a somewhat pitiful result on this earth, and is going to crawl by still more pitiful stages to a condition of universal death. If this is to be taken as evidence of purpose, I can only say that the purpose is one that does not appeal to me."

Dan Barker (1949-)

American atheist writer and activist; co-president, Freedom From religion Foundation (FFRF). Former evangelical preacher; maintained a touring evangelical ministry for 17 years . Author of Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher to Atheist; Just Pretend: A Freethought Book for Children; and Maybe Yes, Maybe No: A Guide for Young Skeptics. Member of the Lenni Lenape Tribe of Native Americans.

"Truth does not demand belief. Scientists do not join hands every Sunday, singing, 'yes, gravity is real! I will have faith! I will be strong! I believe in my heart that what goes up, up, up must come down. . . . Amen!' If they did, we would think they were pretty insecure about it."

"You believe in a book that has talking animals, wizards, witches, demons, sticks turning into snakes, food falling from the sky, people walking on water, and all sorts of magical, absurd and primitive stories, and you say that we are the ones that need help?"

"I [as a believer] assumed that the successful prayers were proof that God answers prayer while the failures were proof that there was something wrong with me."

"We think the National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional. What if the president declared a National Day of Cursing God because He failed us on September 11? . . . That's how we feel when he promotes prayer."

"The very concept of sin comes from the Bible. Christianity offers to solve a problem of its own making! Would you be thankful to a person who cut you with a knife in order to sell you a bandage?"

John Bice

 American writer, religion columnist, and noted beer expert.

"As bumper-sticker philosophy points out, 'religions are just cults with more members.' . . . What's the difference, rationally speaking, between believing [as Scientologists reportedly do] in body-infesting souls and ancient galactic confederations, or in the stories of virgin birth, Vishnu, the Garden of Eden, transubstantiation, Noah's ark, Judgment Day, or the baseless concept of the Trinity?"

"The vast majority of personal religious beliefs can be accurately predicted based solely on the beliefs of one's parents or the culture one is raised in. . . . Religionists should ask themselves, Are my religious beliefs based on rationality and evidence or indoctrination?'"

"A belief in an afterlife has the unavoidable effect of making this life less unique and precious. . . . Good luck finding an atheist willing to strap a bomb to his or her back, or fly a plane into a building. . . ."

Daniel J. Boorstin (1914-2004)

American historian and Librarian of Congress. Pulitzer Prize winner, 1973. His 1962 book The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America explored the relationship between reality and advertising, media, and simulation—influences that per­haps help explain our descent into a faith-based, deception-based society.

"The world has suffered far less from ignorance than from pretensions to knowledge. ... No agnostic ever burned anyone at the stake or tortured a pagan, a heretic, or an unbeliever."

"God is the Celebrity-Author of the World's Best Seller. We have made God into the biggest celebrity of all, to contain our own emptiness."

David Boulton

 British writer and antiwar activist, one-time boy-evangelist, failed politician, former Head of News, Current Affairs, and Reli­gion at Granada TV, Britain's largest independent TV company. Radical religious (Quaker) humanist. Author of The Trouble with God (2003).  From The New Internationalist magazine, 2004:

"There was a time, beginning around the 1850s and culminating perhaps in the 1920s, when it really did seem that the jig was up for organized religion—at least in the Western world. But the growing complexities and insecurities of the 20th century paved the way for a triumphal return of the old certainties, promises and reassurances. God was resurrected. Today 20 million grown-up Americans and 33% of the Republican Party believe the Rapture is imminent, when Christ will return to allow born-again evangelicals to share with him in divine governance of the universe. Hollywood finds the flagellation of Jesus a bigger turn-on than the female orgasm. The Rapture books in the Left Behind series ... outsell Harry Potter."

"In Britain, the churches continue to empty, but the 'mind/body/spirit' shelves in our bookshops groan under the weight of tomes recommending a thousand varieties of bottled spiritualities. . . . One in ten men and one in four women tell pollsters they think there's something in reincarnation. One in three women say they believe in angels, particularly the guardian variety.”

"It once seemed that reason was leading us to lose faith in religion, but we woke up to find, instead, that we had lost faith in reason. So all the old appurtenances of religion which we had chucked out through the doorway came creeping back through the window."

"Is religion, then, inevitable? Do we need it, as we need food, drink and sex? Do we, after all, have some kind of god-shaped gene. . . . Are we made with a religious itch which we must scratch. . . ? After all, religious belief and practice seems to have been part and parcel of virtually every human culture from the Neanderthals onwards. . . . Can it be just one long mistake? Was the whole of humanity on the wrong track from the year dot till the formation of the Rationalist Press Association?"

"We blind ourselves to the irrationalism, the bigotry, the fantasy of it all [because] religion gives us suitably solemn funerals, suitably sentimental nativity plays, provides us with life markers. It gives us our roots and our reassurance that there is meaning, even if it is located above the bright blue sky and we don't have a clue what the meaning means."

"Only a blinkered, anorexic humanism chooses to ignore the heritage of religious culture.... We still need a little salve-ation, healing, from time to time; a sense of at-one-ment with ourselves  and  the rest  of the  universe;   redemption  as restoration; an assurance that our ludicrous inability to be the people we would like to be is ultimately forgivable and forgiven.”

G.  Richard Bozarth (1949- )

Frequent contributor to Madalyn Murray O'Hair's American Atheist magazine. He and his wife were married by O'Hair, in her (tax-exempting) capacity as a Universal Life minister, at the 1919 American Atheist Convention. (As it is fitting and proper. There's much too much intermarriage going on.)

"Christianity has fought, still fights, and will fight science to the desperate end over evolution, because evolution destroys utterly of and finally the very reason Jesus' earthly life was supposedly made necessary. Destroy Adam and Eve and the original sin, and in the rubble you will find the sorry remains of the son of god."

Thomas E. Bullard (1949-

American folklorist and collector of UFO abduction stories.

"Abduction reports sound like rewrites of older supernatural encounter traditions with aliens serving the functional roles of divine beings. Science may have evicted ghosts and witches from our beliefs, but it has just as quickly filled the vacancy with aliens having the same functions—it is business as usual in the legend realm where things go bump in the night."

Luis Bunuel (1900-1983)

 Bunuel is a Spanish-born filmmaker.  He had a very strict Jesuit education. It didn't take. His films are full of insults and injuries to priests, nuns, saints, why, to piety itself. Liked to walk around Paris dressed as a nun.

"God and Country are an unbeatable team; they break all records for oppression and bloodshed."

Near the end of his life:

"Thank god I'm still an atheist."

Noam Chomsky (1928-)

 American linguist, MIT professor, and left-wing political activist. The most important theoretical linguist of the past century. Grew up immersed in Hebrew culture and literature. An anarcho-syndicalist from the age of 12 or 13when most boys are still Spartacist-Trotskyist. Especially critical of U.S. foreign policy.

“The figures are shocking. Three quarters of the American population literally believe in religious miracles. The numbers who believe in the devil, in the resurrection, in God doing this and that – it’s astonishing. These numbers aren’t duplicated anywhere else in the industrialized world. You would have to perhaps go to mosques in Iran or do a poll among old ladies in Sicily to get numbers like this. Yet this is the American population.”

"Do I believe in God?... I don't understand the question."

"How do I define God? I don't… I see no need.... As for 'First Principles,' basing them on divinities is, I think, a very bad idea. That leaves anyone free to pick the 'first principles' they choose on other grounds, and to disguise the choices as 'what God commands.' . . . Nothing is gained . . . and a great deal is lost: specifically, the opportunity to question, elaborate, modify, or reject them. . . . If you want to use the word 'God' to refer to 'what you are and what you want'—well, that's a terminological decision, not a substantive one."

"I would agree with the classic anarchist slogan 'Ni dieu, ni maitre' [No god, no master]."

"That 'religion is inherently irrational' is surely true. Why one set of beliefs that are offered without argument or evidence rather than another?"


"The Bible is basically polytheistic, with the warrior God demanding of his chosen people that they not worship the other Gods and destroy those who do. . . . It would be hard to find a more genocidal text in the literary canon. . . .'"

Larry Cohen (1938- )

American film maker. Gave the world It’s Alive; It Lives Again; It's Alive III: Island of the Alive; and God Told Me To, in which murderers who believe God told them to kill but who are in fact possessed by a Demon from Outer Space commit a series of bizarre homicides.

"Everybody's got a different idea what God thinks and what ", God likes and what God is; the crazy guy on the corner knows about as much as the guy in St. Patrick's Cathedral—none of them know anything. People say, 'Reverend Moon—what a v crook!' and I say, 'But what about the Pope?' It's all the same. Anybody who starts telling you what God thinks should be locked up immediately." Speaking of which: also wrote the classic Women of San Quentin, or as it might be called, Les Ms.

C. W. Dalton

American atheist writer. Author of The Right Brain and Religion and You're OK—The World's All Wrong; contributor to Truth Seeker magazine, "world's oldest free thought publication."

"The life of an atheist seems especially tragic. . . . The atheist cannot even look forward to being vindicated. Even if he is right, religionists will die never finding out that they had worshiped a God that didn't exist, had prayed to the wind, had tithed to support priestly parasites…No, atheists know they will never get even this satisfaction. [No false advertising from this religion.] Perhaps it is time for atheists to give up on eradicating religion and accept it as they accept other incurable diseases and as they accept bad weather, taxes and in-laws as inevitable."

Walter A. Davis

Davis is Emeritus professor of English, Ohio State Uni­versity. His 2006 book Death's Dream Kingdom:The American Psyche Since 9-11, examined, in his words, “the apocalyptic scenario driving  the Christian fundamentalist assault on our basic freedoms.”

The question that constitutes the inherent and lasting fascination of religion [is] not what people believe, but why. . . . Religion is invaluable because it offers the deepest insight into the nature of the psyche and its needs."

"One irony of fundamentalist reading is the rather considerable constraints it places on the deity. He proclaimeth and what He says remains so forever, beyond development, change, revision. Whatever abomination of sex hatred one unearths from Leviticus must remain gospel today. . . . After all, 'It's in the Bible.' That repeated assertion expresses the essence and fundamental paralysis of the literal mind."

"Fundamentalist certitude always becomes rectitude; and the Bible is mined for all the things one can label abomination. Thereby a sensibility that wants to have nothing to do with the world takes revenge upon it."

"The power of [evangelical Christian] conversion to produce a saved self makes the Catholic confessional [look like] the operation of rank amateurs. There ... one gets temporary relief from sins . .. but not a lasting transformation."

"The obsessional need to preach ... to let every stranger one meets know as soon as possible that one is a born-again Christian, are practices that derive not from a lack of social skills but from a manic necessity. . . . Without evangelical activity the fundamentalist psyche sinks into a state of empty boredom....Thus the lassitude of Dubya before 9-11 and the hectic messianic energy that has defined him since. .. . God has chosen one not just to convert the World but to wage war on whatever one labels
evil.... We should all indeed be trembling in our boots to know the mind-set that now has its finger on the nuclear trigger."               

Richard Dawkins (1941- )

Dawkins Kenyan born British zoologist, evolutionary theorist at Oxford University. His landmark book The Selfish Gene argued that the gene, not the individual plant or animal, is the principal unit of selection in evo­lution and may be regarded in effect as the organism; we plants (and animals) as merely vehicles built by DNA molecules to transport them around and supply them with food, oxygen, and other DNA to "mate" with.(Or as Groucho Marx is said to have said: Life is the whim of several billion cells to be with you for a while." Or as Anonymous said: "A chicken is an egg's way of producing more eggs.") Dawkin's friend Douglas Adams described reading the book as "one of those absolutely shocking moments of revelation when you understand that the world is fundamentally different from what you thought it was . . . almost like a religious experience." Dawkins's book The Blind Watchmaker demolished the creationists' "argument from design." Dubbed "Darwin's rott­weiler" (recalling Thomas "Darwin's Bulldog" Huxley). Ardent atheist. The Atheist Alliance organization instituted the Richard Dawkins Award in his honor in 2003. There can be no doubt that the similarity of the names Dawkins and Darwin unconsciously drives Dawkins's scientific ambitions.

"I am against religion because it teaches us to be satisfied with not understanding the world."

"Modern theists might acknowledge that, when it comes to Baal and the Golden Calf, Thor and Wotan, Poseidon and Apollo, Mithras and Ammon Ra, they are actually atheists. We are all atheists about most of the gods that humanity has ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further."

