Talk:Robert G. Ingersoll

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I moved a quote to the "Unsourced" section because it was not properly sourced[edit]

I moved the following quote to the "Unsourced" section because it was not properly sourced:

  • I suppose it can be truthfully said that Hope is the only universal liar who never loses his reputation for veracity.
    • Speech (1892).

It might be a misquotation of the following sentence from "The Children of the Stage" (1889):

"The children of the stage, these citizens of the mimic world, are not the grasping, shrewd and prudent people of the mart; they are improvident enough to enjoy the present and credulous enough to believe the promises of the universal liar known as Hope."

The quote can be found here:

I did not put this quote in the main section because it does not stand well on its own, further reason to suspect that the quote I moved was an alternation of this one.

I moved this quote back to Robert G. Ingersoll because I had a source:

Give to every human being every right that you claim for yourself. The Limitations of Toleration, in The Works of Robert G. Ingersoll, Vol VII

JREF sourcing[edit]

Doesn't this (and the following quotes from the same source) belong in the Attributed section? We don't have a primary source--we don't know where JREF found them. AdamBradley 18:57, 22 May 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Good point! Speaking as the guy who added this and 3 other Swift-cited Ingersoll quotes, and as one of the Wikiquotians most likely to harp on proper sourcing, I'm rather embarrassed to realize I'd done this a year ago. Since then, I've come to realize the need for better sources in our collection. I've just moved the four quotes into alphabetical positions in Attributed as suggested. Thanks for catching this! ~ Jeff Q (talk) 19:33, 22 May 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I have a source for this quote. I'll put it in the main section and cite it. It is found in section XI: "What Do You Propose" from the lecture "What Must We Do To Be Saved?". This lecture can be found in "The Works of Robert G. Ingersoll," Volume I: Lectures published by The Dresden Publishing Company, 1901.


Wikiquote no longer allows unsourced quotations, and they are in process of being removed from our pages (see Wikiquote:Limits on quotations); but if you can provide a reliable and precise source for any quote on this list please move it to Robert G. Ingersoll.

  • Religion can never reform mankind because religion is slavery. - This quote is taken from, The Works of Robert G. Ingersoll Volume IV (1902).
  • A crime against god is a demonstrated impossibility.
  • A good deed is the best prayer.
  • A man is not moral because he is obedient through fear or ignorance. Morality lives in the realm of perceived obligation.
  • A man looks at the sea, and the sea says something to him. It makes an impression on his mind. It awakens his memory, and this impression depends upon his experience — upon his intellectual capacity. Another looks upon the same sea. He has a different brain; he has a different experience. The sea may speak to him of joy, to the other of grief and tears. The sea cannot tell the same thing to any two human beings, because no two human beings have had the same experience.
  • A true marriage is a natural concord and agreement of souls, a harmony in which discord is not even imagined; it is a mingling so perfect that only one seems to exist; all other considerations are lost; the present seems to be eternal. In this supreme moment there is no shadow — or the shadow is as luminous as light. And when two beings thus love, thus unite, this is the true marriage of soul and soul. That which is said before the altar, or minister, or magistrate, or in the presence of witnesses, is only the outward evidence of that which has already happened within; it simply testifies to a union that has already taken place — to the uniting of two mornings of hope to reach the night together.
  • Above all creeds, above all religions, after all, is that divine thing, — Humanity.
  • Above the natural, man cannot rise. There can be deformed ideas; as there are deformed persons. There may be religions monstrous and misshapen, but they were naturally produced. The world is to each man according to each man. It takes the world as it really is and that man to make that man's world.
  • Age after age, the strong have trampled upon the weak; the crafty and heartless have ensnared and enslaved the simple and innocent, and nowhere, in all the annals of mankind, has any god succored the oppressed.
  • All the altars and all the thrones united to arrest the forward march of the human race. The king said that mankind must not work for themselves. The priest said that mankind must not think for themselves. One forged chains for the hands, the other for the soul.
  • All the forces of civilization are in favor of morality and temperance. Little can be accomplished by law, because law, for the most part, about such things, is a destruction of personal liberty. Liberty cannot be sacrificed for the sake of temperance, for the sake of morality, or for the sake of anything. It is of more value than everything else. Yet some people would destroy the sun to prevent the growth of weeds. Liberty sustains the same relation to all the virtues that the sun does to life. The world had better go back to barbarism, to the dens, the caves and lairs of savagery; better lose all art, all inventions, than to lose liberty. Liberty is the breath of progress; it is the seed and soil, the heat and rain of love and joy.
  • Away, forever away with the creeds and books and forms and laws and religions that take from the soul liberty and reason. Down with the idea that thought is dangerous! Perish the infamous doctrine that man can have property in man. Let us resent with indignation every effort to put a chain upon our minds. If there is no God, certainly we should not bow and cringe and crawl. If there is a God, there should be no slaves.
