Food For Thought

A Collection of Heretical Notions and Wretched Adages
compiled by Jack Tourette

author index



[see also: INGENUITY]

No great genius has ever existed without some touch of madness.

Aristotle (384-322 BC)
Attributed by Seneca in "De Tranquillitate Animi"
Moral Essays
Section 17, subsec. 10

When a true genius appears in this world you may know him by the sign that the dunces are all in confederacy against him.

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745)
"Miscellanies", 1711
Thoughts on Various Subjects

Philosophy becomes poetry, and science imagination, in the enthusiasm of genius.

Isaac D'Israeli (1766-1848)
Literary Character of Men of Genius, 1818
Chapter 12

A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the lustre of the firmament of bards and sages. Yet he dismisses without notice his thought, because it is his. In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts: they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
Essays: First Series, 1841

To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men -- that is genius.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
Essays: First Series, 1841

Nothing is secure but life, transition, the energizing spirit.... People wish to be settled; only as far as they are unsettled is there any hope for them.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
Essays: First Series, 1841

Passion, though a bad regulator, is a powerful spring. Any absorbing passion has the effect to deliver from the little coils and cares of every day: 'tis the heat which sets our human atoms spinning, overcomes the friction of crossing thresholds, and first addresses in society, and gives us a good start and speed, easy to continue, when once it is begun.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
The Conduct of Life, 1860
Chapter VII "Considerations by the Way"

Teachers dread nothing so much as unusual characteristics in precocious boys during the initial stages of their adolescence. A certain streak of genius makes an ominous impression on them, for there exists a deep gulf between genius and the teaching profession. Anyone with a touch of genius seems to his teachers a freak from the very first. As far as teachers are concerned, they define young geniuses as those who are bad, disrespectful, smoke at fourteen, fall in love at fifteen, can be found at sixteen hanging out in bars, read forbidden books, write scandalous essays, occasionally stare down a teacher in class, are marked in the attendance book as rebels, and are budding candidates for room-arrest. A schoolmaster will prefer to have a couple of dumbheads in his class than a single genius, and if you regard it objectively, he is of course right. His task is not to produce extravagant intellects but good Latinists, arithmeticians and sober decent folk. The question of who suffers more acutely at the other's hands -- the teacher at the boy's, or vice versa -- who is more of a tyrant, more of a tormentor, and who profanes parts of the other's soul, student or teacher, is something you cannot examine without remembering your own youth in anger and shame. Yet that is not what concerns us here. We have the consolation that among true geniuses the wounds almost always heal. As their personalities develop, they create their art in spite of school. Once dead, and enveloped by the comfortable nimbus of remoteness, they are paraded by the schoolmasters before other generations of students as showpieces and noble examples. Thus the struggle between rule and spirit repeats itself year after year from school to school. The authorities go to infinite pains to nip the few profound or more valuable intellects in the bud. And time and again the ones who are detested by their teachers are frequently punished, the runaways and those expelled, are the ones who afterwards add to society's treasure. But some -- and who knows how many? -- waste away quiet obstinacy and finally go under.

Hermann Hesse (1877-1962)
Beneath the Wheel, 1906
Chapter 4
Translated by Michael Roloff, 1968

The burning of an author's books, imprisonment for an opinion's sake, has always been the tribute that an ignorant age pays to the genius of its time.

Joseph Lewis (1889-1968)
Voltaire: The Incomparable Infidel, 1929
Chapter 6


Boy, they were big on crematoriums, weren't they?

George Bush (b.1924)
During a tour of Auschwitz
28 September 1987


[see also: AMBITION]

Not every end is the goal. The end of a melody is not its goal, and yet if a melody has not reached its end, it has not reached its goal. A parable.

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)
The Wanderer and His Shadow, 1880
204. "End and goal"

The goals we pursue are always veiled. A girl who longs for marriage longs for something she knows nothing about. The boy who hankers after fame has no idea what fame is. The thing that gives our every move its meaning is always totally unknown to us.

Milan Kundera (b.1929)
The Unbearable Lightness of Being, 1984
Part 3 "Words Misunderstood", Chapter 10



If God lived on earth, people would break his windows.

Jewish Proverb
Cockburn Sums Up, 1981
epigraph by Claud Cockburn

If cattle and horses, or lions, had hands, or were able to draw with their feet and produce the works which men do, horses would draw the forms of gods like horses, and cattle like cattle, and they would make the gods' bodies the same shape as their own.

Xenophanes (c.570 - c.475 BC)
Fragment 15

...the Gods too love a joke.

Plato (c.428-348 BC)
Translated by Benjamin Jowett (1817-1893)

He was a wise man who invented God.

Plato (c.428-348 BC)

Di nos quasi pilas homines habent. (Ah yes, the gods use us mortals as footballs!)

Titus Maccius Plautus (254?-184 BC)
Captivi, Prologue, verse 22
Translated by Paul Nixon (1882-1956), 1916

It is expedient that there should be gods, and, since it is expedient, let us believe that gods exist.

Ovid (43 BC-AD 18)
Ars Amatoria, Book I, line 637

God will not suffer man to have the knowledge of things to come; for if he had prescience of his prosperity he would be careless; and understanding of his adversity he would be senseless.

Saint Augustine (340-430)

Is he [God] willing to prevent evil, but not able? then he is impotent. Is he able, but not willing? then is he malevolent. Is he both able and willing? whence then is evil?

Epicurus (341-271 BC)
Paraphrased by David Hume (1711-1776)
Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, 1779
Part X

You see, therefore, that we have greater need of wisdom on account of evils; and unless these things had been proposed to us, we should not be a rational animal. But if this account is true, which the Stoics were in no manner able to see, that argument also of Epicurus is done away.

God, he [Epicurus] says, either wishes to take away evils, and is unable; or He is able, and is unwilling; or He is neither willing nor able, or He is both willing and able. If He is willing and is unable, He is feeble, which is not in accordance with the character of God; if He is able and unwilling, He is envious, which is equally at variance with God; if He is neither willing nor able, He is both envious and feeble, and therefore not God; if He is both willing and able, which alone is suitable to God, from what source then are evils? or why does He not remove them?

Lactantius (AD 260-340)
"A Treatise on the Anger of God", Chapter 13
The Works of Lactantius, Volume 1
Translated by William Fletcher, 1871

If the work of God could be comprehended by reason, it would no longer be wonderful, and faith would have no merit if reason provided proof.

Pope Gregory I (c.1020-1085)
(St. Gregory the Great)
Homilies on the Gospels, c.590

Man is certainly crazy. He could not make a mite, and he makes gods by the dozen.

Montaigne (1533-1592)
"An Apology of Raimond Sebond"
Essays, Book II, 1580, Chapter 12

...generally he perceived in men of devout simplicity this opinion, that the secrets of nature were the secrets of God; and part of that glory where into the mind of man, if it seek to press, shall be oppressed; and that the desire in men to attain to so great and hidden knowledge, hath a resemblance with that temptation which caused the original fall.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626)
"Filum Labyrinthi Sive Formula Inquisitionis", 1606

All are but parts of one stupendous whole,
Whose body Nature is, and God the soul.