On God as a "meme," Dawkins's idea of a unit of cultural inheritance, analogous to the gene: "How does it replicate itself? By the spoken and written word, aided by great music and great art. . . . The survival value of the god meme results from its great psychological appeal. It provides a superficially plausible answer to deep and troubling questions about existence. It suggests that injustices in this world may be rectified in the next. It holds out a cushion against our own inadequacies which, like a doctor's placebo, is none the less effective for being imaginary. There are some of the reasons why the idea of God is copied so readily by successive generations of individual brains."

"The meme for blind faith secures its own perpetuation by the simple unconscious expedient of discouraging rational inquiry."

"If complex organisms demand an explanation, so does a complex designer. And it's no solution to raise the theologian's plea that god (or the Intelligent designer) is simply immune to the normal demands of scientific explanation…You cannot have it both ways. Either Intelligent Design belongs in the science classroom, in which case it must submit to the discipline required of a scientific hypothesis. Or it does not, in which case get it out of the science classroom and send it back into the church, where it belongs."

"The creationists' fondness for 'gaps' in the fossil record is a metaphor for their love of gaps in knowledge generally. Gaps, by default, are filled by God."

"Faith is powerful enough to immunize people against all appeals to pity, to forgiveness, to decent human feelings. It even immunizes them against fear, if they honestly believe that a martyr's death will send them straight to heaven. What a weapon! Religious faith deserves a chapter to itself in the annals of war technology, on an even footing with the longbow, the warhorse, the tank, and the hydrogen bomb."—1976

"Could we get some otherwise normal humans and somehow persuade them that they are not going to die as a consequence of flying a plane smack into a skyscraper? . . . The afterlife-obsessed suicidal brain really is a weapon of immense power and danger. It is comparable to a smart missile. ... Yet... it is very very cheap. ... To fill a world with religion, or religions of the Abrahamic kind, is like littering the streets with loaded guns. Do not be surprised if they are used."—2001

"[A letter to a U.K. newspaper] says 'science provides an explanation of the mechanism of the [December 2004 Asian] tsunami but it cannot say why this occurred any more than religion can.' There, in one sentence, we have the religious mind displayed before us in all its absurdity. In what sense of the word 'why', does plate tectonics not provide the answer? Not only does science know why the tsunami happened, it can give precious hours of warning. If a small fraction of the tax breaks handed out to churches, mosques and synagogues had been diverted into an early warning system, tens of thousands of people, now dead, would have been moved to safety. Let's get up off our knees, stop cringing before bogeymen and virtual fathers, face reality, and help science to do something constructive about human suffering."

Daniel Dennett (1942-)

 American philosopher. Leading proponent of the theory that human intelligence and consciousness can be explained by Darwinian selection. His book Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon proposes evolutionary explanations for religious belief.

"[Alfred Russell] Wallace, the co-discoverer of natural selection, said that it covered everything up to the human soul and he drew the line there, exactly where Descartes drew the line.... To Darwin it was clear that the Cartesian line was indefensible simply because it was clear that we're primates—we're mammals. The continuity of nature was not going to permit one species on the planet to have miracle stuff in its brain when no other species did."

"I was once interviewed in Italy and the headline of the interview the next day was wonderful. . . . 'Yes, we have a soul, but it's made of lots of tiny robots,' and I thought, it's exactly right. Yes! We have a soul, but... it's mechanical... but it's still a soul. It still does the work that the soul was supposed to do. It is the seat of reason ... of moral responsibility. It's why we are appropriate objects of punishment when we do evil things [and of] praise when we do good things. It's just not a mysterious lump of wonder-stuff. . . . Our moral quandaries [and] aspirations are what they were before. Our capacity to love or to hate is intact. . . . Darwinism changes everything and leaves everything the same."

John Dewey (1859-1952)

 American pragmatist philosopher, educa­tional reformer, social activist. Sought laws to protect minorities, legalize labor unions, and curb business monopolies; called the members of Congress "errand boys of big business. "Regarded nature as the only reality, and values and beliefs as "products of human experience in nature." But repudiated what he called militant atheism.

"Intellectually, religious emotions are not creative but conservative. They attach themselves readily to the current view of the world and consecrate it."

"Apologists for a religion often point to the shift that goes on in scientific ideas as evidence of the unreliability of science.... Even if the alleged unreliability were as great as they assume (or even greater), the question would remain: Have we any other recourse for knowledge? But in fact they miss the point. Science is not constituted by any particular body of subject matter. It is constituted by a method, a method of changing beliefs by means of tested inquiry. ... The scientific-religious conflict ultimately is a conflict between allegiance to this method and allegiance to [any] belief so fixed in advance that it can never be modified."

Diagoras "the Atheist" of Melos (fifth century BCE)

Greek poet. Became an atheist after a man who perjured against him went unpunished by the gods. When he was shown votive pictures of people report­edly saved from storms at sea by making vows to the gods, he replied, "there are nowhere any pictures of those who have been drowned." When he found himself aboard a ship in a dangerous storm and the crew thought they had brought it on themselves by taking this blasphemer on board, Diagoras asked if the other boats out in the same storm also had a Diagoras on board. Once threw a wooden image of a god into afire, remarking that the deity should perform another miracle and save itself. The hullabaloo (Greek for "brouhaha") this caused in Athens forced him to flee for his life. Athens offered a reward for his capture dead or alive. Lived out his life in Spartan territory, oresumahlv on a Snartan diet.

Denis Diderot (1713-1784)

French philosopher, author, encyclope­dist. His parents, wishing him to be a priest, shaved his head and dubbed him "abbe" (abbott) at age 13. During his university studies in science and philosophy, he began his rise from faith to deism to the highest stage, atheism. His book Pensees Philosophiques, which expressed anti-Christian views, was condemned and burned by the public executioner. Jailed for questioning the existence of God in his next book, An Essay on Blindness. Theorized 100 years BD (before Darwin)that animal species had evolved from common ancestors.

"I have only a small flickering light to guide me in the darkness of a thick forest. Up comes a theologian and blows it out."

"The philosopher has never killed any priests, whereas the priest has killed a great many philosophers."

"The Christian religion is the most absurd in its dogmas, the most unintelligible, the most insipid, the most gloomy, the most Gothic, the most puerile."

"It is very important not to mistake hemlock for parsley, but to believe or not believe in God is not important at all."

From his "Conversation with a Christian Lady":

"Then you're the man who doesn't believe anything? Yet your moral principles are the same as those of a believer. . . . What? You don't steal? You don't kill people? You don't rob them?. . . . Then what do you gain by not being a believer?" "Nothing at all, madame. Is one a believer from motives of profit?"

Barbara Ehrenreich (1941- )

 American journalist /essayist/progressive social critic. Holds a BA in physics and a Ph.D. in cell biology. Her 2001 book Nickel and Dimed, about her attempt to live on low-wage jobs, sold over a million copies. (Lots of nickels and dimes.) Her most grip­ping book, however, was The Uptake, Storage, and Intracellular Hydrol­ysis of Carbohydrates by Macrophages (1969).

About her waitressing job: "The worst [customers], for some reason, are the Visible Christians—like the ten-person table, all jolly and sanctified after Sunday night service, who run me mercilessly and then leave me $1 on a $92 bill. Or the guy with the crucifixion T-shirt. .. who complains that his baked potato is too hard and his iced tea too icy (I cheerfully fix both) and leaves no tip at all. As a general rule, people wearing crosses or WWJD ('What Would Jesus Do?') buttons look at us disapprovingly no matter what we do, as if they were confusing waitresses with Mary Magdalene's original profession."

"God has a lot to account for in the way of earthquakes, hurri­canes, tornadoes, and plagues. Nor has He ever shown much discrimination in his choice of victims. A tsunami hit Lisbon in 1755, on All Saints Day, when the good Christians were all in church. The faithful perished, while the denizens of the red light district, which was built on strong stone, simply carried on sin­ning. Similarly, last fall's hurricanes flattened the God-fearing, Republican parts of Florida while sparing sin-soaked Key West and South Beach." (Also see Charles Field.)

On the December 2004 Asian tsunami:

 "The  Christian-style  'God  of love'  should   be   particularly vulnerable to post-tsunami doubts If He so loves us ... why couldn't he have held those tectonic plates in place at least until the kids were off the beach? ... If we are responsible for our actions, as most religions insist, then God should be, too, and I would propose an immediate withdrawal of prayer and other forms of flattery ... at least until an apology is issued."

Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

German-Jewish-American physicist. His famous remark "God does not play dice" referred to quantum mechanics and the role of chance in physicsbut was widely misinterpretedas this first quotea response to a letter from a worried atheist, indicates:

"It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it."

"[The sense of] a spirit manifest in the laws of the Universe.... does not lead us to take the step of fashioning a god-like being in our own image—a personage who makes demands of us and who takes an interest in us as individuals. There is in this neither a will nor a goal, nor a must, but only sheer being." (Bishop Fulton J. Sheen said about Einstein's "faith": "Who ever wanted to die for the Milky Way?" Exactly. Or kill for it, he might have added.)

"[Religion is] an attempt to find an out where there is no door."

"A man's ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties and needs; no religious basis is necessary. If people are good only because they fear punishment and hope for a reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed."

"Only two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not so sure about the former.”

Does religion promote peace? “It has not done so up to now.”

Francisco Ferrer (1859-1909)

Spanish educator and activist. Opened Spain's first modern school in Barcelona in 1902secular, coeducational, open to rich and poor, and fiercely opposed by the church. Soon oper­ated 40 such schools. Organized an International League of Rational Education. Accused of fomenting anti-conscription and antireligious riots and strikes in 1909, andfollowing a military tribunal from which defense wit­nesses were excludedexecuted. Pope Pius X sent the prosecutor a gold-handled sword engraved with his congratulations.

"The need for religion will end when man becomes sensible enough to govern himself."

From his will, written on his prison-cell wall on the eve of his execution:

"Let no more gods or exploiters be served. Let us learn rather to love one another."

Richard   Feynman (1918-1988)

American Nobel-winning physicist/comedian/bongo player. Helped develop the atomic bomb. Did important work in particle theory, superconductivity, and quantum com­puting. First to publicly propose nanotechnology (1959). My college physics course consisted largely of his famous videotaped lectures. I thought he was some bozo. Freeman Dyson called him "half-genius, half-buffoon," but later changed this to "all-genius, all-buffoon." Liked to do some of his work in a topless bar. (Maybe that's where he first said, "Physics is to math what sex is to masturbation.") Last words: "I'd hate to die twice, it's so boring."

"God was invented to explain mystery. . . . When you finally discover how something works ... you don't need him anymore. But you need him for the other mysteries. So therefore you leave him to create the universe because we haven't figured that out yet... [and] to explain consciousness ... stuff like that."

"I think it's much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong. ... I don't feel frightened by being lost in a mysterious universe without any purpose, which is the way it really is as far as I can tell."

Edward Gibbon (1737—1794)

 English historian. Author of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, now available in a handy 1900-page edition.

"The evidence of the heavenly witnesses—the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost—would now be rejected in any court of justice."

"So urgent on the vulgar is the necessity of believing, that the fall of any system of mythology will most probably be succeeded by the introduction of some other mode of superstition."

Terry Gilliam (1940-)

American born British film director/writer/animator; member of the comedy group Monty Python. The Onion headline "Terry Gilliam Barbecue Plagued by Production Delays" ade­quately describes the fortunes of many of his films, which tend to be extremely expensive. Co-directed Monty Python and the Holy Grail with Python Terry Jones. Working titles for the Python film Life of Brian included the infinitely funnier Brian of Nazareth and Jesus Christ: Lust for Glory. The film was banned in Ireland, Norway, and some areas of England, owing above all to the final scene in which a chorus of crucified men, led by Brian, sings "Always Look at the Bright Side of Life."

Oh, lighten up: "With Life of Briar), we were vilified by Christians. Yet Christianity is alive and well. [So the movie failed. At least they tried.] Come on, if your religion is so vulnerable that a little bit of disrespect is going to bring it down, it's not worth believing in, frankly."

Tom Gilroy

 American actor/playwright/director.

"'Being Christian' is no longer defined by doing good deeds [but] by an arrogant mission to tell others how they must live—who they can marry, who they can adopt, what they must teach in schools. . . . Our national conversation on ethics, morality, and faith has become a kind of WWF [World Wrestling Federation] 'Religious Smackdown.' . . . But [the Bushies have] done us an odd—if unintentional—service by showing us in practice exactly what the Founding Fathers feared and tried to prevent."

Barry Goldwater (1909-1998)

Five-term Republican U.S. sen­ator from Arizona whose 1964 presidential candidacy started the conserva­tive resurgenceeven though he got shmeared, as his Jewish-born father might have said. Accomplished amateur photographer, ham radio operator, drinker (not so amateur), and UFO buff who believed the U.S. government was withholding UFO evidence: "I certainly believe in aliens in space," he told Larry King.

