Quotes on Religion, Philosophy, and Politics

This is a collection of quotes that I’ve recently posted on the WSJ Facebook page.

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“Isn’t it ironic that after 70 years Russia wants God back while we are trying to kick him out?”

– Ravi Zacharias

“Worldly wisdom thinks that love is a relationship between man and man. Christianity teaches that love is a relationship between man-God-man, that is, that God is the middle term.”

– Søren Kierkegaard

“In argument about moral problems, relativism is the first refuge of the scoundrel.”

– Roger Scruton

“We have the worst of both worlds: a Prohibitionary State that gives license to all kinds of evil, but that regulates and restricts actions that are not evil, to manage the chaos that results from the license.”

– Anthony Esolen

“For all of higher civilization’s recorded history, becoming a man was defined overwhelmingly as taking responsibility for a family. That notion — indeed the notion of masculinity itself — is regarded by feminism as the worst of sins: patriarchy.”

– Dennis Prager

“A God who did not abolish suffering–worse, a God who abolished sin precisely by suffering–is a scandal to the modern mind.” 

– Peter Kreeft

“If there is any verse that you would like left out of the Bible, that is the verse that ought to stick to you, like a blister, until you really attend to its teaching.” 

– Charles Spurgeon

“It is true, that a little philosophy inclineth man’s mind to atheism; but depth in philosophy bringeth men’s minds about to religion. For while the mind of man looketh upon second causes scattered, it may sometimes rest in them, and go no further; but when it beholdeth the chain of them, confederate and linked together, it must needs fly to Providence and Deity…as atheism is in all respects hateful, so in this, that it depriveth human nature of the means to exalt itself above human frailty.”

– Francis Bacon

“The human mind is not capable of grasping the Universe. We are like a little child entering a huge library. The walls are covered to the ceilings with books in many different tongues. The child knows that someone must have written these books. It does not know who or how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. But the child notes a definite plan in the arrangement of the books – a mysterious order which it does not comprehend, but only dimly suspects.”

– Albert Einstein

“While sitting on the bank of a river one day, I picked up a solid round stone from the water and broke it open. It was perfectly dry in spite of the fact that it had been immersed in water for centuries. The same is true of many people in the Western world. For centuries they have been surrounded by Christianity; they live immersed in the waters of its benefits. And yet it has not penetrated their hearts; they do not love it. The fault is not in Christianity, but in men’s hearts, which have been hardened by materialism and intellectualism.”

– Sadhu Sundar Singh

“A new philosophy generally means in practice the praise of some old vice.”

– GK Chesterton

“Pride is a poison so very poisonous that it not only poisons the virtues; it even poisons the other vices.”

– GK Chesterton

“He is only a very shallow critic who cannot see an eternal rebel in the heart of the Conservative.”

– GK Chesterton

“Here is found the most fundamental difference between liberalism and Christianity–liberalism is altogether in the imperative mood, while Christianity begins with a triumphant indicative. Liberalism appeals to man’s will, while Christianity announces, first, a gracious act of God…. Liberalism regards Christ as an Example and Guide; Christianity as a Savior. Liberalism makes Him an example for faith; Christianity, the object of faith.”

– J Gresham Machen

“The modernist – the extreme modernist, infidel in all but name – need not be called a fool or hypocrite because he obstinately retains, even in the midst of his intellectual atheism, the language, rites, sacraments, and story of the Christians. The poor man may be clinging (with wisdom he himself by no means understands) to that which is his life. It would have been better that Loisy should have remained a Christian: it would not necessarily have been better that he should have purged his thought of vestigial Christianity.”

– CS Lewis

“Indecency is not wild and lawless. The danger of indecency is exactly that it is tame, dull, direct, inevitable; a mere law in the members. It is automatic evil. Pride makes man a devil; but lust makes him a machine.”

– Malcolm Muggeridge

“… children are simply human beings who are allowed to do what everyone else really desires to do, as for instance, to fly kites, or when seriously wronged to emit prolonged screams for several minutes.”

– GK Chesterton

“What do people mean when they say, ‘I am not afraid of God because I know He is good’? Have they never even been to a dentist?”

– CS Lewis

“Any restoration of persons to the divinely intended norm of being valued as image-bearers will threaten a social order that promotes marginalization of the vulnerable. Healing is always destructive in some way. To declare that persons with disabilities are part of the divine moral norm (that they ‘count’) or to claim that the unborn deserve a right to life even though such does indeed impede the free choice of the mother is to challenge a social order that discounts the validity of humans. Such discounting of individuals usually occurs in order to maintain or to establish power and control by taking advantage of the socially weakest.” 

– James R Thobaben

“I want Atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are Religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.”

