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  • Smoky
    • Jun 2013
    • 1849

    Quotes on Religion

    Simonides. Greek poet (556-468 B.C.):

    The longer I consider the subject of God, the more obscure it becomes.
  • Smoky
    • Jun 2013
    • 1849

    #2
    Empedocles. Greek materialist of Sicily (495-435 B.C.):
    None of the gods has formed the world, nor has any man; it has always been.

    Comment

    • Smoky
      • Jun 2013
      • 1849

      #3
      Euripedes. Athenian tragedian (484-406 B.C.):
      Do we, holding that the gods exist, deceive ourselves with unsubstantial dreams and lies, while random careless chance and change alone control the world?

      Comment

      • Smoky
        • Jun 2013
        • 1849

        #4
        Protagoras. Athenian Sophist originally from Abdera on the north Aegean coast of Greece (c. 481-411 B.C.):
        Man is the measure of all things, of things that are that they are, and of things that are not that they are not.

        As to the gods, I have no means of knowing either that they exist or do not exist. For many are the obstacles that impede knowledge, both the obscurity of the question and the shortness of human life.

        Note: These are the only two sentences of Protagoras known today. His treatise On the Gods, beginning with the second of these sentences, so infuriated his Athenian compatriots that all his writings were burned in a public bonfire. Protagoras was forced to escape abroad, and while in flight he is said to have died in a storm at sea.

        Comment

        • Smoky
          • Jun 2013
          • 1849

          #5
          Diagoras. Greek poet of Melos (ca. late 5th century B.C.):
          Diagoras, named the Atheist, was once asked by a friend, "You who think that the gods disregard men's affairs, do you not remark all the votive pictures that prove how many persons have escaped the violence of the storm, and come safe to port by dint of the vows of the gods?" "That is so," replied Diagoras; "It is because there are nowhere any pictures of those who have been shipwrecked and drowned at sea."

          During a storm at sea Diagoras was told by the crew that they had brought it on themselves by having taken him on board their ship. He pointed out to them a number of other vessels making heavy weather on the same course, and inquired whether they supposed that those ships also had a Diagoras on board.

          Note: Diagoras was accused of impiety because he threw a wooden image of a god into a fire, remarking that the deity should perform another miracle and save itself. Charges were pressed against him for this misconduct, and he fled Athens to avoid trial and the possibility of execution.

          Comment

          • Smoky
            • Jun 2013
            • 1849

            #6
            Critias. Athenian poet, playwright and relative of Plato-- also a leader of the Thirty Tyrants (c. 460-403 B.C.):
            I believe that a man of shrewd and subtle mind invented for men the fear of the gods, so that there might be something to frighten the wicked even if they acted, spoke or thought in secret. From this motive he introduced the conception of divinity. There is, he said, a spirit enjoying endless life, hearing and seeing with his mind, exceedingly wise and all-observing, bearer of a divine nature. He will hear everything spoken among men and can see everything that is done. If you are silently plotting evil, it will not be hidden from the gods, so clever are they. For a dwelling he gave them . . . the vault above, where he perceived the lightnings and the dread roars of thunder, and the starry face and form of heaven . . . With such fears did he surround mankind, and so by his story give the godhead a fair home in a fitting place, and extinguished lawlessness by his ordinances . . . So, I think, first of all, did someone persuade men to believe that there exists a race of gods.

            Comment

            • Smoky
              • Jun 2013
              • 1849

              #7
              Metrodorus of Chios. Greek skeptic (c. 4th century, B.C.):
              I deny that we know whether we know something or know nothing, and even that we know the mere fact that we do not know (or do know), or know at all whether something exists or nothing exists.

              Comment

              • Smoky
                • Jun 2013
                • 1849

                #8
                Aristotle. Athenian philosopher from Stagira, on the north coast of Greece (384-322 B.C.):

                [Reason as the basic principle of the universe]: For it is not likely either that fire or earth or any such element should be the reason why things manifest goodness and beauty both in their being and in their coming to be, or that these thinkers [Heraclitus, Xenophanes, etc.] should have supposed it was; nor again could it be right to entrust so great a matter to spontaneity and chance. When one man [Anaxagoras] said, then, that reason [nous] was present--as in animals, throughout nature--as the cause of order and of all arrangement, he seemed like a sober man in contrast with the random talk of his predecessors.

                [Induction as the final source of truth]: Such appears to be the truth about the generation of bees, judging from theory and from what are believed to be the facts about them; the facts, however, have not yet been sufficiently grasped; if ever they are, then credit must be given rather to observation than to theories, and to theories only if what they affirm agrees with the observed facts.
                Note: Aristotle was charged with atheism by fellow Athenians upon the death of his student and protegé, Alexander the Great. He was forced to escape the city and died a year later in exile.

                Comment

                • Smoky
                  • Jun 2013
                  • 1849

                  #9
                  Epicurus. Athenian materialist from Samos--the first so- called Epicurean philosopher (341-270 B.C.):
                  Men, believing in myths, will always fear something terrible, everlasting punishment as certain or probable. . . . Men base all these fears not on mature opinions, but on irrational fancies, so that they are more disturbed by fear of the unknown than by facing facts. Peace of mind lies in being delivered from all these fears.

                  You should accustom yourself to believing that death means nothing to us, since every good and every evil lies in sensation; but death is the privation of sensation. And therefore a right understanding that death is nothing to us makes the mortality of life enjoyable, not because it adds to it an infinite span of time, but it takes away the craving for immortality. For there is nothing terrible in life for the man who has truly comprehended that there is nothing terrible in not living.

                  Posidonius cited by Cicero: Epicurus does not really believe in the gods at all, and . . . said what he did about the immortal gods only for the sake of deprecating popular odium.