"There is no more powerful ally one can claim in a debate than Jesus Christ, or God, or Allah. ... But like any powerful weapon, the use of God's name on one's behalf should be used sparingly. . . . I'm frankly sick and tired of the political preachers across this country telling me as a citizen that if I want to be a moral person, I must believe in A, B, C, and D. Just who do they think they are? ... I am even more angry as a legislator who must endure the threats of every religious group who thinks it has some God-granted right to control my vote on every roll call in the Senate." This from the founder of the modern conservative movement! (And in 1981! In case you thought this rupture in the Sacred Wall of Separation began with Bush.)


(Goparaju Ramachandra Rao, 1902-1975), Indian atheist leader. In 1940 he and his wife founded India's Atheist Center, which has cam­paigned to abolish the caste system and child marriages and to rid India of belief in karma or divine fate, which only reconciles the poor to their suffering. The center received the International Humanist and Ethical Union's Inter­national Humanist Award in 1986. Gora, a confidante of Gandhi, mar­ried his wife when she was 10normal in 1922 (Orthodox Hinduism dictates that girls must marry before puberty), illegal today, thanks only to secularists' efforts.

"Because morality is a social necessity, the moment faith in god is banished, man's gaze turns from god to man and he becomes socially conscious. Religious belief prevented the growth of a sense of realism. But atheism at once makes man realistic and alive to the needs of morality."

Ruth Hurmence Green (1915-1981)

 American author of The Born-Again Skeptic's Guide to the Bible. Became an atheist after surviving cancer. Another God-free foxhole, as it were. (Name your baby Godfree. If it's a girl, Atheista or Secularia.)

"It is possible to pull out justification for imposing your will on others, simply by calling your will God's will."

"If the concept of a father who plots to have his own son put to death is presented to children as beautiful and as worthy of society's admiration, what types of human behavior can be presented to them as reprehensible?"

Matt Groening (l 954-)

American cartoonist: Creator of the animated TV series The Simpsons and Futurama and of the comic strip Life in Hell, loosely inspired, believe it or not, by a chapter titled "How to Go to Hell" in Walter Kaufmann's book Critique of Religion and Philosophy. The strip spun off the books School Is Hell, Childhood Is Hell, Work is Hell (amen), The Big Book of Hell, and The Huge Book of Hell.

Asked what he considers the most comical story in the Bible: "I was very disturbed when Jesus found a demon in a guy, and he put the demon in a herd of pigs, then sent them off a cliff [Mark 5.12-13]. What did the pigs do? I could never figure that out. It just seemed very un-Christian."

Bart Simpson: "Dear God, we paid for all this stuff ourselves, so thanks for nothing."

The Simpsons' Rev. Lovejoy, in a sermon about the "Movementarians": "This so-called new religion is nothing but a pack of weird rituals and chants designed to take away the money of fools. Let us say the Lord's prayer 40 times, but first let's pass the collection plate. . . . And as we pass the collection plate, please give as if the person next to you was watching."

Superintendent Chalmers: "A prayer in a public school! God has no place within these walls, just like facts have no place within organized religion."

E. Haldeman-Julius (1889-1951)

 American publisher and editor of a muckraking socialist newspaper, Appeal to Reason. Author of The Meaning of Atheism.

"The influences that have lifted the race to a higher moral level are education, freedom, leisure, the humanizing tendency of a better-supplied and more interesting life. In a word, science and liberalism . . . have accomplished the very things for which religion claims the credit."

Butch Hancock (1945-)

 American folk-country-rock singer/ songwriter; member of the group The Flatlanders. Described by Rolling Stone as "a raspy-voiced West Texas mystic with an equal affinity for romantic border balladry and Zen paradox."

"Life in Lubbock, Texas taught me two things. One is that God loves you and you're going to burn in hell. The other is that sex is the most awful, dirty thing on the face of the earth and you should save it for someone you love."

Rt. Rev. Richard Harries (1936- )

 English clergyman; Bishop of Oxford. Declared in May 2006 that homosexual unions are sup­ported by the Bible, gays should be allowed to become bishops, and tradi­tionalists need to be "converted." (To tolerance, not to homosexuality. Not that there would be anything wrong with that.)

"Historians of science note how quickly the late Victorian Christian public accepted evolution. It is therefore quite extraordinary that 140 years later [2002], after so much evidence has accumulated, a [state-funded] school in Gateshead [U.K.] is opposing evolutionary theory on alleged biblical grounds. Do some people really think that the worldwide scientific community is engaged in a massive conspiracy to hoodwink the rest of us?"

Sam Harris (1967-)

American author of the bestselling 2005 book The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason—the second-best book on religion on the market today. The threat the world faces, it argues, is not religious extremismit is religion.

 "Tell a devout Christian that his wife is cheating on him, or that frozen yogurt can make a man invisible, and he is likely to require as much evidence as anyone else, and to be persuaded only to the extent that you give it. Tell him that the book he keeps by his bed was written by an invisible deity who will punish him with fire for eternity if he fails to accept its every incredible claim about the universe, and  he seems to require no evidence   whatsoever."

"No one is ever faulted in our culture for not 'respecting' another person's beliefs about mathematics or history.... When people make outlandish claims, without evidence, we stop listening to them—except on matters of faith."

"How comforting would it be to hear the President of the United States assure us that almighty Zeus is on our side in our war on terrorism? The mere change of a single word in his speech— from God to Zeus—would precipitate a national emergency. If I believe that Christ was born of a virgin, resurrected bodily after death, and is now literally transformed into a wafer at the Mass, I can still function as a respected member of society ... because millions of others believe [the same]. . . . The perversity of religion is that it allows sane people to believe the unbelievable en masse."

"Anyone who thinks western or Israeli imperialism solves the riddle of Muslim violence must explain why we don't see Tibetan suicide bombers killing Chinese children. The Tibetans have suffered every bit as much as the Palestinians.... Where are the throngs of Tibetans seething with hatred, calling for the deaths of the Chinese? . . . What is the difference that makes the difference? Religion. . . . Read the Koran. Osama bin Laden is playing it more or less by the book. Anyone who says that there is no basis for his worldview in the doctrine of Islam is either dangerously ignorant or just dangerous."

“We can no longer ignore the fact that billions of our neighbors believe in the metaphysics of martyrdom, or in the literal truth of the book of Revelation, or any of the other fantastical notions that have lurked in the minds of the faithful for millennia— because our neighbors are now armed with chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons. . . . Words like 'God' and 'Allah' must go the way of Apollo' and 'Baal,' or they will unmake our world."

Stephen Hawking (1942- )

 British theoretical physicist. Has made important discoveries concerning the Big Bang and black holes. ("A black hole is where God is dividing by zero," goes a centuries old physics joke.) Almost completely paralyzed by Lou Gehrig's disease, first diagnosed in 1963. The doctors gave him no more than three years to live. Has kept his outmoded, 1980s-era voice synthesizer (which has an American accent) because he identifies with it. Has explained that the concept of time has no meaning before the beginning of the universe; the question "What came before the Big Bang?" makes no more sense than "What lies north of the north pole?" So, could God, as it were, lie north of the north pole? More importantlycould Santa? The Catholic Church seized on the Big Bang theory when it was first proposed, officially declaring it to be in accordance with the Bible. The universe had a beginninga Creation! Gloria in Excelsis Deo?  [Not so fast, Your Eminences and Emptinesses.]

"What I have done is to show that it is possible for the way the universe began to be determined by the laws of science. In that case, it would not be necessary to appeal to God to decide how the universe began. This doesn't prove that there is no God, only that God is not necessary. . . . One does not have to appeal to God to set the initial conditions for the creation of the universe, but if one does He would have to act through the laws of physics [That’s right, he’s not above the law.]

"The quantum theory of gravity has opened up a new possibility, in which there would be no boundary to space-time. . . . The universe would be completely self-contained and not affected by anything outside itself. It would neither be created nor destroyed. It would just be. . . . [This] also has profound implications for the role of God in the affairs of the universe. ... So long as the universe had a beginning, we could suppose it had a creator. But if the universe is really completely self-contained, having no boundary or edge, it would have neither beginning nor end: it would simply be. What place, then, for a creator?"

There's always a "but": "[A mathematical model] cannot answer the questions of why there should be a universe for the model to describe. Why does the universe go to all the bother of existing?" Who says "why" means anything, except to us? Why can't the universe "simply be"?

"In 1981 ... I attended a conference on cosmology organized by the Jesuits in the Vatican. . . . The participants were granted an audience with the pope [John Paul II]. He told us that it was all right to study the evolution of the universe after the Big Bang, but we should not inquire into the Big Bang itself because that was the moment of Creation and therefore the work of God. I was glad then that he did not know the subject of the talk I had just given. ... I had no desire to share the fate of Galileo, with whom I feel a strong sense of identity, partly because of the coincidence of having been born exactly 300 years after his death!"

Judith   Hayes

Senior writer for the American Rationalist; keeper of the Web site The Happy Heretic (happyheretic.com); author of a book by that name and another called In God We Trust: But Which One? Raised as a Catholic; began to question her faith after realizing her Hindu friend could not enter the Christian heaven, even if accompanied by a member. Enjoys mocking our Holy Bible for what she calls contradic­tions and absurdities.

“The biblical account of Noah’s Ark and the Flood is perhaps the most implausible story for fundamentalists to defend. Where, for example, while loading his ark, did Noah find penguins and polar bears in Palestine?”

Heinrich Heine (1797-1856)

German-Jewish poet. Converted to Protestantism in order to teach university, one of many professions then closed to Jews. His leadership in the Young Germany movement led to his books being banned in Germany. In 1933 they were burned.

"In dark ages people are best guided by religion, as in a pitch-black night a blind man is the best guide…When daylight comes, however, it is foolish to use the blind old men as guides.”

"If your right eye offends you, pluck it out / If your right arm offends you, cut it off/ And if your reason offends you, become a Catholic."

"Where they burn books, they will, in the end, burn human beings too."—The remark is engraved on the plaza in Berlin where the Nazis held public book burnings. Heine was in fact referring to the burning of the Koran by the Spanish Inquisition.

Christopher Hitchens (1949- )

British-born American jour­nalist. Ex-socialist; self-described "liberal hawk" and "contrarian. "The atti­tude of his former colleagues on the leftthe result mainly of Hitchens' support for the 2003 invasion of Iraqwas perhaps best expressed by Alexander Cockburn in 2005: "What a truly disgusting sack of shit Hitchens is." Regular contributor to Vanity Fair and Slate. His books include the merciless Missionary Position: Mother Theresa in Theory and Practice (1995) and God Is Not Great: The Case Against Religion (2007). Has described his daily alcohol intake as enough "to kill or stun the average mule."

 "I am not even an atheist so much as an antitheist; I not only maintain that all religions are versions of the same untruth, but I hold that the influence of churches, and the effect of religious belief, is positively harmful. Reviewing the false claims of religion I do not wish, as some sentimental materialists affect to wish, that they were true. I do not envy believers their faith. I am relieved to think that the whole story is a sinister fairy tale; life would be miserable if what the faithful affirmed was actually true.. .. There may be people who wish to live their lives under a cradle-to-grave divine supervision; a permanent surveillance and monitoring. But I cannot imagine anything more horrible or grotesque."

"Just consider for a moment what their [the devout's] heaven looks like. Endless praise and adoration, limitless abnegation and abjection of self; a celestial North Korea."

“A true believer…must also claim to have at least an inkling of what that Supreme Being desires. I have been called arrogant myself in my time . .. but to claim that I am privy to the secrets of the universe and its creator—that's beyond my conceit."

"A Jerry Falwell clone named Bailey Smith observed that 'God Almighty does not hear the prayers of a Jew' This is the only instance known to me of an anti-Semitic remark having a basis in fact."

"I, too, have strong convictions and beliefs and value the Enlightenment above any priesthood or any sacred fetish-object. It is revolting to me to breathe the same air as wafts from the exhalations of the madrasahs ... or the sermons of Billy Graham and Joseph Ratzinger. But these same principles of mine also prevent me from wreaking random violence on the nearest church, or kidnapping a Muslim at random and holding him hostage ... or making a moronic spectacle of myself threatening blood and fire to faraway individuals who may have hurt my feelings. The babyish rumor-fueled tantrums that erupt all the time, especially in the Islamic world, show yet again that faith belongs to the spoiled and selfish childhood of our species."

