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One of the fancies of modern culture is the idea that complex issues can be settled and debated on the merits of "sound bites". A symptom of this mentality is the repeated use of displaced "scary quotes" -- as if, for example, a single, offhand quote by a medieval pope were sufficient to overturn the work of hundreds of credentialed historians; even if it were real.
Which is another problem: Some of these quotes just aren't genuine. Some are taken out of context. Our project here, set up at the suggestion of James Hannam (and he even contributed some of these), will take a look at some of these quotes being thrown around and report on their accuracy in terms of authenticity and use.
We have set up a classification system for these quotes:
TD (Thoroughly Debunked) -- we have found that the quote is without question forged or not genuine.
OWD (On the Way to Debunked) -- we have not absolutely been able to conclude that the quote is not genuine, but every scrap of evidence so far suggests that it is.
UI (Under Investigation) -- we're still checking into it.
OC (Out of Context) -- quote is accurate to some degree, but misused
G (Genuine) -- it's for real
Quotes are offered in alphabetical order by the last name of the person to whom they are attributed.
Adrian IV, Pope
"It is not doubted, and you know it, that Ireland and all those islands which have received the faith, belong to the Church of Rome; if you wish to enter that Island, to drive vice out of it, to cause law to be obeyed and St. Peter's Pence to be paid by every house, it will please us to assign it to you."
Clearly the person who accepts the Church as an infallible guide will believe whatever the Church teaches.
- Origins? The source cited for this quote, Lloyd M. Graham, Deceptions and Myths of the Bible, 468, isn't exactly reliable. It is never attributed to anyone else. This may be a mangling of something recorded by the Catholic Encyclopedia here, a more complex issue involving the donation of Ireland.
If forgers and malefactors are put to death by the secular power, there is much more reason for excommunicating and even putting to death one convicted of heresy.
- G. This appears in Summa Theologica, second part of the second part, question 5, article 3, under the heading, "Whether a man who disbelieves one article of faith, can have lifeless faith in the other articles?"
But why a big deal here? Aquinas is stating a truism; replace "church" with any other body or person and it is still a truism. Moreover, the context of the quote shows a rather more critical spirit: The reason of this is that the species of every habit depends on the formal aspect of the object, without which the species of the habit cannot remain. Now the formal object of faith is the First Truth, as manifested in Holy Writ and the teaching of the Church, which proceeds from the First Truth. Consequently whoever does not adhere, as to an infallible and Divine rule, to the teaching of the Church, which proceeds from the First Truth manifested in Holy Writ, has not the habit of faith, but holds that which is of faith otherwise than by faith. Even so, it is evident that a man whose mind holds a conclusion without knowing how it is proved, has not scientific knowledge, but merely an opinion about it. Now it is manifest that he who adheres to the teaching of the Church, as to an infallible rule, assents to whatever the Church teaches; otherwise, if, of the things taught by the Church, he holds what he chooses to hold, and rejects what he chooses to reject, he no longer adheres to the teaching of the Church as to an infallible rule, but to his own will. Hence it is evident that a heretic who obstinately disbelieves one article of faith, is not prepared to follow the teaching of the Church in all things; but if he is not obstinate, he is no longer in heresy but only in error. Therefore it is clear that such a heretic with regard to one article has no faith in the other articles, but only a kind of opinion in accordance with his own will.
That the saints may enjoy their beatitude and the grace of God more abundantly they are permitted to see the punishment of the damned in hell.
- G. Found in Summa Theologica, second part of the second part, question 11, article 3, under the heading, "Whether heretics ought to be tolerated?" But the fuller quote deserves to be seen:
I answer that, With regard to heretics two points must be observed: one, on their own side; the other, on the side of the Church. On their own side there is the sin, whereby they deserve not only to be separated from the Church by excommunication, but also to be severed from the world by death. For it is a much graver matter to corrupt the faith which quickens the soul, than to forge money, which supports temporal life. Wherefore if forgers of money and other evil-doers are forthwith condemned to death by the secular authority, much more reason is there for heretics, as soon as they are convicted of heresy, to be not only excommunicated but even put to death. On the part of the Church, however, there is mercy which looks to the conversion of the wanderer, wherefore she condemns not at once, but "after the first and second admonition," as the Apostle directs: after that, if he is yet stubborn, the Church no longer hoping for his conversion, looks to the salvation of others, by excommunicating him and separating him from the Church, and furthermore delivers him to the secular tribunal to be exterminated thereby from the world by death. For Jerome commenting on Gal. 5:9, "A little leaven," says: "Cut off the decayed flesh, expel the mangy sheep from the fold, lest the whole house, the whole paste, the whole body, the whole flock, burn, perish, rot, die. Arius was but one spark in Alexandria, but as that spark was not at once put out, the whole earth was laid waste by its flame."
Two points to note: 1) The justification is the same as was held for the Inquisition and in the same way, a matter of moral good (for Skeptics, who beg the question of the falsehood of Christianity, this of course would be immoral); 2) far from being a bloodthirsty executioner, Aquinas prescribes a long process giving chances for repentance.
As regards the individual nature, woman is defective and misbegotten, for the active power of the male seed tends to the production of a perfect likeness in the masculine sex; while the production of a woman comes from defect in the active power....
"Women should not be enlightened or educated in any way. They should, in fact, be segregated as they are the cause of hideous and involuntary erections in holy men."