  • Belief is not a voluntary thing. A man believes or disbelieves in spite of himself. They tell us that to believe is the safe way; but I say, the safe way is to be honest.
  • Blasphemy is an epithet bestowed by superstition upon common sense.
  • Call me infidel, call me atheist, call me what you will, I intend so to treat my children, that they can come to my grave and truthfully say: "He who sleeps here never gave us a moment of pain. From his lips, now dust, never came to us an unkind word."
  • Celibacy is the essence of vulgarity.
  • Certainly marriages by Justices of the Peace cannot cause the mental, moral and financial decay of a State.
  • Colleges are places where pebbles are polished and diamonds are dimmed.
  • Courage without conscience is a wild beast.
  • Crowned force has governed ignorance through fear. Hypocrisy and tyranny — two vultures — have fed upon the liberties of man. From all these there has been, and is, but one means of escape — intellectual development. Upon the back industry has been the whip. Upon the brain have been the fetters of superstition. Nothing has been left undone by the enemies of freedom. Every art and artifice, every cruelty and outrage has been practiced and perpetrated to destroy the rights of man. In this great struggle every crime has been rewarded and every virtue has been punished. Reading, writing, thinking and investigating have all been crimes.
  • Do not, I pray you, pluck from the heart the sweet flower of pity and trample it in the bloody dust of superstition.
  • Does belief depend upon evidence? I think it does somewhat in some cases. How is it when a jury is sworn to try a case, hearing all the evidence, hearing both sides, hearing the charge of the judge, hearing the law, are upon their oaths equally divided, six for the plaintiff and six for the defendant? Evidence does not have the same effect upon all people. Why? Our brains are not alike. They are not the same shape. We have not the same intelligence, or the same experience, the same sense. And yet I am held accountable for my belief. I must believe in the Trinity — three times one is one, once one is three, and my soul is to be eternally damned for failing to guess an arithmetical conundrum. That is the poison part of Christianity — that salvation depends upon belief. That is the accursed part, and until that dogma is discarded Christianity will be nothing but superstition.
  • Each is entitled to the honest opinion of all.
  • Each nation has created a god, and the god has always resembled his creators. He hated and loved what they hated and loved, and he invariably found on the side of those in power. Each god was intensely patriotic, and detested all nations but his own.
  • Each soul is crowned. Each soul wears the purple and the tiara; and only those are good citizens of the intellectual world who give to every other human being every right that they claim for themselves, and only those are traitors in the great realm of thought who abandon reason and appeal to force.
  • Every brain is a field where Nature sows the seeds of thought, and the crop depends upon the soil.
  • Every child should be taught to doubt, to inquire, to demand reasons. Every soul should defend itself — should be on its guard against falsehood, deceit, and mistake, and should beware of all kinds of confidence men, including those of the pulpit.
  • Every library is an arsenal.
  • Every man is dishonest who lives upon the labor of others, no matter if he occupies a throne.
  • Every man should be mentally honest. He should preserve as his most precious jewel the perfect veracity of his soul.
    He should examine all questions presented to his mind, without prejudice, — unbiased by hatred or love — by desire or fear. His object and his only object should be to find the truth. He knows, if he listens to reason, that truth is not dangerous and that error is. He should weigh the evidence, the arguments, in honest scales — scales that passion or interest cannot change. He should care nothing for authority — nothing for names, customs or creeds — nothing for anything that his reason does not say is true.
  • Everything in nature tells a different story to all eyes that see and to all ears that hear. So, when we look upon a flower, a painting, a statue, a star, or a violet, the more we know, the more we have experienced, the more we have thought, the more we remember, the more the statue, the star, the painting, the violet has to tell. Nature says to me all that I am capable of understanding — gives all that I can receive. As with star, or flower, or sea, so with a book. A thoughtful man reads Shakespeare. What does he get? All that he has the mind to understand. Let another read him, who knows nothing of the drama, nothing of the impersonations of passion, and what does he get? Almost nothing. Shakespeare has a different story for each reader. He is a world in which each recognizes his acquaintances.
  • Facts need no pedigree; logic has no heraldry, and the living should not be awed by the mistakes of the dead.
  • Few people have an adequate idea of the sufferings of women and children, of the number of wives who tremble when they hear the footsteps of a returning husband, of the number of children who hide when they hear the voice of a father. Few people know the number of blows that fall on the flesh of the helpless every day, and few know the nights of terror passed by mothers who hold babes to their breasts. Compared with these, all the hardships of poverty borne by those who love each other are as nothing. Men and women truly married bear the sufferings and misfortunes of poverty together. They console each other. In the darkest night they see the radiance of a star, and their affection gives to the heart of each perpetual sunshine.
  • For the most part, colleges are places where pebbles are polished and diamonds are dimmed.
