Essays Quotes

We've searched our database for all the quotes and captions related to Essays. Here they are! All 100 of them:

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Life is pain, highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.
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William Goldman (William Goldman: Four Screenplays with Essays (Applause Books))
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Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.
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Aldous Huxley (Complete Essays, Vol. II: 1926-1929)
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After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.
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Aldous Huxley (Music at Night and Other Essays)
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If you're looking for sympathy you'll find it between shit and syphilis in the dictionary.
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David Sedaris (Barrel Fever: Stories and Essays)
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It is easy in the world to live after the world's opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.
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Ralph Waldo Emerson (The Complete Prose Works Of Ralph Waldo Emerson)
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A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.
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Thomas Mann (Essays of Three Decades)
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People who deny the existence of dragons are often eaten by dragons. From within.
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Ursula K. Le Guin (The Wave in the Mind: Talks and Essays on the Writer, the Reader and the Imagination)
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Sometimes I lie awake at night and I ask, "Is life a multiple choice test or is it a true or false test?" ...Then a voice comes to me out of the dark and says, "We hate to tell you this but life is a thousand word essay.
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Charles M. Schulz
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Never say more than is necessary.
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Richard Brinsley Sheridan
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Genius is nothing more nor less than childhood recaptured at will.
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Charles Baudelaire (The Painter of Modern Life and Other Essays (Phaidon Arts and Letters))
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Your silence will not protect you.
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Audre Lorde (Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches)
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I kept always two books in my pocket, one to read, one to write in.
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Robert Louis Stevenson (Essays of Robert Louis Stevenson)
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To err is human, to forgive, divine.
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Alexander Pope (An Essay On Criticism)
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The essence of being human is that one does not seek perfection.
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George Orwell (In Front of Your Nose: 1945-1950 (The Collected Essays, Journalism & Letters, Vol. 4))
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If, then, I were asked for the most important advice I could give, that which I considered to be the most useful to the men of our century, I should simply say: in the name of God, stop a moment, cease your work, look around you.
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Leo Tolstoy (Essays, Letters and Miscellanies)
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A man can be himself only so long as he is alone; and if he does not love solitude, he will not love freedom; for it is only when he is alone that he is really free.
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Arthur Schopenhauer (Essays and Aphorisms)
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That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons that history has to teach.
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Aldous Huxley (Collected Essays)
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I live for coincidences. They briefly give to me the illusion or the hope that there's a pattern to my life, and if there's a pattern, then maybe I'm moving toward some kind of destiny where it's all explained.
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Jonathan Ames (My Less Than Secret Life: A Diary, Fiction, Essays)
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Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.
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Alexander Pope (An Essay On Criticism)
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I quote others only in order the better to express myself.
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Michel de Montaigne (The Complete Essays)
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On the highest throne in the world, we still sit only on our own bottom.
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Michel de Montaigne (The Complete Essays)
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We must be free not because we claim freedom, but because we practice it.
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William Faulkner (Essays, Speeches & Public Letters)
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In order to understand the world, one has to turn away from it on occasion." [The Minotaur]
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Albert Camus (The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays)
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So avoid using the word β€˜very’ because it’s lazy. A man is not very tired, he is exhausted. Don’t use very sad, use morose. Language was invented for one reason, boys - to woo women - and, in that endeavor, laziness will not do. It also won’t do in your essays.
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N.H. Kleinbaum (Dead Poets Society)
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The greatest thing in the world is to know how to belong to oneself.
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Michel de Montaigne (The Complete Essays)
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Grammar is a piano I play by ear.
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Joan Didion (Joan Didion: Essays & Conversations)
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Few people are capable of expressing with equanimity opinions which differ from the prejudices of their social enviroment. Most people are incapable of forming such opinions." (Essay to Leo Baeck, 1953)
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Albert Einstein
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A wise man will make more opportunities than he finds.