Alexander Pope (1688-1744)
An Essay on Man, 1733-1734
Epistle I, Line 267

Know then thyself, presume not God to scan;
The proper study of mankind is man.

Alexander Pope (1688-1744)
An Essay on Man, 1733-1734
Epistle II, Line 1

If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him.

Voltaire (1694-1778)
Epitre `a M. Saurin
10 November 1770

God is a comic playing to an audience that's afraid to laugh

Voltaire (1694-1778)

Let none turn over books, or roam the stars in quest of God, who sees him not in man.

Johann Kaspar Lavater (1741-1801)
Aphorisms on Man, 1788
Aphorism 398

4. Religion. Your reason is now mature enough to examine this object. In the first place, divest yourself of all bias in favor of novelty and singularity of opinion. Indulge them in any other subject rather than that of religion. It is too important, and the consequences of error may be too serious. On the other hand, shake off all the fears and servile prejudices, under which weak minds are servilely crouched. Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)
Letter to Peter Carr (b.c.1764)
10 August 1787
Memoirs, Correspondence, and Private Papers of Thomas Jefferson, 1829
Volume II
Edited by Thomas Jefferson Randolph (1792-1875)

We do, then, with all earnestness, though without reproaching our brethren, protest against the irrational and unscriptural doctrine of the Trinity. "To us," as to the Apostle and the primitive Christians, "there is one God, even the Father." With Jesus, we worship the Father, as the only living and true God. We are astonished, that any man can read the New Testament, and avoid the conviction, that the Father alone is God.

William Ellery Channing (1780-1842)
Unitarian Christianity
Baltimore, 1819

The god of the cannibals will be a cannibal, of the crusaders a crusader, and of the merchants a merchant.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
Essays and English Traits, 1909-1914
Essay XVII "Worship", 1860

I would rather believe that God did not exist than believe that He was indifferent.

George Sand (1804-1876)
Impressions et Souvenirs, 1896

I will call no being good, who is not what I mean when I apply that epithet to my fellow creatures; and if such a being can sentence me to hell for not so calling him, to hell I will go.

John Stuart Mill (1806-1873)
Examination of Sir William Hamilton's Philosophy, 1865
Chapter 7

They say that God is everywhere, and yet we always think of Him as somewhat of a recluse.

Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)
Letter to Dr. and Mrs. J,G, Holland
Spring 1878
Letters of Emily Dickinson, 1951
Edited by Mabel Loomis Todd

Ladies and Gentlemen: An honest god is the noblest work of man. 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 was invariably found on the side of those in power. Each god was intensely patriotic, and detested all nations but his own. All these Gods demanded praise, flattery, and worship. Most of them were pleased with sacrifice, and the smell of innocent blood has ever been considered a divine perfume. All these gods have insisted upon having a vast number of priests, and the priests have always insisted upon being supported by the people, and the principal business of these priests has been to boast about their God, and to insist that he could easily vanquish all the other gods put together.

These gods have been manufactured after numberless models, and according to the most grotesque fashions. Some have a thousand arms, some a hundred heads, some are adorned with necklaces of living snakes, some are armed with clubs, some with sword and shield, some with bucklers, and some with wings as a cherub; some were invisible, some would show themselves entire, and some would only show their backs; some were jealous, some were foolish, some turned themselves into men, some into swans, some into bulls, some into doves, and some into holy ghosts, and made love to the beautiful daughters of men. Some were married -- all ought to have been -- and some were considered as old bachelors from all eternity. Some had children, and the children were turned into gods and worshiped as their fathers had been. Most of these gods were revengeful, savage, lustful, and ignorant; as they generally depended upon their priests for information, their ignorance can hardly excite our astonishment.

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899)
"The Gods"
The Gods and Other Lectures, 1872

God and man are powerless without one another.

Samuel Butler (1835-1902)
Notebooks, 1912

What is it: is man only a blunder of God, or God only a blunder of man?

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)
"Things the Germans Lack", 2
The Twilight of the Idols, 1889

The genius of the heart, as it is possessed by that great hidden one, the tempter god and born pied piper of consciences, whose voice knows how to descend into the underworld of every soul, whose every word and every glance conveys both consideration and a wrinkle of temptation, whose mastery includes an understanding of how to seem -- not like what he is but rather like one more compulsion for his followers to keep pressing closer to him, to keep following him more inwardly and thoroughly: -- the genius of the heart, that makes everything loud and complacent fall silent and learn to listen, that smoothes out rough souls and gives them the taste of a new desire, -- to lie still, like a mirror that the deep sky can mirror itself upon --; the genius of the heart, that teaches the foolish and over-hasty hand to hesitate and reach out more delicately; that guesses the hidden and forgotten treasure, the drop of goodness and sweet spirituality under thick, dull ice, and is a divining rod for every speck of gold that has long been buried in a prison of mud and sand; the genius of the heart, that enriches everyone who has come into contact with it, not making them blessed or surprised, or leaving them feeling as if they have been gladdened or saddened by external goods; rather, they are made richer in themselves, newer than before, broken open, blown on, and sounded out by a thawing wind, perhaps less certain, more gentle, fragile, and broken, but full of hopes that do not have names yet, full of new wills and currents, full of new indignations and countercurrents...but what am I doing, my friends? Who am I talking about? Have I forgotten myself so much that I haven't even told you his name? Unless you have already guessed on your own who this questionable spirit and god is, who wants to be praised in this way?

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)
Beyond Good and Evil: Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future, 1886
Part 9 "What is Noble?"
Edited by Rolf-Peter Horstmann, 2002
Translated by Judith Norman

I cannot believe in a God who wants to be praised all the time.

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)
Paraphrase of above?
See caveat

The Devil would be the best way out as an excuse for God; in that way he would be playing the same part as an agent of economic discharge as the Jew does in the world of the Aryan ideal. But even so, one can hold God responsible for the existence of the Devil just as well as for the existence of the wickedness which the Devil embodies.

Sigmund Freud (1856-1939)
Civilization and Its Discontents, 1930
Chapter VI

To me the sole hope of human salvation lies in teaching Man to regard himself as an experiment in the realization of God, to regard his hands as God's hand, his brain as God's brain, his purpose as God's purpose. He must regard God as a helpless Longing, which longed him into existence by its desperate need for an executive organ.

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)
Letter to Lady Gregory
19 August 1909
Collected Letters
1972, Volume 2

Why should humor and laughter be excommunicated? Suppose the world were only one of God's jokes, would you work any the less to make it a good joke instead of a bad one?

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)
Letter to Count Leo Tolstoy
14 February 1910

The universe is a machine for creating gods.

Henri Bergson (1859-1941)
The Two Sources of Morality and Religion, 1932

Whoever it was that searched the heavens with his telescope and could find no God, would not have found the human mind if he had searched the brain with a microscope.