"Time spent in arguing with the faithful is, oddly enough, almost never wasted. The argument is the origin of all arguments; one must always be striving to deepen and refine it; Marx was right he stated in 1844 that 'the criticism of religion is the premise of all criticism.'"

Adolph Hitler (1889-1945)

The Nazis took pains to portray Jesus  “ a blond Aryan” and certainly no Jew. Hostile to Christianity?

"I am now as before a Catholic and will always remain so."

"I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator; by defending myself against the Jews, I am fighting for the Lord.... I would like to thank Providence and the Almighty for choosing me of all people. . . ."

"Loyalty and responsibility toward the people and the Fatherland are most deeply anchored in the Christian faith."

"I have followed the Church in giving our party program the char­acter of unalterable finality, like the Creed. . . . The Church has realized that anything and everything can be built upon a document of that sort, no matter how contradictory or irreconcilable with it. The faithful will swallow it whole, so long as logical rea­soning is never allowed to be brought to bear on it."

Dr. Franklin Littell, chairman of the religion department, Temple University: "The Holocaust was, of course, the bitter fruit of long centuries of Christian teaching about the Jewish people."

Peter de Rosa, former Jesuit priest and theologian: "In 1936 . . . Hitler assured his lordship [Bishop Berning of Osnabruch] there was no fundamental difference between National Socialism and the Catholic Church. Had not the church, he argued, looked on Jews as parasites and shut them in ghettos? 'I am only doing,' he boasted, 'What the church has done for fifteen hundred years, only more effectively.'"

Eric Hoffer (1902-1983)

American social thinker and, until age 65, longshoreman: dubbed "the Longshoreman Philosopher." No university edu­cation. The best-known of his ten books, The True Believer (1951), a study of political and religious mass movements, argued that self-righteousness and fanaticism are rooted in self hatred, self doubt and insecurity; noted how readily, for example, fanatical Nazis became fanatical Communists and fanat­ical Communists became fanatical anti-Communists. "For the true believer the substance of the mass movement isn't so important as that he or she is part of that movement.

"[A] substitute is usually embraced with vehemence and extremism, for we have to convince ourselves that what we took as second choice is the best there ever was. . . . Faith is to a considerable extent a substitute for the lost faith in ourselves . . . for the self-confidence born of experience and skill. Where there is the necessary skill to move mountains there is no need for the faith that moves mountains."

"The less justified a person is in claiming excellence for their own self, the more ready they are to claim all excellence for their nation, their religion, their race or their holy cause."

"Self-righteousness is a loud din raised to drown the voice of guilt within us."

"The savior who wants to turn men into angels is as much a hater of human nature as the totalitarian despot who wants to turn them into puppets."

"The devout are always urged to seek the absolute truth with their hearts and not their minds."

"When we debunk a fanatical faith or prejudice, we do not strike at the root of fanaticism. We merely prevent its leaking out at a certain point, with the likely result that it will leak out at some other point."

"The opposite of the religious fanatic is not the fanatical atheist but the gentle cynic who cares not whether there is a god or not."

"Our passionate preoccupation with the sky, the stars, and a God somewhere in outer space is a homing impulse. We are drawn back to where we came from."

"The devil personifies not the nature that is around us but the nature that is within us—the infinitely ferocious and cunning pre-human creature that is still within us, sealed in the subconscious cellars of the psyche."

L Ron (Lafayette Ronald) Hubbard (1911-1986)

[If you believe he died), American science-fiction writer and founder of Scientology. Claimed to be a nuclear physicist on the basis of a one-year col­lege course for which he received an F During his stint in the Navy, he was rated "unsatisfactory for any assignment" and "not temperamentally fitted for independent command." Then there's Xenu, "the alien ruler of the 'Galactic Confederacy' who, 75 million years ago, brought billions of people to Earth in DC-8-like spacecraft, stacked them around volcanoes and blew them up with hydrogen bombs. Their souls then clustered together and stuck to the bodies of the living, and continue to wreak chaos and havoc today."1 But is every word of this Hubbard teaching literally true or are parts of it metaphorical?

"Writing for a penny a word is ridiculous. If a man really wants to make a million dollars, the best way would be to start his own religion." (Reportedly uttered words to this effect on five separate occasions.)

Victor Hugo (1802-1885)

French novelist. Professed "freethinker ." Violently anticlerical. (The feeling was mutual: Hugo counted 140 attacks on Les Miserables in the Catholic press.) His will stipulated that he be buried without crucifix or priest. (It does get crowded in there with a priest. Still: When you go, take one with you.)

"Religion is nothing but the shadow cast by the universe on human intelligence."

"There is in every village a torch: the schoolmaster—and an extinguisher: the parson."

"When you tell me that your Deity made you in his own image, I reply that he must have been very ugly."

"God made himself man: granted. The Devil made himself woman."

David Hume (1711-1776)

Incredibly important Scottish philosopher and historian. His essay Of Superstition and Religion underlies most subsequent secular thought about religionwhich Hume described as "nothing but sick men's dreams." His criticism of the "design argument" for the existence of God is widely accepted (not widely enough, of course) as having killed the argument for good. Was tried for and acquitted of heresy; the defense was that, as an atheist, he lay outside the jurisdiction of the church. Was nonetheless denied teaching positions in Scotland, and his later works on religion were held from publication until after his death.

"The Christian religion not only was at first attended with miracles, but even at this day cannot be believed by any reasonable person without one."

"Men dare not avow, even to their own hearts, the doubts which they entertain on such subjects. They make a merit of implicit faith; and disguise to themselves their real infidelity."

"If there is a designer he must take credit for the flaws in his creation. Flaws in the creation directly reflect flaws in the creator. If there is a flaw in the creator then he cannot be all powerful."

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963)

English novelist (Brave New World, Eyeless in Gaza, CromeYellow), poet and essayist. Moved to Hollywood, Californiaspiritual capital of the modern world. Soon hanging with J. Krishnamurti and other gurus, swamis, and homies. . . . Posthumously a guru himself to hippie freaks through his book The Doors of Perception, which described his experiences with mescaline and LSD (and inspired the name of Jim Morrison's band). Grandson of Thomas Huxley, brother of Julian.

"You never see animals going through the absurd and often horrible fooleries of magic and religion.... Dogs do not ritually urinate in the hope of persuading heaven to do the same and send down rain. Asses do not bray a liturgy to cloudless skies. Nor do cats attempt, by abstinence from cat's meat, to wheedle the feline spirits into benevolence. Only man behaves with such gratuitous folly. It is the price he has to pay for being intelligent but not, as yet, quite intelligent enough."

"Maybe this world is just another planet's hell."

Sir Julian Huxley (1887-1975)

English biologist. Grandson of Thomas Huxley.

"Newton showed that gods did not control the movements of the planets; Laplace in a famous aphorism affirmed [to Napoleon] that astronomy had no need of the god hypothesis; Darwin and Pasteur between them did the same for biology. . . . Operationally, God is beginning to resemble not a ruler but the last fading smile of a cosmic Cheshire cat."

Thomas Henry  Huxley (1825-1895)

English biologist. Demonstrated that human and ape anatomy were fundamentally similar in every detail. Dubbed "Darwin's bulldog"for defending his work against the ferocious attacks of the dog-collared set (the clergy). Coined the word "agnostic."  Grandfather of Aldous and Julian Huxley, who seem to have inherited his acquired characteristics, atheistically speaking.

"[I am] inclined to think that not far from the invention of fire must rank the invention of doubt."

"Skepticism is the highest duty and blind faith the one unpardonable sin."

"The known is finite, the unknown is infinite; intellectually we stand on an islet in the midst of an illimitable ocean of inexplicability. Our business in every generation is to reclaim a little more land."

"Extinguished theologians lie about the cradle of every science as the strangled snakes beside that of Hercules."

After reading Darwin's Origin of Species: "How stupid of me not to have thought of that!" (Compared to still not accepting it today? Let's make that 10 on a stupid-scale of 10 . . .)

Wendy Kaminer

 American law professor and feminist writer. Her books include Sleeping with Extra-Terrestrials: The Rise of Irra-tionalism and Perils of Piety. Her 1996 article "The hast Taboo" dared to suggest that what America needs is not more religiosity or spirituality but more atheism! Prepare the faggots.

"Americans have become fascinated by angels and 'out of body' experiences and seem to be discarding the habit of critical thinking. . . . The dissemination of pseudoscience, including such things as the fascination with near-death experiences and the growing belief by Americans—34 percent of them—in reincarnation are dangerous. They help to break down the standards of reason."

"People who believe that God exists and heeds their prayers have probably waived the right to mock people who talk to trees or claim to channel the spirits of Native Americans."

"If I were to mock religious belief as childish ... I'd be excoriated as an example of the cynical, liberal elite responsible for America's moral decline. ... I'd receive hate mail. Atheists generate about as much sympathy as pedophiles."

Stephen King (1947- )

 American horror novelist. Got a $2,500 advance for his first novel, Carrie, whose heroine's insane mother is one of the truest portraits of a zealous evangelical Christian ever writtennot least with regard to the sexual origins of her zealotry. Doesn’t own a cell phone.

“The beauty of religious mania is that it has the power to explain everything…nothing is left to chance…logic can be happily tossed out the window.”

Margaret Knight (1903-1983)

British psychologist and the most famous British atheist/humanist of the second half of the twentieth century. In 1955, she caused an SOC (storm of controversy) with her series of talks on BBC radio based on her book Morals without Religion, in which she offered advice on how to teach that very thing to defenseless children.

"The fundamental opposition is between dogma and the scientific outlook. On the one side, Christianity and Communism, the two great rival dogmatic systems; on the other Scientific Humanism."

"If [a child] is normally intelligent, he is almost bound to get the impression that there is something odd about religious statements. If he is taken to church, for example, he hears that death is the gateway to eternal life, and should be welcomed u rather than shunned; yet outside he sees death regarded as the greatest of all evils, and everything possible is done to postpone it. . . . The child soon gets the idea that there are two kinds of truth—the ordinary kind, and another, rather confusing and slightly embarrassing kind, into which it is best not inquire too j closely. . . . Now all this is bad intellectual training. . . ."

Joseph Lewis (1889-1968)

President of Freethinkers of America. Founder of the Freethought Press Association and Age of Reason maga­zine. Author of An Atheist Manifesto; The Tyranny of God; The Bible Unmasked; Burbank, the Infidel; and Voltaire, the Incomparable Infidel, among other books.

"Religion is all profit. They have no merchandise to buy, no commissions to pay, and no refunds to make for unsatisfactory service and results. . . . Their commodity is fear." Their inventories are lies. . . . Their deferred tax assets are guilt and self-abasement. . . .

"If I had the power that the New Testament narrative says that Jesus had, I would not cure one person of blindness, I would make blindness impossible; I would not cure one person of leprosy, I would abolish leprosy."

St. Ignatius Loyola (1491-1556)

Spanish founder of the Jesuit order.

His dictum: "Dei sacrificium intellectus" —the sacrifice of reason to God.

"We should always be disposed to believe that that which appears to us to be white is really black, if the hierarchy of the Church so decides."

Lucretius (Titus Lucretius Carus, c. 94-49 b.c.e.)

Roman poet and Epicurean philosopher.

"All religions are equally sublime to the ignorant, useful to the politician, and ridiculous to the philosopher."

Martin   Luther (1483-1546)

German priest, theologian, and undisputed king of the Protestant Reformation. His book On the Jews and Their Lies proposed burning the Christ-killers' homes, synagogues, and schools confiscating their money (always popular) and curtailing their rights and liberties. Cited as an authority on Jewish matters by the Nazis.

"Reason should be destroyed in all Christians."

Mad Magazine (1952- )

American satirical magazine. Responsible for destroying the respect for authority of at least one generation of adolescent boys (typically) and replacing it with smart-ass sarcasm. Its founder and pub­lisher, William M. Gaines (d. 1992), habitually swore "On my honor as an atheist. . . ."From a 1995 issue:

"You're a group of Christian-based, conservative organizations with several million dollars to spend. Do you: feed the hungry? Clothe the poor? Don't be so naive! You blow the millions on a series of slickly-worded, logic-bending ads espousing a widely-discredited theory that one can be 'cured' of homosexuality through counseling and prayer."

James Madison (1751-1836)

Fourth U.S. president. Atheist? Deist? Well, no Christian. He and Jefferson defeated a bill in 1784 that would have given tax money to churches. Their bill, the Religious Freedom Act, affirmed the separation of church and state, later written into the Bill of Rights as the First Amendment. As president, Madison criticized the dis­gusting spectacle of government-employed chaplains praying at sessions of Congress. (The House and Senate today employ chaplains at a cost to tax­payers of $500,000 a year.)

"Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise."

On faith-based initiatives:

"The appropriation of funds of the United States for the use and support of religious societies, [is] contrary to the article of the Constitution which declares that 'Congress shall make no law respecting a religious establishment.'"

Ferdinand Magellan (1480-1521)

Portuguese explorer. The first to circumnavigate the Earth, to sail westward from Europe to Asia, and to cross the ocean he namedwithout any focus groups or marketing studiesthe Pacific.

"The church says the earth is flat, but I know that it is round, for I have seen the shadow on the moon, and I have more faith in a shadow than in the church."

Bill Maher (1956-)

 American comedian, political commentator, and talk show host on HBO, formerly on Comedy Central and ABC. Self-described lib­ertarian. (Conservative-commentator-Jonah-Goldberg-described "libertine socialist.") Jewish mother, Roman Catholic father. Joked that he would bring a lawyer to confession: "Forgive me, Father,for I have sinned ... 7 think you know Mr. Cohen...."

"I hate religion. I think it's a neurological disorder."

"What they're fighting about in the Middle East. . . . These myths, these silly little stories              They take over this little space in Jerusalem where one guy flew up to heaven—no, no, this guy performed a sacrifice here a thousand million years ago. It's like, 'Who cares? What does that have to do with spirituality?'"

The problem with organized religion: "You can't talk directly to god. That is bad. First you've got to talk to a priest. Then Mary. Then Jesus.... It's like going to the DMV."

"Athletes: Jesus doesn't care who wins the game. So stop bothering him. I've never heard a team blame Jesus when they lose...."

"If God chose George Bush of all the people in the world, how good is God?"

On rappers wearing big, jewel-encrusted crucifixes: "Isn't that what Jesus was all about? He's hanging there—'I hope my death will allow rappers to signal to chicks that they're rich so they can get laid more.'"

Marilyn Manson {nee Brian Warner, 1969-)

 American Goth-rock recording artist. Rumored to be a priest of the Church of Satan (the LAVEYansnot, Satan forbid, the Temple of Set set!). Said on MTV he wanted to be known as the person who brought an end to Christianity.

"Christianity has given us an image of death and sexuality that we have based our culture around. A half-naked dead man hangs in most homes and around our necks.... Is it a symbol of hope    V or hopelessness?"

About Catholics trying to ban one of his concerts:

"If they think that an artist can destroy their faith, then their faith is rather fragile."

Bill McKibben (1960- )

American writer/environmentalist. In his first book, The End of Nature (1990), he observed that nature no longer exists on this planet: we have altered (or destroyed) everythingclimate, flora, and fauna, the very chemistry of the oceans. Active in the Methodist Church. From his article "What It Means To Be Christian In America," Harper's, September 2005:

"America is simultaneously the most professedly Christian of s the developed nations and the least Christian in its behavior…. In 2004, as a share of our economy, we ranked second to last, after Italy, among developed countries in government foreign aid…. Nearly 18 percent of American children lived in poverty (compared with, say, 8 percent in Sweden). In fact, by pretty much any measure of caring . . . childhood nutrition, infant mortality and access to preschool—we come in nearly last among the rich nations, and often by a wide margin. . . . Despite the Sixth Commandment, we are, of course, the most violent rich nation on earth, with a murder rate four or five times that of our European peers. . . . Having been told to turn the other cheek, we're the only Western democracy left that executes its citizens, mostly in those states where Christianity is theoretically strongest. Teenage pregnancy? We're at the top of the charts. Personal self-discipline—like, say, keeping your weight under control? Buying on credit? Running government deficits? Do you need to ask?"

Margaret Mead  (1901-1978)

American anthropologist. In Coming of Age in Samoa (1928), Mead reported high levels of casual premarital sex among her young female informants. Decades laterafter conversion to Christianitymany of the same women denied their youthful gambols. Christian guilt had successfully been inculcated. Sex had become the dirty, shameful thing God meant it to be.

 "Creationism: the theory that Rome WAS built in day."

"It is an open question whether any behavior based on fear of eternal punishment can be regarded as ethical or should be regarded as merely cowardly."

H. L. (Henry Louis) Mencken (1880-1956)

 American journalist and criticthe best known of his timeand a passionate doubter. Coined the phrase "Bible Belt." Reported on the Scopes Monkey Trial. On Mencken's advice, defense attorney Clarence Darrow put the prosecutor, biblical fundamentalist William Jennings Bryan, on the stand, where Darrow made a total fool of him. It was awesome.

"Religion is fundamentally opposed to everything I hold in veneration—courage, clear thinking, honesty, fairness, and, above all, love of the truth.”

"A man full of faith is simply one who has lost (or never had) the capacity for clear and realistic thought. He is not a mere ass: he is actually ill." (Covered by Medicare, Medicaid, and most private insurance plans.)

"Moral certainty is always a sign of cultural inferiority. The more uncivilized the person, the surer they are that they know precisely what is right and what is wrong."

"God is the immemorial refuge of the incompetent, the helpless, the miserable. They find not only sanctuary in His arms, but also a kind of superiority, soothing to their macerated egos; He will set them above their betters."

"Puritanism: the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy."

"It is now quite lawful for a Catholic woman to avoid pregnancy by a resort to mathematics, though she is still forbidden to resort to physics or chemistry."

"Sunday school is a prison in which children do penance for the evil conscience of their parents."

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

"To sum up: 1.The cosmos is a gigantic fly-wheel making 10,000 revolutions a minute. 2. Man is a sick fly taking a dizzy ride on it. 3. Religion is the theory that the wheel was designed and set spinning to give him the ride."

Jean Meslier (1678-1733)

French priest notorieux. Could this be why? From his will:

"I would like, and this would be the last and most ardent of my wishes, I would like the last king to be strangled with the guts of the last priest."

Dennis Miller (1953-)

American comedian and hypersyllabic political and social commentator. More acerbic than funny, one suddenly noticed after 9/11, when he became a vociferous Bush and Iraq war sup­porter. Anchored Saturday Night Live's "Weekend Update" segment for years, joined Fox News in 2006.

"Now 7-Eleven has bowed to pressure from the Moral Majority to remove Playboy and Penthouse from their newsstand. I guess to be fair you have to look at it from the fundamentalist perspective ... because what it does is it forces a certain type of literature on somebody in a public place. It would be like, uh, oh, I don't know, say like putting the Bible in everybody's hotel room, or something crazy like that."

"These televangelists say they don't favor any particular denomination, but I think we've all seen their eyes light up at tens and twenties...."

"Born again?! No, I'm not. Excuse me for getting it right the first time!"

Sir Jonathan Miller (1934-)

British physician and theater and opera director. Co-writer, producer, and cast member of the legendary early 1960s comedy revue Beyond the Fringe. Wrote and presented the 2004 BBC TV series Atheism: A Rough History of Disbelief.

"In some awful, strange, paradoxical way, atheists tend to take religion more seriously than the practitioners."

A. A. (Alan Alexander) Milne (1882-1956)

Scottish-born English playwright, novelist, and children's writer. Creator of the cuddly atheist teddy bear character Winnie-the-Pooh* Also wrote fine grown-up stuff, but no, nobody's interested in that.

"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.”

Marvin "Old Man" Minsky (1927- )

American cognitive and computer scientist, known as the father of artificial intelligence. Co-founder of MIT's AI laboratory. Co-developer of the Society of Mind theory, which attempts to explain intelligence as a product of the interac­tion of nonintelligent parts. (Presumably, then, an interfaith group could be intelligent.)

"What caused the universe, and why? What is the purpose of life? How can you tell which beliefs are true? How can you tell what is good? . . . These questions seem different on the surface, but all of them share one quality that makes them impossible to answer: all of them are circular! You can never find a final cause, since you must always ask one question more: 'What caused that cause?' You can never find any ultimate goal, since you're always obliged to ask, `Then what purpose does that serve?'... I once heard W. H. Auden say, 'We are all here on earth to help others. What I can't figure out is what the others are here for.'. . . Every culture finds special ways to deal with these questions. One way is to brand them with shame and taboo ... [to] make those questions undiscussable. . . . [Another is to] adopt specific answers to circular questions and ... indoctrinate people with those beliefs. [Both ways] spare whole populations from wasting time in fruitless reason loops."

George Monbiot (1963- )

Left-wing British journalist and environmental and political activist. As an investigative journalist abroad, has been shot at, beaten by military police, shipwrecked, stung into a coma by hornets, sentenced to life imprisonment in absentia, pronounced clinically dead from cerebral malaria, and required to visit Texas. Both of his parents are Conservative Party officials.

"Several million [Americans] have succumbed to an extraordinary delusion…Jesus will return to Earth when certain preconditions have been met. The first of these [is] the establishment of a state of Israel …the legions of the antichrist will then be deployed against Israel, and their war will lead to a final showdown in the valley of Armageddon. The Jews will either burn or convert to Christianity, and the Messiah will return to earth….Before the big battle begins, all `true believers’ will be lifted out of their clothes and wafted up to heaven during an event called the Rapture. . . . The true believers are now seeking to bring all this about. ... We can laugh at these people, but we should not dismiss them.... Here we have a major political constituency—representing much of the current president [George W. Bush]'s core vote—in the most powerful nation on Earth, which is actively seeking to provoke a new world war. Its members see the invasion of Iraq as a warm-up act.... If the president fails to start a conflagration there, his core voters don't get to sit at the right hand of God."

Ashley Montagu (born Israel Ehrenberg, 1905-1999)

English-born anthropologist. Changed his name after moving to the United States. Chaired the anthropology department at Princeton; taught and lectured at Rutgers, Harvard, NYU, and the University of California. Became a well-known guest on Johnny Carson's Tonight Show.

"Science has proof without any certainty.  Creationists have certainty without any proof."

"The Good Book—one of the most remarkable euphemisms ever coined."

Mark Morford

Left-wing, columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle Web site SFGate.com, which suspended him temporarily in 2001 for a column about a female teacher accused of sex with a 13-year-old boy, in which he wrote: "From my own experience as a teenage boy, we shouldn't jump on this as a bad thing in every case." "Mark has been described . . . as a Lenny Bruce character, or as a Generation X Hunter S. Thompson, or as a liberal redneck," said an editor, "but he's always close to the edge."

 "The Vatican is instructing its priests all over the world, including those in AIDS-ravaged countries in Africa and Asia, to condemn condom use. . . . From Nicaragua to Kenya and the Philippines, where AIDS is raging like wildfire, the lie is the same: The church says condoms can kill. This is nothing new. The Vatican just really, really loathes condoms -and sex - and homosexuals -and women. And anything that might inhibit procreation, or that in any way empowers people to take control over their reproduction options, or that might somehow loosen the church's viselike grip."

"God wants us, if the happily bleak and decidedly nasty interpretation of Bible verse currently extolled by the rabid evangelical mind-set now mauling the American political and social landscape is to be believed, to use up the Earth however we see fit and stomp all over this pointless ecological blob with our macho SUVs and manly tanks and badass army boots because it's all just one giant disposable sandbox o' fun anyway, right? . . . The environment does not matter because the Earth does not matter... all that does matter is the imminent return of the bloody Christ. . . ."

James Morrow (1947- )

American science fiction novelist/short story writer. Best known for his "Godhead Trilogy," beginning with Towing Jehovah (1994), in which the corpse of Goda two-mile long, gray-bearded white maleis discovered floating in the Atlantic Ocean; the Vat­ican organizes a mission to secret it away and entomb it in Arctic ice. Also author of the Nebula Award-winning short story collection Bible Stories for Adults. Has described the "militant agnostic humanist feminist" char­acter in one of his novels as "closest to my own sympathies."

"There are no atheists in foxholes' isn't an argument against atheism, it's an argument against foxholes."

"I don't like that word [atheist] because [it suggests] a negative, a void, whereas atheists of my stripe experience their attitude as something quite positive, quite nourishing. ... I don't like that word [agnostic] either. I find it evasive. It lacks sinew. An x agnostic is an atheist who has lost his nerve." "Bright" is just going begging.

Lance Morrow

 American journalist for Time magazine writer since 1965. Author of 150 Time cover stories.

"If you scratch any aggressive tribalism, or nationalism, you usually find beneath its surface a religious core, some older binding energy of belief or superstition . . . that is capable of transforming itself into a death-force, with the peculiar annihilating energies of belief. . . . Religious hatreds tend to be merciless and absolute."

Bill Moyers (1934-)

American journalist and commentator. Over 30 Emmys and virtually every other major television journalism prize. Created and hosted PBS's liberal public affairs program Now and the 1988 televi­sion series The Power of Myth, a series of interviews with Joseph Camp­bell. Former Baptist minister.