                  Note: Epicurus was perhaps the most prolific author in ancient Greece, but only three letters survive intact, to be found in Diogenes Laertius' Lives of Eminent Philosophers.

                  Comment

                  • Smoky
                    • Jun 2013
                    • 1849

                    #10
                    Strato. Athenian scientist, the third head of Aristotle's Academy (c. 269 B.C.):
                    Cicero: "In [Strato's] view the sole repository of divine power is nature, which contains in itself the causes of birth, growth and decay, but is entirely devoid of sensation and of form."

                    Cicero: "He [Strato] declares that he does not make use of divine activity for constructing the world. His doctrine is that all existing things of whatever sort have been produced by natural causes . . . "

                    Cicero: "he [Strato] . . . teaches that whatever either is or comes into being is or has been caused by natural forces of gravitation and motion.

                    Gomperz: "The soul [for Strato], as we have already been told by Aristotle, is 'something of the body.'"

                    Note: Strato devised simple laboratory equipment--the first of its kind--in one instance a vacuum jar to investigate the properties of a vacuum with the expectation of resolving the choice between Democritus' atomism and Aristotle's theory of spatial continuity. Strato was notorious as an atheist, and all of his fifty-five texts listed by Diogenes Laertius were either lost or destroyed.

                    Comment

                    • Smoky
                      • Jun 2013
                      • 1849

                      #11
                      Ecclesiastes ["the Preacher"]. Hebrew prophet (c. 350 B.C.]:
                      For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them; as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast; for all is vanity. [3.19]

                      For to him that is joined to all the living there is hope: for a living dog is better than a dead lion. For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not anything, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun. [Therefore] go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart; for God now accepteth thy works. [9.4-7]

                      Note: The influence of Hellenistic philosophy is exemplified by these two passages as well as the repeated carpe diem exhortations to eat, drink, and live well ("seize the day").

                      Comment

                      • Smoky
                        • Jun 2013
                        • 1849

                        #12
                        Carneades. Athenian Academic skeptic who was notorious for his atheism (213-129 B.C.):
                        In order to form a conception of God one must necessarily . . . suspend [judgment] as to his existence or non-existence. For the existence of God is not pre-evident [a priori]. . . . therefore it is not proved, either, by a pre-evident fact. . . . Nor yet by what is non-evident; for he who asserts this will be driven into circular reasoning when we keep demanding proof every time for the non-evident fact which he produces as proof of the last one propounded. Consequently, the existence of God cannot be proved from any other fact.

                        If [God] has the power but not the will to have forethought for all, he will be held to be malignant; while if he has neither the will nor the power, he is both malignant and weak--an impious thing to say about God. Therefore God has no forethought for the things in the universe.

                        If these brothers [Jupiter, Neptune, and Orcus] are included among the gods, can we deny the divinity of their father Saturn, who is held in the highest reverence by the common people in the west? And if he is a god, we must also admit that his father Caelus is a god. And if so, the parents of Caelus, the Aether and the Day . . . [here Carneades goes on to list at least another five dozen ancient gods and goddesses to justify his conclusion]: Either therefore this process will go on indefinitely, or we shall admit none of these; and this unlimited claim of superstition will not be accepted; therefore none of these is to be accepted.

                        Cicero: There are however other philosophers, and those of eminence and note, who believe that the whole world is ruled and governed by divine intelligence and reason; and not this only, but also that the gods' providence watches over the life of men . . . This view was controverted at great length by Carneades, in such a manner as to arouse in persons of active mind a keen desire to discover the truth.

                        Cicero: [According to Carneades], that which feels pleasure and pain cannot be everlasting; and every living thing feels them; therefore no living thing is everlasting. . . . Therefore every living thing must of necessity perish.
                        Note: Carneades also proposed a theory of probability at three levels of sophistication: (1) ordinary truths, (2) ordinary truths confirmed by others like them, and (3) tested truths justified by close empirical study. This permitted the tentative acceptance of truths until they could be demonstrated to be false. Carneades transcribed none of his ideas, but his disciple Clitomachus composed more than 400 treatises, all of which were either lost or destroyed.

                        Comment

                        • Smoky
                          • Jun 2013
                          • 1849

                          #13
                          Polybius. Greek historian (203-120 B.C.):
                          Since the masses of people are inconstant, full of unruly desires, passionate, and reckless of consequence, they must be filled with fears to keep them in order. The ancients did well, therefore, to invent gods, and the belief in punishment after death.

                          Comment

                          • Smoky
                            • Jun 2013
                            • 1849

                            #14
                            Varro. Roman scholar (115-27 B.C.):

                            It is for the good of states that men should be deluded by religion.

                            Comment

                            • Smoky
                              • Jun 2013
                              • 1849

                              #15
                              Cicero. Roman rhetorician, politician and scholar (106-43 B.C.):
                              But the question is not, are there any people who think that the gods exist,--the question is, do the gods exist or do they not?

                              [Nature's] coherence and persistence is due to nature's forces and not to divine power; she does possess that "concord" . . . of which you spoke, but the greater this is as a spontaneous growth, the less possible is it to suppose that it was created by divine reason.

                              Either providence does not know its own powers, or it does not regard human affairs, or it lacks power of judgment to discern what is best.

                              I do not even deem that this world was built on a divine plan; and yet it may be so.

                              But just as I deem it supremely honourable to hold true views, so it is supremely disgraceful to approve falsehoods as true.

                              It is better to have no opinions than to have such wrong ones!

                              With the ignorant you get superstitions like the Syrians' worship of a fish, and the Egyptians' deification of almost every species of animal . . . Well, those are the superstitions of the unlearned; but what of you philosophers? How are your dogmas any better?

                              Comment

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