George Santayana (1863-1952)
Little Essays, 1920

Those who believe that they believe in God, but without passion in their hearts, without anguish in mind, without uncertainty, without doubt, without an element of despair even in their consolation, believe only in the God-Idea, not in God Himself.

Miguel de Unamuno (1864-1936)
The Tragic Sense of Life in Men and in Peoples, 1921
Chapter IX "Faith,Hope, and Charity"
Translated by J.E. Crawford

I don't know if God exists, but it would be better for His reputation if He didn't.

Jules Renard (1864-1910)

The world is not a 'prison house,' but a kind of spiritual kindergarten where millions of bewildered infants are trying to spell 'God' with the wrong blocks.

Edwin Arlington Robinson (1869-1935)
Selected Poems, 1997

To listen to some devout people, one would imagine that God never laughs.

Ghose Aurobindo (1872-1950)
Thoughts and Aphorisms, 1958

Men tend to have the beliefs that suit their passions. Cruel men believe in a cruel God, and use their belief to excuse their cruelty. Only kindly men believe in a kindly God, and they would be kindly in any case.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1967)
"The Faith of a Rationalist", 1947
Last Philosophical Testament 1943-1968, 1997
Edited by John G. Slater

God is the tangential point between zero and infinity.

Alfred Jarry (1873-1907)
Gestes et Opinions du Docteur Faustroll Pataphysicien, 1911
Book 8, Chapter 41
The Selected Works of Alfred Jarry
Edited by Roger Shattuck and
Simon Watson Taylor, 1965

Man is a dog's ideal of what God should be.

Holbrook Jackson (1874-1948)
Chapter 6 "Inhumanities", IV
Platitudes in the Making: precepts and advices for gentlefolk, 1997

All ages before us have believed in gods in some form or other. Only an unparalleled impoverishment of symbolism could enable us to rediscover the gods as psychic factors, that is, as archetypes of the unconscious. No doubt this discovery is hardly credible at present.

Carl Gustave Jung (1875-1961)
"The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious"
The Integration of the Personality, 1939

That you need God more than anything, you know at all times in your heart. But don't you know also that God needs you -- in the fullness of his eternity, you? How would man exist if God did not need him, and how would you exist? You need God in order to be, and God needs you -- for that which is the meaning of your life.

Martin Buber (1878-1965)
I and Thou, 1923
"Third Part"

Raffiniert ist der Herrgott, aber boshaft ist er nicht.
(God is subtle but he is not malicious.)

Albert Einstein (1879-1955)
Remark made at Princeton University, c. 09 May 1921
Quoted in Einstein, 1973
Chapter 14
by R.W. Clark

A man's ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties and needs; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death.

Albert Einstein (1879-1955)
"Religion and Science"
New York Times Magazine
09 November 1930

The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. He who knows it not and can no longer wonder, no longer feel amazement, is as good as dead, a snuffed-out candle. It was the experience of mystery -- even if mixed with fear -- that engendered religion. A knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate, of the manifestations of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty, which are only accessible to our reason in their most elementary forms -- it is this knowledge and this emotion that constitute the truly religious attitude; in this sense, and in this alone, I am a deeply religious man. I cannot conceive of a God who rewards and punishes his creatures, or has a will of the type of which we are conscious in ourselves. An individual who should survive his physical death is also beyond my comprehension, nor do I wish it otherwise; such notions are for the fears or absurd egoism of feeble souls. Enough for me the mystery of the eternity of life, and the inkling of the marvellous structure of reality, together with the single-hearted endeavour to comprehend a portion, be it never so tiny, of the reason that manifests itself in nature.

Albert Einstein (1879-1955)
"The World As I See It"
Forum and Century
Volume 84, pp.193-194
thirteenth in the Forum series, Living Philosophies

I cannot conceive of a personal God who would directly influence the actions of individuals, or would directly sit in judgment on creatures of his own creation. I cannot do this in spite of the fact that mechanistic causality has, to a certain extent, been placed in doubt by modern science.

My religiosity consists in a humble admiration of the infinitely superior spirit that reveals itself in the little that we, with our weak and transitory understanding, can comprehend of reality. Morality is of the highest importance -- but for us, not for God.

Albert Einstein (1879-1955)
Response to letter received 05 August 1927

Nobody, certainly, will deny that the idea of the existence of an omnipotent, just, and omnibeneficent personal God is able to accord man solace, help, and guidance; also, by virtue of its simplicity it is accessible to the most undeveloped mind. But, on the other hand, there are decisive weaknesses attached to this idea in itself, which have been painfully felt since the beginning of history. That is, if this being is omnipotent, then every occurrence, including every human action, every human thought, and every human feeling and aspiration is also His work; how is it possible to think of holding men responsible for their deeds and thoughts before such an almighty Being? In giving out punishment and rewards He would to a certain extent be passing judgment on Himself. How can this be combined with the goodness and righteousness ascribed to Him?

Albert Einstein (1879-1955)
Science, Philosophy, and Religion: A Symposium
Jewish Theological Institute, New York, September 1940
Conference on Science, Philosophy and Religion in Their
Relation to the Democratic Way of Life
, 1941

I cannot bring myself to believe that the Divine Intelligence which fashioned the world is, after all, less intelligent than certain men, and even women, that I know. And when I essay to analyze the intelligence of these men and women the one fact about it that it is the antithesis of credulity, of naivete, of stupidity, of the inability to distinguish a thing from its appearance, the Ding an sich from the merely human, and hence fallible, perception of it -- in brief, what I discover is that intelligence, as we know it, touches humor at a hundred places -- that, in many of its phases, it and humor are wholly indistinguishable. An intelligent man is simply one who cannot be fooled. He is seldom laughed at; he does all the laughing himself, even when he himself is the victim. A merely learned man, a vast schwartenmagen of knowledge, may be a very solemn man. But a truly intelligent man is always light-hearted. He looks at the world, and sees that it is a harmless fraud. He cannot bring himself to hate it and he cannot bring himself to weep over it.

Is it reasonable to suppose that the Creator lacks this sort of intelligence, that he has none of that fine sensitiveness to remote relationships and concealed implications which lies at the bottom of the sense of humor? I think not. And thinking not, I find that many of the eternal mysteries at once become intelligible, if not actually explicable. Why, for example, are the secret ambitions of all of us so often set at naught by fate? Why am I cursed with beauty, which is a useless expense to me, and deprived of opulence, which I would enjoy enormously? The orthodox explanation is that this is my share of the all-pervading sorrow, that thus I keep in tune with the sad, sad music of the spheres. But the explanation I favor myself is that, somewhere or other, in some high and merry heaven, there is an angel who diverts himself by chuckling over my puerile agonies, just as I myself, on my lower, lowlier plane, get a subtle joy out of the furious leapings and sweatings of a cockroach pursued by my bludgeon, of a vice crusader trying to repeal and re-enact with amendments the way of a man with a maid, of a bishop bursting with the notion that he is a gentleman of God.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956)
Written as William Fink
"Thoughts on Mortality"
The Smart Set: A Magazine of Cleverness, November 1914

Imagine the Creator as a low comedian, and at once the world becomes explicable.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956)
Paraphrase of previous quotation?