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Francis Bacon (The Essays)
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All I could think of was that the teachers must've found the illegal stash of candy I'd been selling out of my dorms room. Or maybe they'd realized I got my Essay on Tom Sawyer from the Internet without ever reading the book and now they were going to take away my grade. Or worse, they were going to make me read the book.
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Rick Riordan (The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, #1))
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When we read a story, we inhabit it. The covers of the book are like a roof and four walls. What is to happen next will take place within the four walls of the story. And this is possible because the story's voice makes everything its own.
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John Berger (Keeping a Rendezvous: Essays)
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Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us, or we find it not.
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Ralph Waldo Emerson (Emerson's Essays)
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I want to think again of dangerous and noble things. I want to be light and frolicsome. I want to be improbable beautiful and afraid of nothing, as though I had wings.
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Mary Oliver (Owls and Other Fantasies: Poems and Essays)
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Every man takes the limits of his own field of vision for the limits of the world.
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Arthur Schopenhauer (Studies in Pessimism: The Essays)
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Seeking what is true is not seeking what is desirable.
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Albert Camus (The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays)
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There is not love of life without despair about life.
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Albert Camus (Lyrical and Critical Essays)
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Man is always prey to his truths. Once he has admitted them, he cannot free himself from them.
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Albert Camus (The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays)
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The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation. From the desperate city you go into the desperate country, and have to console yourself with the bravery of minks and muskrats. A stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind. There is no play in them, for this comes after work. But it is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things..
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Henry David Thoreau (Civil Disobedience and Other Essays)
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The person who writes for fools is always sure of a large audience.
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Arthur Schopenhauer (Religion: A Dialogue and Other Essays)
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What is called a reason for living is also an excellent reason for dying.
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Albert Camus (The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays)
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When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty, I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.
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C.S. Lewis (On Stories: And Other Essays on Literature)
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A friend is a person with whom I may be sincere. Before him I may think aloud. I am arrived at last in the presence of a man so real and equal, that I may drop even those undermost garments of dissimulation, courtesy, and second thought, which men never put off, and may deal with him with the simplicity and wholeness with which one chemical atom meets another.
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Ralph Waldo Emerson (Essays, First Series)
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If you press me to say why I loved him, I can say no more than because he was he, and I was I.
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Michel de Montaigne (The Complete Essays)
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There is scarcely any passion without struggle.
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Albert Camus (The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays)
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Man stands face to face with the irrational. He feels within him his longing for happiness and for reason. The absurd is born of this confrontation between the human need and the unreasonable silence of the world.
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Albert Camus (The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays)
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On the whole human beings want to be good, but not too good, and not quite all the time.
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George Orwell (All Art is Propaganda: Critical Essays)
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Der Mensch kann tun was er will; er kann aber nicht wollen was er will. Man can do what he wills but he cannot will what he wills.
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Arthur Schopenhauer (Essays and Aphorisms)
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Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind.
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Ralph Waldo Emerson (Self-Reliance: An Excerpt from Collected Essays, First Series)
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To be great is to be misunderstood.
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Ralph Waldo Emerson (Self-Reliance and Other Essays (Dover Thrift Editions: Philosophy))
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He who fears he shall suffer, already suffers what he fears.
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Michel de Montaigne (The Complete Essays)
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Fear is the main source of superstition, and one of the main sources of cruelty. To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom.
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Bertrand Russell (Unpopular Essays)
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Lonely people tend, rather, to be lonely because they decline to bear the psychic costs of being around other humans. They are allergic to people. People affect them too strongly.
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David Foster Wallace (A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments)
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You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you odd.
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Flannery O'Connor (Collected Works: Wise Blood / A Good Man Is Hard to Find / The Violent Bear It Away / Everything That Rises Must Converge / Essays and Letters)
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How do I know what I think until I see what I say?
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E.M. Forster
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It is the power of the mind to be unconquerable.
