Atheist Frontier - Questioning what's Real

People - Christopher Hitchens - Quotations


Christopher Hitchens Many of Christopher Hitchens' quotations have gained much popularity despite their tendency to also be lengthy.  The lengthiness is the result of being both specific and meaningful at the same time, sometimes with strongly provocative and valuable purviews:

  • "Objectivity is the search for truth, even if it leads you to unwelcome conclusions."
  • "I think religion should be treated with ridicule, hatred, and contempt, and I claim that right."
  • "There's no Hell mentioned in the Old Testament.  The punishment of the dead is not specified there.  It's only with gentle Jesus, meek and mild, that the idea of eternal torture for minor transgressions is introduced."
  • "Propose a right action committed, or morally right statement made, by a believer that could not have been made, or performed, or uttered by a non-believer.  That's all you have to do."
    • In addition to his challenge, he usually also added "then there's a corollary challenge, which is this:  Can you imagine or can you think of, a wicked action undertaken, or a wicked statement made, by a believer because of their belief that would not be attributable to a non-believer?"
  • "Religion now comes to us in this smiley-faced, ingratiating way, because it's had to give so much ground and because we know so much more.  But you have no right to forget the way it behaved when it was strong, and when it really did believe that it had God on its side."
  • "I appear as a skeptic, who believes that doubt is the great engine, the great fuel, of all inquiry, all discovery, and all innovation, and that I doubt these things.  The disadvantage, it seems to me, in the argument goes to the person who says 'no, I know, I know it must be true, it is true.'"  We're too early in the study of physics and biology, it seems to me, to be dealing in certainties of that kind, especially when the stakes are so high; it seems to me, to put it in a condensed form, extraordinary claims, such as the existence of a divine power with a son who cares enough to come and redeem us, extraordinare claims require truly extraordinary evidence."
  • "Take the risk of thinking for yourself; much more happiness, truth, beauty, and wisdom will come to you that way."
  • "What's innate in our species isn't the fault of religion, but the bad things that are innate in our species are strengthened by religion and sanctified by it...  So, religion is a very powerful re-enforcer of our backward, clannish, tribal element.  But you can't say it's the cause of it; to the contrary, it's the product of it."
  • "Human decency is not derived from religion, it precedes it."
  • "Gullibility and credulity are considered undesirable qualities in every department of human life, except religion."
  • "...what makes my life meaningful, it's been struggling myself to be free, ... [and to] try to help others to be free too.  That's what's given a lot of meaning to my life, and does still -- solidarity, with those who want to be as free as I am, partly by luck and partly by my own efforts and efforts of others."
  • "If you had asked me in the 1930s which religious belief I thought was the most threatening to the survival of human society and civilization, I would have said Roman Catholicism because of its very intimate and deep and nasty relationship with fascism.  At that stage the greatest threat to humanity was not Jihadism, but at present it is.  Religions take their turn at bat."
  • "Islamophobia: a word created by fascists, and used by cowards, to manipulate morons."
  • "It's enough to make a cat laugh." (2008; reflecting on the Mormon religion)
  • "Beware the irrational, however seductive.  Shun the 'transcendent' and all who invite you to subordinate or annihilate yourself.  Distrust compassion; prefer dignity for yourself and others.  Don't be afraid to be thought arrogant or selfish.  Picture all experts as if they were mammals.  Never be a spectator of unfairness or stupidity.  Seek out argument and disputation for their own sake; the grave will supply plenty of time for silence.  Suspect your own motives, and all excuses.  Do not live for others any more than you would expect others to live for you."
  • "Religion is the outcome of unresolved contradictions in the material world."
  • "It's called Faith because it's not Knowledge."
  • "Tread softly, for you tread on our dreams."
  • "Those who want to be offended don't have the right to try and close down the newspaper that offends them."
  • "I don't have to defend his opinions, I have to only defend his right to hold them."
  • "If people are determined to be offended, if they will climb up on the ladder, balancing precariously on their own toilet system, to be upset by what they see through the neighbour's bathroom window, there's nothing you can do about that."
  • "When the Vatican asked me to testify against Mother Teresa, I wished I did; I discovered that the office of Devil's Advocate has been abolished, now.  So I come before you as the only person ever to have represented the Devil pro-bono."
  • "If we have free will, by definition we cannot be granted it.  We can't be given it.  My [-audio-recording-distorted-] paradox states that 'Of course we have free will, we have no choice.'  To say that it's a gift is to negate the whole concept of free will on its face.  So, if that isn't self-evident, I can't think of anything that would meet the definition of being self-evident."
  • "As I've said before, you can be an atheist and anything you like."
  • "You don't become an atheist so much as you find out that's what you are.  There's no moment of - sort of - conversion, where you suddenly think 'I don't believe this anymore,' you essentially find you don't believe it, and in my case that happened when I was about 9 or 10."
  • "The atheist proposition is the following - most of the time - it may not be said that there is no god; it may be said that there is no reason to think that there is one." (April 3, 2008)
  • "Distrust compassion; prefer dignity for yourself and others.  Don't be afraid to be thought arrogant or selfish."
  • "I do insist that this kind of bad behaviour is innate in religion, is part of religion itself, it's not an abuse of it or something undertaken in the name of, it's a direct consequence of the willingness to believe in the supernatural, and the willingness to believe in a supernatural dictatorship in particular." (2009 at the Samford Socratic Club)
  • "First, first I've said repeatedly that this stuff [(religion)] cannot be taken away from people, it is their favourite toy, and it will remain so as long - as [Sigmund] Freud said, in The Future Of An Illusion - it will remain that way as long as we're afraid of death and have that problem which is, I think, will likely be a very long time.