  • Force has no place in the world of love. It is impossible to control likes and dislikes by law. No one ever did and no one ever can love on compulsion. Courts can not obtain jurisdiction of the heart.
  • From the aspersions of, the pulpit, from the slanders of the church, I seek to rescue the reputation of the Deity.
  • Give your sons and daughters every advantage within your power. In the air of kindness they will grow about you like flowers. They will fill your homes with sunshine and all your years with joy. Do not try to rule by force. A blow from a parent leaves a scar on the soul.
  • God cannot hate anybody who is capable of loving anybody.
  • Happiness is not a reward — it is a consequence. Suffering is not a punishment — it is a result.
  • He who puts chains upon the body of another shackles his own soul.
  • Heresy is what the minority believe; it is the name given by the powerful to the doctrines of the weak.
  • How any human being ever has had the impudence to speak against the right to speak, is beyond the power of my imagination. Here is a man who speaks — who exercises a right that he, by his speech, denies. Can liberty go further than that? Is there any toleration possible beyond the liberty to speak against liberty — the real believer in free speech allowing others to speak against the right to speak? Is there any limitation beyond that?
  • Humanity is the grand religion, and no God can put a man in hell in another world, who has made a little heaven in this. God cannot make a man miserable if that man has made somebody else happy. God cannot hate anybody who is capable of loving anybody. Humanity — that word embraces all there is.
  • I admit that reason is a small and feeble flame, a flickering torch by stumblers carried in the star-less night, blown and flared by passion's storm, and yet, it is the only light. Extinguish that, and nought remains.
  • I am now speaking of the phenomena of nature. I believe, as much as I believe that I live, that the reason a thing is right is because it tends to the happiness of mankind. I believe, as much as I believe that I live, that on the average the good man is not only the happier man, but that no man is happy who is not good.
  • I am simply in favor of intellectual hospitality — that is all. You come to me with a new idea. I invite you into the house. Let us see what you have. Let us talk it over. If I do not like your thought, I will bid it a polite "good day." If I do like it, I will say: "Sit down; stay with me, and become a part of the intellectual wealth of my world." That is all.
  • I believe in the fireside. I believe in the democracy of home. I believe in the republicanism of the family. I believe in liberty, equality and love.
  • I believe in the religion of reason — the gospel of this world; in the development of the mind, in the accumulation of intellectual wealth, to the end that man may free himself from superstitious fear, to the end that he may take advantage of the forces of nature to feed and clothe the world.
  • I despise a stingy man. I do not see how it is possible for a man to die worth fifty million of dollars, or ten million of dollars, in a city full of want, when he meets almost every day the withered hand of beggary and the white lips of famine. How a man can withstand all that, and hold in the clutch of his greed twenty or thirty million of dollars, is past my comprehension. I do not see how he can do it.
  • I do not believe in the government of the lash. If any one of you ever expects to whip your children again, I want you to have a photograph taken of yourself when you are in the act, with your face red with vulgar anger, and the face of the little child, with eyes swimming in tears and the little chin dimpled with fear, like a piece of water struck by a sudden cold wind. Have the picture taken. If that little child should die, I cannot think of a sweeter way to spend an autumn afternoon than to go out to the cemetery, when the maples are clad in tender gold, and little scarlet runners are coming, like poems of regret, from the sad heart of the earth — and sit down upon the grave and look at your photograph, and think of the flesh now dust that you beat. I tell you it is wrong; it is no way to raise children!
  • I do not claim that I have floated level with the heights of thought, or that I have descended to the very depths of things. I simply claim that what ideas I have, I have a right to express; and that any man who denies that right to me is an intellectual thief and robber. That is all.
  • I had a dream, in which I debated a question with a friend. I thought to myself: "This is a dream, and yet I cannot tell what my opponent is going to say. Yet, if it is a dream, I am doing the thinking for both sides, and therefore ought to know in advance what my friend will urge." But, in a dream, there is someone who seems to talk to us. Our own brain tells us news, and presents an unexpected thought. Is it not possible that each brain is a field where all the senses sow the seeds of thought? Some of these fields are mostly barren, poor, and hard, producing only worthless weeds; and some grow sturdy oaks and stately palms; and some are like the tropic world, where plants and trees and vines seem royal children of the soil and sun.
  • I had rather be a beggar and spend my last dollar like a king, than be a king and spend my money like a beggar! If it has got to go, let it go!
  • I hate above all things a cross man. What right has he to murder the sunshine of a day? What right has he to assassinate the joy of life?