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Seneca (The Stoic Philosophy of Seneca: Essays and Letters)
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It is good to be a cynic β€” it is better to be a contented cat β€” and it is best not to exist at all.
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H.P. Lovecraft (Collected Essays 5: Philosophy, Autobiography and Miscellany)
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I have never understood why it is "greed" to want to keep the money you have earned but not greed to want to take somebody else's money.
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Thomas Sowell (Barbarians inside the Gates and Other Controversial Essays (Hoover Institution Press Publication))
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Beauty is no quality in things themselves: It exists merely in the mind which contemplates them; and each mind perceives a different beauty.
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David Hume (Of the Standard of Taste and Other Essays)
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When friendships are real, they are not glass threads or frost work, but the solidest things we can know.
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Ralph Waldo Emerson (Essays, First Series)
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Every miserable fool who has nothing at all of which he can be proud, adopts as a last resource pride in the nation to which he belongs; he is ready and happy to defend all its faults and follies tooth and nail, thus reimbursing himself for his own inferiority.
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Arthur Schopenhauer (Essays and Aphorisms)
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We feel free because we lack the very language to articulate our unfreedom.
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Slavoj Ε½iΕΎek (Welcome to the Desert of the Real: Five Essays on September 11 and Related Dates)
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Consistency is contrary to nature, contrary to life. The only completely consistent people are the dead.
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Aldous Huxley (Do what you will: Twelve essays (His Collected works))
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I have noticed that even those who assert that everything is predestined and that we can change nothing about it still look both ways before they cross the street.
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Stephen Hawking (Black Holes and Baby Universes and Other Essays)
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When a great genius appears in the world you may know him by this sign; that the dunces are all in confederacy against him." [Thoughts on Various Subjects]
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Jonathan Swift (Abolishing Christianity and Other Essays)
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Am I a good person? Deep down, do I even really want to be a good person, or do I only want to seem like a good person so that people (including myself) will approve of me? Is there a difference? How do I ever actually know whether I'm bullshitting myself, morally speaking?
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David Foster Wallace (Consider the Lobster and Other Essays)
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I know simply that the sky will last longer than I.
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Albert Camus (The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays)
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It took many years of vomiting up all the filth I’d been taught about myself, and half-believed, before I was able to walk on the earth as though I had a right to be here.
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James Baldwin (Collected Essays: Notes of a Native Son / Nobody Knows My Name / The Fire Next Time / No Name in the Street / The Devil Finds Work / Other Essays)
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I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.
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Ralph Waldo Emerson (The Essays of Ralph Waldo Emerson (Belknap Press))
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Be yourself; no base imitator of another, but your best self. There is something which you can do better than another. Listen to the inward voice and bravely obey that. Do the things at which you are great, not what you were never made for.
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Ralph Waldo Emerson (Self-Reliance and Other Essays (Dover Thrift Editions: Philosophy))
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I believe feminism is grounded in supporting the choices of women even if we wouldn’t make certain choices for ourselves.
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Roxane Gay (Bad Feminist: Essays)
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Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string.
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Ralph Waldo Emerson (Self-Reliance: An Excerpt from Collected Essays, First Series)
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If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore; and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the city of God which had been shown! But every night come out these envoys of beauty, and light the universe with their admonishing smile.
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Ralph Waldo Emerson (Nature and Selected Essays (Penguin Classics))
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The struggle itself towards the heights is enough to fill a man's heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.
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Albert Camus (The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays)
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Guilt is not a response to anger; it is a response to one’s own actions or lack of action. If it leads to change then it can be useful, since it is then no longer guilt but the beginning of knowledge. Yet all too often, guilt is just another name for impotence, for defensiveness destructive of communication; it becomes a device to protect ignorance and the continuation of things the way they are, the ultimate protection for changelessness.
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Audre Lorde (Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches)
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Revolution is not a one time event.
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Audre Lorde (Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches)
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Some books are undeservedly forgotten; none are undeservedly remembered.
