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 Est. 1998

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Quotations about
Belief & Doubt

Never believe anything that requires you to hate people who do not believe it. ~Robert Brault,

It is easy to mistake our prejudice for patriotism, our rationalization for reason, our littleness for logic, our theories for truth, and our fervor for fact. ~William Arthur Ward, Thoughts of a Christian Optimist, 1968

Instances must be familiar to every reader in which the same person was willing, with greedy credulity, to swallow the most extravagant fiction, and yet refuse credence to a philosophical fact... Of all the offspring of Time, Error is the most ancient, and is so old and familiar an acquaintance, that Truth, when discovered, comes upon most of us like an intruder, and meets the intruder's welcome... To call a prejudice "time-hallowed," is to open a way for it into hearts where it never before penetrated. Some peculiar custom may disgrace the people amongst whom it flourishes; yet men of a little wisdom refuse to aid in its extirpation, merely because it is old. Thus it is with human belief, and thus it is we bring shame upon our own intellect... The very same principle which leads to the rejection of the true, leads to the encouragement of the false. ~Charles Mackay, "The Love of the Marvellous and the Disbelief of the True," Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions, 1841

An old man out in the mountains that had never been anywhere might say he didn't believe in electricity, but that wouldn't keep your electric light bill from being more than you thought it ought to be at the end of the month. ~Kate Trimble Sharber (b.1883), The Annals of Ann, 1910

...poetry is not greatly concerned with what a man thinks, but with what is so imbedded in his nature that it never occurs to him to question it: not a matter of which idea he holds, but of the depth at which he holds it. ~Ezra Pound

This is how humans are: We question all our beliefs, except for the ones we really believe, and those we never think to question. ~Orson Scott Card, Ender's War

In the end you regret less the things you believed that weren't true than the things that never came true because you didn't believe. ~Robert Brault,

I'm definitely a believer. There's so much that you couldn't explain, and we waste our time in this lifetime trying to figure it out from a scientific standpoint — sometimes you need to just enjoy the magic of something. ~Jaleel White, on Hollywood Medium with Tyler Henry, 2017

Not believing has a sickness which is believing a little. ~Antonio Porchia (1886–1968), Voces, 1943–1966, translated from the Spanish by W.S. Merwin (1927–2019), Voices, 1988

I said to myself, "I cannot possibly believe that;" and as I did so I perceived that I had already believed it a second time. ~Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (1742–1799), translated by Norman Alliston, 1908

He does not believe who does not live according to his belief. ~Proverb

A skeptic doubts the best authority; an enthusiast is likely to accept the poorest. ~James Lendall Basford (1845–1915), Sparks from the Philosopher's Stone, 1882

You're sure that you are Right? How fine and strong!
But were you never just as Sure — and Wrong?
~Arthur Guiterman, "Of Wrath," A Poet's Proverbs, 1924

We are all tattooed in our cradles with the beliefs of our tribe; the record may seem superficial, but it is indelible. You cannot educate a man wholly out of the superstitious fears which were early implanted in his imagination; no matter how utterly his reason may reject them, he will still feel as the famous woman did about ghosts, Je n'y crois pas, mais je les crains, — "I don't believe in them, but I am afraid of them, nevertheless." ~Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

ABSURDITY, n.  A statement or belief manifestly inconsistent with one's own opinion. ~Ambrose Bierce

The eloquent man is he who is no beautiful speaker, but who is inwardly & desperately drunk with a certain belief; it agitates & tears him, & almost bereaves him of the power of articulation. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

An old belief is like an old shoe. We so value its comfort that we fail to notice the hole in it. ~Robert Brault,

Convictions are more dangerous enemies to truth than lies. ~Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900), "IX. Man by Himself," Human, All-Too-Human, translated by M.A. Mügge, 1908

Believe what you have Proved. They most deceive
Themselves who try to Prove what they Believe.
~Arthur Guiterman, "Of Truth," A Poet's Proverbs, 1924

The human tendency is to live by myth and illusion when possible, by facts when necessary. ~Dr. Idel Dreimer,

The partisan is so convinced that his own opinion and his own side are right, and all that goes contrary to them is wrong, that he cannot think there is any good in the other opinion and the other side. He lives in a continual fever of attack and defence, and has no knowledge of the quiet peace of an equal mind. ~James Allen (1864–1912), "Equal-Mindedness," Foundation Stones to Happiness and Success, 1913