Thank you for your definition of God as 'the energy spirit that connects us all.' That is an unusual and interesting definition. I accept it with a slight change. Omit 'us,' making it 'the energy that connects all.' I suggest this because your definition as it stands seems to refer to human beings only. Taking out 'us' makes it easier to include animals, flowers, rocks, trees, and other aspects of the All. Using that as the definition, yes, I believe in the universe as it is, in all its aspects. I also believe that the universe changes a bit each hour and each day, so there is an everchanging All. This makes possible an even shorter definition of the word 'God': 'All That Is.' This wording makes God and Being mean essentially the same thing.

Scott Nearing (1883-1983)
Loving and Leaving the Good Life
by Helen Nearing (1904-1995)

Nobody talks so constantly about God as those who insist that there is no God.

Heywood Hale Broun (1888-1939)
"A New Preface to an Old Story", 1916
Collected Edition, 1941

Who says I am not under the special protection of God?

Adolf Hitler (1889-1945)
Quoted in Triumph and Tragedy: The Second World War
Volume VI, 1953
by Winston Churchill (1874–1965)

There is no God.
But it does not matter.
Man is enough.

Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950)
Conversation at Midnight, 1937

Here is God's purpose --
For God, to me, it seems,
is a verb
not a noun,
proper or improper;
is the articulation
not the art, objective or subjective;
is loving,
not the abstraction "love" commanded or entreated;
is knowledge dynamic,
not legislative code,
not proclamation law,
not academic dogma, not ecclesiastic canon.
Yes, God is a verb,
the most active,
connoting the vast harmonic
reordering of the universe
from unleashed chaos of energy.

R. Buckminster Fuller (1895-1983)
Untitled poem
No More Secondhand God, 1963

To place one in the position of God is painful: being God is equivalent to being tortured. For being God means that one is in harmony with all that is, including the worst. The existence of the worst evils is unimaginable unless God willed them.

Georges Bataille (1897-1962)
"Bataille, Feydeau and God"
Interview with Marguerite Duras
France-Observateur, 1957

Because, you see, God -- whatever anyone chooses to call God -- is one's highest conception of the highest possible. And whoever places his highest conception above his own possibility thinks very little of himself and his life. It's a rare gift, you know, to feel reverence for your own life and to want the best, the greatest, the highest possible, here, now, for your very own. To imagine a heaven and then not to dream of it, but to demand it.

Ayn Rand (1905-1982)
We the Living, 1958
Part One, Chapter IX

I prefer to think of God as away on a bat. Not dead, just drunk.

John Marcellus Huston (1906-1987)
Interview by Todd McCarthy, 1984
John Huston: Interviews, 2001
Edited by Robert Emmet Long

Men rarely (if ever) manage to dream up a god superior to themselves. Most gods have the manners and morals of a spoiled child.

Robert Anson Heinlein (1907-1988)
Time Enough for Love, 1973
Intermission "Excerpts from the Notebooks of Lazarus Long"

It is the final proof of God's omnipotence that he need not exist in order to save us.

Peter De Vries (1910-1993)
The Mackerel Plaza, 1958
Chapter 1

It may be that our role on this planet is not to worship God -- but to create him.

Arthur C. Clarke (1917-2008)
"The Mind of the Machine"
Playboy, December 1968

It is difficult to imagine that the belief in a single jealous male god of uncertain temper represents a "higher" spiritual state than the belief in many gods, male and female alike, each an embodiment of some aspect of human life as it can be empirically known and experienced.

Vincent Joseph Scully (b.1920)

I...reject the argument put forth by many fundamentalists that science has nothing to do with religion because God is not among the things making up the universe in which we live. Surely if a necessity for a god-concept in the universe ever turns up, that necessity will become evident to the scientist.

Ralph Asher Alpher (b.1921)
"Theology of the Big Bang,"
Religious Humanism
Volume XVII, Number 1
Winter 1983), page 12

An idea is an eye given by God for the seeing of God. Some of these eyes we cannot bear to look out of, we blind them as quickly as possible.

Russell Hoban (b.1925)
Pilgermann, 1936

No creo en Dios, pero le tengo miedo.
(I do not believe in God, but I am afraid of Him.)

Gabriel Garcia Marquez (b.1928)
El Amor en los Tiempos de Colera, 1985

The very beginning of Genesis tells us that God created man in order to give him dominion over fish and fowl and all creatures. Of course, Genesis was written by a man, not a horse. There is no certainty that God actually did grant man dominion over other creatures. What seems more likely, in fact, is that man invented God to sanctify the dominion that he had usurped for himself over the cow and the horse. Yes, the right to kill a deer or a cow is the only thing all of mankind can agree upon, even during the bloodiest of wars.

Milan Kundera (b.1929)
The Unbearable Lightness of Being, 1984
Part 7 "Karenin's Smile", Chapter 2

I heard a Baghdad resident, on the news, say that, "Our God will help us win the war."

The only failing of that attestation is that I, a United States resident, say, "Our God will help us win the war, and my God is bigger than yours."

E. Michael Gutman (b.1935)
Letter to the editor
The Orlando Sentinel
20 March 2003

When we talk to God, we're praying. When God talks to us, we're schizophrenic.

Lily Tomlin (b.1939)
"The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe"
written with Jane Wagner, 1985

It says he made us all to be just like him. So if we're dumb, then god is dumb, and maybe even a little ugly on the side.

Frank Zappa (1940-1993)
"Dumb All Over"
You Are What You Is, 1981

It is an insult to God to believe in God. For on the one hand it is to suppose that he has perpetrated acts of incalculable cruelty. On the other hand, it is to suppose that he has perversely given his human creatures an instrument - their intellect - which must inevitably lead them, if they are dispassionate and honest, to deny his existence. It is tempting to conclude that if he exists, it is the atheists and agnostics that he loves best, among those with any pretensions to education. For they are the ones who have taken him most seriously.

Galen Strawson (b.1952)
Independent, London
24 June 1990

Deus est sphaera infinita, cujus centrum est ubique, circumferentia nusquam.
(God is an intelligible sphere, whose center is everywhere and circumference nowhere.)

Liber XXIV Philosophorum
(The Book of the Twenty-Four Philosophers,
a 12th Century handbook by and for alchemists)
Proposition II, translated by Joseph Campbell

The idea of an Incarnation of God is absurd; why should the human race think itself so superior to bees, ants and elephants as to be put in this unique relation to its maker?

Unsigned article in The Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1910
Eleventh Edition, Volume 5
Edited by Hugh Chisholm (1866-1924)


[see also: LAW]

Treat not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.