- G/OC. A reader found this one (slightly different translation) here where the full context ought to be considered:
I answer that, Nothing should be denied the blessed that belongs to the perfection of their beatitude. Now everything is known the more for being compared with its contrary, because when contraries are placed beside one another they become more conspicuous. Wherefore in order that the happiness of the saints may be more delightful to them and that they may render more copious thanks to God for it, they are allowed to see perfectly the sufferings of the damned. But there's actually more that means this is not the end of it. Bede wrote me this note: I think we should note that this quote comes from the Supplement to the third part of Summa Theologica. New advent says “Editor's Note: St. Thomas died in the middle of his treatise on Penance. The remainder of the Summa Theologica, known as the Supplement, was compiled probably by his companion and friend Fra Rainaldo da Piperno, and was gathered from St. Thomas's commentary on the Fourth Book of the Sentences of Peter Lombard.” So we need to look and see if this remark is in Aquinas’s Sentences commentary. As it is the quote is not secure.
"There are many things that are true which it is not useful for the vulgar crowd to know; and certain things which although they are false it is expedient for the people to believe otherwise."
- OWD. No one lists an actual work of Augustine as a source. Most say "source unknown" if anything.
- Origins? Helen Ellerbe's Dark Side of Christian History is said to be a source at times, but it's not clear whether she made it up or got it from someone.
- OC. Attributed by Alvin Boyd Kuhn to Augustine's City of God. An online copy of that work, searched for the quote using the word "vulgar," found nothing that matches. But:
- Origins? Kuhn is the earliest so far; Kuhn cites the source at least as "iv. Dei, Lib. IV, Cap. XXXI" but that citation is most revealing. Hannam has this comment: The quote is reasonably accurate from City of God, Book 6, Chapter 31. BUT, Augustine is himself quoting a Roman pagan called Varro who he accuses of being deceitful. Basically, Varro admits that paganism is a load of cobblers but thinks the common people should be maintained in their illusions. Augustine utterly condemns the idea. If Kuhn attributes the quote to Augustine he is either utterly dishonest or can’t read.
Here is "iv. Dei, Lib. IV, Cap. XXXI" with the quote noted as it actually is and relevant highlights:
What says Varro himself, whom we grieve to have found, although not by his own judgment, placing the scenic plays among things, divine? When in many passages he is horting, like a religious man, to the worship of the gods, does he not in doing so admit that he does not in his own judgment believe those things which he relates that the Roman state has instituted; so that he does not hesitate to affirm that if he were founding a new state; he could enumerate the gods and their names better by the rule of nature? But being born into a nation already ancient, he says that he finds himself bound to accept the traditional names and surnames of the gods, and the histories connected with them, and that his purpose in investigating and publishing these details is to incline the people to worship the gods, and not to despise them. By which, words this most acute man sufficiently indicates that he does not publish all things, because they would not only have been contemptible to himself, but would have seemed despicable even to the rabble, unless they had been passed over in silence. I should be thought to conjecture these things, unless he himself, in another passage, had openly said, in speaking of religious rites, that many things are true which it is not only not useful for the common people to know, but that it is expedient that the people should think otherwise, even though falsely, and therefore the Greeks have shut up the religious ceremonies and mysteries in silence, and within walls. In this he no doubt expresses the policy of the so-called wise men by whom states and peoples are ruled. Yet by this crafty device the malign demons are wonderfully delighted, who possess alike the deceivers and the deceived, and from whose tyranny nothing sets free save the grace of God through Jesus Christ our Lord.
The same most acute and learned author also says, that those alone seem to him to have perceived what God is, who have believed Him to be the soul of the world, governing it by design and reason. And by this, it appears, that although he did not attain to the truth -- for the true God is not a soul, but the maker and author of the soul -- yet if he could have been free to go against the prejudices of custom, he could have confessed and counselled others that the one God ought to be worshipped, who governs the world by design and reason; so that on this subject only this point would remain to be debated with him, that he had called Him a soul, and not rather the creator of the soul. He says, also, that the ancient Romans, for more than a hundred and seventy years, worshipped the gods without an image? "And if this custom," he says, "could have remained till now, the gods would have been more purely worshipped." In favor of this opinion, he cites as a witness among others the Jewish nation; nor does he hesitate to conclude that passage by saying of those who first consecrated images for the people, that they have both taken away religious fear from their fellow-citizens, and increased error, wisely thinking that the gods easily fall into contempt when exhibited under the stolidity of images. But as he does not say they have transmitted error, but that they have increased it, he therefore wishes it to be understood that there was error already when there were no images. Wherefore, when he says they alone have perceived what God is who have believed Him to be the governing soul of the world, and thinks that the rites of religion would have been more purely observed without images, who fails to see how near he has come to the truth? For if he had been able to do anything against so inveterate, an error, he would certainly have given it as his opinion both that the one God should be worshipped, and that He should be worshipped without an image; and having so nearly discovered the truth, perhaps he might easily have been put in mind of the mutability of the soul, and might thus have perceived that the true God is that immutable nature which made the soul itself. Since these things are so, whatever ridicule such men have poured in their writings against the plurality of the gods, they have done so rather as compelled by the secret will of God to confess them, than as trying to persuade others. If, therefore, any testimonies are adduced by us from these writings, they are adduced for the confutation of those who are unwilling to consider from how great and malignant a power of the demons the singular sacrifice of the shedding of the most holy blood, and the gift of the imparted Spirit, can set us free.
My own good beetle, not so much because he is only-begotten (God); not because he, the author of himself, has taken on the form of mortals; but because he has rolled himself in our filth and chooses to be born from this filth itself.
Now indeed in our time, and in keeping with Roman custom, it is no longer allowed to take another wife, so as to have more than one wife living.
- OWD. Appears nowhere online except in one of Tom Harpur's columns. No source is cited.
- Origins? Gerald Massey repeats the identification of Christ with the "good beetle" but provides no documentation from Augustine either. Another version of the quote appears on a handful of other sites, also without source documentation. Others attribute the saying to Ambrose, sourcing a title of "Works" by Ambrose, in an edition dated to 1686. As it is this remains insufficently documented.