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W.H. Auden (The Dyer's Hand and Other Essays)
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If I speak of myself in different ways, that is because I look at myself in different ways.
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Michel de Montaigne (The Complete Essays)
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Collective fear stimulates herd instinct, and tends to produce ferocity toward those who are not regarded as members of the herd.
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Bertrand Russell (Unpopular Essays)
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It’s hard to be told to lighten up because if you lighten up any more, you’re going to float the fuck away.
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Roxane Gay (Bad Feminist: Essays)
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To be left alone is the most precious thing one can ask of the modern world.
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Anthony Burgess (Homage to QWERT YUIOP: Essays)
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No man ever threw away life while it was worth keeping.
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David Hume (Essays on Suicide and the Immortality of the Soul)
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I do not pretend to be able to prove that there is no God. I equally cannot prove that Satan is a fiction. The Christian god may exist; so may the gods of Olympus, or of ancient Egypt, or of Babylon. But no one of these hypotheses is more probable than any other: they lie outside the region of even probable knowledge, and therefore there is no reason to consider any of them.
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Bertrand Russell (Why I Am Not a Christian and Other Essays on Religion and Related Subjects)
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A little learning is a dangerous thing. Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian Spring; There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain, and drinking largely sobers us again.
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Alexander Pope (An Essay On Criticism)
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Read not to contradict and confute; nor to believe and take for granted; nor to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider. Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested: that is, some books are to be read only in parts, others to be read, but not curiously, and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention.
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Francis Bacon (The Essays)
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Learned we may be with another man's learning: we can only be wise with wisdom of our own.
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Michel de Montaigne (The Complete Essays)
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When we read, another person thinks for us: we merely repeat his mental process. In learning to write, the pupil goes over with his pen what the teacher has outlined in pencil: so in reading; the greater part of the work of thought is already done for us. This is why it relieves us to take up a book after being occupied with our own thoughts. And in reading, the mind is, in fact, only the playground of another’s thoughts. So it comes about that if anyone spends almost the whole day in reading, and by way of relaxation devotes the intervals to some thoughtless pastime, he gradually loses the capacity for thinking; just as the man who always rides, at last forgets how to walk. This is the case with many learned persons: they have read themselves stupid.
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Arthur Schopenhauer (Essays and Aphorisms)
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People use drugs, legal and illegal, because their lives are intolerably painful or dull. They hate their work and find no rest in their leisure. They are estranged from their families and their neighbors. It should tell us something that in healthy societies drug use is celebrative, convivial, and occasional, whereas among us it is lonely, shameful, and addictive. We need drugs, apparently, because we have lost each other.
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Wendell Berry (The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays)
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Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. This very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be "cured" against one's will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals.
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C.S. Lewis (God in the Dock: Essays on Theology (Making of Modern Theology) (ABRIDGED))
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Black and Third World people are expected to educate white people as to our humanity. Women are expected to educate men. Lesbians and gay men are expected to educate the heterosexual world. The oppressors maintain their position and evade their responsibility for their own actions. There is a constant drain of energy which might be better used in redefining ourselves and devising realistic scenarios for altering the present and constructing the future.
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Audre Lorde (Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches)
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If children were brought into the world by an act of pure reason alone, would the human race continue to exist? Would not a man rather have so much sympathy with the coming generation as to spare it the burden of existence, or at any rate not take it upon himself to impose that burden upon it in cold blood?
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Arthur Schopenhauer (Studies in Pessimism: The Essays)
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The art of not reading is a very important one. It consists in not taking an interest in whatever may be engaging the attention of the general public at any particular time. When some political or ecclesiastical pamphlet, or novel, or poem is making a great commotion, you should remember that he who writes for fools always finds a large public. A precondition for reading good books is not reading bad ones: for life is short.
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Arthur Schopenhauer (Essays and Aphorisms)
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A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. Speak what you think now in hard words, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day. β€” 'Ah, so you shall be sure to be misunderstood.' β€” Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood.
