[Quotations selected by Edward T. Babinski from a never to be published manuscript, THE DAMNED SAY THE DAMNEDEST THINGS]
Quotations Concerning Agnosticism
by: Ed Babinski
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If you recall, you published an email of mine at your site months back. Thanks!
Do you know J. P. Holding of Tektonics apologetics? I recall reading something he wrote on the web to the effect that he "didn't know, and didn't care" how old the earth was. Someone should point out to him he's become an agnostic on that subject.
Anyway, I was reading the book, DAILY AFFLICATIONS (an intellectually stirring agnostic parody of DAILY AFFIRMATIONS), when I thought of you and your website, and also recalled that I had collected a number of quotations concerning agnosticism that I ought to share with you.
Edward T. Babinski
I also sometimes frequent the blog, "Debunking Christianity" (easy to remember and easy to find via a google search) that has a number of apostate bloggers.
Babinski's Agnostic Quotations
- Believing hath a core of unbelieving. Robert Williams Buchanan: Songs of Seeking
- One does not have to believe everything one hears.
Cicero, De Divinatione, Book 2, Chapter 13, Section 31
- A man must not swallow more beliefs than he can digest.
Havelock Ellis, The Dance of Life
- All great religions in order to escape absurdity have to admit a dilution of agnosticism. It is only the savage (whether of the African bush or the American Gospel broadcast) who pretends to know the will and intent of God exactly and completely.
We must respect the other fellow's religion, but only in the sense and to the extent that we respect his theory that his wife is beautiful and his children smart.
H. L. Mencken
- We have infinite trouble in solving man-made mysteries; it is only when we set out to discover "the secret of God" that our difficulties disappear. Mark Twain
- Ignorance is preferable to error; and he is less remote from truth who believes nothing, than he who believes what is wrong. Thomas Jefferson, Writings, Vol. II, p. 43
- Let God alone if need be. Methinks, if I loved him more, I should keep him--I should keep myself, rather--at a more respectful distance. It is not when I am going to meet him, but when I am just turning away and leaving him alone, that I discover that God is. I say, God. I am not sure that is the name. You will know whom I mean…
Doubt may have "some divinity" about it…
Atheism may be comparatively popular with God himself…
When a pious visitor inquired sweetly, "Henry, have you made your peace with God?" he replied, "We have never quarreled."
Henry David Thoreau as quoted in Henry David Thoreau: What Manner of Man?
By Edward Wagenknecht
- I believe in Someone Out There--call Him God, since other names, like Festus or Darrin, do not seem to fit--but I am not entirely certain that He is all that mindful of what goes on down here. Example: Recently a tornado destroyed a town in Texas and dropped a church roof on a batch of worshipers. One of the few things left standing were two plaster statues, one of Jesus, the other of Joseph. The townspeople, according to the news, "looked at the statues' survival as a sign of God's love." Hold the phone.
This sounds like the he-beats-me-because-he-loves-me line of thought. If the Lord in his infinite wisdom drops a concrete roof on the true believers but spares two hunks of modeling compound, it is time to question the big Fella's priorities. If I have to be made up of plaster to command attention in this universe, something is amiss.
James Lileks, "God Has Call-Waiting," Notes of a Nervous Man
- WHO KNOWS?
Who truly knows what the cosmos "is" and whence it came to be? I don't, and don't claim to know. Perhaps a Divine Tinkerer was toying with cosmoses for untold infinites (splitting zeros into +1 and -1 cosmoses; splitting "nothing" into cosmoses of matter and anti-matter), and finally came up with this one, not the most prosperous of cosmoses mind you, with death from cosmic collisions or radiation remaining a distinct possibility, with life restricted to only one-planet-in-nine in our own little star-system, which itself lay in one arm of one spiral galaxy with over one hundred billion galaxies out there--yet only two of those galaxies are near enough to the earth to be seen with the naked eye. (The two galaxies that are visible only appear as faint white dots in the nighttime sky. The rest of the white dots you see are stars in our own galaxy, along with a few "wandering stars" or planets, which appear as white dots too. Obviously the rest of the galaxies were not created to "light the earth, nor for signs and seasons on earth," since no one knew they were even there until after the world's largest telescopes had been built).
Some people say the choice is between believing in either a Designer or absolute randomness, and they say that the latter view does not make sense, but not for the reason they suppose. The trouble lies in the word, "absolute," not in the word "random." For they don't realize that discussions of "absolute randomness" are fraught with philosophical self-contradictions. If you grant for the sake of a thought experiment that "random" cosmoses exist, how "absolutely" random could such cosmoses be? Wouldn't some interactions or patterns repeat themselves in them? And repetition is a form of order. So to keep orderliness out, you would have to posit a force that knows every past interaction or pattern and also knows how to prevent them from repeating themselves. But such a force would constitute a form of "order" needed to maintain "absolute disorder."