-Thomas Nagel

“Here a year or two back me and Loretta went to a conference in Corpus Christi and I got set next to this woman, she was the wife of somebody or other. And she kept talkin about the right wing this and the right wing that. I aint even sure what she meant by it. The people I know are mostly just common people. Common as dirt, as the sayin goes. I told her that and she looked at me funny. She thought I was sayin somethin bad about em, but of course that’s a high compliment in my part of the world. She kept on, kept on. Finally told me, said: I dont like the way this country is headed. I want my granddaughter to be able to have an abortion. And I said well mam I dont think you got any worries about the way this country is headed. The way I see it goin I dont have much doubt but what she’ll be able to have an abortion. I’m goin to say that not only will she be able to have an abortion, she’ll be able to have you put to sleep. Which pretty much ended the conversation.”

– Cormac McCarthy, “No Country for Old Men”

“It is a characteristic of any decaying civilization that the great masses of the people are unconscious of the tragedy. Humanity in a crisis is generally insensitive to the gravity of the times in which it lives. Men do not want to believe their own times are wicked, partly because it involves too much self-accusation and principally because they have no standards outside of themselves by which to measure their times.”

-Fulton J Sheen

“For true pleasure, the price is paid before it is enjoyed. For false pleasure, the price is paid after it is enjoyed.”

-Ravi Zacharias

“I hope no reader will suppose the ‘mere’ Christianity is here put forward as an alternative to the creeds of the existing communions – as if a man could adopt it in preference to Congregationalism or Greek Orthodoxy or anything else. It is more like a hall out of which doors open into several rooms. If I can bring anyone into that hall I shall have done what I attempted. But it is in the rooms, not the hall, that there are fires and chairs and meals. The hall is a place to wait in, a place from which to try the various doors, not a place to live in…When you have reached your own room, be kind to those who have chosen different doors and to those who are still in the hall.”

– CS Lewis

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Book Review: “Orthodoxy”

It’s been a few months since my previous book review, but that’s because my wife and I only read a few pages each night before bed. I mostly read medical texts and classic fiction on my own time…which doesn’t always make for great “book review” material.

For those who aren’t familiar with G.K. Chesterton, the man was a genius. I actually posted a Chesterton quote page back in May of 2012, so clearly I’m a fan.

In “Orthodoxy”, Chesterton sets about describing his own intellectual journey – from his early Christian upbringing to his adolescent skepticism and back again. It’s very much a “gut-level” approach, with Chesterton explaining how, despite his best efforts, the orthodox teachings of Christianity gradually won him over.

Chesterton was also a pretty sarcastic (and hilarious) guy, so there were a few laugh-out-loud moments.

I actually think that the chapter titles do a pretty good job of describing the progression of the book:

Chapter 1: Introduction in Defense of Everything Else
Chapter 2: The Maniac
Chapter 3: The Suicide of Thought
Chapter 4: The Ethics of Elfland
Chapter 5: The Flag of the World
Chapter 6: The Paradoxes of Christianity
Chapter 7: The Eternal Revolution
Chapter 8: The Romance of Orthodoxy
Chapter 9: Authority and the Adventurer

“Orthodoxy” is the perfect book for anyone looking for an honest, intuitive, lighthearted, and personal sort of apologetic. Chesterton defends the Christian worldview in an easy-to-grasp manner by appealing to “an enormous accumulation of small but unanimous facts” (as he puts it).

As usual, I’ve collected below a few of my favorite passages:

“As an explanation of the world, materialism has a sort of insane simplicity. It has just the quality of the madman’s argument; we have at once the sense of it covering everything and the sense of it leaving everything out…The Christian is quite free to believe that there is a considerable amount of settled order and inevitable development in the universe. But the materialist is not allowed to admit into his spotless machine the slightest speck of spiritualism or miracle…The Christian admits that the universe is manifold and even miscellaneous, just as a sane man knows that he is complex. The sane man knows that he has a touch of the beast, a touch of the devil, a touch of the saint, a touch of the citizen. Nay, the really sane man knows that he has a touch of the madman. But the materialist’s world is quite simple and solid, just as the madman is quite sure he is sane. The materialist is sure that history has been simply and solely a chain of causation, just as the interesting person before mentioned is quite sure that he is simply and solely a chicken. Materialists and madmen never have doubts.”

“A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth; this has been exactly reversed. Nowadays the part of a man that a man does assert is exactly the part he ought not to assert – himself. The part he doubts is exactly the part he ought not to doubt – the Divine Reason.”

“Reason is itself a matter of faith. It is an act of faith to assert that our thoughts have any relation to reality at all. If you are merely a sceptic, you must sooner or later ask yourself the question, ‘Why should ANYTHING go right; even observation and deduction? Why should not good logic be as misleading as bad logic? They are both movements in the brain of a bewildered ape?’ The young sceptic says, ‘I have a right to think for myself.’ But the old sceptic, the complete sceptic, says, ‘I have no right to think for myself. I have no right to think at all.'”