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Ralph Waldo Emerson (Self-Reliance: An Excerpt from Collected Essays, First Series)
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Go for broke. Always try and do too much. Dispense with safety nets. Take a deep breath before you begin talking. Aim for the stars. Keep grinning. Be bloody-minded. Argue with the world. And never forget that writing is as close as we get to keeping a hold on the thousand and one things--childhood, certainties, cities, doubts, dreams, instants, phrases, parents, loves--that go on slipping , like sand, through our fingers.
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Salman Rushdie (Imaginary Homelands: Essays and Criticism 1981-1991)
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When she does not find love, she may find poetry. Because she does not act, she observes, she feels, she records; a color, a smile awakens profound echoes within her; her destiny is outside her, scattered in cities already built, on the faces of men already marked by life, she makes contact, she relishes with passion and yet in a manner more detached, more free, than that of a young man. Being poorly integrated in the universe of humanity and hardly able to adapt herself therein, she, like the child, is able to see it objectively; instead of being interested solely in her grasp on things, she looks for their significance; she catches their special outlines, their unexpected metamorphoses. She rarely feels a bold creativeness, and usually she lacks the technique of self-expression; but in her conversation, her letters, her literary essays, her sketches, she manifests an original sensitivity. The young girl throws herself into things with ardor, because she is not yet deprived of her transcendence; and the fact that she accomplishes nothing, that she is nothing, will make her impulses only the more passionate. Empty and unlimited, she seeks from within her nothingness to attain All.
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Simone de Beauvoir (The Second Sex)
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A man once asked me ... how I managed in my books to write such natural conversation between men when they were by themselves. Was I, by any chance, a member of a large, mixed family with a lot of male friends? I replied that, on the contrary, I was an only child and had practically never seen or spoken to any men of my own age till I was about twenty-five. "Well," said the man, "I shouldn't have expected a woman (meaning me) to have been able to make it so convincing." I replied that I had coped with this difficult problem by making my men talk, as far as possible, like ordinary human beings. This aspect of the matter seemed to surprise the other speaker; he said no more, but took it away to chew it over. One of these days it may quite likely occur to him that women, as well as men, when left to themselves, talk very much like human beings also.
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Dorothy L. Sayers (Are Women Human? Astute and Witty Essays on the Role of Women in Society)
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A number of years ago, when I was a freshly-appointed instructor, I met, for the first time, a certain eminent historian of science. At the time I could only regard him with tolerant condescension. I was sorry of the man who, it seemed to me, was forced to hover about the edges of science. He was compelled to shiver endlessly in the outskirts, getting only feeble warmth from the distant sun of science- in-progress; while I, just beginning my research, was bathed in the heady liquid heat up at the very center of the glow. In a lifetime of being wrong at many a point, I was never more wrong. It was I, not he, who was wandering in the periphery. It was he, not I, who lived in the blaze. I had fallen victim to the fallacy of the 'growing edge;' the belief that only the very frontier of scientific advance counted; that everything that had been left behind by that advance was faded and dead. But is that true? Because a tree in spring buds and comes greenly into leaf, are those leaves therefore the tree? If the newborn twigs and their leaves were all that existed, they would form a vague halo of green suspended in mid-air, but surely that is not the tree. The leaves, by themselves, are no more than trivial fluttering decoration. It is the trunk and limbs that give the tree its grandeur and the leaves themselves their meaning. There is not a discovery in science, however revolutionary, however sparkling with insight, that does not arise out of what went before. 'If I have seen further than other men,' said Isaac Newton, 'it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants.