When a man is under the sway of passion and prejudice he is spiritually blind. Seeing nothing but good in his own side, and nothing but evil in the other, he cannot see anything as it really is, not even his own side; and not understanding himself, he cannot understand the hearts of others, and thinks it is right that he should condemn them. Thus there grows up in his heart a dark hatred for those who refuse to see with him and who condemn him in return, he becomes separated from his fellow-men, and confines himself to a narrow torture-chamber of his own making. ~James Allen (1864–1912), "Equal-Mindedness," Foundation Stones to Happiness and Success, 1913

Belief stains darker, imprints deeper than truth. ~Terri Guillemets

The doubt, like the mosquito, buzzes round my faith. ~Emily Dickinson, 1861

It is the easiest thing in the world to deny a fact. People do it all the time. Yet it remains a fact just the same. ~Isaac Asimov, "Fact," Isaac Asimov's Book of Science and Nature Quotations, 1988

Today's sad fact: You aren't going to change someone's mind who believes it in their headbone. ~Robert Brault,

To spread your belief, you must exude your belief. It is not enough that people hear it from you, they must catch it from you. ~Robert Brault,

Everything is here that tastes most human, from faith to fairyland; the gentle, solemn men have long silly ribbons hanging from their big black hats and the women wear costumes like our Elizabethan ancestresses; they know these are the right things to wear and so they go on wearing them inflexibly. Their faith is a marvellous thing. They not only believe in the Roman Catholic Church and its priests, lock, stock and barrel, but also in all their pre-Christian gods and goddesses, dressed up as saints, wizards, warlocks and fairy folk according to their temperamental quality. They believe in superstitions more than anyone can tell, they believe in charms and they believe in patent medicines and that the way they live will endure for ever. ~H. G. Wells, Apropos of Dolores, 1938

...and as for believing things, I can believe anything, provided that it is quite incredible. ~Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray, 1890

Stand aloof from your own opinions; they seek to lure you with an illusive certainty. ~Henry Stanley Haskins, "Human Judgment," Meditations in Wall Street, 1940

It is not what a man hears but what he believes that makes him wise or foolish. ~"Poor Richard Junior's Philosophy," The Saturday Evening Post, 1903, George Horace Lorimer, editor

People believe the truth more readily if something difficult of belief or incredible is mixed with it. ~Mark Rutherford (William Hale White)

Zeal in proselytising is often due to an uneasy suspicion that we only half-believe. ~Mark Rutherford (William Hale White)

Nothing is more vital than error. Controversies rarely if ever die. They merely sink beneath the surface of literate attention and continue a submerged existence in the dark, unfathomed caves of the popular mind. ~Bergen Evans, "Adam's Navel," The Natural History of Nonsense, 1946

If the sun and moon should doubt,
They'd immediately go out.
~William Blake (1757-1827), "Auguries of Innocence"

Belief, like any other moving body, follows the path of least resistance... ~Samuel Butler, Erewhon Revisited, 1901

I know as well as you must that there are many articles of belief clinging to the skirts of our time which are the bequests of the ages of ignorance that God winked at. ~O. W. Holmes

Doubts are infantine realities. ~James Lendall Basford (1845–1915), Sparks from the Philosopher's Stone, 1882

Man is liberated from his illusions to make room for a fresh set. ~Henry Stanley Haskins, "Wisdom and Knowledge," Meditations in Wall Street, 1940

      With allowance for exceptions... I can hardly believe that a person who is unfair in argumentation will be honest in practical affairs, under circumstances of temptation. If it were not that ignorance, like age, has its privileges, and can play strange tricks, and that man, instead of being defined a thinking animal, might more properly be termed an unthinking one, it would be difficult to avoid the suspicion that the way in which some, claiming to be champions of truth, can argue, implies, as it assuredly tends to produce, an utter corruption of moral principle. There is nothing in a course of dissipation, or religious negligence, that so blunts all perception of right and wrong, as the bigotry which will not open its eyes to evidence, and the sophistry that defends what reason has pronounced untenable.
      They whose pretensions should involve the largest infusion of justice and charity, are too often distempered partisans, whose reflective faculty, if at all awake, perambulates a well-trodden circle, beyond which it seldom strays but to nap at the house of Intolerance or Incapacity...
      Even among those in repute for wisdom and worth, there are intellects radically and invincibly opaque — hostile to illumination, and incapable either of fairness or penetration in the search of truth. Avoid these, or conversation exciting their morbid idiosyncrasies, as you would the plague. ~William Benton Clulow, "Search of Truth," 1833–1863

Truth of whatever kind is only fact or reality. But in a multitude of instances mankind are much fonder of fiction than of reality... One reason may be, that there is often considerable difficulty in arriving at facts, but little or none in taking up with some vague or apparent resemblances. ~William Benton Clulow, Horæ Otiosæ, 1833