They fail to notice that, even should it be believed or demonstrated that the world is round or spherical in form ...
- G/OC. This is often used by pro-polygamy sites. It is cited as from his work The Good of Marriage; a copy of that here shows this, which is close:
But I marvel, if, as it is allowed to put away a wife who is an adulteress, so it be allowed, having put her away, to marry another. For holy Scripture causes a hard knot in this matter, in that the Apostle says, that, by commandment of the Lord, the wife ought not to depart from her husband, but, in case she shall have departed, to remain unmarried, or to be reconciled to her husband; whereas surely she ought not to depart and remain unmarried, save from an husband that is an adulterer, lest by withdrawing from him, who is not an adulterer, she cause him to commit adultery. But perhaps she may justly be reconciled to her husband, either he being to be borne with, if she cannot contain herself, or being now corrected. But I see not how the man can have permission to marry another, in case he have left an adulteress, when a woman has not to be married to another, in case she have left an adulterer. And, this being the case, so strong is that bond of fellowship in married persons, that, although it be tied for the sake of begetting children, not even for the sake of begetting children is it loosed. For it is in a man's power to put away a wife that is barren, and marry one of whom to have children. And yet it is not allowed; and now indeed in our times, and after the usage of Rome, neither to marry in addition, so as to have more than one wife living: and, surely, in case of an adulteress or adulterer being left, it would be possible that more men should be born, if either the woman were married to another, or the man should marry another. And yet, if this be not lawful, as the Divine Rule seems to prescribe, who is there but it must make him attentive to learn, what is the meaning of this so great strength of the marriage bond? Which I by no means think could have been of so great avail, were it not that there were taken a certain sacrament of some greater matter from out this weak mortal state of men, so that, men deserting it, and seeking to dissolve it, it should remain unshaken for their punishment. Seeing that the compact of marriage is not done away by divorce intervening; so that they continue wedded persons one to another, even after separation; and commit adultery with those, with whom they shall be joined, even after their own divorce, either the woman with a man, or the man with a woman.
The context would seem to indicate that Augustine is not concerned with polygamy, but with adultery.
Nothing so casts down the manly mind from it's height as the fondling of women and those bodily contacts which belong to the married state.
- OC: This has been used to attribute flat-earth belief to Augustine, e.g. by the notorious 19th century humanists
John William Draper (History of the Conflict between Religion and Science, 1874) and Andrew Dickson White (History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom, 1896), the sources of much misinformation about the history of science.
- Origins: Full quote from The City of God 14:9 — As to the fable that there are Antipodes, that is to say, men on the opposite side of the earth, where the sun rises when it sets on us, men who walk with their feet opposite ours, there is no reason for believing it. Those who affirm it do not claim to possess any actual information; they merely conjecture that, since the earth is suspended within the concavity of the heavens, and there is as much room on the one side of it as on the other, therefore the part which is beneath cannot be void of human inhabitants. They fail to notice that, even should it be believed or demonstrated that the world is round or spherical in form, it does not follow that the part of the earth opposite to us is not completely covered with water, or that any conjectured dry land there should be inhabited by men. For Scripture, which confirms the truth of its historical statements by the accomplishment of its prophecies, teaches not falsehood; and it is too absurd to say that some men might have set sail from this side and, traversing the immense expanse of ocean, have propagated there a race of human beings descended from that one first man.
As Jeffrey Burton Russell shows in Inventing the Flat Earth: Columbus and Modern Historians, Praeger, 1991,
Augustine disputed a totally different concept, that of the Antipodes, although wrongly. But this is not the same as disputing the round earth, as opposed to something that doesn’t necessarily follow from this. As Russell explains:
Christian doctrine affirmed that all humans must be of one origin, descended from Adam and Eve and redeemable by Christ, “the Second [sic—1 Corinthians 15:45 says “last”] Adam.” The Bible was silent as to whether antipodeans existed, but natural philosophy had demonstrated that if they did, they could have no connection with the known part of the globe, either because the sea was too wide to sail across or because the equatorial zones were too hot to sail through. There could be no genetic connection between the antipodeans and us. Therefore any alleged antipodeans could not be descended from Adam and therefore could not exist.
The good Christian should beware of mathematicians and all those who make empty prophecies. The danger already exists that mathameticians have made a covenant with the devil to darken the spirit and confine man in the bonds of hell.
- Apparently G. Aquinas quotes Augustine on this point and it comes from a work titled Soliloquoy. Matt Paulson, our specialist contact on patristics, writes:
At least two things need to be said here. In the first place, this comes from Augustine's first written work after converting to Christianity, and previously, his spiritual life had been anchored in Manicheanism and Platonism (both of which strongly stress the superiority of the intellect to the physical). In the second place, the thing that Augustine found to be the greatest stumbling stone to his converting to Christianity was his desire to 'sleep around,' which he documents thoroughly in his Confessions (a work which I have read large portions of in the original Latin--the famous quote, "Lord, give me chastity and constancy, but not yet," is to be found in the Confessions, when he's speaking of precisely this point). The Soliloquies is a work wherein Augustine faces what he takes to be tough questions/issues vis-a-vis his new faith, and truth and spirituality in general. It'd be great if you could get an accurate citation of this quote, but I suspect that he's talking about 1 of 2 things: 1) either his OWN PERSONAL struggles, and how HIS sexual appetite was a stone of stumbling for him, or, more generally, 2) how sexual temptation, being so strong, is an obstacle to contemplating intellectual matters. Of course, it goes without saying that Augustine approved of the married state, even though he thought the life of the intellect (eremetic) to be better still.
I was already Bishop of Hippo, when I went into Ethiopia with some servants of Christ there to preach the Gospel. In this country we saw many men and women without heads, who had two great eyes in their breasts; and in countries still more southly, we saw people who had but one eye in their foreheads.