"The ruins were still smoldering when the reverends Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell went on television to proclaim that the [9/11] ter­rorist attacks were God's punishment of a corrupted America. They said the government had adopted the agenda 'of the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians' not to mention the ACLU and People for the American Way.... Just as God had sent the Great Flood to wipe out a corrupted world, now—disgusted with a decadent America—'God almighty is lifting his protection from us.' Critics said such comments were deranged. But millions of Christian fundamentalists and conserva­tives didn't think so. They thought Robertson and Falwell were being perfectly consistent with the logic of the Bible as they read it.... Not many people at the time seemed to notice that Osama bin Laden had also been reading his sacred book closely and literally."

Ron Patterson

Contributor to the Internet Infidel Newsletter.

"So-called Scientific Creationism is really nothing more than an attempt to give credence to an ancient Hebrew myth by trying to prove that virtually all the world's biologists, geologists, and paleontologists are a bunch of incompetent buffoons."

"Could a being create the fifty billion galaxies, each with two hundred billion stars, then rejoice in the smell of burning goat flesh?"

Gregory S. Paul (1954- )

Paleontologist and illustrator special­izing in dinosaurs. The first professional to depict them as active, warm­ blooded, and in some cases, feathered. (Think Jurassic Park.,) Named six dinosaurs. (Not "Murray" and "Dave" but Acrocanthosaurus altispinax and shit. Is it necessary to swear so much?)

From a paper published in the Journal of Religion and Society, 2005:

"[Globally,] higher rates of belief in and worship of a creator correlate with higher rates of homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, STD infection rates, teen pregnancy, and abortion. The most theistic prosperous democracy, the USA  is almost always the most dysfunctional of the developing democracies, sometimes spectacularly so, and almost always scores poorly.... No democracy is known to have combined strong religiosity and popular denial of evolution with high rates of societal health.... The more secular, pro-evolution democracies ... feature low rates of lethal crime, juvenile-adult mortality, sex related dysfunction, and even abortion."

"[Within the U.S.,] the strongly theistic, anti-evolution South and Midwest have markedly worse homicide, mortality, STD, youth pregnancy, marital and related problems than the Northeast where societal conditions, secularization, and acceptance of evolution approach European norms."

Sam Peckinpah (1925-1984)

American film director (The Wild Bunch, Straw Dogs, and other transcendent orgies of violence). Asked if he believed in God:

"Yes. . . . One morning in Sausalito when the fog broke, and I was not hung over, and one night in Malibu when I recognized what the speed of light was."

Emo Phillips (Philip Soltanec, 1956- )

Sublimely goofy American comedian.

"Oh God, please bend the laws of the universe for my convenience."

"When I was a kid, I used to pray every night for a new bicycle. Then I realized that the Lord, in his wisdom, didn't work that way. So I just stole one and asked him to forgive me."

"I was walking across a bridge one day and saw a man standing on the edge about to jump off. So I ran over and said ‘Stop! Don’t do it!’ `Why should I?, he said. I said, `Well, there’s so much to live for!’ `Like what?’…are you religious or atheist?' 'Religious.' 'Me too! Are you Christian or Buddhist?' 'Christian.' I said, 'Me too! Are you Catholic or Protestant?' 'Protestant.' 'Me too! Are you Episcopalian or Baptist?' 'Baptist!' 'Wow! Me too! Are you Baptist Church of God or Baptist Church of the Lord?' 'Baptist Church of God!' 'Me too! Are you original Baptist Church of God, or are you Reformed Baptist Church of God?' 'Reformed Baptist Church of God!' 'Me too! Are you reformed Baptist Church of God, Reformation of 1879, or Reformed Baptist Church of God, Reformation of 1915?' He said, ' Reformed Baptist Church of God, Reformation of 1915!' I said, 'Die, heretic scum,' and pushed him off."

Steven Pinker (1954- )

Canadian-born cognitive scientist and experimental psychologist at Harvard; previously at MIT. Leading defender (along with allies Daniel Dennett and Richard Dawkins) of evolu­tionary psychology, which sees the mind, consciousness, religious belief, etc., as products of evolution by natural selection. (See E. O. Wilson.) Author of several bestsellers on the subject. "Stripped to its essentials," he says, "every decision in life amounts to choosing which lottery ticket to buy." Named one of Time magazine's 100 most influential people in the world in 2004 and one of Prospect and Foreign Policy's top public intellectuals in 2005.

"Religious explanations [for mysteries such as consciousness and moral judgment] are not worth knowing because they pile equally baffling enigmas on top of the original ones. What gave God a mind, free will, knowledge, certainty about right and wrong? How does he infuse them into a universe that seems to run just fine according to physical laws? How does he get ghostly souls to interact with hard matter? And most perplexing of all: if the world unfolds according to a wise and merciful plan, why does it contain so much suffering? As the Yiddish expression says, If God lived on earth, people would break his windows.”

Chief Pontiac (d. 1769)

"They came with a Bible and their religion. They stole our land, crushed our spirit... and now tell us we should be thankful to the ‘Lord’ for being saved."

Chief Dan George (1899-1981)

Chief Dan George is probably best known for his writing and acting careers.  His most famous role was was the aging Chief, opposite Dustin Hoffman, in "Little Big Man," for which he received an Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actor in 1970.  He tried to use his writing and media roles to give an accurate depiction of American Indian beliefs and values.

"First we had the land and they had the Bibles - now they have the land and we have the Bibles."

James Randi aka, The Amazing Randi (born Randall Zwinge) (1928-)

Canadian-born stage magician, debunker of pseudoscience, and derider of spiritual crapola. Among his many amazing feats, he exposed the tricks used by Uri Getter and by televangelist and fraudulent faith healer (forgive the redundancy) Reverend Peter Popoff, driving the man of God into bankruptcy. His James Randi Educational Foundation offers a $1 million prize to anyone who can demonstrate any paranormal or supernatural power or phenomenon. Founding member of the Committee for Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal. Won a MacArthur Foundation "Genius"award in 1986, and the first Richard Dawkins Award in 2003. A statement he devised to violate the blasphemy laws of all seven states that sill had them in 1995:

"I hereby state my opinion that the notion of a god is a superstition and that there is no evidence for the existence of any god(s). Further, devils, demons, angels and saints are myths; there is no life after death, no heaven or hell; the Pope is a dangerous, bigoted, medieval dinosaur, and the Holy Ghost is a comic-book character worthy of laughter and derision. I accuse the Christian god of murder by allowing the Holocaust to take place—not to mention the 'ethnic cleansing' presently being performed by Christians in our world—and I condemn and vilify this mythical deity for encouraging racial prejudice and commanding the degradation of women."

“Ibn al-Rawandi"

Scholar and critic of Islam, which he aban­doned in 1988. Borrowed his pseudonym (to avoid being, you know, assas­sinated by a fatwa) from a famous ninth-century Muslim skeptic /heretic who rejected the authority of any scriptural or revealed religion and argued that as a source of truth, intellect always takes precedence over religious claims.

"The myth of Islamic tolerance [was] largely invented by Jews and Western freethinkers as a stick with which to beat the Catholic Church. Islam was never a religion of tolerance. . . . Islam was spread by the sword . . . [as] the Arab empire ... it is a religion largely invented to hold that empire together and subdue native populations. An unmitigated cultural disaster v parading as God's will. Religious minorities were always second-class citizens in this empire.... For polytheists and unbelievers there was no tolerance at all, it was conversion or death. . . . These repulsive characteristics are written into the Quran, the hadith and the sharia there is no way that Islam can reform itself and remain Islam, no way it can ever be made compatible with pluralism, free speech, critical thought and democracy."

"Islam never really encouraged science, if by science we mean 'disinterested inquiry.' What Islam always meant by 'knowledge' was religious knowledge, anything else was deemed dangerous to the faith. All the real science that occurred under Islam occurred despite the religion not because of it."

"The  mealy-mouthed  and  apologetic character of so  much Western scholarship on Islam springs from the fact that many of these scholars were, and are, believers in Christianity…They were not keen to press the non-historical and non-divine arguments too far, since they realized such arguments could just as well be used against their own cherished beliefs.”

Jules Renard (1864-1910)

French writer. Some of Jules Renard's works take their inspiration from the countryside he loved in the Nièvre region. His character portraits are sharp, ironic and sometimes cruel (in his Histoires naturelles he humanizes animals and animalizes men) and he was an active supporter of pacifism and anticlericalism (apparent in La Bigote).

“I don't know if God exists, but it would be better for His reputation if He didn't.”

Bertrand  Russell (1872-1970)

Russell is arguably the most famous mathematician and philosopher of the 20th Century . He was jailed for six months in his home country England during World War 1 for writing an antiwar article. (A jailer asked his religion: "Agnostic," Russell replied. Said the jailer, who had never heard of that religion: "I guess we all worship the same God.") His irreligion and advocacy of sexual freedom got him barred from teaching in New York by the state Supreme Court in the early 1940s. He was awarded the 1950 Nobel Prize in Literature as "the champion of humanity and freedom of thought."

On the fallacy in the argument of the First Cause, i.e., that everything except God must have a cause: "If there can be anything without a cause, it may just as well be the world as God, so that there cannot be any validity in that argument. It is exactly of the same nature as the Indian's view, that the world rested upon an elephant and the elephant rested upon a tortoise; and when they said, 'How about the tortoise?' the Indian said, 'Suppose we change the subject.'" (Or as a variation goes, "Another tortoise."And beneath that? "Another."And  then? "It's tortoises all the way down.")

"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."

"Where there is evidence, no one speaks of 'faith.' We do not speak of faith that two and two are four or that the earth is round."

"The most savage controversies are those about matters as to which there is no good evidence either way. Persecution is used in theology, not in arithmetic."

"The fundamental cause of trouble in the world today is that the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt."

"One is often told that it is a very wrong thing to attack religion, because religion makes men virtuous. So I am told; I have not noticed it. . ."

"The splendour of human life, I feel sure, is greater to those who are not dazzled by the divine radiance."

"So far as I can remember, there is not one word in the Gospels in praise of intelligence."

"Every single bit of progress in humane feeling, every improvement in the criminal law, every step toward the diminution of war, every step toward better treatment of the colored races, or every mitigation of slavery . . . has been consistently opposed by the organized churches of the world. I say quite deliberately that the Christian religion, as organized in its churches, has been and still is the principal enemy of moral progress in the world."

"The Chinese said they would bury me by the Western Lake and build a shrine to my memory. I might have become a god, which would have been very chic for an atheist."

Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980)

French existentialist philosopher, novelist, and playwright. To Sartre, life has no meaning except that which we choose and dedicate our lives to... . There's no God to dictate right and wrong. But even if God existed, it would still be necessary to reject him, "since the idea of God negates our freedom. . . . We must see human beings as liberty incarnate. "10 A moral life is heroic only when freely chosen, and is all the more necessary in a godless world. Rejected the Nobel Prize in Lit­erature in 1964the only person ever to do sosaying he did not want to be turned into a cultural icon. Bit late for that, quoi.

As good a time as any: "And then one day ... to while away the time, I decided to think about God. 'Well,' I said, 'he doesn't exist.' It was something authentically self-evident ... I settled the question once and for all at the age of twelve."

"Dostoyevsky said, 'If God did not exist, everything would be possible [i.e., permissible].' That is the very starting point of existentialism."

"Existentialism ... isn't trying to plunge man into despair at all     

We mean only to say that God does not exist, and that it is necessary to draw the consequences of his absence right to the end."

"Existentialism isn't so atheistic that it wears itself out showing that God does not exist. Rather, it declares that even if God did exist, it would change nothing.”

"The existentialist.. . finds it extremely embarrassing that God does not exist, for there disappears with him all possibility of finding values in an intelligible heaven."

"There is no human nature, because there is no God to have a conception of it. Man simply is.... Man is nothing else but that which he makes of himself. That is the first principle of existentialism."

"If God exists, man does not exist; if man exists, God does not exist."

"Hell is other people." ("Hell is yourself."Tennessee Williams)

Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860)

German philosopher. Great and strangely cheerful apostle of pessimism. Denied the existence of God in any form. Didn't believe in the pursuit of truth through science, either, but rather, through art. Much interested in Hindu and Buddhist thought, which he saw as akin to his own. The brilliance of his aphorisms proclaims the glory of God's creation.

"That a god like Jehovah should have created this world of misery and woe, out of pure caprice, and because he enjoyed doing it, and should then have clapped his hands in praise of his own work, and declared everything to be very good—that will not do at all!"

“Religions are like fireflies. They require darkness in order to shine.”