The greater part of current opinions are entertained by the majority without evidence, intellectual or experimental; being transmitted from one to another as an heir-loom... The consequence often is, that many are willing enough to look at both sides of a question within certain precincts, but once touch their own sentiments or faction, and their seeming impartiality vanishes. ~William Benton Clulow, Aphorisms and Reflections, 1843

The vitality of Error, indeed, is almost beyond belief, and can be matched only by the infinity of the subterfuges she employs, and the stoutness of her resistance to illumination: while the utterances of Reason, in territories long governed by Assumption instead of Thought, are pretty sure to have the effect of the dragon's teeth in raising up a host of warriors. ~William Benton Clulow, Sunshine and Shadows, 1863

Slowness in believing is the key to opening the most closed heart. ~Jacques Deval (1890–1972), Afin de vivre bel et bien, 1970

I have never considered it my business to disabuse someone of a belief that makes life tolerable for them. ~Robert Brault,

The more cherished the illusion, the more reviled is the teller of truth. ~Dr. Idel Dreimer,

If you can get a man nervous enough you can make him believe anything. ~"Taking Stock of the Year," The Saturday Evening Post, 1908, George Horace Lorimer, editor

The hardest thing about reshaping minds is getting to them before the cement dries. ~Robert Brault,

With most people unbelief in one thing is founded upon blind belief in another. ~Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (1742–1799), translated by Norman Alliston, 1908

I believe this — that from an early age we can observe and witness for ourselves, and that what our parents tell us to believe, if it were subject to the rules of jurisprudence, would be thrown out of court as leading the witness. ~Robert Brault,

If you want to make a man hate you fiercely and forever, prove to him something he does not wish to believe. ~Olin Miller (1893–1981)

I respect more the person who struggles with his faith than the person who is confident in his skepticism. ~Robert Brault,

One's hope for any day is that the good done by people of faith will outweigh the harm done by people of certainty. ~Robert Brault,

Nobody wants his cause near as bad as he wants to talk about his cause. ~Will Rogers (1879–1935)

When people want to believe, the facts won't stop them, and when they don't want to believe, the facts won't make them. ~Robert Brault,

Fond faith thrives best in rich deceptive soil —
Where knaves sow dreams that witless fools embroil.
~Dr. Idel Dreimer,

I have no faith in the sense of comforting beliefs which persuade me that all my troubles are blessings in disguise. ~Rebecca West, "Pleasure Be Your Guide," 1939

Skepticism is a religion very rich in evangelists but very short on saviors. ~Robert Brault,

Just because something is unbelievable does not mean you shouldn't believe it. Put another way, some things are worth believing in whether they're true or not. ~Jeb Dickerson, @JebDickerson

In dogma men often worship error and call it Deity. ~James Lendall Basford (1845–1915), Seven Seventy Seven Sensations, 1897

There are things I believe that I have always believed, but there is nothing I believe for that reason alone. ~Robert Brault,

Certainty is most passionate in the absence of evidence. ~Dr. Idel Dreimer,

It is hard to talk sense to people who find it personally offensive. ~Robert Brault, can't fact check crazy... ~Emma Wolf, 2015,

There are people who never say, "In my opinion..." They say, "The reality is..." when the reality is, it's their opinion. ~Robert Brault,, 2018

Invariable certitude is always suggestive of mania. ~Austin O'Malley, Keystones of Thought, 1914

I believe that there is an explanation for everything, so, yes, I believe in miracles. ~Robert Brault,

But probably 2,000 years hence many beliefs of the wise of our day will have come to seem equally foolish. Man is a credulous animal, and must believe something; in the absence of good grounds for belief, he will be satisfied with bad ones. ~Bertrand Russell, c.1943

One seldom knows one’s true opinion until one has expressed it. ~Dr. Idel Dreimer,

There is no belief so preposterous that something more preposterous cannot be cited as further evidence. ~Robert Brault,

FRIENDSHIP.  A mutual belief in the same fallacies, mountebanks, hobgoblins and imbecilities. ~H. L. Mencken

Sometimes you believe a thing that isn't true because in the world you wish to live in, it would be true. ~Robert Brault,

If a tribe becomes too rational — perhaps it will always succumb to the tribe that has the determination that only blind belief can confer. ~Dr. Idel Dreimer,

I want to say, on behalf of all us lifelong doubters, that we're pretty overwhelmed these days, there being so much information that needs to be doubted. ~Robert Brault, 2020,

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published 1998 Mar 18
revised 2021 Mar 13
last saved 2024 May 3