Food For Thought

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

author index



[see also: CHRISTIANITY]

Crucifixus est dei filius; non pudet, quia pudendum est.
Et mortuus est dei filius; credibile prorsus est, quia ineptum est.
Et sepultus resurrexit; certum est, quia impossibile.
(The Son of God was crucified: I am not ashamed -- because it is shameful.
The Son of God died: it is immediately credible -- because it is silly.
He was buried, and rose again: it is certain -- because it is impossible.)

Tertullian (c.160-c.240)
De Carne Christi
Chapter 5
Translated by Canon Ernest Evans, 1956

But the greatest of all reformers of the depraved religion of his own country, was Jesus of Nazareth. Abstracting what is really his from the rubbish in which it is buried, easily distinguished by its lustre from the dross of his biographers, and as separable from that as the diamond from the dunghill, we have the outlines of a system of the most sublime morality which has ever fallen from the lips of man. The establishment of the innocent and genuine character of this benevolent morality, and the rescuing it from the imputation of imposture, which has resulted from artificial systems, invented by ultra-Christian sects (The immaculate conception of Jesus, his deification, the creation of the world by him, his miraculous powers, his resurrection and visible ascension, his corporeal presence in the Eucharist, the Trinity; original sin, atonement, regeneration, election, orders of the Hierarchy, etc.) is a most desirable object.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)
Letter to W. Short
31 October 1819

The truth is, that the greatest enemies of the doctrine of Jesus are those, calling themselves the expositors of them, who have perverted them to the structure of a system of fancy absolutely incomprehensible, and without any foundation in his genuine words. And the day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the Supreme Being as his father, in the womb of a virgin, will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter. But we may hope that the dawn of reason and freedom of thought in these United States will do away with this artificial scaffolding and restore to us the primitive and genuine doctrines of this most venerated Reformer of human errors.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)
Letter to John Adams
11 April 1823

Thinking as I do that the Creator of this world is a very cruel being, & being a worshipper of Christ, I cannot help saying: "the Son, O how unlike the Father!" First God Almighty comes with a thump on the head. Then Jesus Christ comes with a balm to heal it.

William Blake (1757-1827)
A Vision of the Last Judgement, 1810
Reprinted in Complete Writings
Edited by Geoffrey Keynes, 1957

If Jesus Christ were to come to-day, people would not even crucify him. They would ask him to dinner, and hear what he had to say, and make fun of it.

Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881)
Carlyle at his Zenith, 1927
Book XVIII "Contemporaries 1849"
Chapter X "Carlyle's Imitation of Christ (1849-50)"
by D.A. Wilson (1864-1933)

It seems curious enough to us to be standing on ground that was once actually pressed by the feet of the Saviour. The situation is suggestive of a reality and a tangibility that seem at variance with the vagueness and mystery and ghostliness that one naturally attaches to the character of a god. I can not comprehend yet that I am sitting where a god has stood, and looking upon the brook and the mountains which that god looked upon, and am surrounded by dusky men and women whose ancestors saw him, and even talked with him, face to face, and carelessly, just as they would have done with any other stranger. I can not comprehend this; the gods of my understanding have been always hidden in clouds and very far away.

Mark Twain (1835-1910)
Innocents Abroad, 1869
Chapter XLV

Had there been a lunatic asylum in the suburbs of Jerusalem, Jesus Christ would infallibly have been shut up in it at the outset of his public career. That interview with Satan on a pinnacle of the Temple would alone have damned him, and everything that happened after could but have confirmed the diagnosis. The whole religious complexion of the modern world is due to the absence from Jerusalem of a lunatic asylum.

Havelock Ellis (1859-1939)
Impressions and Comments, 1914
Series 3

If Jesus were alive today, we would kill him with letal injection. I call that progress. We would have to kill him for the same reason he was killed the first time. His ideas are just too liberal.

Kurt Vonnegut (1922-2007)
Armageddon in Retrospect, 2008
"At Clowes Hall, Indianapolis", 27 April 2007


[see also: HUMOR]

Ridiculum acri Fortius et melius magnas plerumque secat res.
(A jest often decides weighty matters better and more forcibly than can asperity.)

Horace (65-8 BC)
Satires, Book I, Chapter X, Line 14

A joke's a very serious thing.

Charles Churchill (1731-1764)
The Ghost, 1763
Book 4, Line 1386

There are things that are so serious that you can only joke about them.

Niels Bohr (1885-1962)
Quoted by Victor F. Weisskopf in
"Niels Bohr, the Quantum, and the World"
Niels Bohr: A Centennial Volume, 1985
Edited by A.P. French and P.J. Kennedy

When a woman in the front row complained that he was trivializing "the issues" by making jokes of them, Abbie Hoffman replied, "Sometimes when I'm funny I'm most serious. That was the Yippies' contribution.... We crossed the false dichotomy between struggling for a good cause and having a good time."