Buddha (c.563-c.483 BC)
Udanavarga, 5.18

Tsze-kung asked, saying, "Is there one word which may serve as a rule of practice for all one's life?" The Master said, "Is not Reciprocity such a word? What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others."

Confucius (551-479 BC)
Analects, 15.23
From The Life and Teachings of Confucius, 1867
By James Legge (1815-1897)

What you do not want others to do to you, do not do to others.

Confucius (c.551-c.479 BC)
The Doctrine of the Mean
XIII, c.500 BC

Sze-Kung asked, saying, "Is there one word which may serve as a rule of practice for all one's life?" The Master said, "Is not Reciprocity such a word? What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others."

Confucius (551-479 BC)
Who Said What When, 1991

We should behave to our friends as we would wish our friends to behave to us.

Aristotle (384-322 BC)
Lives of Eminent Philosophers
Book V, section 21
by Diogenes Laertius (fl. 2nd century)

One should never do that to another which one regards as injurious to one's own self.

Mahabharata, c.4th century CE
Section CXIII, Verse 8
Translated by Kisari Mohan Ganguli (1842–1895), 1883-1896

What is hateful to you do not do to your neighbor. That is the whole Torah. The rest is commentary.

Hillel (fl. 30 BC - AD 10)
Talmud (compiled c.6th century AD)

For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. // For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.

Bible, Galatians 5:13-14

So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

Bible, Matthew 7:12

Love your neighbor as yourself.

Bible, Matthew 22:39

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.

Bible, John 13:34

What wisdom can you find that is greater than kindness?

Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778)
Emile; or, On Education, 1762
Book II

Lay not on any soul a load that you would not wish to be laid upon you, and desire not for any one the things you would not desire for yourself.

Baha'u'llah (1817-1892)
Gleanings From the Writings of Baha'u'llah, 1994
Translated by Shoghi Effendi

Curiosity regarding the meaning of life is man's nature. Whether the questions are asked via scientific, religious, or nihilistic pursuits, however, the answer remains the same: Do no harm to others.

Ellis Praecox (b.1943)



People are difficult to govern because they have too much knowledge.

Lao-tzu (c.604-c.531 BC)
The Way of Lao-tzu, 65

But when he [the people's champion] has disposed of foreign enemies by conquest or treaty, and there is nothing to fear from them, then he is always stirring up some war or other, in order that the people may require a leader.


The people always have some champion whom they set over them and nurse into greatness.... This and no other is the root from which tyranny springs; when he first appears above ground he is a protector.

Plato (c.428-348 BC)
Republic, Book VIII

The punishment which the wise suffer who refuse to take part in the government, is to live under the government of worse men.

Plato (c.428-348 BC)
Society and Solitude, 1870
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)

Whoever in discussion adduces authority uses not intellect but rather memory.

Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519)
The Notebooks, 1508-1518
Volume I, Chapter 2

Scitum est inter caecos luscum regnare posse.
(It is well known, that among the blind the one-eyed man is king.)

Desiderius Erasmus (c.1466-1536)
Adagia, 1500

Many have imagined republics and principalities which have never been seen or known to exist in reality; for how we live is so far removed from how we ought to live, that he who abandons what is done for what ought to be done, will rather bring about his own ruin than his preservation.

Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527)
The Prince, 1532
Chapter 15

In truth, there never was any remarkable lawgiver amongst any people who did not resort to divine authority, as otherwise his laws would not have been accepted by the people; for there are many good laws, the importance of which is known to be the sagacious lawgiver, but the reasons for which are not sufficiently evident to enable him to persuade others to submit to them; and therefore do wise men, for the purpose of removing this difficulty, resort to divine authority.

Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527)
Discourses on the First Ten Books of Titus Livius
Book I, Chapter XI "Of the Religions of the Romans"

And who can doubt that it will lead to the worst disorders when minds created free by God are compelled to submit slavishly to an outside will? When we are told to deny our senses and subject them to the whim of others? When people devoid of whatsoever competence are made judges over experts and are granted authority to treat them as they please? These are the novelties which are apt to bring about the ruin of commonwealths and the subversion of the state.

Galileo Galilei (1564-1642)
Marginal note in Dialogo dei due massimi sistemi del mondo, 1632
Translated as Dialogue on the Great World Systems, 1953
Quoted in The World of Mathematics, 1956, p.733
Edited by J.R. Newman

He whose honor depends on the opinion of the mob must day by day strive with the greatest anxiety, act and scheme in order to retain his reputation. For the mob is varied and inconsistent, and therefore if a reputation is not carefully preserved it dies quickly.

Benedict Spinoza (1632-1677)
Ethics, 1677
Part IV, proposition 58: note

Governments must be conformable to the nature of the governed; governments are even a result of that nature.

Giambattista Vico (1668-1744)
Scienza Nuova, 1725

In general, the art of government consists in taking as much money as possible from one class of citizens to give to the other.

Voltaire (1694-1778)
Dictionnaire Philosophique, 1764

It is dangerous to be right in matters on which the established authorities are wrong.

Voltaire (1694-1778)

Government is not reason, it is not eloquence - it is force! Like fire is a dangerous servant and a fearful master; never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action.

George Washington (1732-1799)
Authenticity doubtful - origin unknown
See caveat

The liberties of a people never were nor ever will be secure, when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them.

Patrick Henry (1736-1799)
Speech at Virginia Constitutional Convention
09 June 1788

Society in every state is a blessing, but Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state, an intolerable one.

Thomas Paine (1737-1809)
Common Sense, 1776
Chapter 1 "Of the origin and design of government in general,
with concise remarks on the English Constitution"

It has been the scheme of the Christian Church, and of all the other invented systems of religion, to hold man in ignorance of the Creator, as it is of Government to hold man in ignorance of his rights. The systems of the one are as false as those of the other, and are calculated for mutual support.

Thomas Paine (1737-1809)
Age of Reason, 1794
Part II

The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)
Letter to Edward Carrington
Paris, 27 May 1788

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence the act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between church and state.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)
To the Danbury (Connecticut) Baptist Association, 1802

When a man assumes a public trust, he should consider himself as public property.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)
Remark to Baron von Humboldt, 1807
Sketches of the Life, Writings, and Opinions of Thomas Jefferson, 1832
Chapter 32, by B.L. Rayner

I think, myself, that we have more machinery of government than is necessary, too many parasites living on the labor of the industrious.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)
Letter to William Ludlow
06 September 1824

What government is the best? That which teaches us to govern ourselves.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)
Spruche in Posa, Part III, 1819

Public opinion sets bounds to every government, and is the real sovereign in every free one.

James Madison (1751-1836)
19 December 1791
The Papers of James Madison, 1977
Volume 14
Edited by William T. Hutchinson et al.

A popular Government, without popular information or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.

James Madison (1751-1836)
Letter to W.T. Barry, 04 August 1822
The Writings of James Madison, 1900-1910
Volume 9
Edited by Gaillard Hunt

I must admit moreover that it may not be easy, in every possible case, to trace the line of separation between the rights of religion and the Civil authority with such distinctness as to avoid collisions and doubts on unessential points. The tendency to a usurpation on one side or the other or to a corrupting coalition or alliance between them will be best guarded against by entire abstinence of the government from interference in any way whatever, beyond the necessity of preserving public order and protecting each sect against trespasses on its legal rights by others.

