Doubt is what keeps the heart and mind of every man alive. It 's what makes us think twice.
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Doubt is what keeps the heart and mind of every man alive. It ‘s what makes us think twice.

-Vasileios Kalampakas

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I do not write every day. I write to the questions and issues before me. I write to deadlines. I write out of my passions. And I write to make peace with my own contradictory nature. For me, writing is a spiritual practice. A small bowl of water sits on my desk, a reminder that even if nothing is happening on the page, something is happening in the room--evaporation. And I always light a candle when I begin to write, a reminder that I have now entered another realm, call it the realm of the Spirit. I am mindful that when one writes, one leaves this world and enters another. My books are collages made from journals, research, and personal experience. I love the images rendered in journal entries, the immediacy that is captured on the page, the handwritten notes. I love the depth of ideas and perspective that research brings to a story, be it biological or anthropological studies or the insights brought to the page by the scholarly work of art historians.When I go into a library, I feel like I am a sleuth looking to solve a mystery. I am completely inspired by the pursuit of knowledge through various references. I read newpapers voraciously. I love what newspapers say about contemporary culture. And then you go back to your own perceptions, your own words, and weigh them against all you have brought together. I am interested in the kaleidoscope of ideas, how you bring many strands of thought into a book and weave them together as one piece of coherent fabric, while at the same time trying to create beautiful language in the service of the story. This is the blood work of the writer.Writing is also about a life engaged. And so, for me, community work, working in the schools or with grassroots conservation organizations is another critical component of my life as a writer. I cannot separate the writing life from a spiritual life, from a life as a teacher or activist or my life intertwined with family and the responsibilities we carry within our own homes. Writing is daring to feel what nurtures and breaks our hearts. Bearing witness is its own form of advocacy. It is a dance with pain and beauty.

-Terry Tempest

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Religion has clearly performed great services for human civilization. It has contributed much towards the taming of the asocial instincts. But not enough. It has ruled human society for many thousands of years and has had time to show what it can achieve. If it had succeeded in making the majority of mankind happy, in comforting them, in reconciling them to life and in making them into vehicles of civilization, no one would dream of attempting to alter the existing conditions. But what do we see instead? We see that an appallingly large number of people are dissatisfied with civilization and unhappy in it, and feel it as a yoke which must be shaken off; and that these people either do everything in their power to change that civilization, or else go so far in their hostility to it that they will have nothing to do with civilization or with a restriction of instinct. At this point it will be objected against us that this state of affairs is due to the very fact that religion has lost a part of its influence over human masses precisely because of the deplorable effect of the advances of science. We will note this admission and the reason given for it, and we shall make use of it later for our own purposes; but the objection itself has no force.It is doubtful whether men were in general happier at a time when religious doctrines held unrestricted sway; more moral they certainly were not. They have always known how to externalize the precepts of religion and thus to nullify their intentions. The priests, whose duty it was to ensure obedience to religion, met them half-way in this. God's kindness must lay a restraining hand on His justice. One sinned, and then one made a sacrifice or did penance and then one was free to sin once more. Russian introspectiveness has reached the pitch of concluding that sin is indispensable for the enjoyment of all the blessings of divine grace, so that, at bottom, sin is pleasing to God. It is no secret that the priests could only keep the masses submissive to religion by making such large concessions as these to the instinctual nature of man. Thus it was agreed: God alone is strong and good, man is weak and sinful. In every age immorality has found no less support in religion than morality has. If the achievements of religion in respect to man’s happiness, susceptibility to culture and moral control are no better than this, the question cannot but arise whether we are not overrating its necessity for mankind, and whether we do wisely in basing our cultural demands upon it.

