Pre WWII Quotes

This is a collection of quotes of interest dating before WWII.  Some of these go back to antiquity and demonstrate that some of our modern issues have been around us for a very long time.


This one is featured and seems, as of October 10, 2017, particularly appropriate:

”As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.” — H. L. Mencken, Baltimore Evening Sun, July 26, 1920.


“Beware of the man of one book.” Thomas Aquinas


“When one thinks of this organization [The Lord’s Day Alliance] with its senseless leaflets, its stern endeavors, its blank despair, its half-shut eyes blinking at life, one is reminded of the frogs in the green scum-covered pond in the woods who sit on their haunches in the dark and croak all day. No doubt these frogs believe that the germ infested pond is a sacred pool. They are oblivious of the rolling, living ocean that lies just beyond.” Clarence Darrow


“I verily believe that the great good which has been effected in the world by Christianity has been largely counteracted by the pestilent doctrine on which all the Churches have insisted, that honest disbelief in their more or less astonishing creeds is a moral offence, indeed a sin of the deepest dye, deserving and involving the same future retribution as murder and robbery. ” T. H. Huxley


“Agnosticism, in fact, is not a creed, but a method, the essence of which lies in the rigorous application of a single principle. That principle is of treat antiquity; it is as old as Socrates; as old as the writer who said, ‘Try all things, hold fast by that which is good;’ it is the foundation of the Reformation, which simply illustrated the axiom that every man should be able to give a reason for the faith that is in him; it is the great principle of Descartes; it is the fundamental axiom of modern science.” T. H. Huxley


“A genuine first-hand religious experience…is bound to be a heterodoxy to its witnesses, the prophet appearing as a mere lonely madman. If this doctrine prove contagious enough to spread to any others, it becomes a definite and labeled heresy. But if it then still prove contagious enough to triumph over persecution, it becomes itself an orthodoxy; and when a religion has become an orthodoxy, its day of inwardness is over: the spring is dry; the faithful live at second hand exclusively and stone the prophets in their turn. The new church, in spite of whatever human goodness it may foster, can be henceforth counted on as a staunch ally in every attempt to stifle the spontaneous spirit, and to stop all later bubblings of the fountain from which, in purer days, it drew it own supply of inspiration.” William James, “The Varieties of Religious Experience”


“Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear.” Thomas Jefferson


“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.” Thomas Jefferson


“The clergy…believe that any portion of power confided to me [as President] will be exerted in opposition to their schemes. And they believe rightly: for I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man. But this is all they have to fear from me: and enough, too, in their opinion.” –Thomas Jefferson


“Reason and free inquiry are the only effective agents against error. Give a loose to them, they will support the true religion by bringing every false one to their tribunal, to the test of their investigation. They are the natural enemies of error and error only. Had not the Roman government permitted free inquiry, Christianity could never have been introduced. Had not free inquiry been indulged at the era of the Reformation, the corruption of Christianity could not have been purged away. Thomas Jefferson


“It is error alone which needs the support of government. Truth can stand by itself.” Thomas Jefferson


“I would rather belong to that race that commenced a skull-less vertebrate and produced Shakespeare, a race that has before it an infinite future, with the angel of progress beckoning forward, upward and onward forever – I had rather belong to such a race, commencing there, producing this, and with that hope, than to have sprung from a perfect pair upon which the Lord has lost money every moment from that day to this.” Robert Ingersoll


“The Declaration of Independence was a denial, and the first denial of a nation, of the infamous dogma that God confers the right upon one man to govern others.” Robert G. Ingersoll


“The Puritan believed the Bible to be the word of God, and this belief has always made those who held it cruel and wretched.” Robert Ingersoll


“…to argue with a man who has renouced his reason is like giving medicine to the dead.” Robert G. Ingersoll


“It is contended by many that ours is a Christian government, founded upon the Bible, and that all who look upon that book as false or foolish are destroying the foundation of our country. The truth is, our government is not founded upon the rights of gods, but upon the rights of men. Our Constitution was framed, not to declare and uphold the deity of Christ, but the sacredness of humanity. Ours is the first government made by the people for the people. It is the only nation with which the gods have nothing to do. And yet there are some judges dishonest and cowardly enough to solemly decide that this is a Christian country, and that our free institutions are based upon the infamous laws of Jehovah.” Robert G. Ingersoll


“This crime called blasphemy was invented by priests for the purpose of defending doctrines not able to take care of themselves.” Robert G. Ingersoll


“By the efforts of these infidels, the name of God was left out of the Constitution of the United States. They knew that if an infinite being was put in, no room would be left for the people. They knew that if any church was made the mistress of the state, that mistress, like all others, would corrupt, weaken, and destroy.” Robert G. Ingersoll


“Again if the nature of the soul is immortal and makes its way into our body at the time of birth, why are we unable to remember the time already gone, and why do we retain no traces of past actions? If the power of the mind has been so completely changed that all remembrance of things past things is lost, that, I think, differs not widely from death; therefore you must admit that the soul which was before has perished and that which now is has now been formed.” Lucretius