Herb Pintler


[see also: MEDIA]

An ambassador is a man of virtue sent to lie abroad for the commonwealth; a newswriter is a man without virtue who lies at home for himself.

Sir Henry Wotton (1568-1639)
Life of Sir Henry Wotton
by Izaak Walton, published in
Reliquiae Wottonianae, 1651

The people are the only censors of their governors and even their errors will tend to keep them to the true principles of their institution. To punish these errors too severely would be to suppress the only safeguard of the public liberty. The way to prevent these irregular interpositions of the people is to give them full information of their affairs through the channel of the public papers, and to contrive that those papers should penetrate the whole mass of the people. The basis of our government being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)
Letter to Colonel Edward Carrington
16 January 1787

Trying to determine what is going on in the world by reading newspapers is like trying to tell the time by watching the second hand of a clock.

Ben Hecht (1894-1964)
A Child of the Century, 1954
page 331

Even in peacetime I think those are very wrong who say that schoolboys should be encouraged to read the newspapers. Nearly all that a boy reads there in his teens will be known before he is twenty to have been false in emphasis and interpretation, if not in fact as well, and most of it will have lost all importance. Most of what he remembers he will therefore have to unlearn; and he will probably have acquired an incurable taste for vulgarity and sensationalism and the fatal habit of fluttering from paragraph to paragraph to learn how an actress has been divorced in California, a train derailed in France, and quadruplets born in New Zealand.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963)
Surprised by Joy, 1955
Chapter 10 "Fortune's Smile"

Small earthquake in Chile. Not many dead.

Claud Cockburn (1904-1981)
Winning entry in a 'dullest headline' competition at The Times
In Time of Trouble: An Autobiography, 1956
Chapter 10

[L]iberty lives in protest and democracy prospers under conditions of change. When we travel about the world and come to a country whose newspapers are filled with bad news we feel that liberty lives in that land. When we come to a country whose newspapers are filled with good news, we feel differently.

Daniel Patrick Moynihan (1927-2003)
"The Value Of Criticism"
The Milwaukee Journal
29 October 1971

[T]he work of democratic government is routinely concerned with matters defined as troubles. In "The Presidency and the Press" I make the point, familiar to anyone who has flown about the world much, that the best quick test of the political nature of a regime is to read the local papers on arrival. If they are filled with bad news, you have landed in a libertarian society of some sort. If, on the other hand, the press is filled with good news, it is a fair bet that the jails will be filled with good men.

Daniel Patrick Moynihan (1927-2003)
Coping: Essays on the Practice of Government, 1973

Everything you read in the newspapers is absolutely true except for the rare story of which you happen to have first-hand knowledge.

Erwin Knoll (b.1931)

"It is a great paper. But it has one defect."

"What is that?"

"It never stands by its friends."

"A newspaper should have no friends," Pulitzer replied sharply.

"I think it should," the judge answered just as sharply.

"If that is your opinion," Pulitzer said, "I wouldn't make you one of my trustees if you gave me a million dollars."

Joseph Pulitzer (1847-1911)
In conversation with Morgan K. Stanley, 1904
Quoted in Joseph Pulitzer, 1924
by Don Carlos Seitz

When a dog bites a man, that is not news, because it happens so often. But if a man bites a dog, that is news.

John B. Bogart (1848-1921)
The Story of the [New York] Sun, 1918
by Frank M. O'Brien
(Also attributed to Amos Cummings, Charles Anderson Dana, 1819-1897)
See caveat

It is chiefly, I regret to say, through journalism that such people find expression. I regret it because there is much to be said in favour of modern journalism. By giving us the opinions of the uneducated, it keeps us in touch with the ignorance of the community.

Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)
"Intentions: The Critic as Artist", 1891

Freedom of the press in Britain is freedom to print such of the proprietor's prejudices as the advertisers don't object to.

Hannen Swaffer (1879-1962)
In conversation with Tom Driberg, c.1928
Swaff: The Life and Times of Hannen Swaffer, 1974
Chapter 2
by Tom Driberg

What someone doesn't want you to publish is journalism; all else is publicity.

Paul Fussell (b.1924)
"A Power of Facing Unpleasant Facts"
Thank God for the Atom Bomb and Other Essays, 1988

...most of the press were vultures descending on the scene for curious America aplomb. Cameras inside the coffin interviewing worms.

James Douglas Morrison (1943-1971)
Lords And New Creatures, 1971


Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measurable to you.

Bible, Matthew 7:1-2

It is well, when one is judging a friend, to remember that he is judging you with the same godlike and superior impartiality.

