Chapman Cohen

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Chapman Cohen (1 September 18684 February 1954) was a leading English atheist and secularist writer and lecturer.


  • The present generation of Christian believers has had what is called the moral aspect of Christianity so constantly impressed upon them, and the essential and doctrinal aspect so slurred over, that many of them have come to accept the moral teaching associated with Christianity as its most important aspect ... To this type of believer it will come with something of a shock to be told quite plainly and without either circumlocution or apology that his religion is of an intensely selfish and egoistic character, and that its ethical influence is of a kind that is far from admirable. It will shock him because he has for so long been told that his religion is the very quintessence of unselfishness, he has for so long been telling it to others, and he has been able for so many generations to make it uncomfortable for all those who took an opposite view, that he has camouflaged both the nature of his own motives and the tendency of his religion ... That many Christians have given up the prizes of the world is too plain to be denied; that they have forsaken all that many struggle to possess is also plain. But when this has been admitted there still remains the truth that there is a vital distinction in the consideration of whether a man gives up the world in order to save his own soul, or whether he saves his soul as a consequence of losing the world. In this matter it is the aim that is important, not only to the outsider who may be passing judgment, but more importantly to the agent himself. It is the effect of the motive on character with its subsequent flowering in social life that must be considered. The first count in the indictment here is that the Christian appeal is essentially a selfish one. The aim is not the saving of others but of one's self. If other people must be saved it is because their salvation is believed to be essential to the saving of one's own soul.
    • "A Grammar of Freethought" (The Pioneer Press, 1921), Chapter XVI: Christianity and Morality, pp. 194-96.
  • "So far as Christianity is concerned it would puzzle the most zealous of its defenders to indicate a single direction in which it did anything to encourage the slightest modification of the spirit of intolerance. Mohammedans can at least point to a time when, while their religion was dominant, a considerable amount of religious freedom was allowed to those living under its control. In the palmy days of the Mohammedan rule in Spain both Jews and Christians were allowed to practise their religion with only trifling inconveniences, certainly without being exposed to the fiendish punishments that characterized Christianity all over the world. Moreover, it must never be overlooked that in Europe all laws against heresy are of Christian origin. In the old Roman Empire liberty of worship was universal. So long as the State religion was treated with a moderate amount of respect one might worship whatever god one pleased, and the number was sufficient to provide for the most varied tastes. When Christians were proceeded against it was under laws that did not aim primarily to shackle liberty of worship or of opinion. The procedure was in every case formal, the trial public, time was given for the preparation of the defence, and many of the judges showed their dislike to the prosecutions. But with the Christians, instead of persecution being spasmodic it was persistent. It was not taken up by the authorities with reluctance, but with eagerness, and it was counted as the most sacred of duties."
    • "A Grammar of Freethought" (The Pioneer Press, 1921), Chapter XVII: Religion and Persecution, pp. 211-212.
  • Atheist is really ʺa thoroughly honest, unambiguous term,ʺ it admits of no paltering and of no evasion, and the need of the world, now as ever, is for clear‐cut issues and unambiguous speech.
    • Theism Or Atheism: The Great Alternative (1921), Chapter XIII: Agnosticism.
  • Human society is born in the shadow of religious fear, and in that stage the suppression of heresy is a sacred social duty. Then comes the rise of a priesthood, and the independent thinker is met with punishment in this world and the threat of eternal damnation hereafter. Even today it is from the religious side that the greatest danger to freedom of thought comes. Religion is the last thing that man will civilise.
    • Quoted in The Freethinker, Vol. 84 (G.W. Foote, 1964), p. 215.
  • Gods are fragile things, they may be killed by a whiff of science or a dose of common sense. They thrive on servility and shrink before independence. They feed upon worship as kings do upon flattery. That is why the cry of gods at all times is "Worship us or we perish."
    • Pamphlet The Devil, quoted in Gordon Stein An Anthology of Atheism and Rationalism (Prometheus Books, 1980), p. 258.
  • All my life I have made it a rule never to permit a religious man or woman take for granted that his or her religious beliefs deserved more consideration than non-religious beliefs or anti-religious ones.
    I never agree with that foolish statement that I ought to respect the views of others when I believe them to be wrong.
    • The Credo of Empowerment, as quoted in David M. Mandell Atheist Acrimonious (Vervante, 2008), p. 176.

Determinism or Free-will? (1912)[edit]

  • Of the four terms ... Praise, Blame, Punishment, and Responsibility, the cardinal and governing one is the last.
  • Facts are more insistent than theories, and in the last resort it is the nature of things which determine the course of our actions.
  • Granting that an illusion may have its uses, it can only be of service so long as we do not know it to be an illusion.

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