  • I have said before, and I say again, the brain thinks in spite of me, and I am not responsible for my thoughts. I cannot control the beating of my heart. I cannot stop the blood that flows through the rivers of my veins. And yet I am held responsible for my belief. Then why does not God give me the evidence? They say he has. In what? In an inspired book. But I do not understand it as they do. Must I be false to my understanding? They say: "When you come to die you will be sorry if you do not." Will I be sorry when I come to die that I did not live a hypocrite? Will I be sorry that I did not say I was a Christian when I was not? Will the fact that I was honest put a thorn in the pillow of death? Cannot God forgive me for being honest? They say that when he was in Jerusalem he forgave his murderers, but now he will not forgive an honest man for differing from him on the subject of the Trinity.
  • I have the same right to express my thought to the whole world, that the whole world has to express its thought to me.
  • I have the same right to give you my opinion that you have to give me yours. I have no right to compel you to hear, if you do not want to. I have no right to compel you to speak if you do not want to. If you do not wish to know my thought, I have no right to force it upon you.
  • I know of no crime that has not been defended by the church, in one form or other. The church is not a pioneer; it accepts a new truth, last of all, and only when denial has become useless.
  • I never have denied the immortality of the soul. I have simply been honest. I have said: 'I do not know.'
  • I tell you God cannot afford to damn a man in the next world who has made a happy family in this. God cannot afford to cast over the battlements of heaven the man who has a happy home upon this earth. God cannot afford to be unpitying to a human heart capable of pity. God cannot clothe with fire the man who has clothed the naked here; and God cannot send to eternal pain a man who has done something toward improving the condition of his fellow-men.
  • I tell you the children have the same rights that we have, and we ought to treat them as though they were human beings. They should be reared with love, with kindness, with tenderness, and not with brutality. That is my idea of children.
  • I think it is better to love your children than to love God, a thousand times better, because you can help them, and I am inclined to think that God can get along without you. Certainly we cannot help a being without body, parts, or passions!
  • I want no heaven for which I must give my reason; no happiness in exchange for my liberty, and no immortality that demands the surrender of my individuality.
  • I will never desert the one I love for the promise of any god.
  • I would not know a god if I should see one.
  • If a man really believes that God once upheld slavery; that he commanded soldiers to kill women and babes; that he believed in polygamy; that he persecuted for opinion's sake; that he will punish forever, and that he hates an unbeliever, the effect in my judgment will be bad. It always has been bad. This belief built the dungeons of the Inquisition. This belief made the Puritan murder the Quaker.
  • If I had my way I'd make health catching instead of disease.
  • If the book the Bible and my brain are both the work of the same Infinite God, whose fault is it that the book and my brain do not agree?
  • If the love of earth is not the love of heaven, if those we love here are to be separated from us there, then I want eternal sleep.
  • If there is a God who will damn his children forever, I would rather go to hell than to go to heaven and keep the society of such an infamous tyrant. I make my choice now. I despise that doctrine. It has covered the cheeks of this world with tears. It has polluted the hearts of children, and poisoned the imaginations of men. It has been a constant pain, a perpetual terror to every good man and woman and child. It has filled the good with horror and with fear; but it has had no effect upon the infamous and base. It has wrung the hearts of the tender, it has furrowed the cheeks of the good. This doctrine never should be preached again. What right have you, sir, Mr. clergyman, you, minister of the gospel to stand at the portals of the tomb, at the vestibule of eternity, and fill the future with horror and with fear? I do not believe this doctrine, neither do you. If you did, you could not sleep one moment. Any man who believes it, and has within his breast a decent, throbbing heart, will go insane. A man who believes that doctrine and does not go insane has the heart of a snake and the conscience of a hyena.
  • In the presence of death I affirm and reaffirm the truth of all that I have said against the superstitions of the world. I would say that much on the subject with my last breath.
  • In the republic of mediocrity genius is dangerous.
  • Intellectual liberty is the air of the soul, the sunshine of the mind, and without it, the world is a prison, the universe is a dungeon.
  • Is it possible to conceive of anything more immoral than for a husband to insist on living with a wife who has no love for him? Is not this a perpetual crime? Is the wife to lose her personality? Has she no right of choice? Is her modesty the property of another? Is the man she hates the lord of her desire? Has she no right to guard the jewels of her soul? Is there a depth below this? And is this the foundation of morality? this the cornerstone of society? this the arch that supports the dome of civilization? Is this pathetic sacrifice on the one hand, this sacrilege on the other, pleasing in the sight of heaven?
  • It is a splendid thing to think that the woman you really love will never grow old to you. Through the wrinkles of time, through the mask of years, if you really love her, you will always see the face you loved and won. And a woman who really loves a man does not see that he grows old; he is not decrepit to her; he does not tremble; he is not old; she always sees the same gallant gentleman who won her hand and heart. I like to think of it in that way; I like to think that love is eternal. And to love in that way and then go down the hill of life together, and as you go down, hear, perhaps, the laughter of grandchildren, while the birds of joy and love sing once more in the leafless branches of the tree of age.
  • It is a thousand times better to have common sense without education, than education without the sense. Boys and girls should be educated to help themselves. They should be taught that it is disgraceful to be idle, and dishonorable to be useless.