But if absolute randomness requires a form of order to keep itself absolutely random, then absolute randomness does not exist. In other words, given a random cosmos, some things in them would tend to repeat themselves over time, and some form of order would thus transpire. Perhaps even the most improbable events would take place given matter/energy and an infinite amount of time? Acknowledging this does not make me an atheist. I am simply admitting questions and limitations inherent in philosophical language and concepts.
But if the idea of "absolute randomness" doesn't make sound philosophical sense, then maybe the idea of "absolute order" is an equally sterile philosophical concept? Perhaps in the end, a "Divine Tinkerer," as I proposed in the first paragraph, might be considered as a realistic compromise?
One thing I do know is that we all hope for what we hope. We all feel.
Searching for the meaning of life seems a bit of a daunting task given the shortness of life and the immensity of our ignorance--adrift in a cosmic sea of space on this lifeboat we call earth (and we haven't even gotten off the cradle planet yet). Perhaps it's not the meaning of life but the question of life that is meant to propel us all.
- The best part about being an agnostic is that you don't have to stand for anything, and you're still sticking to your principles.
You know what they say, "One man's Body of Christ is another man's low salt wafer."
- Wes "Duke of Doubt" Anderson
- I don't think there's any difference between the Pope wearing a large hat and parading around with a smoking purse and an African painting his face white and praying to a rock.
Howard Stern (Radio Talk Show Host)
- THE AGNOSTIC'S PRAYER
Insofar as I may be heard by anything, which may or may not care what I say, I ask, if it matters, that I be forgiven for anything I may have done or failed to do which requires forgiveness. Conversely, if not forgiveness but something else may be required to insure any possible benefit for which I may be eligible after the death of my body, I ask that this, whatever it may be, be granted or withheld, as the case may be, in such a manner as to insure my receiving said benefit. Amen.
Prayer in Roger Zelazny's science fiction classic, Creatures of Light and Darkness [Prayer edited by E.T.B.]
- THE WORLD'S NEED
So many gods, so many creeds,
So many paths that wind and wind,
While just the art of being kind,
Is all the sad world needs.
Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1850-1919)
- SPEECH AFTER BEING ELECTED TO SERVE IN THE ESSENTIALLY FUNCTIONLESS CAPACITY OF "PRESIDENT OF THE AMERICAN HUMANIST ASSOCIATION"
About belief or lack of belief in an afterlife: Some of you may know that I am neither Christian nor Jewish nor Buddhist, nor a conventionally religious person of any sort. I am a humanist, which means, in part, that I have tried to behave decently without any expectation of rewards or punishments after I'm dead. My German-American ancestors, the earliest of whom settled in our Middle West about the time of our Civil War, called themselves "Freethinkers," which is the same sort of thing. My great grandfather Clemens Vonnegut, wrote, for example, "If what Jesus said was good, what can it matter whether he was God or not?" I myself have written, "If it weren't from the message of mercy and pity in Jesus's Sermon on the Mount, I wouldn't want to be a human being. I would just as soon be a rattlesnake."
Humanism is an ideal so Earthbound and unmajestic that I never capitalize it (unless it begins a sentence). I use "humanism" as a handy synonym for "good citizenship and common decency." Humanists, having received no credible information about any sort of God, are content to serve as well as they can, the only abstraction with which they have some familiarity: their communities. Neither do they have to join the American Humanist Association to be one.
Kurt Vonnegut, God Bless you Dr. Kevorkian
- In every age, the bigot's rage requires another focus, Another devil forced on stage by hatred's hocus pocus.
The devil used to be a Jew and then it was the witches, And then it was the Negroes who were digging all the ditches.
The devil once was colored pink and labeled Communistic, Now, all at once, in just a blink, the devil's Humanistic.
Curt Sytsma, "A Humanist Manifesto," in the introduction to Corliss Lamont's, The Philosophy of Humanism
- To a lot of fundamentalists, God's love just isn't any fun unless you can find somebody else to deny it to.
Bruce Bawer, Stealing Jesus: How Fundamentalism Betrays Christianity
- Fundamentalisms of various sorts remain popular partly because they allow people to project their fears, insecurities and frustrations on others, including threatening them with eternal damnation.
Fundamentalisms also provide a handy, ready-made vocabulary of contempt:
"Heretic!" "Blasphemer!" "Idolater!" "Infidel!" "Anti-Christ!" "Apostate!"
"Schizmatic!" "Demon Deluded Servant of Satan!" "As Fit to Be Fried as Lucifer's Lamb Chops!"
All without it ever going to court.
Oops! I was wrong about that last line, because it recently has gone to court. One woman sued her pastor in 1993 for writing a letter to the congregation that connected her with "Satan."
