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Piety is a virtue that may include devotion, humility and religiosity. The word piety derives from the Latin pietas, the noun form of the adjective pius, which means "devout" or "dutiful."


  • Piety is not an end but a means to attain ... the highest degree of culture. This is why ... those who parade piety as a purpose and an aim mostly turn into hypocrites.
  • I consider piety to be openness to the unmanipulated mystery of life.
  • Intellectual life has a certain spontaneous character and inner determination. It has also a peculiar poise of its own, which I believe is established by a balance between two basic qualities in the intellectual’s attitude toward ideas—qualities that may be designated as playfulness and piety.
  • Piety, then, needs a counterpoise, something to prevent it from being exercised in an excessively rigid way; and this it has, in most intellectual temperaments, in the quality I would call playfulness. We speak of the play of the mind; and certainly the intellectual relishes the play of the mind for its own sake, and finds in it one of the major values in life. What one thinks of here is the element of sheer delight in intellectual activity. Seen in this guise, intellect may be taken as the healthy animal spirits of the mind, which come into exercise when the surplus of mental energies is released from the tasks required for utility and mere survival. “Man is perfectly human,” said Schiller, “only when he plays.” And it is this awareness of an available surplus beyond the requirements of mere existence that his maxim conveys to us. Veblen spoke often of the intellectual faculty as “idle curiosity”—but this is a misnomer in so far as the curiosity of the playful mind is inordinately restless and active. This very restlessness and activity gives a distinctive cast to its view of truth and its discontent with dogmas.
  • Is it not thy piety itself which no longer letteth thee believe in a God?

Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895)


Quotes reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895).

  • Piety does not mean that a man should make a sour face about things, and refuse to enjoy in moderation what his Maker has given.
  • In theory, piety is reverence and love for God; and in practice, it is the exercise of all our powers in obedience to the Divine will. Combining the theory and practice, we have the richest treasure known on earth — love for God shown in obedience to God.
  • In periods that are wanting in inspiration piety always assumes the character of caution. It degenerates from a free and joyful devotion to a melancholy and anxious slavery.
  • What you cannot lift before His pure eyes and think of Him while you enjoy, is not for you. Friendship, schemes, plans, ambitions, amusements, speculations, studies, loves, businesses — can you call on the name of the Lord while you put these cups to your lips? If not, fling them behind you.
  • Christian piety annihilates the egotism of the heart; worldly politeness veils and represses it.
  • There is no piety in the world which is not the result of cultivation, and which cannot be increased by the degree of care and attention bestowed upon it.
  • Young men, you who have any piety at all, what sort is it? Is it a hot-house plant, which must be framed and glassed, lest March, that bold young fellow, should shake the life out.of it in his rough play among the flowers? or is it a hardy shrub, which rejoices when the wild winds course along the heather or howl above the crest of Lebanon? We need, believe me, the bravery of godliness to bear true witness for our Master now.
  • Young men, terminate, I beseech you, in your own experience, the sad divorce which has too often existed between intellect and piety. Take your stand, unswerving, heroic, by the altar of truth; and from that altar let neither sophistry nor ridicule expel you. Let your faith rest with a child's trust, with a martyr's grip, upon the truth as it is in Jesus.
  • The great moral lesson which Saul's history leaves for the instruction of mankind is this: That without true piety the finest qualities of character and the highest position in society will utterly fail to make a true and noble man. If Saul's heart had been true to God, he would have been one of the grandest specimens of humanity; but, lacking this true obedience to God, he made his life an utter failure, and his character a moral wreck.
  • The piety that keeps the Sabbath with a great zeal of devotion, yet fails to keep its possessor honest on Monday, is not the kind that is stamped in the mint of heaven.
  • What smoky prayers!—one earnest petition, and then a thousand wandering thoughts! What smoky faith!—a joyful sight of the Saviour's sufficiency, and then a long season of inward complacency occasioned by that sight! Self-righteous efforts to extirpate self-righteousness, and most legal endeavors to elaborate faith! What smoky affections!—gleams of love to God, followed by long intervals of estrangement!— spurts of self-sacrifice, followed by systematic worldliness! Fits of fury against some besetting sin, followed by abject surrender to its power! Ah, brethren, if the Saviour were human, He would set His foot on this fuming profession; He would extinguish this smoking flax.
  • We must watch over pious impressions, and cultivate them, or they will never become vigorous and enduring.
  • Think of a woman by the side of a dying sister, or a sick child, or a sorrowing friend, or a broken-hearted and broken-spirited man, without a word of heaven in her mouth — without so much as the ability to whisper "Our Father," or even to point her finger hopefully towards the stars.

See also

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