- OC. It's accurate -- it is from Book 2 of De Genesi ad litteram -- but fails to note that the word translated "mathematicians" means astrologers.
It is lawful then, to him that discusses, disputes, and preaches of things eternal, or to him that narrates of things temporal pertaining to religion or piety, to conceal at fitting times whatever seems fit to be concealed.
- TD. Roger Pearse gives the lie on this one:
Wheless did not verify this for himself, but as he says copied it from Taylor and Doane. There are quite a number of collections of the sermons of Augustine. The correct reference is Pseudo-Augustine, Sermones Ad fratres in eremo, 37. This can be found in the Patrologia Latina 40, cols.1301-1304. The collection contains 76 sermons, cols.1233-1358, commencing (1233-6) with a discussion of the authenticity of the sermons. The first 50 sermons in the collection are plainly composed by a single writer with a characteristic style, who refers to Sigebert of Gembloux as his 'compatriot' in sermon 31 and makes considerable use of the works of Petrus Comestor (Bonnes, p.177). As such, they can only be medieval works, probably of the 12th century, and this text plainly belongs to the genre of marvellous stories of faraway places. This has been known since at least the time of Robert Bellarmine in the 17th century.
To assert that the earth revolves around the sun is as erroneous as to claim that Jesus was not born of a virgin....To affirm that the Sun...is at the centre of the universe and only rotates on its axis without going from east to west, is a very dangerous attitude and one calculated not only to arouse all Scholastic philosophers and theologians but also to injure our holy faith by contradicting the Scriptures.
- TD. Pearse also debunks this one, which is a mangled form of Augustine's On Lying 17:
17. But yet if the option were proposed to the man who chose to burn incense to idols rather than yield his body to abominable lust, that, if he wished to avoid that, he should violate the fame of Christ by some lie; he would be most mad to do it. I say more: that he would be mad, if, to avoid another man's lust, and not to have that done upon his person which he would suffer with no lust of his own, he should falsify Christ's Gospel with false praises of Christ; more eschewing that another man should corrupt his body, than himself to corrupt the doctrine of sanctification of souls and bodies. Wherefore, from the doctrine of religion, and from those utterances universally, which are uttered on behalf of the doctrine of religion, in the teaching and learning of the same, all lies must be utterly kept aloof. Nor can any cause whatever be found, one should think, why a lie should be told in matters of this kind, when in this doctrine it is not right to tell a lie for the very purpose of bringing a person to it the more easily. For, once break or but slightly diminish the authority of truth, and all things will remain doubtful: which unless they be believed true, cannot be held as certain. It is lawful then either to him that discourses, disputes, and preaches of things eternal, or to him that narrates or speaks of things temporal pertaining to edification of religion and piety, to conceal at fitting time whatever seems fit to be concealed: but to tell a lie is never lawful, therefore neither to conceal by telling a lie.
As Pearse notes, Augustine defends the idea that it is not a lie to (e.g.) refuse to tell a maniac the location of his victim - which is hardly unreasonable! - but to describe this as 'hearty approval' and 'argument in support' is absurd. It's mentioned in passing in the middle of a passage as vehement as possible in the opposite direction.
Human reason is snatching everything to itself, leaving nothing for faith.
- OC. This very suspicious quote always appears either without attribution, or with just a date (1615), or a claim that it was said "at the trial" of Galileo. It is certainly not in the spirit of what is reported of Bellarmine by reliable sources, which do not report this or other quotes by him; for example, The Catholic Encyclopedia says of Bellarmine:
Bellarmine did not live to deal with the later and more serious stage of the Galileo case, but in 1615 he took part in its earlier stage. He had always shown great interest in the discoveries of that investigator, and was on terms of friendly correspondence with him. He took up too--as is witnessed by his letter to Galileo's friend Foscarini--exactly the right attitude towards scientific theories in seeming contradiction with Scripture. If, as was undoubtedly the case then with Galileo's heliocentric theory, a scientific theory is insufficiently proved, it should be advanced only as an hypothesis; but if, as is the case with this theory now, it is solidly demonstrated, care must be taken to interpret Scripture only in accordance with it. When the Holy Office condemned the heliocentric theory, by an excess in the opposite direction, it became Bellarmine's official duty to signify the condemnation to Galileo, and receive his submission. However, it does turn out to have some genuine backing:
- Origins? The origins are likely found in a letter by Bellarmine noted here which says things that are quite close:
First. I say that it seems to me that Your Reverence and Galileo did prudently to content yourself with speaking hypothetically, and not absolutely, as I have always believed that Copernicus spoke. For to say that, assuming the earth moves and the sun stands still, all the appearances are saved better than with eccentrics and epicycles, is to speak well; there is no danger in this, and it is sufficient for mathematicians. But to want to affirm that the sun really is fixed in the center of the heavens and only revolves around itself (i. e., turns upon its axis ) without traveling from east to west, and that the earth is situated in the third sphere and revolves with great speed around the sun, is a very dangerous thing, not only by irritating all the philosophers and scholastic theologians, but also by injuring our holy faith and rendering the Holy Scriptures false. For Your Reverence has demonstrated many ways of explaining Holy Scripture, but you have not applied them in particular, and without a doubt you would have found it most difficult if you had attempted to explain all the passages which you yourself have cited.
Note that critical parts here are left out when the quote is used. Bellarmine appeals to scientific authority (mathematicians) and also appeals to the need to exegete passages properly (more in section 3).