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Isaac Asimov (Adding a Dimension: Seventeen Essays on the History of Science)
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In a society in which nearly everybody is dominated by somebody else's mind or by a disembodied mind, it becomes increasingly difficult to learn the truth about the activities of governments and corporations, about the quality or value of products, or about the health of one's own place and economy. In such a society, also, our private economies will depend less and less upon the private ownership of real, usable property, and more and more upon property that is institutional and abstract, beyond individual control, such as money, insurance policies, certificates of deposit, stocks, and shares. And as our private economies become more abstract, the mutual, free helps and pleasures of family and community life will be supplanted by a kind of displaced or placeless citizenship and by commerce with impersonal and self-interested suppliers... Thus, although we are not slaves in name, and cannot be carried to market and sold as somebody else's legal chattels, we are free only within narrow limits. For all our talk about liberation and personal autonomy, there are few choices that we are free to make. What would be the point, for example, if a majority of our people decided to be self-employed? The great enemy of freedom is the alignment of political power with wealth. This alignment destroys the commonwealth - that is, the natural wealth of localities and the local economies of household, neighborhood, and community - and so destroys democracy, of which the commonwealth is the foundation and practical means.
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Wendell Berry (The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays)
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On Writing: Aphorisms and Ten-Second Essays 1. A beginning ends what an end begins. 2. The despair of the blank page: it is so full. 3. In the head Art’s not democratic. I wait a long time to be a writer good enough even for myself. 4. The best time is stolen time. 5. All work is the avoidance of harder work. 6. When I am trying to write I turn on music so I can hear what is keeping me from hearing. 7. I envy music for being beyond words. But then, every word is beyond music. 8. Why would we write if we’d already heard what we wanted to hear? 9. The poem in the quarterly is sure to fail within two lines: flaccid, rhythmless, hopelessly dutiful. But I read poets from strange languages with freedom and pleasure because I can believe in all that has been lost in translation. Though all works, all acts, all languages are already translation. 10. Writer: how books read each other. 11. Idolaters of the great need to believe that what they love cannot fail them, adorers of camp, kitsch, trash that they cannot fail what they love. 12. If I didn’t spend so much time writing, I’d know a lot more. But I wouldn’t know anything. 13. If you’re Larkin or Bishop, one book a decade is enough. If you’re not? More than enough. 14. Writing is like washing windows in the sun. With every attempt to perfect clarity you make a new smear. 15. There are silences harder to take back than words. 16. Opacity gives way. Transparency is the mystery. 17. I need a much greater vocabulary to talk to you than to talk to myself. 18. Only half of writing is saying what you mean. The other half is preventing people from reading what they expected you to mean. 19. Believe stupid praise, deserve stupid criticism. 20. Writing a book is like doing a huge jigsaw puzzle, unendurably slow at first, almost self-propelled at the end. Actually, it’s more like doing a puzzle from a box in which several puzzles have been mixed. Starting out, you can’t tell whether a piece belongs to the puzzle at hand, or one you’ve already done, or will do in ten years, or will never do. 21. Minds go from intuition to articulation to self-defense, which is what they die of. 22. The dead are still writing. Every morning, somewhere, is a line, a passage, a whole book you are sure wasn’t there yesterday. 23. To feel an end is to discover that there had been a beginning. A parenthesis closes that we hadn’t realized was open). 24. There, all along, was what you wanted to say. But this is not what you wanted, is it, to have said it?