    "Second, I hope I've made it clear, that I'm perfectly happy for people to have these toys, and to play with them at home, and hug them to themselves and so on, and to share them with other people who come around and play with the toys.  So that's absolutely fine.  They are not to make me play with these toys.  I will not play with the toys.  Don't bring the toys to my house, don't say my children must play with these toys, don't say my toys might be a condom - here we go again - are not allowed by their toys.  I'm not going to have any of that.

    "Enough with clerical and religious bullying and intimidation.  Is that finally clear?  Have I got that across?  [Audience applause.]  Thank you." (May 7, 2007)

  • "Owners of dogs will have noticed that, if you provide them with food and water and shelter and affection, they will think you are god.  Whereas owners of cats are compelled to realize that, if you provide them with food and water and shelter and affection, they draw the conclusion that they are gods."
  • "The Constitution is much more important than the Bush Administration."
  • "I find something repulsive about the idea of vicarious redemption.  I would not throw my numberless sins onto a scapegoat and expect them to pass from me; we rightly sneer at the barbaric societies that practice this unpleasantness in its literal form.  There's no moral value in the vicarious gesture anyway.  As Thomas Paine pointed out, you may, if you wish, take on a another man's debt, or even to take his place in prison - that would be self-sacrificing - but you may not assume his actual crimes as if they were your own; for one thing you did not commit them and might have died rather than do so; for another this impossible action would rob him of individual responsibility.  So, the whole apparatus of absolution and forgiveness strikes me as positively immoral, while the concept of revealed truth degrades the concept of free intelligence by purportedly relieving us of the hard task of working out the ethical principles for ourselves."
  • "I know what's coming.  I know no one beats these odds.  And it's a matter of getting used to that and growing up and realising that you're expelled from your mother's uterus as if shot from a cannon towards a barn door studded with old nail files and rusty hooks.  It's a matter of how you use up the intervening time in an intelligent and ironic way ... and try not to do anything ghastly to your fellow creatures."
  • "We don't say on non-truth claims or faith claims that we know when we don't ... atheists do not say that we know there is no god, we say to the contrary, no argument and no evidence has ever been educed that we consider to be persuasive; there's no reason to believe in evidence or argument, ontology or science.  The same with the afterlife, of course we don't say that we know there isn't one, we say that we don't know anyone who can bring any reason to think that there is."
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