  • It is an old habit with theologians to beat the living with the bones of the dead.
  • It is far more important to build a home than to erect a church. The holiest temple beneath the stars is a home that love has built.
  • It is far more important to love your wife than to love God, and I will tell you why. You cannot help him, but you can help her. You can fill her life with the perfume of perpetual joy.
  • It is impossible for a man to be respectable enough to make a mistake respectable.
  • It is not necessary to be great to be happy; it is not necessary to be rich to be just and generous and to have a heart filled with divine affection.
  • Kindness is the sunshine in which the virtues grow.
  • Liberty of thought, this liberty of expression, is of more value than any other thing beneath the stars. Of more value than any religion, of more value than any government, of more value than all the constitutions that man has written and all the laws that he has passed, is this liberty — the absolute liberty of the human mind. Take away that word from language, and all other words become meaningless sounds, and there is then no reason for a man being and living upon the earth.
  • Love is a revelation, a creation. From love the world borrows its beauty and the heavens their glory. Justice, self-denial, charity and pity are the children of love. Lover, wife, mother, husband, father, child, home — these words shed light — they are the gems of human speech. Without love all glory fades, the noble falls from life, art dies, music loses meaning and becomes mere motions of air, and virtue ceases to exist.
  • Love is natural. Back of all ceremony burns and will forever burn the sacred flame. There has been no time in the world's history when that torch was extinguished. In all ages, in all climes, among all people, there has been true, pure, and unselfish love. Long before a ceremony was thought of, long before a priest existed, there were true and perfect marriages. Back of public opinion is natural modesty, the affections of the heart; and in spite of all law, there is and forever will be the realm of choice. Wherever love is, it is pure; and everywhere, and at all times, the ceremony of marriage testifies to that which has happened within the temple of the human heart.
  • Love is not a crime ... men and women should be proudly natural; they need not grovel on the earth and cover their faces for shame.
  • Man has found that he must give liberty to others in order to have it himself.
  • Marriages are made by men and women; not by society; not by the state; not by the church; not by supernatural beings.
  • Mental slavery is mental death, and every man who has given up his intellectual freedom is the living coffin of his dead soul.
  • My liberty ends where yours begin.
  • No man can control his belief. If I hear certain evidence I will believe a certain thing. If I fail to hear it I may never believe it. If it is adapted to my mind I may accept it; if it is not, I reject it. And what am I to go by? My brain. That is the only light I have from Nature, and if there be a God it is the only torch that this God has given me to find my way through the darkness and night called life. I do not depend upon hearsay for that. I do not have to take the word of any other man nor get upon my knees before a book. Here in the temple of the mind I consult the God, that is to say my reason, and the oracle speaks to me and I obey the oracle. What should I obey? Another man's oracle? Shall I take another man's word — not what he thinks but what he says some God has said to him?
  • No man can open his mouth against the freedom of speech without denying every argument he may put forward. Why? He is exercising the right that he denies. How did he get it? Suppose there is one man on an island. You will all admit now that he would have the right to do his own thinking. You will all admit that he has the right to express his thought. Now, will somebody tell me how many men would have to emigrate to that island before the original settler would lose his right to think and his right to express himself?
  • No man in the hour of death ever regretted having been honest. No man when the shadows of the last day were gathering about the pillow of death, ever regretted that he had given to his fellow-man his honest thought. No man, in the presence of eternity, ever wished that he had been a hypocrite. No man ever then regretted that he did not throw away his reason. It certainly cannot be necessary to throw away your reason to save your soul, because after that, your soul is not worth saving. The soul has a right to defend itself. My brain is my castle; and when I waive the right to defend it, I become an intellectual serf and slave.
  • Nothing but falsehood needs the assistance of fame and place, of robes and mitres, of tiaras and crowns.
  • Now and then somebody examines, and in spite of all keeps his manhood, and has the courage to follow where his reason leads. Then the pious get together and repeat wise saws, and exchange knowing nods and most prophetic winks. The stupidly wise sit owl-like on the dead limbs of the tree of knowledge, and solemnly hoot. Wealth sneers, and fashion laughs, and respectability passes by on the other side, and scorn points with all her skinny fingers, and all the snakes of superstition writhe and hiss, and slander lends her tongue, and infamy her brand, and perjury her oath, and the law its power, and bigotry tortures, and the church kills.
  • One good schoolteacher is worth more than 100 priests.
  • One laugh of a child will make the holiest day more sacred still.
  • Only a few years ago there was a great awakening of the human mind. Men began to inquire by what right a crowned robber made them work for him? The man who asked this question was called a traitor. Others asked by what right does a robed hypocrite rule my thought? Such men were called infidels. The priest said, and the king said, where is this spirit of investigation to stop? They said then and they say now, that it is dangerous for man to be free. I deny it. Out on the intellectual sea there is room enough for every sail. In the intellectual air there is space enough for every wing.
