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Infidels, Freethinkers, Humanists, and Unbelievers
Smith, George H.
"When the atheist is told that God is unknowable, he may interpret this claim in one of two ways. He may suppose, first, that the theist has acquired knowledge of a being that, by his own admission, cannot possibly be known; or, second, he may assume that the theist simply does not know what he is talking about."

-- George H. Smith

George Smith is the author of Atheism: The Case Against God, and Atheism, Ayn Rand, and Other Heresies. He has served as the Director of the Forum for Philosophical Studies, Los Angeles; been a lecturer on American History at the Cato Institute; and held the positions of Senior Research Fellow and lecturer on political philosophy and intellectual history at George Mason University's Institute for Humane Studies.

Further Quotations

"It is my firm conviction that man has nothing to gain, emotionally or otherwise, by adhering to a falsehood, regardless of how comfortable or sacred that falsehood may appear."

"A willingness to engage in the give and take of argument displays a commitment to cognitive egalitarianism -- the proposition that all people should be treated as intellectual equals, and that no individual can legitimately claim a privileged immunity from the burden of proof."

"[Francis] Bacon was the first great pathologist of human reason, and his mode of analysis -- a mixture of psychology, sociology, and epistemology -- was used by later philosophers to explain why reasonable people with good intentions can, and often do, hold incompatible beliefs. It was thus largely owing to Bacon that religious dissent, which had previously been condemned as the deliberate (and therefore sinful) rejection of divine truth, came to be regarded instead as the innocent by-product of human fallibility. And this doctrine of the natural diversity of opinion was destined to play a key role in the struggle for religious toleration."

"The significant contribution of empiricism was not the eradication of certainty, but the eradication of infallibility as a criterion of certainty. And this shift from infallibilism to fallibilism has profound consequences not only for toleration, but also for the subordination of faith to reason and theology to philosophy."

"The leap of faith is a strategic impasse that confronts every Christian in search of converts; and, as he sees the matter, there is no wrong way to become a Christian. It is the end that is importnat, not the means; it does not matter why you believe, so long as you believe. For the philosopher, in contrast, the paramount issue is the justification of belief, not the fact of belief itself."

"In exchange for obedience, Christianity promises salvation in an afterlife; but in order to elicit obedience through this promise, Christianity must convince men that they need salvation, that there is something to be saved from. Christianity has nothing to offer a happy man living in a natural, intelligible universe. If Christianity is to gain a motivational foothold, it must declare war on earthly pleasure and happiness, and this, historically, has been its precise course of action. In the eyes of Christianity, man is sinful and helpless in the face of God, and is potential fuel for the flames of hell. Just as Christianity must destroy reason before it can introduce faith, so it must destroy happiness before it can introduce salvation."

"As for Christianity's alleged concern with truth, Christian faith is to free inquiry what the Mafia is to free enterprise. Christianity may be represented as a competitor in the realm of ideas to be considered on the basis of its merits, but this is mere disguise. Like the Mafia, if Christianity fails to defeat its competition by legitimate means (which is a forgone conclusion), it resorts to strong-arm tactics. Have faith or be damned -- this biblical doctrine alone is enough to exclude Christianity from the domain of reason."

"To trace the history of ideas that are implicitly atheistic will leave the historian open to the charge of selective interpretation. This is a curious charge in a way, since all history is interpretation, and all interpretation is necessarily selective. If it means that the atheistic historian who investigates his own heritage will be prone to bias, causing him to see atheistic tendencies where others do not, I can only reply that this kind of disagreement is inevitable. It is inherent in the historical enterprise itself. Every historian has biases -- or presuppositions, to use a more neutral term -- that will influence his treatment of history, but such presuppositions do not make objectivity impossible. Indeed, it is precisely this inevitable bias that makes objectivity necessary."

"The argument from design is ultimately an appeal to miraculous causes, i.e., causes that do not, and cannot, occur in the natural course of events. This is why an "explanation" via design is not a legitimate alternative to scientific and other naturalistic modes of explanation. To refer to a miraculous "cause" is to refer to something that is inherently unknowable, and this "sanctuary of ignorance" explains nothing at all. However much it may soothe the imagination of the ignorant, it does nothing to satisfy the understanding of a rational person."

"Christianity cannot erase man's need for pleasure, nor can it eradicate the various sources of pleasure. What it can do, however, and what it has been extremely effective in accomplishing, is to inculcate guilt in connection with pleasure. The pursuit of pleasure, when accompanied by guilt, becomes a means of perpetuating chronic guilt, and this serves to reinforce one's dependence on God. Christianity, with some exceptions, has never explicitly advocated human misery; it prefers instead to speak of sacrifices in this life so that benefits may be garnered in the life to come. One invests in this life, so to speak, and collects interest in the next. Fortunately for Christianity, the dead cannot return for a refund."

"Through inculcating the notion that sacrifice is a virtue, Christianity has succeeded in convincing many people that misery incurred through sacrifice is a mark of virtue. Pain becomes the inignia of morality -- and conversely, pleasure becomes the insignia of immorality. Christianity, therefore, does not say, "Go forth and be miserable." Rather, it says, "Go forth and practice the virtue of self-sacrifice." In practical terms, these commands are identical.

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