“Faith and knowledge are related as the scales of a balance; when one goes up, the other goes down.”

"The prayer 'lead me not into temptation' means 'Let me not see who I am.'"

"Man excels all the animals even in his ability to be trained. .. . Religion in general constitutes the real masterpiece of the art of training."

"In every religion it soon comes to be the case that faith, ceremonies, rites and the like, are proclaimed to be more agreeable to the Divine will than moral actions; the former . . . gradually come to be looked upon as a substitute for the latter."

"If a public proclamation were suddenly made announcing the repeal of all the criminal laws, I fancy neither you nor I would have the courage to go home from here under the protection of religious motives. If, in the same way, all religions were declared untrue, we could, under the protection of the laws alone, go on living as before, without any special addition to our apprehensions or our measures of precaution."

"The Catholic religion is an order to obtain heaven by begging, because it would be too troublesome to earn it. The priests are the brokers for it."

"Whether one makes an idol of wood, stone, metal, or constructs it from absolute ideas, it is all the same; it is idolatry, whenever one has a personal being in view to whom one sacrifices, whom one invokes, whom one thanks."

"Philosophy lets the gods alone, and asks in turn to be let alone by them."

"If continued existence after death could be proved to be incompatible with the existence of gods . . . [believers] would soon sacrifice these gods to their own immortality, and be hot for atheism."

"To desire immortality is to desire the perpetuation of a great mistake."

Scientific American

Magazine editorial, April 2005

“In retrospect, this magazine’s coverage of so-called evolution has been hideously one-sided….Why were we so unwilling to suggest that dinosaurs lived 6,000 years ago or that a cataclysmic flood carved the Grand Canyon? ... As editors, we had no business being persuaded by mountains of evidence.... Nor should we succumb to the easy mistake of thinking that scientists understand their fields better than, say, U.S. senators or best-selling novelists do. Indeed, if politicians or special-interest groups say things that seem untrue or misleading, our duty as journalists is to quote them without comment or contradiction. To do otherwise would be elitist and therefore wrong." Critics say Scientific American has grown more sarcastic since its founding in 1845.

Captain Sensible (l 954-)

Guitarist and founding member of the punk band The Damned.

"How many times have religions of the world been damaged by some discovery or other only to move the goalposts and carry on as before as though nothing had happened?"

Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822)

English poet and polemicist. Expelled from Oxford for writing an essay titled "The Necessity of Atheism." Rejected Deism, saying there can be no middle ground between believing and disbelieving in God. Drowned at age 29 when his yacht cap­sized in the Mediterranean while on his way to meet writers whom Byron had invited to start a new periodical, The Liberal. His second wife, Mary, the daughter of Mary Wollstonecraft, wrote Frankenstein, whose implication that not only God could create a man anticipated the bioethical issues posed by cloning and artificial intelligencethis, 200 years before Herman Munster.

Opening line of "The Necessity of Atheism": "There is no God."

"The plurality of worlds—the indefinite immensity of the universe—is a most awful subject of contemplation. He who rightly feels its mystery and grandeur is in no danger of seduction from the falsehoods of religious systems."

"That which is incapable of proof [a Designer] itself is no proof of anything else [design]. . . . We must prove design before we can infer a designer."

"If he is infinitely good, what reason should we have to fear him? If he is infinitely wise, why should we have doubts concerning ^ our future? If he knows all, why warn him of our needs and fatigue him with our prayers? If he is everywhere, why erect temples to him? If he is just, why fear that he will punish the creatures that he has filled with weaknesses? ...  If he is reasonable, how can he be angry at the blind, to whom he has given the liberty of being unreasonable?...and if he is inconceivable, why occupy ourselves with him? . . . and If he has spoken, why is the world not convinced?"

From the poem Queen Mab: "I was an infant when my mother went / To see an atheist burned. She took me there / ... And as the culprit passed with dauntless mien, / Tempered disdain in his unfaltering eye, / Mixed with a quiet smile, shone calmly forth;       'Weep not, child!' cried my mother, 'for that man /Has said, There is no God.' / ... There is no God! / Nature confirms the faith his death-groan sealed. / . . . The name of God / Has fenced about all crime with holiness, / Himself the creature of his worshippers. . . ."

Marian Noel Sherman (1892-1975)

 Canadian physician. Went "from missionary doctor [in India, 1922-1934] to atheist with a mis­sion," wrote Annie Laurie Gaylor in "Women without Superstition.

"Religious people often accuse atheists of being arrogant and of placing ourselves in the position of God, but really it is the theist who has all the vanity. He can't stand to think that he will ever cease to exist. As Freud said, Christianity is the most egotistical of the religions. It is based on the premise 'Jesus saves me.'"

"If you tell a child 'God made the world' he will usually ask 'Then who made God?' If we reply, as the catechism states, 'No one made God. He always was,' then why couldn't we just say that about the world in the first place?"

Michael Shermer ( 1954-)

American science writer and historian of science. Founder of the Skeptics Society; editor of its magazine the Skeptic; monthly columnist for Scientific American magazine. His books include Why People Believe Weird Things. Former marathon bicycle racer and founder of the Race Across America. Former fundamentalist Christian.

"David Koresh, L Ron Hubbard, Joseph Smith, Jesus, Moses, what's the difference? They were all egomaniacal, delusional characters who developed fanatical followers who exaggerated their claims, mythologized their lives, and canonized their words."

"The only reason Stalin and Hitler killed more people than the Inquisition is that Torquemada didn't have gas chambers and machine guns."

Joe Simpson (1960- )

British mountain climber. His 1988 book Touching the Void described his and Simon Yates's near-fatal attempt to climb a peak in the Peruvian Andes. On saving himself from falling into a crevasse:

"I was brought up as a devout Catholic. I had long since stopped believing in God. I always wondered, if things really hit the fan whether I would, under pressure, turn around and say a few Hail Marys and say, 'get me out of here.' It never once occurred to me. If I had even thought that was the way out, or some sort of solace, or it was the time to meet my maker and go to paradise, I would have just stopped still. Then I would have died." To "foxhole conversion," add the term "crevasse conversion." (I once came this close to a system-crash-no-data-backup conversion. Whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger.)

John Shelby Spong (1931-)

Retired Episcopal bishop of Newark, New Jersey; controversial liberal theologian. Author of such best­sellers as Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism and Why Chris­tianity Must Change or Die. Calls himself a non-theist.

"The Bible is an ancient book. . . . There is no other piece of literature written in that period of history [c. 1000 BCE-135 CE.] which people today still treat as a source of ultimate truth. A doctor or pharmacist practicing medicine or dispensing drugs in our time based on either the writings of Aristotle or the formulas of an ancient medicine man would be laughed at first, and then if this activity were not stopped immediately, they would be accused of malpractice, removed from their professions and even imprisoned. ... A chemist, biologist, architect or astronomer who acted on the basis of the knowledge available in the time the Bible was written . . . would be considered ignorant at best, mentally ill at worst."

“If the resurrection of Jesus cannot be believed except by assenting to the fantastic descriptions included in the Gospels, then Christianity is doomed."

"When will we recognize that religion is always in the mind-control business?... Organized religion is cultic at its core, but seeks to keep this fact well concealed. It is revealed only when its authority is questioned, or when some group takes the neurotic aspects of religion to their natural conclusion. That is the final meaning of the Heaven's Gate community in San Diego" (a cult whose 39 members committed suicide in 1997 so that that their souls could board a spaceship they believed was hiding behind the Comet Hale-Bopp).

Lincoln Steffens (1866-1936)

American muckraking journalist and radical. Specialized in investigating government corruption. Said on his return from the USSR in 1921, "I have been over into the future [usually misquoted as "I have seen the future"], and it works." His enthusiasm for communism lasted only a few years, except in the FBI's imagination.

"Why is it that the less intelligence people have, the more spiritual they are? They seem to fill all the vacant, ignorant spaces in their heads with soul."

"It is no cynical joke, it is literally true, that the Christian churches would not recognize Christianity if they saw it."

Gertrude Stein (1874-1946)

American-Jewish-born Modernist writer and art patron. Artistically radical, socially liberal (and lesbian), politically conservative or worsesided with the Nationalist side during the Spanish Civil War* and, at first, supported the collaborationist Vichy government.

*The estimated 350,000-500,000 people executed under Franco's orders after the war included atheists as well as leftists of all shades. "I am ready to execute half of Spain to do away with the reds," said II Caudillo.

"There ain't no answer. There ain't going to be any answer. There never has been an answer. That's the answer."

Gloria Steinem  (1934-)

 American journalist and women's rights activist. Founder and original publisher of Ms. magazine. Member of Democratic Socialists of America.

"It's an incredible con job when you think of it, to believe something now in exchange for life after death. Even corporations with all their reward systems don't try to make it posthumous."

Addressing protestors in New York City during a visit by Pope John Paul II, 1995: "We will live to see the day that St. Patrick's Cathedral is a child-care center and the pope is no longer a dis­grace to the skirt that he has on."

1973: "By the year 2000, we will, I hope, raise our children to believe in human potential, not God." Poverty, hunger, disease, and war will be eradicated by then, too.

"God may be in the details, but the goddess is in the questions. Once we begin to ask them, there's no turning back."

Supreme Court of Wisconsin

"There is no such source and cause of strife, quarrel, fights, malignant opposition, persecution, and war, and all evil in the state, as religion. Let it once enter into our civil affairs, our government would soon be destroyed. Let it once enter our common schools, they would be destroyed. Those who made our Constitution saw this, and used the most apt and comprehensive language in it to prevent such a catastrophe."—From Weiss v. District Board, 1890, in which the Court determined that Bible reading in public schools is unconstitutional. Previously, the King James Bible was recommended as a textbook by the state superintendent of schools.

Jimmy Swaggart (1935- )

Fundamentalist televangelist and inveterate, whore-fucking adulterer. His was a $150 million-a-year "min­istry" until film of him taking prostitutes to motels and allegations of a ten-year extramarital affair cut into his business. Claimed that Oral Roberts, over the phone, "cast out the demons" responsible for his behavior. Three years later, police stopped him for driving on the wrong side of the road and found him with another puta. Warned his congregation afterward that "God says it's none of your business!"

On gay marriage: "If one ever looks at me like that, I'm gonna kill him and tell God he died."

"The Supreme Court of the United States of America is an institution damned by God almighty."

Honorable evangelical mentions:

Oral Roberts: Told his audience God told him he must raise $8 million or God would "take him home." Employees alleged he spent ministry funds on clothes, jewelry, and private jet travel.

Robert Tilton: Pulled in $80 mill a year while prayer requests sent with financial donations were being thrown away unread.

Benny Hinn, televangelist/faith healer: Alleged to use only a small percentage of his "ministry's" tax-exempt revenues for charitable purposes. Allegedlyjust an allegation, mind you-fails to heal.

Jim Whittington, Evangelist who spent 10 years in prison for money laundering, mail fraud, conspiracy and interstate transportation of stolen property.

Tecumseh (1768-1813)

Shawnee leader who united Native American tribes against the invader. "One of those uncommon geniuses which spring up occasionally to produce revolutions and overturn the established order of things," said President William Henry Harrison. Insisted that Indian land was owned in common by all tribes, and thus no land could be sold without agreement by all.

"How can we have confidence in the white people? When Jesus Christ came upon the earth, you killed him, the son of your own God, you nailed him up!! You thought he was dead, but you were mistaken. And only after you thought you killed him did you worship him, and start killing those who would not worship him. What kind of people is this for us to trust?"

Woolsey Teller

 American astronomer. Author of The Atheism of Astronomy: A Refutation of the Theory That the Universe Is Governed By Intelligence (1938) and Essays of an Atheist (1945). Once debunked the claim of a University of Chicago professor to have proved the plausibility of the biblical Jonah story by crawling into the gullet of a whale. (Whales, Teller showed, have quite small gulletsproving that the entire Bible is bunk.)

"From every domain of science there is a wealth of evidence which shows the blind urge and senseless activities of natural phenomena. . . . The stellar depths are silent as the grave to human misery and want. The vast abyss of space is both our womb and our tomb...."

"There is something really pathetic in the statement that the universe was made for man. . . . There are more than 300,000 million stars [in our galaxy] alone [whose total weight is] equal to about 270,000 million suns the size of our own. This is the raw material, the amazing cosmic 'batter,' from which our planetary system came.... It is like mixing a batter of dough as big as the sun to bake a single crumb of bread. A baker who worked on the basis of that much material as a means to an end would be considered a dolt. ... No mentality above the level of an idiot would devise such madhouse 'schemes' as that of spinning billions of globes for amusement or of tossing them around aimlessly to prove itself intelligent."