James Madison (1751-1836)
Letter Rev. Jasper Adams, September 1833

Why has government been instituted at all? Because the passions of man will not conform to the dictates of reason and justice, without constraint.

Alexander Hamilton (1755-1804)
The Federalist, 1787-1788
Number 15

In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; in in the next place oblige it to control itself.

James Madison (1751-1836)
The Federalist Papers, Number 51

There are no necessary evils in government. Its evils exist only in its abuses. If it would confine itself to equal protection, and, as heaven does its rains, shower its favors alike on the high and the low, the rich and the poor, it would be an unqualified blessing.

Andrew Jackson (1767-1845)
Veto of the Bank Bill
10 July 1832

I believe and I say it is true Democratic feeling, that all the measures of the Government are directed to the purpose of making the rich richer and the poor poorer.

William Henry Harrison (1773-1841)
Speech, 01 October 1840

A state too extensive in itself, or by virtue of its dependencies, ultimately falls into decay; its free government is transformed into a tyranny; it disregards the principles which it should preserve, and finally degenerates into despotism. The distinguishing characteristics of small republics is stability: the character of large republics is mutability.

Simon Bolivar (1783-1830)
Letter from Jamaica, Summer 1815

On ne gouverne les hommes qu'en les servant; la règle est sans exception.
(You can only govern men by serving them. The rule is without exception.)

Victor Cousin (1792-1867)
Discours Politiques, 1851
Introduction, Part III

The less government we have, the better -- the fewer laws, and the less confided power.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
Essays: Second Series, 1844

No government can long be secure without a formidable Opposition. It reduces their supporters to that tractable number which can be managed by the joint influences of fruition and hope. It offers vengeance to the discontented, and distinction to the ambitious; and employs the energies of aspiring spirits, who otherwise may prove traitors in a division or assassins in a debate.

Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881)
Coningsby, Book II, 1844
Chapter 1

Colonies do not cease to be colonies because they are independent.

Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881)
Hansard, 05 February 1863

I think, then, that the species of oppression by which democratic nations are menaced is unlike anything that ever before existed in the world; our contemporaries will find no prototype of it in their memories. I seek in vain for an expression that will accurately convey the whole of the idea I have formed of it; the old words despotism and tyranny are inappropriate: the thing itself is new, and since I cannot name, I must attempt to define it.

I seek to trace the novel features under which despotism may appear in the world. The first thing that strikes the observation is an innumerable multitude of men, all equal and alike, incessantly endeavoring to procure the petty and paltry pleasures with which they glut their lives. Each of them, living apart, is as a stranger to the fate of all the rest; his children and his private friends constitute to him the whole of mankind. As for the rest of his fellow citizens, he is close to them, but he does not see them; he touches them, but he does not feel them; he exists only in himself and for himself alone; and if his kindred still remain to him, he may be said at any rate to have lost his country.

Above this race of men stands an immense and tutelary power, which takes upon itself alone to secure their gratifications and to watch over their fate. That power is absolute, minute, regular, provident, and mild. It would be like the authority of a parent if, like that authority, its object was to prepare men for manhood; but it seeks, on the contrary, to keep them in perpetual childhood: it is well content that the people should rejoice, provided they think of nothing but rejoicing. For their happiness such a government willingly labors, but it chooses to be the sole agent and the only arbiter of that happiness; it provides for their security, foresees and supplies their necessities, facilitates their pleasures, manages their principal concerns, directs their industry, regulates the descent of property, and subdivides their inheritances: what remains, but to spare them all the care of thinking and all the trouble of living?

Thus it every day renders the exercise of the free agency of man less useful and less frequent; it circumscribes the will within a narrower range and gradually robs a man of all the uses of himself. The principle of equality has prepared men for these things; it has predisposed men to endure them and often to look on them as benefits.

Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859)
Democracy in America, 1835-1839
Volume II, Section 4: "Influence of Democratic Ideas and Feelings on Political Society"
Chapter VI "What Sort of Despotism Democratic Nations Have to Fear"

The State is the organized authority, domination, and power of the possessing classes over the masses...the most flagrant, the most cynical, and the most complete negation of humanity. It shatters the universal solidarity of all men on the earth, and brings some of them into association only for the purpose of destroying, conquering, and enslaving all the rest.... This flagrant negation of humanity which constitutes the very essence of the State is, from the standpoint of the State, its supreme duty and its greatest virtue.... Thus, to offend, to oppress, to despoil, to plunder, to assassinate or enslave one's fellow man is ordinarily regarded as a crime. In public life, on the other hand, from the standpoint of patriotism, when these things are done for the greater glory of the State, for the preservation or the extension of its power, it is all transformed into duty and virtue.... This explains why the entire history of ancient and modern states is merely a series of revolting crimes; why kings and ministers, past and present, of all times and all countries -- statesmen, diplomats, bureaucrats, and warriors -- if judged from the standpoint of simply morality and human justice, have a hundred, a thousand times over earned their sentence to hard labor or to the gallows. There is no horror, no cruelty, sacrilege, or perjury, no imposture, no infamous transaction, no cynical robbery, no bold plunder or shabby betrayal that has not been or is not daily being perpetrated by the representatives of the states, under no other pretext than those elastic words, so convenient and yet so terrible: "for reasons of state."

Mikhail Bakunin (1814-1876)
"Federalism, Socialism, Anti-Theologism", 1867
Quoted in For Reasons of State, 1973
by Noam Chomsky (b.1928)

A Russian should rejoice if Poland, the Baltic Provinces, Finland, Armenia, should be separated, freed from Russia; so with an Englishman in regard to Ireland, India and other possessions; and each should help to do this, because the greater the state, the more wrong and cruel is its patriotism, and the greater is the sum of suffering upon which its power is founded. Therefore, if we really wish to be what we profess to be, we must not only cease our present desire for the growth of the state, but we must desire its decrease, its weakening, and help this forward with all our might.

Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910)
Writings on Civil Disobedience and Nonviolence, 1967

Monarchies, aristocracies, and religions are all based upon that large defect in your race -- the individual's distrust of his neighbor, and his desire, for safety's or comfort's sake, to stand well in his neighbor's eye. These institutions will always remain, and always flourish, and always oppress you, affront you, and degrade you, because you will always be and remain slaves of minorities. There was never a country where the majority of people were in their secret hearts loyal to any of these institutions.