  • Our hope of immortality does not come from any religions, but nearly all religions come from that hope.
  • People justify all kinds of tyranny toward children upon the ground that they are totally depraved. At the bottom of ages of cruelty lies this infamous doctrine of total depravity. Religion contemplates a child as a living crime — heir to an infinite curse — doomed to eternal fire.
  • Personally, I care nothing about names. It makes no difference to me what the supposed great men of the past have said, except as what they have said contains an argument; and that argument is worth to me the force it naturally has upon my mind. Christians forget that in the realm of reason there are no serfs and no monarchs.
  • Prayer is of no avail. The lightning falls on the just and the unjust in accordance with natural laws.
  • Prejudice, egotism, hatred, contempt, disdain, are the enemies of truth and progress.
  • Reason, Observation, and Experience — the Holy Trinity of Science.
  • Right here, it may be well enough to remark, that all the monuments and festivals in the world are not sufficient to establish an impossible event. No amount of monumental testimony, no amount of living evidence, can substantiate a miracle. The monument only proves the belief of the builders.
  • So far as I am concerned, I think more of reasons than of reputations, more of principles than of persons, more of nature than of names, more of facts, than of faiths.
  • Standing in the presence of the Unknown, all have the same right to think, and all are equally interested in the great question of origin and destiny. All I claim, all I plead for, is liberty of thought and expression. That is all.
  • Suppose I read the book called the Bible, and when I get through I make up my mind that it was written by men. A minister asks me, "Did you read the Bible?" I answer, that I did. "Do you think it divinely inspired?" What should I reply? Should I say to myself, "If I deny the inspiration of the Scriptures, the people will never clothe me with power." What ought I to answer? Ought I not to say like a man: "I have read it; I do not believe it." Should I not give the real transcript of my mind? Or should I turn hypocrite and pretend what I do not feel, and hate myself forever after for being a cringing coward. For my part I would rather a man would tell me what he honestly thinks. I would rather he would preserve his manhood. I had a thousand times rather be a manly unbeliever than an unmanly believer. And if there is a judgment day, a time when all will stand before some supreme being, I believe I will stand higher, and stand a better chance of getting my case decided in my favor, than any man sneaking through life pretending to believe what he does not.
  • Take love from the world, and there is nothing left worth living for. The church has treated this great, this sublime, this unspeakably holy passion, as though it polluted the heart. They have placed the love of God above the love of woman, above the love of man. Human love is generous and noble. The love of God is selfish, because man does not love God for God's sake, but for his own.
  • Temptations are as thick as the leaves of the forest, and no one can be out of the reach of temptation unless he is dead. The great thing is to make people intelligent enough and strong enough, not to keep away from temptation, but to resist it.
  • That which must be, has the right to be.
  • The Christians say, that among the ancient Jews, if you committed a crime you had to kill a sheep. Now they say 'charge it.' 'Put it on the slate.' The Savior will pay it. In this way, rascality is sold on credit, and the credit system in morals, as in business, breeds extravagance.
  • The church cries now "whom God hath joined together let not man put asunder;" but when the people are really civilized the state will say: "whom Nature hath put asunder let not man bind and manacle together."
  • The closer I'm bound in love to you, the closer I am to free.
  • The combined wisdom and genius of all mankind cannot possibly conceive of an argument against liberty of thought.
  • The good men, the good women are tired of the whip and lash in the realm of thought. They remember the chain and fagot with a shudder. They are free and they give liberty to others. Whoever claims any right that he is unwilling to accord to his fellow-men is dishonest and infamous.
  • The goodness, the sympathy, the self-denial of the nun, of the monk, all come from the mother-instinct, the father-instinct — all were produced by human affection, by the love of man for woman, of woman for man. Love is a transfiguration. It ennobles, purifies and glorifies.
  • The grandest ambition that any man can possibly have, is to so live, and so improve himself in heart and brain, as to be worthy of the love of some splendid woman; and the grandest ambition of any girl is to make herself worthy of the love and adoration of some magnificent man.
  • The great question is not, who died right, but who lived right? There is infinitely more responsibility in living than in dying. The moment of death is the most unimportant moment of life. Nothing can be done then. It is a moment when life ceases to be of value. While living, while you have health and strength, you can augment the happiness of your fellow-men; and the man who has made others happy need not be afraid to die.
  • The greatest test of courage on earth is to bear defeat without losing heart.
  • The hands that help are far better than the lips that pray.
  • The inspiration of the Bible depends upon the ignorance of the gentleman who reads it.
  • The law of the church has created neither the purity nor the peace of domestic life. Back of all churches is human affection. Back of all theologies is the love of the human heart. Back of all your priests and creeds is the adoration of the one woman by the one man, and of the one man by the one woman. Back of your faith is the fireside; back of your folly is the family; and back of all your holy mistakes and your sacred absurdities is the love of husband and wife, of parent and child.