Charles Templeton (1915-2001)

Canadian journalist, nov­elist, and politician. Author of Farewell to God: My Reasons for Rejecting the Christian Faith (1995). Former evangelist and close col­league of Billy Graham. Declared himself an agnostic in 1957. Was offered the leadership of Canada's Liberal Party in 1967 but declined. Open non-believer is offered political leadership, and refuses . . . it's America Through the Looking Glass, eh?

"If God's love encompasses the whole world and if everyone who does not believe in him will perish, then surely this question needs to be asked: When, after two thousand years, does God's plan kick in for the billion people he 'so loves' in China? Or for the 840 million in India? Or the millions in Japan, Afghanistan, Siberia, Egypt, Burma—and on and on?" Well, it was supposed to start (or rather, end) in 2000, but got pushed back for some reason.

Polly Toynbee (1946- )

Liberal British journalist; columnist for the Guardian. Topped a poll of 100 British "opinion makers"; named the most-read columnist in the U.K. Honorary Associate of the National Secular Society and a Distinguished Supporter of the British Humanist Association. Nominated in 2003 as "Most Islamophobic journalist of the Year" by Britain's Islamic Human Rights Commission for her criticism of Islam's treatment of womendespite consistently defending immigrants and asylum seekers and attacking anti-Muslim bigotry.Yeah. Granddaughter of historian Arnold Toynbee.

"The pens sharpen—Islamophobia! No such thing. Primitive Middle Eastern religions (and most others) are much the same—-Islam, Christianity and Judaism all define themselves through disgust for women's bodies. . . . Meanwhile the far left, forever thrilled by the whiff of cordite, has bizarrely decided to fellow-travel with primitive Islamic extremism as the best available anti-Americanism around. (Never mind their new friends' views on women, gays and democracy.)"

"Religion is not nice, it kills: it is toxic in the places where people really believe it. . . . It is there in the born-again Christian fundamentalism demanded of every U.S. politician. ... It drives on the murderous Islamic jihadists. It makes mad the biblical land-grabbing Israeli settlers. It threatens nuclear nemesis between the Hindus and Muslims along the India-Pakistan border. It still hurls pipe bombs on the Ulster streets. The Falun Gong are killed for it, extremist Sikhs die for it too. The Pope kills millions through his reckless spreading of AIDS. When absolute God-given righteousness beckons, blood flows and women are in chains."

"The only good religion is a moribund religion. . . . [Religion] only becomes civilized when it loses all temporal power in a multicultural, secular society.... Only when the faithful are weak are they tolerant and peaceful.... Only then [does religion] turn into a gentle talisman of cultural tradition, a mode of meditation with little literal belief in ancient miracles or long dead warlords."

"I interviewed [Mother Teresa] . . . and we argued about contraception. Couldn't she see the effects of her teaching on the Calcutta streets where babies were born to starve and die in misery? She said that every baby that takes a breath is another soul to the glory of God and that was all that mattered, the creation of souls. Suffering? We are all born to suffer."

"Of all the elements of Christianity, the most repugnant is the notion of the Christ who took our sins upon himself and sacri­ficed his body in agony to save our souls. Did we ask him to?"

“In Narnia is the perfect Republican, muscular Christianity for America - that warped, distorted neo-fascist strain that thinks might is proof of right. I once heard the famous preacher Norman Vincent Peale in New York expound a sermon that reassured his wealthy congregation that they were made rich by God because they deserved it. The godly will reap earthly reward because God is on the side of the strong. This appears to be CS Lewis's view, too. In the battle at the end of the film, visually a great epic treat, the child crusaders are crowned kings and queens for no particular reason. Intellectually, the poor do not inherit Lewis's earth.”

“Since the beginning of time, humans have imagined themselves visited by strange beings - spirits, ghosts, angels, gods and now aliens. For believers, the timeless universality of these other worldly experiences throughout history is proof that God exists. They say it shows beyond a doubt that we are born naturally religious, born with an instinct to worship a supreme being and filled with intimations of heaven glimpsed by a few especially sensitive people. So it must be true. Dr Michael Persinger, Professor of Neuroscience at the Laurentian University in Canada believes he has found God-and it’s a brain disorder. He takes an ordinary woman, who has never had any odd experiences, and puts her through his brain test. With electrodes stimulating one part of her brain, she too reports seeing grey beings, a face speeding towards her, a sense of extraordinary well being and a vaguely sexual sensation. It mirrors so many of the descriptions we hear from those who believe they have been visited by other spirits. Orthodox religions have always found ways to accommodate new scientific discoveries. So what will they do with God as a brain malfunction? I suppose they will relocate God in the brain and say he was always in our heads, scientists have merely proved his existence, or something of the sort. Meanwhile, atheists will smile and wait for the day when religious apocalyptic visions, which have given rise to so much dangerous fanaticism, are put to rest with a medical cure.”

Alan Watts (1915-1973)

English-born American philosopher best known as a popularizer of Zen Buddhism (with a dash of Tao, a hint of Hinduism, a crust of Christianity, a vestige of Vedanta, a lick of linguistics, a phleck of physics, a cinder of cybernetics, an atom of anthropology, and 20 milligrams of psychiatry). After meeting D. T. Suzuki and writing The Spirit of Zen in the 1930s, he earned a master's degree in theology at an Episcopalian seminary and worked as a priest. An extramarital affair resulted in his leaving the ministry. Became a prominent figure on the San Francisco hippie scene and a guru to the 1960s z-z-zeneration.

"Fanatical believers in the Bible, the Koran and the Torah have fought one another for centuries without realizing that they belong to the same pestiferous club; that they have more in common than they have against one another. ... A committed believer in the Koran trots out the same arguments for his point of view as a Southern Baptist... and neither can listen to reason."

The true believer... if he is somewhat sophisticated justifies, and even glorifies his invincible stupidity as a 'leap of faith' or 'sacrifice of the intellect.' He quotes the Tertullian Credo, quia absurdum est, 'I believe because it is absurd' as if Tertullian had said something profound. Such people are, quite literally, idiots—originally a Greek word meaning an individual so isolated that you can't communicate with him."

"Today [1973], especially in the United States, there is a taboo against admitting that there are enormous numbers of stupid and ignorant people. . . . Many people never grow up. They stay all their lives with a passionate need for eternal authority and guidance.... This attitude is not faith. It is pure idolatry.... Faith is an openness and trusting attitude to truth and reality, whatever it may turn out to be…Belief is holding to a rock; faith is learning how to swim."

"The architecture and ritual of churches [was] based on royal or judicial courts. A monarch who rules by force sits ... flanked by guards, and those who come to petition him for justice or to offer tribute must kneel or prostrate themselves. ... Is this an appropriate image for the inconceivable energy that underlies the universe?"

"If you picture the universe as a monarchy, how can you believe that a republic is the best form of government, and so be a loyal citizen of the United States? It is thus that fundamentalists veer to the extreme right wing in politics, being of the personality type that demands strong external and paternalistic authority."

"Things are as they are. Looking out into it the universe at night, we make no comparisons between right and wrong stars or between well and badly arranged constellations."

"The Buddhists ... are not strictly atheists but feel that the ultimate reality cannot be pictured in any way and, what is more, that not picturing it is a positive way of feeling it directly, beyond symbols and images. I have called this 'atheism in the name of God.' [This] is an abandonment of all religious beliefs, including atheism, which in practice is the stubbornly held idea that the world is a mindless mechanism."

Steven Weinberg (1933-)

American theoretical physicist; 1979 Nobel winner for discovering, by God's grace, the unity of the atom's electro­magnetic force and weak force. Criticizes religious conservatism for standing in the way of scientific inquiry and religious liberalism "for reducing theology to vacuousness in attempting to reconcile religion with science.  Damned if you do, damned if you don't.

"With or without [religion] you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion."

"One of the great achievements of science has been, if not to make it impossible for intelligent people to be religious, then at least to make it possible for them not to be religious."

“Most scientists I know don’t care enough about religion even to call themselves atheists.”

"The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it seems pointless. . . . The more we refine our understanding of God to make the concept plausible, the more it seems pointless."

Tom Welter

Author of Science Made Stupid: How to Dis-comprehend the World Around Us, winner of the 1986 Hugo Award for Best Non-Fiction Book. This parody of a high school science textbook includes a satirical account of the creationism vs. evolution debate and drawings by Wetter of fictional prehistoric animals such as the duck-billed mastodon. His Web site offers Five Sure-Fire Zucchini Recipes and "supports The Coali­tion to Undermine Traditional Values."

"Several thousand years ago, a small tribe of ignorant near-savages wrote various collections of myths, wild tales, lies, and gibberish. Over the centuries, these stories were embroidered, garbled, mutilated, and torn into small pieces that were then repeatedly shuffled. Finally, this material was badly translated into several languages successfully. The resultant text, creationists feel, is the best guide to this complex and technical subject." [creation vs. evolution].

Gary Wills (1934-)

American Catholic scholar, historian, author and Pulitzer prize winner, 1993. His Nixon Agnostes – which the New York Times said “reads like a combination of H.L. Mencken, John Locke and Albert Camus” – landed him on Nixon’s shit list.

"Can a people that believe more fervently in the Virgin Birth than in evolution still be called an enlightened nation? . . . The secular states of modern Europe do not understand the fundamentalism of the American electorate. ... In fact, we now resemble those nations less than we do our putative enemies. Where else do we find fundamentalist zeal, a rage at secularity, religious intolerance, fear of and hatred for modernity? ... We find it in the Muslim world. . . . Americans wonder that the rest of the world thinks us so dangerous, so single-minded, so impervious to international appeals. They fear jihad, no matter whose zeal is being expressed."

Robert Anton Wilson (1932-2007)

American writer/philosopher/cult figure. Best known for The Illuminatus! Trilogy (1975), a humorous examination of American conspiracy paranoia mixing fact and fiction as part of what Wilson called "Operation Mindfuck." "OM" is of course a practice of Discordianism, a "chaos-based religion" described by followers as "a religion disguised as a joke disguised as a religion. "Also into Sufism, Futurology, "Quantum Psychology," and, yes, Neuro Linguistic Pro­gramming. Wilson and Timothy Leaky held forth jointly about the "eight circuit model of consciousness," "reality tunnels," Space Migration, Intelligence Increase and life Extension. (All this must sound better if you’re stoned.) Calls himself a "mystic agnostic" or "Model Agnostic"; describes his approach as 'Maybe Logic.'"

"[Model Agnosticism] consists of never regarding any model or map of Universe with total 100 percent belief or total 1oo percent denial. . . . [Polish semanticist Alfred] Korzybski suggested dozens of reforms in our speech and our writings, most of which I try to follow. One of them is if people said 'maybe' more often, the world would suddenly become stark, staring sane. Can you see Jerry Falwell saying: 'Maybe God hates gay people. Maybe Jesus is the son of God'? Every muezzin in Islam resounding at night in booming voices: 'There is no God except maybe Allah' . . . ? Think about how sane the world would become after a while."

"The Bible tells us to be like God, and then on page after page it describes God as a mass murderer. This may be the single most important key to the political behavior of Western Civilization."

Slavoj Zizek (1949- )

 Slovenian sociologist/philosopher/cultural critic. Writes on popular culture, cyberspace, fundamentalism, globalization, human rights. . . . Studied Lacanian psychoanalysis in Paris, for Christ's sake. Can write about whatever the fuck he wants. In fact, wrote the text for an Abercrombie & Fitch catalogue, not to mention a three-part documentary for British TV in 2006: The Pervert's Guide to Cinema. Calls his work a "materialist theology": Believes a slight but crucial gap always remains between the Real of life (not to be equated with reality) and what materi­alist science can explain.

“More than a century ago…Dostoevsky warned against the dangers of godless moral nihilism, arguing in essence that if God doesn't exist, then everything is permitted. The French philosopher Andre Glucksmann even applied Dostoyevsky's critique of godless nihilism to 9/11, as the title of his book, Dostoyevsky in Manhattan, suggests. This argument couldn't have been more wrong: the lesson of today's terrorism is that if God exists, then everything, including blowing up thousands of innocent bystanders, is permitted—at least to those who claim to act directly on behalf of God, since, clearly, a direct link to God justifies the violation of any merely human constraints and considerations."

"When I do a good deed, I do so not with an eye toward gaining God's favor; I do it because if I did not, I could not look at myself in the mirror. A moral deed is by definition its own reward. David Hume, a believer, made this point in a very poignant way, when he wrote that the only way to show true respect for God is to act morally while ignoring God's existence."

                                                                        For Home: