B quotations.


In April 1917 the illusion of isolation was destroyed, America came to the end of innocence, and of the exuberant freedom of bachelor independence. That the responsibilities of world power have not made us happier is no surprise. To help ourselves manage them, we have replaced the illusion of isolation with a new illusion of omnipotence.

-"How We Entered World War I," New York Times Magazine (May 5, 1967).

When every autumn people said it could not last through the winter, and when every spring there was still no end in sight, only the hope that out of it all some good would accrue to mankind kept men and nations fighting. When at last it was over, the war had many diverse results and one dominant one transcending all others: disillusion.

-"Afterword," The Guns of August (1962).

Barbara Tuchman (1912/1989). U.S. historian.


Silence, indifference and inaction were Hitler's principal allies.

-Independent (London, December 5, 1989). On the prosecution of alleged war criminals.

Baron Jakobovits Immanuel (1921). British cleric, Chief Rabbi of the British Commonwealth.


To insist on strength … is not war-mongering. It is peace-mongering.

-NY Times 1964-08-11.

Barry M. Goldwater. US Senator.


To be what we are, and to become what we are capable of becoming, is the only end in life.

Baruch Spinoza


If we are ever to construct a feminist movement that is not based on the premise that men and women are always at war with one another, then we must be willing to acknowledge the appropriateness of complex critical responses to writing by men even if it is sexist. Clearly women can learn from writers whose work is sexist, even be inspired by it, because sexism may be simply one dimension of that work. Concurrently fiercely critiquing the sexism does not mean that one does not value the work.

-Yearning, ch. 8 (1990).

Bell Hooks (b. ca. 1955). African American author and educator.


We must have the courage to allow a little disorder in our lives.

Ben Weininger


A man must have a good deal of vanity who believes, and a good deal of boldness who affirms, that all the doctrines he holds are true, and all he rejects are false.

Some volumes against Deism fell into my hands … they produced an effect precisely the reverse to what was intended by the writers; for the arguments of the Deists, which were cited in order to be refuted, appeared to me much more forcibly than the refutation itself; in a word, I soon became a thorough Deist.

-Autobiography, 1817/18

Benjamin Franklin (1706-01-17/1790-04-17). American journalist, publisher, author, philanthropist, abolitionist, public servant, scientist, librarian, diplomat, and inventor.


There are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies, and statistics.

The greatest good you can do for another is not just share your riches, but to reveal to him his own.

How much easier it is to be critical than to be correct.

Benjamin Disraeli (1804-12-21/1881-04-24). British Conservative Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and author.


The more people have studied different methods of bringing up children the more they have come to the conclusion that what good mother and fathers instinctively feel like doing for their babies is the best after all.

Benjamin Spock (1903-05-02/1998-03-15). American pediatrician.


Without heroes, we are all plain people and don't know how far we can go.

Bernard Malamud


We have, in fact, two kinds of morality side by side; one which we preach but do not practise, and another which we practise but seldom preach.

The good life is one inspired by love and guided by knowledge.

-What I Believe (1925).

Men are born ignorant, not stupid. They are made stupid by education.

One should always keep an open mind, but not so open that one's brains fall out.

The most savage controversies are those about matters as to which there is no good evidence either way.

For love of domination we must substitute equality; for love of victory we must substitute justice; for brutality we must substitute intelligence; for competition we must substitute cooperation. We must learn to think of the human race as one family.

Mathematics, rightly viewed, possesses not only truth, but supreme beauty -- a beauty cold and austere, like that of sculpture, without appeal to any part of our weaker nature, without the gorgeous trappings of painting or music, yet sublimely pure, and capable of a stern perfection such as only the greatest art can show. The true spirit of delight, the exaltation, the sense of being more than Man, which is the touchstone of the highest excellence, is to be found in mathematics as surely as poetry.

-Study of Mathematics.

The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.

If a man is offered a fact which goes against his instincts, he will scrutinize it closely, and unless the evidence is overwhelming, he will refuse to believe it. If, on the other hand, he is offered something which affords a reason for acting in accordance to his instincts, he will accept it even on the slightest evidence.

-Roads to Freedom

It should be said that the old distinction between soul and body has evaporated quite as much because 'matter' has lost its solidity as mind has lost its spirituality. Psychology is just beginning to be scientific. In the present state of psychology belief in immortality can at any rate claim no support from science.

To be without some of the things you want is an indispensable part of happiness.

Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind.... This has been my life. I have found it worth living, and would gladly live it again if the chance were offered me.

-"What I Have Lived For," the prologue to his Autobiography, vol. I. p. 4

I had supposed until that time that it was quite common for parents to love their children, but the war persuaded me that it is a rare exception. I had supposed that most people liked money better than almost anything else, but I discovered that they liked destruction even better. I had supposed that intellectuals frequently loved truth, but I found here again that not ten per cent of them prefer truth to popularity.

-ibid, vol. 2, ch. 1 (1968).

Man is a credulous animal, and must believe something; in the absence of good grounds for belief, he will be satisfied with bad ones.

-Unpopular Essays, "An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish" (1950), p. 149, quoted from James A. Haught, ed., 2000 Years of Disbelief.

The essence of the liberal outlook lies not in what opinions are held but in how they are held: instead of being held dogmatically, they are held tentatively, and with a consciousness that new evidence may at any moment lead to their abandonment. This is the way opinions are held in science, as opposed to the way in which they are held in theology.

-Unpopular Essays, "Philosophy and Politics" (1950), p. 149, quoted from James A. Haught, ed., 2000 Years of Disbelief

Many orthodox people speak as though it were the business of sceptics to disprove received dogmas rather than of dogmatists to prove them. This is, of course, a mistake. If I were to suggest that between the Earth and Mars there is a china teapot revolving about the sun in an elliptical orbit, nobody would be able to disprove my assertion provided I were careful to add that the teapot is too small to be revealed even by our most powerful telescopes. But if I were to go on to say that, since my assertion cannot be disproved, it is intolerable presumption on the part of human reason to doubt it, I should rightly be thought to be talking nonsense. If, however, the existence of such a teapot were affirmed in ancient books, taught as the sacred truth every Sunday, and instilled into the minds of children at school, hesitation to believe in its existence would become a mark of eccentricity and entitle the doubter to the attentions of the psychiatrist in an enlightened age or of the Inquisitor in an earlier time.

-"Is There a God?" commissioned by, but never published in, Illustrated Magazine (1952: repr. The Collected Papers of Bertrand Russell, Volume 11: Last Philosophical Testament, 1943-68, ed. John G. Slater and Peter Köllner (London: Routledge, 1997), pp. 543-48, quoted from S. T. Joshi, Atheism: A Reader

Fear is the parent of cruelty, and therefore it is no wonder if cruelty and religion have gone hand-in-hand. It is because fear is at the basis of those two things. In this world we can now begin a little to understand things, and a little to master them by the help of science, which has forced its way step by step against the Christian religion, against the churches, and against the opposition of all the old precepts. Science can help us to get over this craven fear in which mankind has lived for so many generations. Science can teach us, and I think our own hearts can teach us, no longer to look around for imaginary supports, no longer to invent allies in the sky, but rather to look to our own efforts here below to make this world a fit place to live in, instead of the sort of place that the churches in all these centuries have made it.

-"Why I Am Not A Christian," Little Blue Book No. 1372 edited by E. Haldeman-Julius

Are you never afraid of God's judgment in denying him?
     "Most certainly not. I also deny Zeus and Jupiter and Odin and Brahma, but this causes me no qualms. I observe that a very large portion of the human race does not believe in God and suffers no visible punishment in consequence. And if there were a God, I think it very unlikely that He would have such an uneasy vanity as to be offended by those who doubt His existence."

-"What Is an Agnostic?"

There is something feeble and a little contemptible about a man who cannot face the perils of life without the help of comfortable myths. Almost inevitably some part of him is aware that they are myths and that he believes them only because they are comforting. But he dares not face this thought! Moreover, since he is aware, however dimly, that his opinions are not rational, he becomes furious when they are disputed.

-Human Society in Ethics and Politics (1954), quoted from James A. Haught, "Breaking the Last Taboo" (1996)

A stupid man's report of what a clever man says is never accurate because he unconsciously translates what he hears into something he can understand.

-The History of Western Philosophy, quoted from Lee Eisler, ed., The Quotable Bertrand Russell

The main things which seem to me important on their own account, and not merely as means to other things, are knowledge, art, instinctive happiness, and relations of friendship or affection.

One must care about a world one will never see.

Bertrand Russell (1872-05-18/1970-02-02). British philosopher and mathematician.


He has achieved success who has lived well, laughed often, and loved much; who has enjoyed the trust of pure women, the respect of intelligent men, and the love of small children; who has filled his niche, and accomplished his task; who has left the world better than he found it, whether by an improved poppy, a perfect poem, or a rescued soul; who has never lacked appreciation of earth's beauty , or failed to express it; who has always looked for the best in others, and given them the best he had; whose life was an inspiration; whose memory a benediction.

-Prize-winning definition in a contest sponsored by Brown Book Magazine. Boston, 1904.

Bessie Anderson Stanley.


Look at everything as though you were seeing it either for the first or last time. Then your time on earth will be filled with glory.

Betty Smith


You may be disappointed if you fail, but you are doomed if you don't try.

Beverly Sills


They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.

-Isaiah 2:4. The words reappear in Micah 4:3, and the reverse injunction is made in Joel 3:10 ("Beat your plowshares into swords ...") The motto of the BBC—"Nation shall speak peace unto nation" is often mistaken for these lines. "Study War No More" is the title of a well-known African-American spiritual.

He will deliver you from six troubles; in seven no harm shall touch you. In famine he will redeem you from death, and in war from the power of the sword. You shall be hidden from the scourge of the tongue, and shall not fear destruction when it comes. At destruction and famine you shall laugh, and shall not fear the wild animals of the earth. For you shall be in league with the stones of the field, and the wild animals shall be at peace with you.

-Job 5:19-23.

Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.

-Leviticus 18:22.

If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.

-Leviticus 20:13.

These phrases are often quoted for Biblical proof against male homosexuality. But you should read the other verses and chapters in Leviticus. An odd mix of common and extreme.

Bible. [So many good ones but you can't quote the whole thing. The selections above are rather random]


Sleep is actually a good substitute for coffee.

Bill Arms.


If at first you don't succeed, find out if the loser gets anything.

Bill Lyon


Dad, How do soldiers killing each other solve the world's problems?

-Calvin and Hobbes. Calvin to Dad.

People who get nostalgic about childhood were obviously never children.

Bill Watterson (1958-07-05/). Cartoonist.


Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are stiffened.

Billy Graham


Mr. Baldrick, what is it that begins with 'Come here' and ends with 'Ow'?

-Blackadder as played by Rowan Atkinson.

Blackadder.  A British TV comedy.


I have made this letter longer than usual because I lack the time to make it shorter.

The last thing one settles in writing a book is what one should put in first.

Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.

Blaise Pascal (1623-06-19/1662-08-19). French mathematician, physicist, and religious philosopher.


Now I know what a statesman is; he's a dead politician. We need more statesmen.

Bob Edwards


I shall allow no man to belittle my soul by making me hate him.

Booker T. Washington


Art and science are the same basic fabric, just in art you tend to arrive at important developments without the need for documentation on how you got there.

Brad Barkett.


When I am working on a problem, I never think about beauty. I think only how to solve the problem. But when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong.

Buckminster Fuller (1895-07-12/1983-07-01). Aka Bucky. American visionary, designer, architect, inventor, and writer.


Impermanent are all created things;
Strive on with awareness.

When anger arises,
whoever keeps firm control
as if with a racing chariot:
him
I call a master charioteer.
Anyone else,
a rein-holder --
that's all.

-Dhammapada (Path of the Dharma). 17th category (anger), 222nd verse.

If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change.

The right time to show your good character is when you are pestered by somebody weaker than you.

To him in whom love dwells, the whole world is but one family.

Buddha (563/483 BCE). Aka Gautama Buddha; born Siddhartha Gautama; Shakyamuni or Sakyamuni ("Sage of the Shayka clan"); Tathagata ("thus-come-one" or "thus-gone-one"). South Asian spiritual leader.


When you are born, you cry, and the world rejoices. When you die, you rejoice, and the world cries.

Buddhist saying.


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