-Sigmund Freud

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I will not mention the name (and what bits of it I happen to give here appear in decorous disguise) of that man, that Franco-Hungarian writer... I would rather not dwell upon him at all, but I cannot help it— he is surging up from under my pen. Today one does not hear much about him; and this is good, for it proves that I was right in resisting his evil spell, right in experiencing a creepy chill down my spine whenever this or that new book of his touched my hand. The fame of his likes circulates briskly but soon grows heavy and stale; and as for history it will limit his life story to the dash between two dates. Lean and arrogant, with some poisonous pun ever ready to fork out and quiver at you, and with a strange look of expectancy in his dull brown veiled eyes, this false wag had, I daresay, an irresistible effect on small rodents. Having mastered the art of verbal invention to perfection, he particularly prided himself on being a weaver of words, a title he valued higher than that of a writer; personally, I never could understand what was the good of thinking up books, of penning things that had not really happened in some way or other; and I remember once saying to him as I braved the mockery of his encouraging nods that, were I a writer, I should allow only my heart to have imagination, and for the rest rely upon memory, that long-drawn sunset shadow of one’s personal truth.I had known his books before I knew him; a faint disgust was already replacing the aesthetic pleasure which I had suffered his first novel to give me. At the beginning of his career, it had been possible perhaps to distinguish some human landscape, some old garden, some dream- familiar disposition of trees through the stained glass of his prodigious prose... but with every new book the tints grew still more dense, the gules and purpure still more ominous; and today one can no longer see anything at all through that blazoned, ghastly rich glass, and it seems that were one to break it, nothing but a perfectly black void would face one’s shivering soul. But how dangerous he was in his prime, what venom he squirted, with what whips he lashed when provoked! The tornado of his passing satire left a barren waste where felled oaks lay in a row, and the dust still twisted, and the unfortunate author of some adverse review, howling with pain, spun like a top in the dust.

-Vladimir Nabokov

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A man worth being with is one…That never lies to youIs kind to people that have hurt himA person that respects another’s lifeThat has manners and shows people respectThat goes out of his way to help peopleThat feels every person, no matter how difficult, deserves compassionWho believes you are the most beautiful person he has ever metWho brags about your accomplishments with prideWho talks to you about anything and everything because no bad news will make him love you lessThat is a peacemakerThat will see you through illnessWho keeps his promisesWho doesn’t blame others, but finds the good in them That raises you up and motivates you to reach for the starsThat doesn’t need fame, money or anything materialistic to be happyThat is gentle and patient with childrenWho won’t let you lie to yourself; he tells you what you need to hear, in order to help you growWho lives what he says he believes inWho doesn’t hold a grudge or hold onto the past Who doesn’t ask his family members to deliberately hurt people that have hurt himWho will run with your dreamsThat makes you laugh at the world and yourselfWho forgives and is quick to apologizeWho doesn’t betray you by having inappropriate conversations with other womenWho doesn’t react when he is angry, decides when he is sad or keep promises he doesn’t plan to keepWho takes his children’s spiritual life very seriously and teaches by exampleWho never seeks revenge or would ever put another person downWho communicates to solve problemsWho doesn’t play games or passive aggressively ignores people to hurt themWho is real and doesn’t pretend to be something he is notWho has the power to free you from yourself through his positive outlookWho has a deep respect for women and treats them like a daughter of GodWho doesn’t have an ego or believes he is better than anyoneWho is labeled constantly by people as the nicest person they have ever metWho works hard to provide for the familyWho doesn’t feel the need to drink alcohol to have a good time, smoke or do drugsWho doesn't have to hang out a bar with his friends, but would rather spend his time with his familyWho is morally free from sinWho sees your potential to be greatWho doesn't think a woman's place has to be in the home; he supports your life mission, where ever that takes youWho is a gentlemanWho is honest and lives with integrityWho never discusses your private business with anyoneWho will protect his familyWho forgives, forgets, repairs and restoresWhen you find a man that possesses these traits then all the little things you don’t have in common don’t matter. This is the type of man worth being grateful for.

-Shannon L.

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The VoyagerWe are all lonely voyagers sailing on life's ebb tide,To a far off place were all stripling warriors have died,Sometime at eve when the tide is low,The voices call us back to the rippling water's flow,Even though our boat sailed with love in our hearts,Neither our dreams or plans would keep heaven far apart,We drift through the hush of God's twilight pale,With no response to our friendly hail,We raise our sails and search for majestic light,While finding company on this journey to the brighten our night,Then suddenly he pulls us through the reef's cutting sea,Back to the place that he asked us to be,Friendly barges that were anchored so sweetly near,In silent sorrow they drop their salted tears,Shall our soul be a feast of kelp and brine,The wasted tales of wishful time,Are we a fish on a line lured with bait,Is life the grind, a heartless fate,Suddenly, "HUSH", said the wind from afar,Have you not looked to the heavens and seen the new star,It danced on the abyss of the evening sky,The sparkle of heaven shining on high,Its whisper echoed on the ocean's spray,From the bow to the mast they heard him say,"Hope is above, not found in the deep,I am alive in your memories and dreams when you sleep,I will greet you at sunset and with the moon's evening smile,I will light your path home.. every last lonely mile,My friends, have no fear, my work was done well,In this life I broke the waves and rode the swell,I found faith in those that I called my crew,My love will be the compass that will see you through,So don't look for me on the ocean's floor to find,I've never left the weathered docks of your loving mind,For I am in the moon, the wind and the whale's evening song,I am the sailor of eternity whose voyage is not gone.

-Shannon L.

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What infinite heart's-easeMust kings neglect, that private men enjoy!And what have kings, that privates have not too,Save ceremony, save general ceremony?And what art thou, thou idle ceremony?What kind of god art thou, that suffer'st moreOf mortal griefs than do thy worshippers?What are thy rents? what are thy comings in?O ceremony, show me but thy worth!What is thy soul of adoration?Art thou aught else but place, degree and form,Creating awe and fear in other men?Wherein thou art less happy being fear'dThan they in fearing.What drink'st thou oft, instead of homage sweet,But poison'd flattery? O, be sick, great greatness,And bid thy ceremony give thee cure!Think'st thou the fiery fever will go outWith titles blown from adulation?Will it give place to flexure and low bending?Canst thou, when thou command'st the beggar's knee,Command the health of it? No, thou proud dream,That play'st so subtly with a king's repose;I am a king that find thee, and I know'Tis not the balm, the sceptre and the ball,The sword, the mace, the crown imperial,The intertissued robe of gold and pearl,The farced title running 'fore the king,The throne he sits on, nor the tide of pompThat beats upon the high shore of this world,No, not all these, thrice-gorgeous ceremony,Not all these, laid in bed majestical,Can sleep so soundly as the wretched slave,Who with a body fill'd and vacant mindGets him to rest, cramm'd with distressful bread;Never sees horrid night, the child of hell,But, like a lackey, from the rise to setSweats in the eye of Phoebus and all nightSleeps in Elysium; next day after dawn,Doth rise and help Hyperion to his horse,And follows so the ever-running year,With profitable labour, to his grave:And, but for ceremony, such a wretch,Winding up days with toil and nights with sleep,Had the fore-hand and vantage of a king.The slave, a member of the country's peace,Enjoys it; but in gross brain little wotsWhat watch the king keeps to maintain the peace,Whose hours the peasant best advantages.

-William Shakespeare

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Brahma made up his mind to make the world and a man and woman. He made the world, and he made the man and then the woman, and put them on the island of Ceylon. According to the account it was the most beautiful island of which man can conceive. Such birds, such songs, such flowers and such verdure! And the branches of the trees were so arranged that when the wind swept through them every tree was a thousand Æolian harps.Brahma, when he put them there, said: 'Let them have a period of courtship, for it is my desire and will that true love should forever precede marriage.' When I read that, it was so much more beautiful and lofty than the other, that I said to myself, If either one of these stories ever turns out to be true, I hope it will be this one.'Then they had their courtship, with the nightingale singing, and the stars shining, and the flowers blooming, and they fell in love. They were married by the Supreme Brahma, and he said to them: 'Remain here; you must never leave this island.' Well, after a little while the man—and his name was Adami, and the woman's name was Heva—said to Heva: 'I believe I'll look about a little.' He went to the northern extremity of the island where there was a little narrow neck of land connecting it with the mainland, and the devil, who is always playing pranks with us, produced a mirage, and when he looked over to the mainland, such hills and vales, such dells and dales, such mountains crowned with snow, such cataracts clad in bows of glory did he see there, that he went back and told Heva: 'The country over there is a thousand times better than this; let us migrate.' She, like every other woman that ever lived, said: 'Let well enough alone; we have all we want; let us stay here.' But he said 'No, let us go;' so she followed him, and when they came to this narrow neck of land, he took her on his back like a gentleman, and carried her over. But the moment they got over they heard a crash, and looking back, discovered that this narrow neck of land had fallen into the sea. The mirage had disappeared, and there were naught but rocks and sand; and then the Supreme Brahma cursed them both to the lowest hell.Then it was that the man spoke,—and I have liked him ever since for it—'Curse me, but curse not her, it was not her fault, it was mine.'That's the kind of man to start a world with.The Supreme Brahma said: 'I will save her, but not thee.' And then she spoke out of her fullness of love, out of a heart in which there was love enough to make all her daughters rich in holy affection, and said: 'If thou wilt not spare him, spare neither me; I do not wish to live without him; I love him.' Then the Supreme Brahma said—and I have liked him ever since I read it—'I will spare you both and watch over you and your children forever.'Honor bright, is not that the better and grander story?

-Robert G.

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I used to read in books how our fathers persecuted mankind. But I never appreciated it. I did not really appreciate the infamies that have been committed in the name of religion, until I saw the iron arguments that Christians used. I saw the Thumbscrew—two little pieces of iron, armed on the inner surfaces with protuberances, to prevent their slipping; through each end a screw uniting the two pieces. And when some man denied the efficacy of baptism, or may be said, 'I do not believe that a fish ever swallowed a man to keep him from drowning,' then they put his thumb between these pieces of iron and in the name of love and universal forgiveness, began to screw these pieces together. When this was done most men said, 'I will recant.' Probably I should have done the same. Probably I would have said: 'Stop; I will admit anything that you wish; I will admit that there is one god or a million, one hell or a billion; suit yourselves; but stop.'But there was now and then a man who would not swerve the breadth of a hair. There was now and then some sublime heart, willing to die for an intellectual conviction. Had it not been for such men, we would be savages to-night. Had it not been for a few brave, heroic souls in every age, we would have been cannibals, with pictures of wild beasts tattooed upon our flesh, dancing around some dried snake fetich.Let us thank every good and noble man who stood so grandly, so proudly, in spite of opposition, of hatred and death, for what he believed to be the truth.Heroism did not excite the respect of our fathers. The man who would not recant was not forgiven. They screwed the thumbscrews down to the last pang, and then threw their victim into some dungeon, where, in the throbbing silence and darkness, he might suffer the agonies of the fabled damned. This was done in the name of love—in the name of mercy, in the name of Christ.I saw, too, what they called the Collar of Torture. Imagine a circle of iron, and on the inside a hundred points almost as sharp as needles. This argument was fastened about the throat of the sufferer. Then he could not walk, nor sit down, nor stir without the neck being punctured, by these points. In a little while the throat would begin to swell, and suffocation would end the agonies of that man. This man, it may be, had committed the crime of saying, with tears upon his cheeks, 'I do not believe that God, the father of us all, will damn to eternal perdition any of the children of men.'I saw another instrument, called the Scavenger's Daughter. Think of a pair of shears with handles, not only where they now are, but at the points as well, and just above the pivot that unites the blades, a circle of iron. In the upper handles the hands would be placed; in the lower, the feet; and through the iron ring, at the centre, the head of the victim would be forced. In this condition, he would be thrown prone upon the earth, and the strain upon the muscles produced such agony that insanity would in pity end his pain.I saw the Rack. This was a box like the bed of a wagon, with a windlass at each end, with levers, and ratchets to prevent slipping; over each windlass went chains; some were fastened to the ankles of the sufferer; others to his wrists. And then priests, clergymen, divines, saints, began turning these windlasses, and kept turning, until the ankles, the knees, the hips, the shoulders, the elbows, the wrists of the victim were all dislocated, and the sufferer was wet with the sweat of agony. And they had standing by a physician to feel his pulse. What for? To save his life? Yes. In mercy? No; simply that they might rack him once again.This was done, remember, in the name of civilization; in the name of law and order; in the name of mercy; in the name of religion; in the name of Christ.

-Robert G.

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To be, or not to be: that is the question:Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to sufferThe slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;No more; and by a sleep to say we endThe heart-ache and the thousand natural shocksThat flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummationDevoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep;To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;For in that sleep of death what dreams may comeWhen we have shuffled off this mortal coil,Must give us pause: there's the respectThat makes calamity of so long life;For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,The pangs of despised love, the law's delay,The insolence of office and the spurnsThat patient merit of the unworthy takes,When he himself might his quietus makeWith a bare bodkin? who would fardels bear,To grunt and sweat under a weary life,But that the dread of something after death,The undiscover'd country from whose bournNo traveller returns, puzzles the willAnd makes us rather bear those ills we haveThan fly to others that we know not of?Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;And thus the native hue of resolutionIs sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,And enterprises of great pith and momentWith this regard their currents turn awry,And lose the name of action.--Soft you now!The fair Ophelia! Nymph, in thy orisonsBe all my sins remember'd!