‎”…But when I came to ask [the determinists] I found they had really no proof of this unavoidable repetition in things except the fact that the things were repeated. Now, the mere repetition made the things to me rather more weird than more rational…The recurrences of the universe rose to the maddening rhythm of an incantation, and I began to see an idea.”

‎”…What we need is not the cold acceptance of the world as a compromise, but some way in which we can heartily hate and heartily love it. We do not want joy and anger to neutralize each other and produce a surly contentment; we want a fiercer delight and a fiercer discontent. We have to feel the universe at once as an ogre’s castle, to be stormed, and yet as our own cottage, to which we can return at evening.”

“I found it was [my agnostic teachers’] daily taunt against Christianity that it was the light of one people and had left all others to die in the dark. But I also found that it was their special boast for themselves that science and progress were the discovery of one people, and that all other peoples had died in the dark. Their chief insult to Christianity was actually their chief compliment to themselves, and there seemed to be a strange unfairness about all their relative insistence on the two things.”

“Some satisfaction is needed even to make things better. But what do we mean by making things better? Most modern talk on this matter is a mere argument in a circle – that circle which we have already made the symbol of madness and of mere rationalism. Evolution is only good if it produces good; good is only good if it helps evolution. The elephant stands on the tortoise, and the tortoise on the elephant.”

‎”In actual modern Europe a freethinker does not mean a man who thinks for himself. It means a man who, having thought for himself, has come to one particular class of conclusions: the material origin of phenomena, the impossibility of miracles, the improbability of personal immortality and so on. And none of these ideas are particularly liberal. Nay, indeed almost all these ideas are definitely illiberal, as it is the purpose of this chapter to show…”

“If I am asked, as a purely intellectual question, why I believe in Christianity, I can only answer, ‘For the same reason that an intelligent agnostic disbelieves Christianity.’ I believe in it quite rationally upon the evidence. But the evidence in my case, as in that of the intelligent agnostic, is not really in this or that alleged demonstration; it is in an enormous accumulation of small but unanimous facts. The secularist is not to be blamed because his objections to Christianity are miscellaneous and even scrappy; it is precisely such scrappy evidence that does convince the mind. I mean that a man may well be less convinced of a philosophy from four books, than from one book, one battle, one landscape, and one old friend….I can only say that my evidences for Christianity are of the same vivid but varied kind as his evidences against it. For when I look at these various anti-Christian truths, I simply discover that none of them are true. I discover that the true tide and force of all the facts flows the other way.”

‎”Somehow or other an extraordinary idea has arisen that the disbelievers in miracles consider them coldly and fairly, while believers in miracles accept them only in connection with some dogma. The fact is quite the other way. The believers in miracles accept them (rightly or wrongly) because they have evidence for them. The disbelievers in miracles deny them (rightly or wrongly) because they have a doctrine against them…If it comes to human testimony there is a choking cataract of human testimony in favour of the supernatural. If you reject it, you can only mean one of two things. You reject the peasant’s story about the ghost either because the man is a peasant or because the story is a ghost story. That is, you either deny the main principle of democracy, or you affirm the main principle of materialism – the abstract impossibility of miracle. You have a perfect right to do so; but in that case you are the dogmatist. It is we Christians who accept all actual evidence – it is you rationalists who refuse actual evidence being constrained to do so by your creed. But I am not constrained by any creed in the matter, and looking impartially into certain miracles of mediaeval and modern times, I have come to the conclusion that they occurred.”

GK Chesterton Quotes

“In truth, there are only two kinds of people; those who accept dogma and know it, and those who accept dogma and don’t know it.”

“The point of having an open mind, like having an open mouth, is to close it on something solid.” 

“Reason is always a kind of brute force; those who appeal to the head rather than the heart, however pallid and polite, are necessarily men of violence. We speak of ‘touching’ a man’s heart, but we can do nothing to his head but hit it.”

“There are those who hate Christianity and call their hatred an all-embracing love for all religions.”

“The act of defending any of the cardinal virtues has today all the exhilaration of a vice.”

GK Chesterton

“Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of a readiness to die…A soldier surrounded by enemies, if he is to cut his way out, needs to combine a strong desire for living with a strange carelessness about dying. He must not merely cling to life, for then he will be a coward, and will not escape. He must not merely wait for death, for then he will be a suicide, and will not escape. He must seek his life in a spirit of furious indifference to it; he must desire life like water and yet drink death like wine. No philosopher, I fancy, has ever expressed this romantic riddle with adequate lucidity, and I certainly have not done so. But Christianity has done more: it has marked the limits of it in the awful graves of the suicide and the hero, showing the distance between him who dies for the sake of living and him who dies for the sake of dying.” 

“If I did not believe in God, I should still want my doctor, my lawyer and my banker to do so.”

“The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.”

“Children are innocent and love justice, while most adults are wicked and prefer mercy.”