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, precise and verifiable source for any quote on this list please move it to Steve Allen (comedian). --Antiquary 18:59, 10 August 2009 (UTC)
- As I argued in Beloved Son, a book about my son Brian and the subject of religious communes and cults, one result of proper early instruction in the methods of rational thought will be to make sudden mindless conversions— to anything— less likely. Brian now realizes this and has, after eleven years, left the sect he was associated with. The problem is that once the untrained mind has made a formal commitment to a religious philosophy— and it does not matter whether that philosophy is generally reasonable and high-minded or utterly bizarre and irrational— the powers of reason are suprisingly ineffective in changing the believer's mind.
- Asthma doesn't seem to bother me any more unless I'm around cigars or dogs. The thing that would bother me most would be a dog smoking a cigar.
- Do not allow children to mix your martini. It is unseemly and they use too much vermouth. (This is Fran Lebowitz, Parental Guidance (1981))
- Humor is a social lubricant that helps us get over some of the bad spots.
- I used to be a heavy gambler. But now I just make mental bets. That's how I lost my mind.
- If the Old Testament were a reliable guide in the matter of capital punishment, half the people in the United States would have to be killed tomorrow
- If there is a God, the phrase that must disgust him is— holy war.
- If. . . we assume that there is no God, it follows that morality is even more important than if there is a Deity. If God exists, his unlimited power can certainly redress imbalances in the scale of human justice. But if there is no God, then it is up to man to be as moral as he can.
- If you pray for rain long enough, it eventually does fall. If you pray for floodwaters to abate, they eventually do. The same happens in the absence of prayers.
- Impartial observers from other planets would consider ours an utterly bizarre enclave if it were populated by birds, defined as flying animals, that nevertheless rarely or never actually flew. They would also be perplexed if they encountered in our seas, lakes, rivers, and ponds, creatures defined as swimmers that never did any swimming. But they would be even more surprised to encounter a species defined as a thinking animal if, in fact, the creature very rarely indulged in actual thinking.
- In a rational society we would want our presidents to be teachers. In our actual society we insist they be cheerleaders.
- Is it larger than a bread box?
- Famous query from "What's my line?
- Men will take almost any kind of criticism except the observation that they have no sense of humor.
- No philosophy, sadly, has all the answers. No matter how assured we may be about certain aspects of our belief, there are always painful inconsistencies, exceptions, and contradictions. This is true in religion as it is in politics, and is self-evident to all except fanatics and the naive. As for the fanatics, whose number is legion in our own time, we might be advised to leave them to heaven. They will not, unfortunately, do us the same courtesy. They attack us and each other, and whatever their protestations to peaceful intent, the bloody record of history makes clear that they are easily disposed to resort to the sword. My own belief in God, then, is just that— a matter of belief, not knowledge. My respect for Jesus Christ arises from the fact that He seems to have been the most virtuous inhabitant of Planet Earth. But even well-educated Christians are frustated in their thirst for certainty about the beloved figure of Jesus because of the undeniable ambiguity of the scriptural record. Such ambiguity is not apparent to children or fanatics, but every recognized Bible scholar is perfectly aware of it. Some Christians, alas, resort to formal lying to obscure such reality.
- Nothing is better than the unintended humor of reality
- One of the nice things about problems is that a good many of them do not exist except in our imaginations.
- Ours is a government of checks and balances. The Mafia and crooked businessmen make out checks, and the politicians and other compromised officials improve their bank balances.
- Radio is the theater of the mind; television is the theater of the mindless.
- Religious believers of the world, you are free to continue to debate the simple, narrow question that divides you from atheists, but you have no right, in so doing, to treat the Humanists of the world with contempt. You owe them a deep debt of gratitude, for not only have they shed much light on a naturally dark world but they have very probably helped civilize your own specific religion.
- The hair is real; it's the head that's fake.
- The purpose of having an open mind is the same as having an open mouth, the object being eventually to close it on something solid. But one should never close either mind or mouth until the general circumstances of the moment make it reasonable to do so.
- Totalitarianism is patriotism institutionalized.
- We are entitled to make almost any reasonable assumption, but should resist making conclusions until evidence requires that we do so.
- When the churches literally ruled society, the human drama encompassed: (a) slavery; (b) the cruel subjection of women; (c) the most savage forms of legal punishment; (d) the absurd belief that kings ruled by divine right; (e) the daily imposition of physical abuse; (f) cold heartlessness for the sufferings of the poor; as well as (g) assorted pogroms ("ethnic cleansing" wars) between rival religions, capital punishment for literally hundreds of offenses, and countless other daily imposed moral outrages … it was the free-thinking, challenging work by people of conscience, who almost invariably had to defy the religious and political status quo of their times, that brought us out of such darkness.