-William Shakespeare

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If the Pentateuch be true, religious persecution is a duty. The dungeons of the Inquisition were temples, and the clank of every chain upon the limbs of heresy was music in the ear of God. If the Pentateuch was inspired, every heretic should be destroyed; and every man who advocates a fact inconsistent with the sacred book, should be consumed by sword and flame.In the Old Testament no one is told to reason with a heretic, and not one word is said about relying upon argument, upon education, nor upon intellectual development—nothing except simple brute force. Is there to-day a christian who will say that four thousand years ago, it was the duty of a husband to kill his wife if she differed with him upon the subject of religion? Is there one who will now say that, under such circumstances, the wife ought to have been killed? Why should God be so jealous of the wooden idols of the heathen? Could he not compete with Baal? Was he envious of the success of the Egyptian magicians? Was it not possible for him to make such a convincing display of his power as to silence forever the voice of unbelief? Did this God have to resort to force to make converts? Was he so ignorant of the structure of the human mind as to believe all honest doubt a crime? If he wished to do away with the idolatry of the Canaanites, why did he not appear to them? Why did he not give them the tables of the law? Why did he only make known his will to a few wandering savages in the desert of Sinai? Will some theologian have the kindness to answer these questions? Will some minister, who now believes in religious liberty, and eloquently denounces the intolerance of Catholicism, explain these things; will he tell us why he worships an intolerant God? Is a god who will burn a soul forever in another world, better than a christian who burns the body for a few hours in this? Is there no intellectual liberty in heaven? Do the angels all discuss questions on the same side? Are all the investigators in perdition? Will the penitent thief, winged and crowned, laugh at the honest folks in hell? Will the agony of the damned increase or decrease the happiness of God? Will there be, in the universe, an eternal auto da fe?

-Robert G.

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When the great ship containing the hopes and aspirations of the world, when the great ship freighted with mankind goes down in the night of death, chaos and disaster, I am willing to go down with the ship. I will not be guilty of the ineffable meanness of paddling away in some orthodox canoe. I will go down with the ship, with those who love me, and with those whom I have loved. If there is a God who will damn his children forever, I would rather go to hell than to go to heaven and keep the society of such an infamous tyrant. I make my choice now. I despise that doctrine. It has covered the cheeks of this world with tears. It has polluted the hearts of children, and poisoned the imaginations of men. It has been a constant pain, a perpetual terror to every good man and woman and child. It has filled the good with horror and with fear; but it has had no effect upon the infamous and base. It has wrung the hearts of the tender; it has furrowed the cheeks of the good. This doctrine never should be preached again. What right have you, sir, Mr. clergyman, you, minister of the gospel, to stand at the portals of the tomb, at the vestibule of eternity, and fill the future with horror and with fear? I do not believe this doctrine: neither do you. If you did, you could not sleep one moment. Any man who believes it, and has within his breast a decent, throbbing heart, will go insane. A man who believes that doctrine and does not go insane has the heart of a snake and the conscience of a hyena.

-Robert G.

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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 great 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. Positively the principle may be expressed: In matters of the intellect, follow your reason as far as it will take you, without regard to any other consideration. And negatively: In matters of the intellect, do not pretend that conclusions are certain which are not demonstrated or demonstrable. That I take to be the agnostic position, which if a man keep whole and undefiled, he shall not be ashamed to look the universe in the face, whatever the future may have in store for him.The results of the working out of the agnostic principle will vary according to individual knowledge and capacity, and according to the general condition of science. That which is unproved today may be proved, by the help of new discoveries, tomorrow. The only negative fixed points will be those negations which flow from the demonstrable limitation of our faculties. And the only obligation accepted is to have the mind always open to conviction.That it is wrong for a man to say he is certain of the objective truth of a proposition unless he can provide evidence which logically justifies that certainty. This is what agnosticism asserts and in my opinion, is all that is essential to agnosticism.

-Thomas Henry

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