- Fundamentalists condemn divorce but find ample reasons to forgive the divorced men and women everywhere in the pews. The women required to "submit" to their husbands frequently exercise power through their control of kinship networks and by gossip that determines men's reputations, mercilessly documented in Spirit and Flesh: Life in a Fundamentalist Baptist Church.
Mark Oppenheimer, "Godspells," a review of Spirit and Flesh: Life in a Fundamentalist Baptist Church by James M. Ault, Book World section of The Washington Post, September 5, 2004
- WHY ISN'T THERE A "CHURCH OF THE HOLY KISS?"
When the apostle Paul departed for Palestine his Christian brethren "all wept sore, and fell on Paul's neck and kissed him" (Acts 20:37), thus obeying a sacred command found in the New Testament:
Greet one another with a holy kiss.
- 1 Corinthians 16:20 & 2 Corinthians 13:12
Salute one another with a holy kiss.
- Romans 16:16
Greet one another with a kiss of charity.
- 1 Peter 5:14
Greet all the brethren with a holy kiss.
- 1 Thessalonians 5:26
So why aren't there any "Holy Kissing Baptists?" There are "Foot Washing Baptists" and even "Serpent Handling Baptists," who take their cues from less well attested Biblical commands.
Oops! I recently received an email from a member of a snake-handling Christian church who tells me that his church does practice "holy kissing" (though only the cheek if it's your brother or sister).
- Most fundamentalists wish to serve God, but only in an advisory capacity.
- YOU MIGHT BE A FUNDAMENTALIST IF…
- …you belong to a Christian weight-lifting team.
- …you think the Bhagavad Gita is an Italian sports car.
- …you believe the ancient Israelites were great scientists. Neal Kelsey, www.religion4now.com
- ...you've ever tried to cast out PMS demons from a woman. Zarathustra
- ...you wear a "What Would Jesus Do?" bracelet to an Abortion Clinic Bombing. Tkdrocks
- ...you write down, "tongues," as your principle language on a census form.
...you run out of "un-highlighted" verses in your Bible. nologoboy
- …you carry your Bible with you to the grocery store.
- ...you dress up as the Apostle Paul for Halloween. katseye
- ...you give out tracts to trick-or-treaters.
- ...you think there are invisible "principalities" at war in your town. Foxmaiden
- ...you say that the Jews are God's chosen people but believe they are going to Hell.
- ...you blame the problems of Western civilization on Charles Darwin.
- ...you married too early just because you wanted to have sex.
- ...you believe that Proverbs 22:6 ("Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it") is a direct mandate to send your child to a Fundie Private School. Brother_V
- ...you make your children give 10% of their allowance to the church.
- ...you think that the church pianist who wears no makeup really is more attractive than the bikini clad Ms. Hawaiian Tropic contestants. John Galt
- …you won't let your kids watch the Disney film, Pocahontas, because she talks to a demon in the tree. MrHighwind
- ...you think you are personally responsible for the crucifixion.
- ...you think homosexuals have an "agenda."
- ...you can say "Jesus loves you" with a straight face. Clonenomore
- ...your two-year-old son wears a necktie to church. Mollylou
- ...you call "deviled eggs," "angels' eggs." Sunshine36616 (my Mom does that)
- …you think the only person worse than your beer-drinking neighbor who won't spank his children is your pants-wearing sister who openly consorts with homosexuals.
- …you think making your daughter skip soccer practice so she can attend the mid-week prayer service is "taking a stand for God." skaclort11
- …you shout "Praise God!" whenever a hurricane wreaks havoc on a heathen amusement park, but excuse God entirely if your own home or church is damaged by a similar disaster. E.T.B.
- …when a question comes to mind while reading the Bible, you assume there must be an answer, but when a question comes to mind while reading non-Christian religious books, no explanation is possible and no excuses are acceptable. Canicus
- Have any of the fundamentalist religions noted how quietly the Deity endures the writing of innumerable books all claiming to speak for Him/Her/Them/It? Surely any Deity that thought their exact words were vitally important would have "zapped" every scribe, printing press, or website, that dared to put false ones into the Deity's mouth. But such "zapping" only appears to have taken place on extremely rare occasions, while new words of the Deity (as well as controversial translations and interpretations of older words) continue to flood the world in a veritable deluge of "God said this, God teaches that-ness." Could it be that the Deity's exact words do not matter as much to the Deity as they do to fundamentalists?
- It is not easy to account for an infinite God making people so low in the scale of intellect as to require a revelation. Neither is it easy to perceive why, if a revelation was necessary for all, it was made only to a few.
Robert Ingersoll, Some Mistakes of Moses
- What did the fundamentalist say when it was pointed out to him that he had just taken a "wrong turn" on his drive to church? He said, "I did not take a wrong turn, we are just getting there in God's own perfect time."