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James Richardson
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If what's always distinguished bad writing--flat characters, a narrative world that's clichΓ©d and not recognizably human, etc.--is also a description of today's world, then bad writing becomes an ingenious mimesis of a bad world. If readers simply believe the world is stupid and shallow and mean, then [Bret] Ellis can write a mean shallow stupid novel that becomes a mordant deadpan commentary on the badness of everything. Look man, we'd probably most of us agree that these are dark times, and stupid ones, but do we need fiction that does nothing but dramatize how dark and stupid everything is? In dark times, the definition of good art would seem to be art that locates and applies CPR to those elements of what's human and magical that still live and glow despite the times' darkness. Really good fiction could have as dark a worldview as it wished, but it'd find a way both to depict this world and to illuminate the possibilities for being alive and human in it. Postmodern irony and cynicism's become an end in itself, a measure of hip sophistication and literary savvy. Few artists dare to try to talk about ways of working toward redeeming what's wrong, because they'll look sentimental and naive to all the weary ironists. Irony's gone from liberating to enslaving. There's some great essay somewhere that has a line about irony being the song of the prisoner who's come to love his cage… The postmodern founders' patricidal work was great, but patricide produces orphans, and no amount of revelry can make up for the fact that writers my age have been literary orphans throughout our formative years. We enter a spiritual puberty where we snap to the fact that the great transcendent horror is loneliness, excluded encagement in the self. Once we’ve hit this age, we will now give or take anything, wear any mask, to fit, be part-of, not be Alone, we young. The U.S. arts are our guide to inclusion. A how-to. We are shown how to fashion masks of ennui and jaded irony at a young age where the face is fictile enough to assume the shape of whatever it wears. And then it’s stuck there, the weary cynicism that saves us from gooey sentiment and unsophisticated naΓ―vetΓ©. Sentiment equals naΓ―vetΓ© on this continent. You burn with hunger for food that does not exist. A U. S. of modern A. where the State is not a team or a code, but a sort of sloppy intersection of desires and fears, where the only public consensus a boy must surrender to is the acknowledged primacy of straight-line pursuing this flat and short-sighted idea of personal happiness.
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David Foster Wallace
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Reading list (1972 edition)[edit] 1. Homer – Iliad, Odyssey 2. The Old Testament 3. Aeschylus – Tragedies 4. Sophocles – Tragedies 5. Herodotus – Histories 6. Euripides – Tragedies 7. Thucydides – History of the Peloponnesian War 8. Hippocrates – Medical Writings 9. Aristophanes – Comedies 10. Plato – Dialogues 11. Aristotle – Works 12. Epicurus – Letter to Herodotus; Letter to Menoecus 13. Euclid – Elements 14. Archimedes – Works 15. Apollonius of Perga – Conic Sections 16. Cicero – Works 17. Lucretius – On the Nature of Things 18. Virgil – Works 19. Horace – Works 20. Livy – History of Rome 21. Ovid – Works 22. Plutarch – Parallel Lives; Moralia 23. Tacitus – Histories; Annals; Agricola Germania 24. Nicomachus of Gerasa – Introduction to Arithmetic 25. Epictetus – Discourses; Encheiridion 26. Ptolemy – Almagest 27. Lucian – Works 28. Marcus Aurelius – Meditations 29. Galen – On the Natural Faculties 30. The New Testament 31. Plotinus – The Enneads 32. St. Augustine – On the Teacher; Confessions; City of God; On Christian Doctrine 33. The Song of Roland 34. The Nibelungenlied 35. The Saga of Burnt NjΓ‘l 36. St. Thomas Aquinas – Summa Theologica 37. Dante Alighieri – The Divine Comedy;The New Life; On Monarchy 38. Geoffrey Chaucer – Troilus and Criseyde; The Canterbury Tales 39. Leonardo da Vinci – Notebooks 40. NiccolΓ² Machiavelli – The Prince; Discourses on the First Ten Books of Livy 41. Desiderius Erasmus – The Praise of Folly 42. Nicolaus Copernicus – On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres 43. Thomas More – Utopia 44. Martin Luther – Table Talk; Three Treatises 45. FranΓ§ois Rabelais – Gargantua and Pantagruel 46. John Calvin – Institutes of the Christian Religion 47. Michel de Montaigne – Essays 48. William Gilbert – On the Loadstone and Magnetic Bodies 49. Miguel de Cervantes – Don Quixote 50. Edmund Spenser – Prothalamion; The Faerie Queene 51. Francis Bacon – Essays; Advancement of Learning; Novum Organum, New Atlantis 52. William