Second. I say that, as you know, the Council [of Trent] prohibits expounding the Scriptures contrary to the common agreement of the holy Fathers. And if Your Reverence would read not only the Fathers but also the commentaries of modern writers on Genesis, Psalms, Ecclesiastes and Josue, you would find that all agree in explaining literally (ad litteram) that the sun is in the heavens and moves swiftly around the earth, and that the earth is far from the heavens and stands immobile in the center of the universe. Now consider whether in all prudence the Church could encourage giving to Scripture a sense contrary to the holy Fathers and all the Latin and Greek commentators. Nor may it be answered that this is not a matter of faith, for if it is not a matter of faith from the point of view of the subject matter, it is on the part of the ones who have spoken. It would be just as heretical to deny that Abraham had two sons and Jacob twelve, as it would be to deny the virgin birth of Christ, for both are declared by the Holy Ghost through the mouths of the prophets and apostles.
Third. I say that if there were a true demonstration that the sun was in the center of the universe and the earth in the third sphere, and that the sun did not travel around the earth but the earth circled the sun, then it would be necessary to proceed with great caution in explaining the passages of Scripture which seemed contrary, and we would rather have to say that we did not understand them than to say that something was false which has been demonstrated. But I do not believe that there is any such demonstration; none has been shown to me. It is not the same thing to show that the appearances are saved by assuming that the sun really is in the center and the earth in the heavens. I believe that the first demonstration might exist, but I have grave doubts about the second, and in a case of doubt, one may not depart from the Scriptures as explained by the holy Fathers. I add that the words ' the sun also riseth and the sun goeth down, and hasteneth to the place where he ariseth, etc.' were those of Solomon, who not only spoke by divine inspiration but was a man wise above all others and most learned in human sciences and in the knowledge of all created things, and his wisdom was from God. Thus it is not too likely that he would affirm something which was contrary to a truth either already demonstrated, or likely to be demonstrated. And if you tell me that Solomon spoke only according to the appearances, and that it seems to us that the sun goes around when actually it is the earth which moves, as it seems to one on a ship that the beach moves away from the ship, I shall answer that one who departs from the beach, though it looks to him as though the beach moves away, he knows that he is in error and corrects it, seeing clearly that the ship moves and not the beach. But with regard to the sun and the earth, no wise man is needed to correct the error, since he clearly experiences that the earth stands still and that his eye is not deceived when it judges that the moon and stars move. And that is enough for the present. I salute Your Reverence and ask God to grant you every happiness."
The third point is the mosr critical, because it reveals that contrary to how the quotes are used, Bellarmine was ready to submit to the possibility that heliocentrism was true and interpret the text accordingly, and that he also appealed to scientific authority (of Solomon, however misplaced we may think this is) as well as to observation. In his view, this was a case of "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence" -- and surely Skeptics can respect that (especially since so many astronomers of the day accepted geocentrism).
"Who will venture to place the authority of Copernicus over that of the Holy Spirit?"
- OC. Walter Nigg, The Heretics: Heresy Through the Ages (1962), p. 169 is cited as a source, via Helen Ellerbe's The Dark Side of Christian History. Turns out "Punkish" (our UK research assistant) had this book and reports:
Yes the citation is there, and Nigg (not known to be a historian) uses Hausrath as a source (1895!), who was a follower of the Tubingen school. (Also wrote romance novels.) Bernard via Hausrath is discussing Abelard and his dialectic method. The whole quote in Nigg is as follows: "The faith of simplicity is mocked, the secrets of Christ profaned, questions on the highest things are impertinently asked, the Fathers scorned because they were disposed to conciliate rather than solve such problems. Human reason is snatching everything to itself, leaving nothing for faith. It falls upon things which are beyond it...desecrates sacred things more than clarifies them. It does not unlock mysteries and symbols, but tears them asunder; it makes nought of everything to which it cannot gain access and disdains to believe all such things."
So Ellerbe quote-mined her source for a single, rationalistic-sounding statement because the remainder was a criticism of Abelard on moral and spiritual grounds. Bernard is also called a mystic by Nigg, which the
Catholic Encyclopedia says nothing about, but it does give this account: "Abelard asked for a public discussion with Bernard; the latter showed his opponent's errors with such clearness and force of logic that he was unable to make any reply, and was obliged, after being condemned, to retire." The context of the "Human reason" part of the given quote can be shown here: "Towards the close of the eleventh century, the schools of philosophy and theology, dominated by the passion for discussion and a spirit of independence which had introduced itself into political and religious questions, became a veritable public arena, with no other motive than that of ambition."
If Walter Nigg wants to call Abelard's approach "the cornerstone of the great structure of scholasticism" he is incorrect, and Ellerbe, not being given over to researching sourcework follows suit. source: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02498d.htm Hausrath quote comes from Hausrath, Peter Abelard p222 and the Nigg quote about scholasticism is from Heretics p167.
"We [Catholics] are also under an obligation to keep secrets faithfully. And sometimes the easiest way to fulfill that duty is to say what is false, or to tell a lie."
- TD. Debunked, Hooykaas Religion and the Rise of Modern Science, 121. Hannam comments in his journal:
Calvin is often quoted as saying "Who will venture to place the authority of Copernicus over that of the Holy Spirit?". This appears in White (see last post), Russell's History of Western Philosophy and many other anti-Christian tracts. But it seems that Calvin never said it or anything else about Copernicus. His theory of accommodation between nature and scripture, outlined in the Commentary on Genesis, insisted that the Bible was not a text to be read scientifically so it is doubtful he would have said much on the subject anyway. It turns out the famous quote first appeared in FW Farrar's History of Interpretation (1886). Oddly enough, the quotation is given in the forward and it flatly contradicts Farrar's otherwise masterful analysis of Calvin's thought. The whole thing is most odd.
- Origins? Russell's History of Western Philosophy, 515 seems to be a main source.
Woman is a necessary evil, a natural temptation, a desirable calamity, a domestic peril, a deadly fascination, and a painted ill.