Mark Twain (1835-1910)
The Mysterious Stranger, 1916
Chapter IX

...But it was impossible to save the Great Republic. She was rotten to the heart. Lust of conquest had long ago done its work; trampling upon the helpless abroad had taught her, by a natural process, to endure with apathy the like at home; multitudes who had applauded the crushing of other people's liberties, lived to suffer for their mistake in their own persons. The government was irrevocably in the hands of the prodigiously rich and their hangers-on; the suffrage was become a mere machine, which they used as they chose. There was no principle but commercialism, no patriotism but of the pocket. From showily and sumptuously entertaining neighboring titled aristocracies, and from trading their daughters to them, the plutocrats came in the course of time to hunger for titles and heredities themselves. The drift toward monarchy, in some form or other, began; it was spoken of in whispers at first, later in a bolder voice.

Mark Twain (1835-1910)
"Papers of the Adam Family"
Letters From the Earth, 1962
Edited by Bernardo DeVoto

My reading of history convinces me that most bad government has grown out of too much government.

John Sharp Williams (1854-1932)
Thomas Jefferson: His Permanent Influence on
American Institutions
, 1913
Chapter II "Jefferson the Revolutionist"
Part 1 "In America"
From a lecture at Columbia University, 1912

The art of government is the organization of idolatry. The bureaucracy consists of functionaries; the aristocracy, of idols; the democracy, of idolators. The populace cannot understand the bureaucracy: it can only worship the national idols.

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)
"Maxims for Revolutionists: Idolatry"
Man and Superman, 1903

One should as a rule respect public opinion in so far as is necessary to avoid starvation and to keep out of prison, but anything that goes beyond this is voluntary submission to an unnecessary tyranny.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970)
The Conquest of Happiness, 1930
Chapter 9

Dictators ride to and fro upon tigers which they dare not dismount. And the tigers are getting hungry.

Winston Churchill (1874-1965)
While England Slept, 1936

In a country where the sole employer is the state, this means death by slow starvation. The old principle: who does not work shall not eat, has been replaced with a new one: who does not obey shall not eat.

Leon Trotsky (1879-1940)
Revolution Betrayed, 1936
Chapter 11 "Whither the Soviet Union?"
Section 2 "The struggle of the bureaucracy with 'the class enemy'"

...if we do not halt this steady process of building commissions and regulatory bodies and special legislation like huge inverted pyramids over every one of the simple Constitutional provisions, we shall soon be spending many billions of dollars more.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882-1945)
Address as Governor of New York, 02 March 1930
Public Papers and Addresses, Volume I, 1938

In order to become the master, the politician offers himself as servant.

Charles De Gaulle (1890-1970)
Felled Oaks: Conversation with De Gaulle, 1972
by André Malraux and Charles de Gaulle

The best political weapon is the weapon of terror. Cruelty commands respect. Men may hate us. But, we don't ask for their love; only for their fear.

Heinrich Himmler (1900-1945)

Let your voice be heard, whether or not it is to the taste of every jack-in-office who may be obstructing the traffic. By all means, render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's -- but this does not necessarily include everything that he says is his.

Denis Johnston (1901-1984)
The Brazen Horn, 1976

Parliaments and congresses, it will be observed, do not try to conduct much of their serious discussion on the floor. Speeches are made principally for the constituents back home and not for the other legislators. The main work of government is done in the committee room, where the traditional atmosphere of debate is absent. Freed from the necessity of standing resolutely on "affirmative" and "negative" positions, legislators in committee are able to thresh out problems, investigate facts, and arrive at workable conclusions that represent positions in between the possible extremes.

Samuel Ichiyé Hayakawa (1906-1992)
Language in Thought and Action, 1949
Chapter 14 "The Two-Values Orientation: The Pitfalls of Debate"

I say that when you elect a president you want a man to manage the legitimate business of your government. The government that is big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take it away.

Barry Goldwater (1909-1998)
Speech in Salt Lake City
10 October 1964
Park City Daily News, Bowling Green KY
11 October 1964

The American taxing structure, the purpose of which was to serve the people, began instead to serve the insatiable appetite of government. If you will forgive me, you know someone has once likened government to a baby. It is an alimentary canal with an appetite at one end and no sense of responsibility at the other.

Ronald Reagan (1911-2004)
Remarks before joint session of Parliament, Ottawa Canada
11 March 1981

Every time I hear a political speech or I read those of our leaders, I am horrified for having, for years, heard nothing which sounded human. It is always the same words telling the same lies. And the fact that men accept this, that the people's anger has not destroyed these hollow clowns, strikes me as proof that men attribute no importance to the way they are governed; that they gamble -- yes, gamble -- with a whole part of their life and their so-called "vital interests."

Albert Camus (1913-1960)
Notebooks, 1991, Book I

A government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take from you everything you have.

Gerald Ford (1913-2006)
Address to Congress, 12 August 1974
Time, 08 November 1976

I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute -- where no Catholic prelate would tell the president (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote -- where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference -- and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the president who might appoint him or the people who might elect him.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy (1917-1963)
Address to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association
12 September 1960

What all of this indicates is that despite the Constitution, despite the First Amendment and its guarantees of free speech, American citizens must fear to speak their minds, knowing that their speech, their writings, their attendance of meetings, their signing of petitions, and their support of even the most nonviolent of organizations may result in their being listed in the files of the FBI, with consequences no one can surely know. It was Mark Twain who said, 'In our country, we have those three unspeakably precious things: freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and the prudence never to practice either.'

Howard Zinn (b.1922)
"Second Thoughts on the First Amendment"
The Humanist, November/December 1991
pp.15-22, 42

Whether you have an abortion, what you put in your own body, with whom you have sex - these are not the affairs of the state. A government does not exist to control the citizens. When it does, it is a tyranny, and must be fought. The tree of liberty, Jefferson warned us, must be refreshed with the blood of tyrants and patriots.

Gore Vidal (b.1925)

In the Soviet Union, government controls industry. In the United States, industry controls government. That is the principal structural difference between the two great oligarchies of our time.

Edward Abbey (1927-1989)
A Voice Crying in the Wilderness (Vox Clamantis in Deserto), 1989
Chapter 3 "Government and Politics"

"Who governs?" is obviously one of the most important questions to ask concerning any political system. Even more important, however, may be the question: "Does anybody govern?" To the extent that the United States was governed by anyone during the decades after World War II, it was governed by the president acting with the support and cooperation of key individuals and groups in the Executive Office, the federal bureaucracy, Congress, and the more important businesses, banks, law firms, foundations, and media, which constitute the private establishment. In the twentieth century, when the American political system has moved systematically with respect to public policy, the direction and the initiative have come from the White House. When the president is unable to exercise authority, when he is unable to command the cooperation of key decision-makers elsewhere in society and government, no one else has been able to supply comparable purpose and initiative. To the extent that the United States has been governed on a national basis, it has been governed by the president. During the 1960s and early 1970s, however, the authority of the president declined significantly, and the governing coalition which had, in effect, helped the president to run the country from the early 1940s down to the early 1960s began to disintegrate.