  • The man who accepts opinions because they have been entertained by distinguished people, is a mental snob.
  • The man who cannot raise children without whipping them ought not to have them. The man who would mar the flesh of a boy or girl is unfit to have the control of a human being. The father who keeps a rod in his house keeps a relic of barbarism in his heart. There is nothing reformatory in punishment; nothing reformatory in fear. Kindness, guided by intelligence, is the only reforming force. An appeal to brute force is an abandonment of love and reason, and puts father and child upon a savage equality; the savageness in the heart of the father prompting the use of the rod or club, produces a like savageness in the victim. The old idea that a child's spirit must be broken is infamous.
  • The man who does not do his own thinking is a slave, and is a traitor to himself and his fellow men.
  • The man who invented the telescope found out more about heaven than the closed eyes of prayer ever discovered.
  • The meanest hut with love in it is a palace fit for the gods, and a palace without love is a den only fit for wild beasts. That is my doctrine! You cannot be so poor that you cannot help somebody. Good nature is the cheapest commodity in the world; and love is the only thing that will pay ten percent to borrower and lender both.
  • The notion that faith in Christ is to be rewarded by an eternity of bliss, while a dependence upon reason, observation, and experience merits everlasting pain, is too absurd for refutation, and can be relieved only by that unhappy mixture of insanity and ignorance called 'faith.'
  • The old doctrine that God wanted man to do something for him, and that he kept a watchful eye upon all the children of men; that he rewarded the virtuous and punished the wicked, is gradually fading from the mind. We know that some of the worst men have what the world calls success. We know that some of the best men lie upon the straw of failure. We know that honesty goes hungry, while larceny sits at the banquet. We know that the vicious have every physical comfort, while the virtuous are often clad in rags.
  • The one thing in this world that is constant, the one peak that rises above all clouds, the one window in which the light forever burns, the one star that darkness cannot quench, is woman's love. It rises to the greatest heights, it sinks to the lowest depths, it forgives the most cruel injuries. It is perennial of life, and grows in every climate. Neither coldness nor neglect, harshness nor cruelty, can extinguish it. A woman's love is the perfume of the heart.
  • The real marriage — the uniting of hearts, the lighting of the sacred flame in each — is the work of Nature, and it is the best work that nature does. The ceremony of marriage gives notice to the world that the real marriage has taken place.
  • The real marriage is based on mutual affection — the ceremony is but the outward evidence of the inward flame. To this contract there are but two parties. The church is an impudent intruder.
  • The real searcher after truth will not receive the old because it is old, or reject the new because it is new. He will not believe men because they are dead, or contradict them because they are alive. With him an utterance is worth the truth, the reason it contains, without the slightest regard to the author. He may have been a king or serf — a philosopher or servant, — but the utterance neither gains nor loses in truth or reason. Its value is absolutely independent of the fame or station of the man who gave it to the world.
  • The tides and currents of the soul care nothing for the creeds. People who make rules for the conduct of others generally break them themselves. It is so easy to bear with fortitude the misfortunes of others.
  • The true civilization is where every man gives to every other every right that he claims for himself.
  • The truth is, that no one can justly be held responsible for his thoughts. The brain thinks without asking our consent. We believe, or we disbelieve, without an effort of the will. Belief is a result. It is the effect of evidence upon the mind. The scales turn in spite of him who watches. There is no opportunity of being honest or dishonest in the formation of an opinion. The conclusion is entirely independent of desire. We must believe, or we must doubt, in spite of what we wish.
  • There are no Gods, no angels, no devils, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens the hearts and enslaves minds.
  • There is no authority in churches or priests — no authority in numbers or majorities. The only authority is Nature — the facts we know. Facts are the masters, the enemies of the ignorant, the servants and friends of the intelligent.
  • There will never be a generation of great men until there has been a generation of free women — of free mothers.
  • They say that God says to me, "Forgive your enemies." I say, "I do"; but he says, "I will damn mine." God should be consistent. If he wants me to forgive my enemies he should forgive his. I am asked to forgive enemies who can hurt me. God is only asked to forgive enemies who cannot hurt him. He certainly ought to be as generous as he asks us to be. And I want no God to forgive me unless I am willing to forgive others, and unless I do forgive others. All I ask, if that be true, is that this God should act according to his own doctrine. If I am to forgive my enemies, I ask him to forgive his. I do not believe in the religion of faith, but of kindness, of good deeds. The idea that man is responsible for his belief is at the bottom of religious intolerance and persecution.
  • Thought and speech must be free. The man or men who would put a chain upon the brain or a padlock on the tongue are heirs of the Inquisition, the enemies of society, the foes of human progress.
  • To me, the most obscene word in the language is celibacy.