- OC. The full context, found here, tells the story:
According to the common Catholic teaching it is never allowable to tell a lie, not even to save human life . A lie is something intrinsically evil , and as evil may not be done that good may come of it, we are never allowed to tell a lie. However, we are also under an obligation to keep secrets faithfully, and sometimes the easiest way of fulfilling that duty is to say what is false , or to tell a lie. Writers of all creeds and of none, both ancient and modern, have frankly accepted this position. They admit the doctrine of the lie of necessity , and maintain that when there is a conflict between justice and veracity it is justice that should prevail. The common Catholic teaching has formulated the theory of mental reservation as a means by which the claims of both justice and veracity can be satisfied.
In other words, this is specifically within the context of things like "Jews in the cellar when the Nazis come knocking".
Among all savage beasts none is found so harmful as woman.
- OCTD. No one gives the name of the work of Chysostom that says this, and for good reason: It's a mixup.
- Origins? Credit is given to one Susan H. Wixon for a speech, "Woman: Four Centuries of Progress," given at a Freethinkers' Congress in Chicago in 1893. Wixon wasn't a careful reader. "Punkish" found this one, but it wasn't by Chrysostom; it appears in Sprenger and Kramer's Malleus Maleficarum where they are discussing the wickedness of women (in a section on witches), and they mention Chrysostom's Homily on Matthew 19 where the disciples
say "it is better not to marry" and then comment on that:
The quote is from Sprenger and Kramer, not Chrysostom. The Chrysostem Holimy says (source), For now they understood the saying more than before. Therefore then indeed they held their peace, but now when there hath been gainsaying, and
answering, and question, and learning by reply, and the law appeared more clear, they ask Him. And openly to contradict they do not dare, but they bring forward what seemed to be a grievous and galling result of it, saying, "If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry." For indeed it seemed to be a very hard thing to have a wife full of every bad quality, and to endure a wild beast perpetually shut up with one in the house. And that thou mayest learn that this greatly troubled them, Mark said,to show it, that they spake to Him privately.
The Malleus says, in the section Concerning Witches Who Copulate With Devils (source, or here), All wickedness is but little to the wickedness of a woman. Wherefore S. John Chrysostom says on the text, It is not good to marry (S. Matthew xix): What else is woman but a foe to friendship, an unescapable punishment, a necessary evil, a natural temptation, a desirable calamity, a domestic danger, a delectable detriment, an evil of nature, painted with fair colours! Therefore if it be a sin to divorce her when she ought to be kept, it is indeed a necessary torture; for either we commit adultery by divorcing her, or
we must endure daily strife.
The slave should be resigned to his lot; in obeying his master he is obeying God.
- UI. Source never cited that I can find. One citer credits Women in the Maze: Questions and Answers on Biblical Equality by Ruth A. Tucker, InterVarsity Press, 1992, p. 149 but it also gives no source. Punkish may have found the source in Chrysostom's Homily IX, under his discussion about 1 Cor. 3:
12-15, section 9, but if this is the source is certainly is mangled badly:
For nothing is so inconsiderate as sin: nothing so senseless, so utterly foolish and outrageous. All is overturned and confounded and destroyed by it, wheresoever it may alight. Unsightly to behold, disgusting and grievous. And should a painter draw her picture, he would not, methinks, err in fashioning her after this sort. A woman with the form of a beast, savage, breathing flames, hideous, black; such as the heathen poets depict their Scyllas. For with ten thousand hands she lays hold of our thoughts, and comes on unexpected, and tears everything in pieces, like those dogs that bite slily.
The "woman" here is sin personified.
OWD. Roger Pearse notes: I can find nothing in his works in those words. His thoughts are outlined in Homily 22 on Ephesians and are simply biblical.
Great is the force of deceit, provided it is not excited by a treacherous intention.
Every trace of the old philosophy and literatureof the ancient world has vanished from the face of the earth.
- Origins? Ellerbe's The Dark Side of Christian History seems to be a source, but that's as far as we can trace for now.
Chrysostom had a sermon set titled, against the Jews.
- OWD. No one ever cites an original source; it's either Ellerbe, Walker, Lloyd M. Graham, or Doane who gets credit. Tekton Research Assistant Punkish adds:
I own Doane's Bible Myths, so I looked it up via Lloyd Graham. Take a
guess. Yup, it isnt on the page LMG cites (p436) and the edition I have is photocopied from the original book. Also, Chrysostom (who it is claimed said the quote) isn't in the Index. Dead end so far.
Clement of Alexandria
Every woman should be filled with shame by the thought that she is a woman.
- OC: A better translation is "Against the Judaizers", as is clear from the context that attacked both Jewish and Gentile persons who taught heresy. Chryostom had no problem with Jews as a race, praising the Jewish prophets and apostles, and denouncing cruelty to Jews. Also, much of Chrysostom's preaching followed the strong language of the challenge-riposte paradigm, also followed in the Bible but sounds harsh to squeamish American ears. See this Eastern Orthodox perspective, which also points out that many Christophobes twist Patristic statements about the FALLEN nature of women (again often following typical "trash-talk" methods) to a general denigration of females (even though the Fathers also "trashed" fallen males just as much).
See also here: What is unfortunate is that this misuse of the saint's words is based significantly on a mistranslation of the title of the sermons, translated as Against the Jews, rather than Against the Judaizers, which is the rendering the most up to date translations are now using. By this adjustment, sermons intended by the saint to be polemics against those in 4th century Antioch who would try to Judaize the Christians are being read as racist invective....Because of this misunderstanding, I am working to compile information to show that Anti-Semites who wish to justify their hate will have to look elsewhere -- the Golden-Mouthed saint did not hate Jews, but in fact in many other sermons overlooked by such racists (and often anti-racists who want to discredit St. John as a racist!), the saint is "quite admiring of the local Jewish community and their religious devotion and stamina," in the words of one Roman Catholic patristics scholar quoted on a webpage of debate and commentary concerning this matter.