These developments were, in some measure, a result of the extent to which all forms of leadership, but particularly those associated with or tainted by politics, tended to lose legitimacy in the 1960s and early 1970s. Not only was there a decline in the confidence of the public in political leaders, but there was also a marked decline in the confidence of political leaders in themselves. In part, this was the result of what was perceived to be significant policy failures: the failure "to win" the war in Indochina; the failure of the Great Society's social programs to achieve their anticipated results; and the intractability of inflation. These perceived failures induced doubts among political leaders of the effectiveness of their rule. In addition, and probably more importantly, political leaders also had doubts about the morality of their rule. They too shared in the democratic, participatory, and egalitarian ethos of the times, and hence had questions about the legitimacy of hierarchy, coercion, discipline, secrecy, and deception -- all of which are, in some measure, inescapable attributes of the process of government.

Samuel P. Huntington (b.1927)
The Crisis of Democracy, 1975
Chapter III "The United States"
Part III "The Decline in Governmental Authority"
Section 4 "The Shifting Balance Between Government and Opposition"
(Report on the Governability of Democracies to
the Trilateral Commission)

...dissent, protest, presures of a wide variety that escape elite control can modify the calculus of costs of planners, and offer a slight hope that Washington can be compelled to permit at least some steps towards "justice, freedom and democracy" within its domains.

Noam Chomsky (b.1928)
November 1987
Z Magazine, January 1988

...the essence of the evil government is that it anticipates bad conduct on the part of its citizens. Any government which assumes that the population is going to do something evil has already lost its franchise to govern.

Philip K. Dick (1928-1982)
Interview by Uwe Anton and Werner Fuchs, 1977

Ah, personally, I'm in favor of the separation of Church and State. My feeling is that either one of these institutions screws you up bad enough on its own.... You put them together and you got certain death.

George Carlin (b.1937)
Saturday Night Live monologue
10 November 1984

If you want to understand your government, don't begin by reading the Constitution. It conveys precious little of the flavor of today's statecraft. Instead, read selected portions of the Washington Telephone Directory, such as pages 354-58, which contain listings for all the organizations with titles beginning with the word "National". There are, of course, the big ones, like the National Association of Manufacturers, and the National Association of Broadcasters. But the pages teem with others, National Cigar Leaf Tobacco Association, National Association of Mirror Manufacturers, National Association of Miscellaneous Ornamental and Architectural Products Contractors, National Association of Margarine Manufacturers.

George Will (b.1941)
Deseret News, 05 May 1976

Once a ruler becomes religious, it [becomes] impossible for you to debate with him. Once someone rules in the name of religion, your lives become hell.

Muammar Qaddafi (b.1942)
October 1989
General People's Congress in Tripoli

If you want to understand your government, don't begin by reading the Constitution. It conveys precious little of the flavor of today's statecraft. Instead, read selected portions of the Washington telephone directory containing listings for all the organizations with titles beginning with the word "National".

George Will (b.1941)


...many foolish persons, wanderers from other parts, have the vain fashion of graving their names and the obscure places whence they come, upon its stones, which is silly and marketh the doer for a fool.

Mark Twain (1835-1910)
"Papers of the Adam Family"
Letters From the Earth, 1962
Edited by Bernardo DeVoto

The only difference between graffiti and philosophy is the word fuck.

Men's room, Limelight Restaurant, New York
Encyclopedia of Graffiti, 1974
Robert George Reisner, Lorraine Wechsler


[see also: DEATH]

All that glisters is not gold.
Often you have heard that told:
Many a man his life hath sold
But my outside to behold:
Gilded tombs do worms enfold.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616)
The Merchant of Venice, 1596-1597
Act II, scene vii, line 65

Then the worms shall try
That long preserved virginity,
And your quaint honor turns to dust,
And into ashes all my lust.
The grave's a fine and private place,
but none, I think, do there embrace.

Andrew Marvell (1621-1678)
To His Coy Mistress, 1650-1652

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)
A Psalm of Life, 1839
Stanza 4

The grave itself is but a covered bridge,
Leading from light to light, through a brief darkness.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)
The Golden Legend, v, 1851

Mausoleum, n. The final and funniest folly of the rich.

Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914)
The Devil's Dictionary, 1911

Worms'-Meat, n. The finished product of which we are the raw material. The contents of the Taj Mahal, the Tombeau Napoleon and the Granitarium. Worms'-meat is usually outlasted by the structure that houses it, but "this too must pass away." Probably the silliest work in which a human being can engage is construction of a tomb for himself. The solemn purpose cannot dignify, but only accentuates by contrast the foreknown futility.

Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914)
The Devil's Dictionary, 1911

Deep in the earth I rested now;
Cool is its hand upon the brow
And soft its breast beneath the head
Of one who is so gladly dead.
And all at once, and over all
The pitying rain began to fall;
I lay and heard each pattering hoof
Upon my lowly, thatched roof,
And seemed to love the sound far more
Than ever I had done before.
For rain it hath a friendly sound
To one who's six feet underground;
And scarce the friendly voice or face:
A grave is such a quiet place.

Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950)
"Renascence", 1912

Just under the surface I shall be, all together at first, then separate and drift, through all the earth and perhaps in the end through a cliff into the sea, something of me. A ton of worms in an acre, that is a wonderful thought, a ton of worms, I believe it.

Samuel Beckett (1906-1989)
From an Abandoned Work, 1955-1955

The consumer's side of the coffin lid isn't showy.

Stanislaw Jerzy Lec (1909-1966)
Unkempt Thoughts, 1962
Translated by Jacek Galazka
page 80


[see also: BEREAVEMENT]

While grief is fresh, every attempt to divert only irritates. You must wait till grief be digested, and then amusement will dissipate the remains of it.

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)
10 April 1776
Life of Johnson, 1791
by James Boswell (1740-1795)

Grief knits two hearts in closer bonds than happiness ever can; and common sufferings are far stronger links than common joys.

Alphonse de Lamartine (1790-1869)
Raphael, or, Pages of The Book of Life at Twenty, 1849
Chapter IV

Grief can take care of itself, but to get the full value of a joy you must have somebody to divide it with.

Mark Twain (1835-1910)
"Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar"
Following the Equator, 1897

Friends make pretence of following to the grave
But before one is in it, their minds are turned
And making the best of their way back to life
And living people and things they understand.

Robert Frost (1874-1963)
"Home Burial"
North of Boston, 1914


Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. That is a kind of death.

Anaïs Nin (1903-1977)
D.H. Lawrence: An Unprofessional Study, 1932


[see also: SELF-DEFENSE]

A strong body makes the mind strong. As to the species of exercise, I advise the gun. While this gives a moderate exercise to the body, it gives boldness, enterprise, and independence to the mind. Games played with the ball, and others of that nature, are too violent for the body, and stamp no character on the mind. Let your gun therefore be the constant companion of your walks.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)
Letter to Peter Carr
19 August 1785

1935 will go down in history! For the first time, a civilized nation has full gun registration! Our streets will be safer, our police more efficient and the world will follow our lead into the future!

Adolf Hitler (1889-1945)
No proof can be found that Hitler ever said this
See caveat

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Last update: 03-July-2015
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