December 16, 2005

The Company We Keep, Part 1

This time of year, it's easy for atheists to feel like they are alone in the world. At least, this is what happens to me. Being constantly blasted whereever I go by reminders that only Xtians have the right to a holiday in December gets annoying. (Though, watching them get in fist fights over toys is kinda funny - as long as no one actually gets hurt).

When it gets to feeling a little lonely, and when I tire of psychos like Falwell, Robertson and O'Reilly bitching about the imaginary "war on xmas", it cheers me up to remember who's company I keep. And though I'm obviously biased, they are infinitely superior to the likes of Falwell, Robertson and O'Reilly. I am not speaking of strickly atheists - though there are plenty on this list. I am speaking of all people who have issue with organized religion, as I do myself. Belief in god is not the problem, organizing it into a heirarchy with stone cold dogma for which you are willing to discriminate, slander or kill, is.

Noteworthy Atheists/Freethinkers/Agnostics/Deists*(in no order at all)

Personal heros:

Margaret Sanger - American birth control activist, founder of Planned Parenthood
"No Gods, No Masters."

Susan B. Anthony - American civil rights
What you should say to outsiders is that a Christian has neither more nor less rights in our Association than an atheist. When our platform becomes too narrow for people of all creeds and of no creeds, I myself shall not stand upon it." [Susan B. Anthony: A Biography, by Kathleen Barry, New York University Press, 1988, p.310]

Elizabeth Cady Stanton - American social activist
The Bible and the Church have been the greatest stumbling blocks in the way of women's emancipation.

Voltairine de Cleyre -American feminist and activist
"I die, as I have lived, a free spirit, an Anarchist, owing no allegiance to rulers, heavenly or earthly."


Fran├žois-Marie Arouet Voltaire - French Enlightenment writer, essayist, deist and philosopher
"The first clergyman was the first rascal who met the first fool"

"Nothing can be more contrary to religion and the clergy than reason and common sense." [Philosophical Dictionary, 1764]

"If we believe absurdities, we shall commit atrocities."

Denis Diderot - French philosopher and writer
"Men will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest"

Robert G. Ingersoll -American political leader and orator
"As people become more intelligent they care less for preaches and more for teachers"

Abu Ala Al-Ma'arri -Syrian poet and writer
"The world holds two classes of men - intelligent men without religion, and religious men without intelligence."

Thomas Edison - American inventor
"I have never seen the slightest scientific proof of the religious ideas of heaven and hell, of future life for individuals, or of a personal God."

Sigmund Freud - Austrian physician and pioneer psychoanalyst
"In the long run, nothing can withstand reason and experience, and the contradiction religion offers to both is palpable." Sigmund Freud, Austrian physician and pioneer psychoanalyst (1856-1939).

George Bernard Shaw - Irish playwright
"No man ever believes that the Bible means what it says; he is always convinced that it says what he means."

Frank Lloyd Wright - American architect
"I believe in God, only I spell it Nature."

Albert Einstein - German born American threoretical physicist
"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." [From a letter Einstein wrote in English, dated 24 March 1954. It is included in Albert Einstein: The Human Side, edited by Helen Dukas and Banesh Hoffman, published by Princeton University Press.

Ernest Hemingway - American author
"All thinking men are atheists." [A Farewell to Arms]

Isaac Asimov - Russian-born American author
"I am an atheist, out and out. It took me a long time to say it. I've been an atheist for years and years, but somehow I felt it was intellectually unrespectable to say that one is an atheist, because it assumed knowledge that one didn't have. Somehow it was better to say one was a humanist or agnostic. I don't have the evidence to prove that God doesn't exist, but I so strongly suspect that he doesn't that I don't want to waste my time."

Gene Roddenberry - Creator of Star Trek
"We must question the story logic of having an all-knowing all-powerful God, who creates faulty Humans, and then blames them for his own mistakes."

"I condemn false prophets, I condemn the effort to take away the power of rational decision, to drain people of their free will--and a hell of a lot of money in the bargain. Religions vary in their degree of idiocy, but I reject them all. For most people, religion is nothing more than a substitute for a malfunctioning brain."

Stephen Hawking- Theoretical Physicist
"At a physicist's conference Hawking was attending after his book A Brief History of Time was published, a reporter approached him to ask if he did in fact believe in God, given the "mind of God" reference near the end of the book. Hawking responded quickly (suggesting his answer was pre-prepared) "I do not believe in a personal God."

Stephen King - Author
"The beauty of religious mania is that it has the power to explain everything. Once God (or Satan) is accepted as the first cause of everything which happens in the mortal world, nothing is left to chance...logic can be happily tossed out the window."

Edgar Allan Poe - American poet, short story writer, editor and critic and one of the leaders of the American Romantics.
"The pioneers and missionaries of religion have been the real cause of more trouble and war than all other classes of mankind." [ Ira D. Cardiff, What Great Men Think of Religion, quoted from James A. Haught, ed., 2000 Years of Disbelief]

Bertrand Russell - British logician, philosopher, and mathematician
"So far as I can remember, there is not one word in the Gospels in praise of intelligence."