Shakespeare – Poetry and Plays 53. Galileo Galilei – Starry Messenger; Dialogues Concerning Two New Sciences 54. Johannes Kepler – Epitome of Copernican Astronomy; Concerning the Harmonies of the World 55. William Harvey – On the Motion of the Heart and Blood in Animals; On the Circulation of the Blood; On the Generation of Animals 56. Thomas Hobbes – Leviathan 57. RenΓ© Descartes – Rules for the Direction of the Mind; Discourse on the Method; Geometry; Meditations on First Philosophy 58. John Milton – Works 59. MoliΓ¨re – Comedies 60. Blaise Pascal – The Provincial Letters; Pensees; Scientific Treatises 61. Christiaan Huygens – Treatise on Light 62. Benedict de Spinoza – Ethics 63. John Locke – Letter Concerning Toleration; Of Civil Government; Essay Concerning Human Understanding;Thoughts Concerning Education 64. Jean Baptiste Racine – Tragedies 65. Isaac Newton – Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy; Optics 66. Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz – Discourse on Metaphysics; New Essays Concerning Human Understanding;Monadology 67. Daniel Defoe – Robinson Crusoe 68. Jonathan Swift – A Tale of a Tub; Journal to Stella; Gulliver's Travels; A Modest Proposal 69. William Congreve – The Way of the World 70. George Berkeley – Principles of Human Knowledge 71. Alexander Pope – Essay on Criticism; Rape of the Lock; Essay on Man 72. Charles de Secondat, baron de Montesquieu – Persian Letters; Spirit of Laws 73. Voltaire – Letters on the English; Candide; Philosophical Dictionary 74. Henry Fielding – Joseph Andrews; Tom Jones 75. Samuel Johnson – The Vanity of Human Wishes; Dictionary; Rasselas; The Lives of the Poets
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Mortimer J. Adler (How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading)
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That is the idea -- that we should all be wicked if we did not hold to the Christian religion. It seems to me that the people who have held to it have been for the most part extremely wicked. You find this curious fact, that the more intense has been the religion of any period and the more profound has been the dogmatic belief, the greater has been the cruelty and the worse has been the state of affairs. In the so-called ages of faith, when men really did believe the Christian religion in all its completeness, there was the Inquisition, with all its tortures; there were millions of unfortunate women burned as witches; and there was every kind of cruelty practiced upon all sorts of people in the name of religion. You find as you look around the world that every single bit of progress in humane feeling, every improvement in the criminal law, every step toward the diminution of war, every step toward better treatment of the colored races, or every mitigation of slavery, every moral progress that there has been in the world, has been consistently opposed by the organized churches of the world. I say quite deliberately that the Christian religion, as organized in its churches, has been and still is the principal enemy of moral progress in the world. You may think that I am going too far when I say that that is still so. I do not think that I am. Take one fact. You will bear with me if I mention it. It is not a pleasant fact, but the churches compel one to mention facts that are not pleasant. Supposing that in this world that we live in today an inexperienced girl is married to a syphilitic man; in that case the Catholic Church says, 'This is an indissoluble sacrament. You must endure celibacy or stay together. And if you stay together, you must not use birth control to prevent the birth of syphilitic children.' Nobody whose natural sympathies have not been warped by dogma, or whose moral nature was not absolutely dead to all sense of suffering, could maintain that it is right and proper that that state of things should continue. That is only an example. There are a great many ways in which, at the present moment, the church, by its insistence upon what it chooses to call morality, inflicts upon all sorts of people undeserved and unnecessary suffering. And of course, as we know, it is in its major part an opponent still of progress and improvement in all the ways that diminish suffering in the world, because it has chosen to label as morality a certain narrow set of rules of conduct which have nothing to do with human happiness; and when you say that this or that ought to be done because it would make for human happiness, they think that has nothing to do with the matter at all. 'What has human happiness to do with morals? The object of morals is not to make people happy.
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Bertrand Russell (Why I Am Not a Christian and Other Essays on Religion and Related Subjects)