Arnold Bennett (1867-1931)
The Reasonable Life: Being Hints for Men and Women, 1907
Chapter II "Expressing One's Individuality" as if you were living for the second time and had acted as wrongly the first time as you are about to act now.

Viktor Frankl (1905-1997)
The Doctor and the Soul: From Psychotherapy to Logotherapy, 1955
Part II "From Psychoanalysis to Existential Analysis"
Section A "General Existential Analysis"
Chapter 1 "On the Meaning of Life"
(a) "On the Meaning of Death"


[see also: DEATH]

When the sun shall be darkened,
when the stars shall be thrown down,
when the mountains shall be set moving,
when the pregnant camels shall be neglected,
when the savage beasts shall be mustered,
when the seas shall be set boiling,
when the souls shall be coupled,
when the buried infant shall be asked for what sin she was slain,
when the scrolls shall be unrolled,
when the heaven shall be stripped off,
when Hell shall be set blazing,
when Paradise shall be brought nigh,
then shall a soul know what it has produced.

Koran (c.610-632)
The Darkening, 81:1-14

A material resurrection seems strange and even absurd except for purposes of punishment, and all punishment which is to revenge rather than correct must be morally wrong, and when the World is at an end, what moral or warning purpose can eternal tortures answer?

Lord Byron (1788-1824)
Detached Thoughts, 1821-1822
Number 96


[see also: LAW]

Natural justice is a compact resulting from expediency by which men seek to prevent one man from injuring others and to protect him from being injured by them.

There is no such thing as justice or injustice among those beasts that cannot make agreements not to injure or be injured. This is also true of those tribes that are unable or unwilling to make agreements not to injure or be injured

There is no such thing as justice in the abstract; it is merely a compact between men in their various relations with each other, in whatever circumstances they may be, that they will neither injure nor be injured.

Injustice is not evil in itself, but only in the fear and apprehension that one will not escape those who have been set up to punish the offense.

Epicurus (341-271 BC)
Principal Doctrines
Paragraphs 31-34
Translated by Russel Mortimer Geer, 1964

Show no pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.

Bible, Deuteronomy 19:21

An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a hand for a hand, a foot for a foot.

Bible, Exodus 21:24

It is better to risk saving a guilty person than to condemn an innocent one.

Voltaire (1694-1778)
Zadig, 1747
Chapter 6

Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)
Notes on the State of Virginia, 1781
Query 18, "Manners"

When one has been threatened with a great injustice, one accepts a smaller as a favor.

Jane Welsh Carlyle (1801-1866)
Letters and Memorials, 1883
Entry for 21 November 1855

Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison.

Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)
Civil Disobedience, 1849

...the laboring people found the prisons always open to receive them, but the courts of justice were practically closed to them.

John Peter Altgeld (1847-1902)
"Reasons for Pardoning Fielden, Neebe, and Schwab"
26 June 1893

The most ridiculous were those who, on their own authority, made themselves the judges and justices of the tribe. They seemed never to suspect that our judgments judge us, and that nothing exposes our weaknesses and reveals ourselves more naively than the attitude of pronouncing upon our neighbors.

Paul Valery (1871-1945)
Monsieur Teste, 1947
"Letter From a Friend"

Justice is merely incidental to law and order. Law and order is what covers the whole picture. Justice is part of it, but it can't be separated as a single thing.

John Edgar Hoover (1895-1972)
CBS News, 14 November 1968

Absolute justice is achieved by the suppression of all contradiction: therefore it destroys freedom.

Albert Camus (1913-1960)
"Historic Murder"
The Rebel, 1951
Part 5

Justice is the first virtue of social institutions, as truth is of systems of thought. A theory, however elegant and economical, must be rejected or revised if it is untrue; likewise laws and institutions, no matter how efficient and well-arranged, must be reformed or abolished if they are unjust. The only thing that permits us to acquiesce in an erroneous theory is the lack of a better one.

John Rawls (b.1921)
A Theory of Justice, 1971
Chapter I "Justice as Fairness"
Section 1 "The Role of Justice"

The halls of justice.
The only place
You see the justice,
Is in the halls.

Lenny Bruce (1925-1966)
How to Talk Dirty and Influence People, 1963,1964,1965
Chapter 21

You don't have many suspects who are innocent of a crime. That's contradictory. If a person is innocent of a crime, then he is not a suspect.

Edwin Meese III (b.1931)
Interview, U.S. News & World Report
14 October 1985

In our society, sometimes you have to penalize (innocent) people for the good of everybody else.

(Pittsburgh cop, 16 October 1993)

© 1999 by MonkeyPants Press, an imprint of Bonobo Books, a division of Consolidated Trout, Ltd.
Last update: 03-July-2015
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