Oscar Wilde - Anglo-Irish playwright, novelist, poet, and short story writer
"When I think of all the harm the Bible has done, I despair of ever writing anything equal to it."

Andrew Carnegie - Scottish-American businessman and major philanthropist
"I give money for church organs in the hope the organ music will distract the congregation's attention from the rest of the service."

"I don't believe in God. My god is patriotism. Teach a man to be a good citizen and you have solved the problem of life."

Annie Wood Besant - Theosophist, women's rights activist, writer and orator
"No philosophy, no religion, has ever brought so glad a message to the world as this good news of Atheism."

Christopher Marlowe - English dramatist and poet
"I count religion but a childish toy and hold there is no sin but innocence." - the character Machiavel, in The Jew of Malta, "Prologue." The lines are often modernized: "I count religion but a childish toy and hold there is no sin but ignorance."

Percy Bysshe Shelley - English poet thrown out of Oxford University for writing the essay, The Necessity of Atheism in 1810
"If God has spoken, why is the world not convinced."

Henry Stephens Salt - Founder of the Humanitarian League
"...when I say I shall die, as I have lived, rationalist, socialist, pacifist, and humanitarian, I must make my meaning clear. I wholly disbelieve in the present established religion; but I have a very firm religious faith of my own - a Creed of Kinship I call it - a belief that in years yet to come there will be a recognition of brotherhood between man and man, nation and nation, human and subhuman, which will transform a state of semi-savagery, as we have it, into one of civilization, when there will be no such barbarity of warfare, or the robbery of the poor by the rich, or the ill-usage of the lower animals by mankind." - [Henry Stephens Salt, Man of Letters.]

Pierre Curie - French chemist and physicist & Marie Curie - Polish-born French chemist and physicist (1867-1934).

Periyar - Indian social campaigner
"He who created the god was a fool; he who spreads his name is a scoundrel and he who worships him is a barbarian."

Diego Rivera - Mexican muralist painter & husband of the brilliant Frida Kahlo
"If there really is a Holy Virgin or anyone up in the air, tell them to send lightening to strike me down or let the stones of the vault fall on my head. If you are unable to do that Mr. Priest, you're nothing but a puppet taking money from stupid old women. You're no better than the clown in the circus coaxing coins from the public. If God doesn't stop me, then there must be no God. Get out of here! You see, there is no God! You're all stupid cows!"

Jawaharlal Nehru - Indian statesman
A self-professed atheist, he said of India, "No country or people who are slaves to dogma and dogmatic mentality can progress." [Key Ideas in Human Thought]

Sir Alfred Hitchcock - Film director and producer
Driving through a Swiss city one day, Hitchcock suddenly pointed out of the car window and said, "That is the most frightening sight I have ever seen." His companion was surprised to see nothing more alarming that a priest in conversation with a little boy, his hand on the child's shoulder. "Run, little boy," cried Hitchcock, leaning out of the car. "Run for your life!"

Katherine Hepburn - American actress
In an interview in the October 1991 Ladies' Home Journal that was advertised as her "most candid" ever, Hepburn said, "I'm an atheist, and that's it. I believe there's nothing we can know except that we should be kind to each other and do what we can for each other." p.215 (Hepburn on Internet Movie Database).

Quentin Crisp - English writer, actor and homosexual rights campaigner
"When I told the people of Northern Ireland that I was an atheist, a woman in the audience stood up and said, 'Yes, but is it the God of the Catholics or the God of the Protestants in whom you don't believe? "

William M. Gaines - American publisher of MAD Magazine
He was quite definitely an atheist, according to Frank Jacobs's biography, The MAD World of William M. Gaines. When emphasizing his sincerity, Gaines would declare, "On my honor as an atheist . . ." Also, when long-time contributor Dave Berg would greet him with "May God give you his blessing," Gaines would politely reply, "Dave, shut the hell up!"

Charles Schultz - American cartoonist
"The term that best describes me now is "secular humanist."

Madalyn Murray O'Hair - American atheist activist

Kurt Vonnegut - American author
"Say what you will about the sweet miracle of unquestioning faith, I consider a capacity for it terrifying and absolutely vile."

Helen Keller - American lecturer
"There is so much in the bible against which every insinct of my being rebels, so much so that I regret the necessity which has compelled me to read it through from beginning to end. I do not think that the knowledge I have gained of its history and sources compensates me for the unpleasant details it has forced upon my attention."

Funniest quote to finish:

Dr. James Watson - American biologist, (Discoverer of DNA.)
"I don't think we're here for anything, we're just products of evolution. You can say 'Gee, your life must be pretty bleak if you don't think there's a purpose' but I'm anticipating a good lunch."

*- Deists are included because of their rejection of organized religion. Deists are the most sensible, logical and sane of all theists- and therefore our natural allies in the realm of believers. (imo, anyway).