  • To me, the tenderest word in our language, the most pathetic fact within our knowledge, is maternity. Around this sacred word cluster the joys and sorrows, the agonies and ecstasies, of the human race. The mother walks in the shadow of death that she may give another life. Upon the altar of love she puts her own life in pawn. When the world is civilized, no wife will become a mother against her will. Man will then know that to enslave another is to imprison himself.
  • Victory makes forgiveness easy.
  • We shall no longer listen to priests who regard celibacy as a higher state than marriage, nor to those statesmen who look upon a barbarous code as the foundation of all law.
  • What do I mean by liberty? By physical liberty I mean the right to do anything which does not interfere with the happiness of another. By intellectual liberty I mean the right to think right and the right to think wrong. Thought is the means by which we endeavor to arrive at truth. If we know the truth already, we need not think. All that can be required is honesty of purpose. You ask my opinion about anything; I examine it honestly, and when my mind is made up, what should I tell you? Should I tell you my real thought? What should I do? There is a book put in my hands. I am told this is the Koran; it was written by inspiration. I read it, and when I get through, suppose that I think in my heart and in my brain, that it is utterly untrue, and you then ask me, what do you think? Now, admitting that I live in Turkey, and have no chance to get any office unless I am on the side of the Koran, what should I say? Should I make a clean breast and say, that upon my honor I do not believe it? What would you think then of my fellow citizens if they said: "That man is dangerous, he is dishonest."
  • What light is to the eyes — what air is to the lungs — what love is to the heart, liberty is to the soul of man. Without liberty, the brain is a dungeon, where the chained thoughts die with their pinions pressed against the hingeless doors.
  • When I became convinced that the universe is natural, that all the ghosts and gods are myths, there entered into my brain, into my soul, into every drop of my blood the sense, the feeling, the joy of freedom. The walls of my prison crumbled and fell. The dungeon was flooded with light and all the bolts and bars and manacles became dust. I was no longer a servant, a serf, or a slave. There was for me no master in all the wide world, not even in infinite space. I was free — free to think, to express my thoughts — free to live my own ideal, free to live for myself and those I loved, free to use all my faculties, all my senses, free to spread imagination's wings, free to investigate, to guess and dream and hope, free to judge and determine for myself. . . I was free!
  • When one of your children tells a lie, be honest with him; tell him that you have told hundreds of them yourself. Tell him it is not the best way; that you have tried it. Tell him as the man did in Maine when his boy left home: "John, honesty is the best policy; I have tried both." Be honest with him. Suppose a man as much larger than you as you are larger than a child five years old, should come at you with a liberty pole in his hand, and in a voice of thunder shout, "Who broke that plate?" There is not a solitary one of you who would not swear you never saw it, or that it was cracked when you got it. Why not be honest with these children? Just imagine a man who deals in stocks whipping his boy for putting false rumors afloat! Think of a lawyer beating his own flesh and blood for evading the truth when he makes half of his own living that way! Think of a minister punishing his child for not telling all he thinks! Just think of it!
  • When your child commits a wrong, take it in your arms; let it feel your heart beat against its heart; let the child know that you really and truly and sincerely love it.
  • When your little child tells a lie, do not rush at him as though the world were about to go into bankruptcy. Be honest with him. A tyrant father will have liars for his children; do you know that? A lie is born of tyranny upon the one hand and weakness upon the other, and when you rush at a poor little boy with a club in your hand, of course he lies.
  • Where is the soul? . . . I refuse to believe anything of that kind without proof. The idea that, as soon as a man's breath leaves his body, the soul flops out like a chicken's head and flies off into space to find a lodgment where there [are] harps and haloes. Too much for me.
  • Whether you think that you can, or that you can't, you are usually right.
  • Why should we desire the destruction of human passions? Take passions from human beings and what is left? The great object should be not to destroy passions, but to make them obedient to the intellect. To indulge passion to the utmost is one form of intemperance — to destroy passion is another. The reasonable gratification of passion under the domination of the intellect is true wisdom and perfect virtue.
  • With every drop of my blood I hate and execrate every form of tyranny, every form of slavery. I hate dictation. I love liberty.
  • Women are far more intelligent — some of them are no longer the slaves either of husbands, or priests. They are beginning to think for themselves. They can see no good reason why they should sacrifice their lives to please Popes or Gods. They are no longer deceived by theological prophecies. They are not willing to suffer here, with the hope of being happy beyond the clouds — they want their happiness now.
  • You had better be the emperor of one loving and tender heart, and she the empress of yours, than to be king of the world. The man who has really won the love of one good woman in this world, I do not care if he dies in the ditch a beggar, his life has been a success.
  • This crime called blasphemy was invented by priests for the purpose of defending doctrines not able to take care of themselves.
  • I suppose it can be truthfully said that Hope is the only universal liar who never loses his reputation for veracity.