Origins: The titles of the sermons are real, but the spin on them in false and comes of assorted anti-christian writings; alas the normally very reliable Dr. Michael Brown cited them without sufficient care in Our Hands are Stained with Blood, ch. 2.
"...[T]he same things which God has taught to Christendom" had also been taught by the devil to the Mexicans.
- Origins? The "positive atheism" site credits "from Lea, History of Sacerdotal Celibacy (page 320), quoted from Joseph Lewis, The Ten Commandments (page 422)." Page 320 of this book is about heretical views in Europe c. 1200-1400; needless to say, Clement is not mentioned, and he is not even listed in Lea's index, nor does he appear in the few pages Lea has on the patristic church. I think Skeptic John Powell offers a reasonable explanation here.
Damascene, John of
"Woman is the daughter of falsehood, a sentinel of hell, the enemy of peace."
- OWD. No citation is given for this quote, which appears alluded to and now and then quoted on a few Internet sites. Only one offers any note: "Conquest of Mexico, Vo. 1, p. 60." The closest match to this is The Discovery and Conquest of Mexico 1517-1521 by Bernal Diaz Del Castillo, one of Cortez' associates. It comes in two "books", not volumes, and page 60 is in book two in the edition offered on Amazon. It's not locally available, but this happens to be one of those books Amazon lets one search in, and I found nothing of this quote.
- Origins? Unknown.
Eusebius "confesses that he has related whatever might redound to the glory, and that he has suppressed all that could tend to the disgrace, of religion."
- OWD. Oddly it seems to be used a lot by Muslims, but no one gives a source.
- Origins? Wixon is credited again, and she gives no source at all.
"I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ."
- OC -- see account here by Roger Pearse.
- Origins? The common origin is Gibbon, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, v 1, c 16.
"If the work of God could be comprehended by reason, it would be no longer wonderful."
- OWD. The quote has been given more than one context: One where Gandhi is objecting to Christian materialism, the other where it is connected to an incident in his life where he was refused entry to a racist South African church. Gandhi supposedly made this remark to his friend, Christian missionary E. Stanley Jones, but while Jones' book. Gandhi: Portrayal of a Friend, has a chapter titled, "Gandhi and the Christian Faith," which tells the story of that chruch, the quote is not connected to it nor used any place else in the chapter. A Wiki source (assumed not reliable) says: The actual quote is attributed to Bara Dada, "Jesus is ideal and wonderful, but you Christians -- you are not like him." Source - Jones, E. Stanley. The Christ of the Indian Road, New York: The Abingdon Press,1925. (Page 114) That book is available near me, and I will check it out when I am near the library it is in.
"The Roman Church has never erred, nor will it err to all eternity. No one may be considered a Catholic Christian who does not agree with the Catholic Church. No book is authoritative unless it has received the papal sanction."
- OWD. Appears only online with no source ever given.
"Cursed is the man that holds back his sword from shedding blood."
- TD. This is usually reported as being from the Dictatus of Pope Gregory VII (1073-1085). The Dictates can be found here, though, and there's a problem. The first part sounds like it forgot something:
That the Roman church has never erred; nor will it err to all eternity, the Scripture bearing witness.
In other words, it is essentally an argument that the evidence shows that the church has not erred. The Skeptic can of course can dispute that evidence, but it isn't the "we're always right" say-so job it is madse out to be.
As for the rest of it, it seems to be mysteriously missing from that copy Fordham has. The only place those additional words appear are in sources like the 1960 Rosicrucian Digest, and in sources like Joseph Wheless.
"We rejoice with you that with the help of God you have relieved the world of these wretched heretics."
- OWD. No source is given, and it appears on no place other than discussion boards.
The layman must not argue with the unbeliever, but thrust his sword into the man's belly as far as it will go.
- OC. On 8 September a procession of thanksgiving took place in Rome, and the pope, in a prayer after mass, thanked God for having "granted the Catholic people a glorious triumph over a perfidious race". This referred to a political event (see here, section D; also there for Origins.
Honorius of Autun
How is the soul profited by the strife of Hector, the arguments of Plato, the poems of Virgil, or the elegies of Ovid, who, with others like them, are now gnashing their teeth in the prison of the infernal Babylon, under the cruet tyranny of Pluto?
- UI. Guess who the source here is. Yes, once again, Helen Ellerbe, The Dark Side of Christian History. That's enough to take away benefit of the doubt, especially since Inquisitors like Gui never used swords.
Ignatius of Loyola
To arrive at the truth in all things, we ought always to be ready to believe that what seems to us white is black if the hierarchical Church so defines it.
- UI. Honorius of Autun is said here to be "showing disdain for human education by opposing the revival of classic literature." Cited as a source is Charles Homer Haskins, The Renaissance of the 12th Century (1927), p. 96, via Helen Ellerbe, The Dark Side of Christian History. Haskins' book is available near us; we got it, and he gives no source at all, though a note given to Sandys' History of Classical Scholarship, p. 618, may be relevant (it is not clear whether it is for the Autun quote farther up on the page).
If it shall be necessary, through sentences of excommunication against their persons and of interdict against their lands, all backsliding being put an end to, they compel them to fulfil their vows.
- G/OC. The quote is essentially correct, as found here, #13: To be right in everything, we ought always to hold that the white which I see, is black, if the Hierarchical Church so decides it, believing that between Christ our Lord, the Bridegroom, and the Church, His Bride, there is the same Spirit which governs and directs us for the salvation of our souls. Because by the same Spirit and our Lord Who gave the ten Commandments, our holy Mother the Church is directed and governed.