“The so-called religious organizations which now lead the war against the teaching of evolution are nothing more, at bottom, than conspiracies of the inferior man against his betters. They mirror very accurately his congenital hatred of knowledge, his bitter enmity to the man who knows more than he does, and so gets more out of life . . .H.L.Menken

Such organizations, of course, must have leaders; there must be men in them whose ignorance and imbecility are measurably less abject than the ignorance and imbecility of the average. These super-Chandala often attain to a considerable power, especially in democratic states. Their followers trust them and look up to them; sometimes, when the pack is on the loose, it is necessary to conciliate them. But their puissance cannot conceal their incurable inferiority. They belong to the mob as surely as their dupes, and the thing that animates them is precisely the mob’s hatred of superiority. Whatever lies above the level of their comprehension is of the devil.” H.L.Menken


“The inferior man’s reasons for hating knowledge are not hard to discern. He hates it because it is complex – because it puts an unbearable burden upon his meager capacity for taking in ideas. This his path is always for short cuts. All superstitions are such short cuts. Their aim is to make the unintelligible simple, and even obvious.” H.L. Menken


“Woman was the second mistake of God – “Woman, at bottom, is a serpent, Heva” – every priest knows that; “from woman comes every evil in the world” – every priest knows that, too. Ergo, she is to blame for science…It was through woman that man learned to taste of the tree of knowledge…Science is the first of sins, the germ of all sins, the original sin.” Nietzche


“Some Christians pretend that Christianity was not established by the sword; but of what period of time do they speak? It was impossible that twelve men could begin with the sword; they had not the power; but no sooner were the professors of Christianity sufficiently powerful to employ the sword than they did so, and the stake and faggot too; and Mahomet could not do it sooner.” Thomas Paine


“The only sect that has not persecuted are the Quakers; and the only reason that can be given for it is, that they are rather Deists than Christians. They do not believe much about Jesus Christ, and they call the scriptures a dead letter.” Thomas Paine


“No miracle has ever taken place under conditions which science can accept. Experience shows, without exception, that miracles occur only in times and in countries in which miracles are believed in, and in the presence of persons who are disposed to believe them.” Ernest Renan


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


“[The mob] is easily led, on the plea of religion, at one moment to adore its kings as gods, and anon to execrate and abjure them as humanity’s common bane. Immense pains have therefore been taken to counteract this evil by investing religion, whether true or false, with such pomp and ceremony, that it may be superior to every shock, and be always observed with studious reverence by the whole people – a system which has been brought to great perfection by the Turks, for they consider even controversy impious, and so dog men’s minds with dogmatic formulas, that they leave no room for sound reason, not even enough to doubt with.” Spinosa


“There is one notable thing about our Christianity: bad, bloody, merciless, money-grabbing and predatory as it is – in our country particularly, and in all other Christian countries in a somewhat modified degree – it is still a hundred times better than the Christianity of the Bible, with its prodigious crime- the invention of Hell. Measured by our Christianity of to-day, bad as it is, hypocritical as it is, empty and hollow as it is, neither the Deity nor His Son is a Christian, nor qualified for that moderately high place. Ours is a terrible religion. The fleets of the world could swim in spacious comfort in the innocent blood it has spilt.” Mark Twain


“During many ages there were witches. The Bible said so. The Bible commanded that they should not be allowed to live. Therefore the Church, after doing its duty in but a lazy and indolent way for 800 years, gathered up its halters, thumbscrews, and firebrands, and set about its holy work in earnest. She worked hard at it night and day during nine centuries and imprisoned, tortured, hanged, and burned whole hordes and armies of witches, and washed the Christian world clean with their foul blood. Then it was discovered that there was no such thing as witches, and never had been. One does not know whether to laugh or to cry.” Mark Twain


“How insignificant we are, with our pigmy little world! …Was our small globe the favored one of all? Does one apple in a vast orchard think as much of itself as we do? …Do the pismires argue upon vexed questions of pismire theology – and do they climb a molehill and look abroad over the grand universe of an acre of ground and say. ‘Great is God, who created all things for Us?'” Mark Twain


“There was no place in the land where the seeker could not find some small budding sign of pity for the slave. No place in all the land but one– the pulpit. It yielded last; it always does. It fought a strong and stubborn fight, and then did what it always does, joined the procession– at the tail end. Slavery fell. The slavery texts [in the Bible] remained; the practice changed; that was all.” Mark Twain


“Go to Heaven for the climate, Hell for the company.” Mark Twain


“Of the delights of this world, man cares most for sexual intercourse, yet he has left it out of his heaven.” Mark Twain


“If Christ were here now there is one thing he would not be — a Christian.” Mark Twain


“Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd.” Voltaire


“But if oxen (and horses) and lions…. could draw with hands and create works of art like those made by men, horses would draw pictures of gods like horses, and oxen of gods like oxen…. Aethiopians have gods with snub noses and black hair, Thracians have gods with grey eyes and red hair.’ Xenophanes