The Best Atheism Quotes Through the Ages

The Atheist's Bible book coverAtheism is not a recent phenomenon; despite the tendency before Darwin and modern science to believe in supernatural forces and a creator—not to mention the penalties for challenging the doctrine of the Church—freethinkers throughout history have noticed the circularity of the god argument. (god created the universe because the universe can’t exist without god)

The irony of invoking an uncaused being to explain the fact that everything requires a cause was not lost of many thinkers, who noticed that if everything requires a cause, then by definition god also requires a cause. And if god does not require a cause, then you might as well save a step in the process and accept the possibility that the universe is itself uncaused or has else always existed.

These types of arguments are as old as written history. In The Atheist’s Bible: An Illustrious Collection of Irreverent Thoughts, Joan Konner has collected similar quotes, questions, and observations by the leading thinkers throughout history who have challenged the dogma of religion and the uncritical belief in god(s).

What follows is my own list of the best atheism quotes throughout history, starting with the ancient Greek philosopher Xenophanes:

Xenophanes

“But if cattle and horses and lions had hands

or could paint with their hands and create works such as men do,

horses like horses and cattle like cattle

also would depict the gods’ shapes and make their bodies

of such a sort as the form they themselves have.”

Epicurus

“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?”

Lucretius

“Fear is the mother of all gods…Nature does all things spontaneously, by herself, without the meddling of the gods.”

Thomas Hobbes

“And this fear of things invisible, is the natural seed of that, which every one in himself calleth religion; and in them that worship, or fear that power otherwise than they do, superstition.”

Galileo Galilei

“I do not think it is necessary to believe that the same God who has given us our senses, reason, and intelligence wished us to abandon their use, giving us by some other means the information that we could gain through them.”

David Hume

“There is no method of reasoning more common, and yet none more blameable, than, in philosophical disputes, to endeavour the refutation of any hypothesis, by a pretence of its dangerous consequences to religion and morality.”

Voltaire

“Those who believe absurdities will commit atrocities.”

Edward Gibbon

“Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.”

John Adams

“The Government of the United States is in no sense founded on the Christian religion.”

Thomas Jefferson

“I have examined all the known superstitions of the world, and I do not find in our particular superstition of Christianity one redeeming feature. They are all alike founded on fables and mythology.”

“The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”

Blaise Pascal

“Men never commit evil so fully and joyfully as when they do it for religious convictions.”

Albert Einstein

“I believe in Spinoza’s God, who reveals himself in the harmony of all that exists, not in a God who concerns himself with the fate and the doings of mankind.”

“”I have repeatedly said that in my opinion the idea of a personal god is a childlike one.”

“A man’s ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties; 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.”

Bertrand Russell

“And if there were a God, I think it very unlikely that He would have such an uneasy vanity as to be offended by those who doubt His existence.”

“So far as I can remember, there is not one word in the Gospels in praise of intelligence.”

Robert Pirsig

“When one person suffers from a delusion it is called insanity. When many people suffer from a delusion it is called Religion.”

Isaac Asimov

“Properly read, the Bible is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived.”

Susan Jacoby

“While I am opposed to all orthodox creeds, I have a creed myself; and my creed is this. Happiness is the only good. The time to be happy is now. The place to be happy is here. The way to be happy is to make others so. The creed is somewhat short, but it is long enough for this life, strong enough for this world. If there is another world, when we get there we can make another creed.”

Carl Sagan

“Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”

“In many cultures it is customary to answer that God created the universe out of nothing. But this is mere temporizing. If we wish courageously to pursue the question, we must, of course ask next where God comes from? And if we decide this to be unanswerable, why not save a step and conclude that the universe has always existed?”

“You can’t convince a believer of anything; for their belief is not based on evidence, it’s based on a deep-seated need to believe.”

Dan Barker

“Scientists do not join hands every Sunday and sing “Yes gravity is real! I know gravity is real! I will have faith! I believe in my heart that what goes up, up, up must come down, down, down. Amen!” If they did, we would think they were pretty insecure about the concept.”

Richard Dawkins

“Everybody is an atheist in saying that there is a god – from Ra to Shiva – in which he does not believe. All that the serious and objective atheist does is to take the next step and to say that there is just one more god to disbelieve in.”

“There is something infantile in the presumption that somebody else has a responsibility to give your life meaning and point… The truly adult view, by contrast, is that our life is as meaningful, as full and as wonderful as we choose to make it.”

Christopher Hitchens

“What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.”

“To terrify children with the image of hell, to consider women an inferior creation—is that good for the world?”

“Human decency is not derived from religion. It precedes it.”

Sam Harris

“We are, even now, killing ourselves over ancient literature. Who would have thought something so tragically absurd could be possible?”

“Jesus Christ—who, as it turns out, was born of a virgin, cheated death, and rose bodily into the heavens—can now be eaten in the form of a cracker.”

“George Bush says he speaks to god every day, and Christians love him for it. If George Bush said he spoke to god through his hair dryer, they would think he was mad. I fail to see how the addition of a hair dryer makes it any more absurd.”

“Atheism is just a way of clearing the space for better conversations.”

Further Reading

The Atheist’s Bible: An Illustrious Collection of Irreverent Thoughts by Joan Konner

The 23 Best Books on Atheism, Free-Thinking, and Humanism