However, far from being some sort of epistemic guideline for all knowledge, as the quote would suggest, this comes from a work written as a response to the Reformation. The "hype" is to be expected in this context, in which Ignatius, founder of the Jesuit Order, is "setting out rules for the order and for the Christian life" (not, "setting out rules for epistemology as a whole"). One other part are also of interest: To praise positive and scholastic learning. Because, as it is more proper to the Positive Doctors, as St. Jerome, St. Augustine and St. Gregory, etc., to move the heart to love and serve God our Lord in everything; so it is more proper to the Scholastics, as St. Thomas, St. Bonaventure, and to the Master of the Sentences, etc., to define or explain for our times the things necessary for eternal salvation; and to combat and explain better all errors and all fallacies.
In addition, the entry here makes it clear that the intent of the text within which this appears ("Spiritual Exercies") is misapprehended:
To obtain the desired result St. Ignatius uses only a few words, but these are so selected as to make a deep impression on the mind and, if seriously meditated on by the exercitant and fostered in his soul, will soon develop into powerful thoughts and become a source of great spiritual enlightenment and consequently of earnest energetic resolutions. However, though the method of St. Ignatius leaves the exercitant to think for himself, the author does not intend that the latter should use it without guidance. He places the "Book of Exercises" in the hands of a director, and entrusts him with applying it to the exercitant. He teaches him how to guide a soul in the choice of a state of life and in the work of self-reform. The annotations, which provide a key to the "Exercises", are intended more especially for the director. The greater part of them — the second, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth, twelfth, thirteenth, fourteenth, fifteenth, seventeenth, eighteenth, a total of twelve out of twenty — is written for "el que da los Exercicios" (the person who gives the exercises).
See also notes of praise for the Exercises at the end, which have a far better grasp on the intent: Non-Catholics also praise it. "The Spiritual Exercises", according to Macaulay, "is a manual of conversion, proposing a plan of interior discipline, by means of which, in neither more nor less than four weeks, the metamorphosis of a sinner into a faithful servant of Christ is realized, step by step" ("Edinburgh Review", November, 1842, p. 29). More recently, the Canon Charles Bodington, praising the Jesuit missionaries, so lavish of their sweat and blood, really "worthy of hearty admiration and respect", added: "Probably the noble and devotional side of the lives of these remarkable men has been largely sustained by the use of the method of the spiritual exercises left to them by their founder" ("Books of Devotion", London, 1903, p. 130). Finally, a short time ago Karl Holl (see bibliography), a German, declared the "Exercises" to be a masterpiece of pedagogy, which instead of annihilating personality serves to elevate the spirit. The Positivist P. Lafitte, in the lectures delivered by him at the Collège de France, declares: "These Exercises are to my mind a real masterpiece of political and moral wisdom and merit careful study. . . . The destination of these Exercises is to so organize the moral life of the individual that by a prolonged, solitary, and personal labour he himself realizes the most perfect balance of the mind" ("Revue occidentale", 1 May, 1894, p. 309).
Use against heretics the spiritual sword of excommunication, and if this does not prove effective, use the material sword.
"I have recently been examining all the known superstitions of the world, and do not find in our particular superstition [Christianity] one redeeming feature. They are all alike, founded upon fables and mythologies."
- G. See here, though some misreport it as having to do with heresy; it actually has to do with those who back out of a military commitment; in other words, AWOLs:
Lest therefore this holy undertaking should happen to be impeded or retarded, we distinctly enjoin on all the prelates of the churches, that, separately, throughout their districts, they diligently move and induce to fulfil their vows to God those who have arranged to resume the sign of the cross; and besides these, the others who are signed who have hitherto been signed; and with the cross, and that, if it shall be necessary, through sentences of excommunication against their persons and of interdict against their lands, all backsliding being put an end to, they compel them to fulfil their vows: those only being excepted who shall meet with some impediment on account of which, according to the ordinance of the apostolic chair, their vow may rightly be commuted or deferred.
Note also how the exception clause is left out.
There is not one redeeming feature in our superstition of Christianity. It has made one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites.
- TD. I had a nice link to a thread where an atheist debunked this quote, but it is dead now.
- Origins? The origin seems to have been Remsburg in Six Historic Americans.
Nothing can impose better on a people than verbiage; the less they understand the more they admire. Our fathers and doctors have often said, not what they thought, but what circumstances and necessity forced them to.
- OC. Said to come from Jefferson's Notes on the state of Virginia -- but it's not quite accurate. A good chunk is simply bogus (the "redeeming feature" sentence). The actual quote: Truth can stand by itself. Subject opinion to coercion: whom will you make your inquisitors? Fallible men; men governed by bad passions, by private as well as public reasons. And why subject it to coercion? To produce uniformity. But is uniformity of opinion desireable? No more than of face and stature. Introduce the bed of Procrustes then, and as there is danger that the large men may beat the small, make us all of a size, by lopping the former and stretching the latter. Difference of opinion is advantageous in religion. The several sects perform the office of a Censor morum over each other. Is uniformity attainable? Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites. In short, Jefferson isn't talking about Christianity; he's talking about "coercion". See full text here.
Woman is the gate of the devil, the road to iniquity, the sting of the scorpion, in a word, a dangerous species.
- Origins? The only source ever given for this quote anywhere online is Blavatsky's Isis Unveiled; that work in turn gives no source.
Regard everything as poison which bears within it the seed of sensual pleasure.
- OWD. Not surprisingly, no one ever gives an original source for this quote. One person cited, Quoted in E.J. Burford and Sandra Shulman, Of Bridles and Burnings: The Punishment of Women (London: Robert Hale, 1992), pp. 122, 17 & 201. which we hope to check out.
"What profit has not that fable of Christ brought us!"
- OC. Various writers make it out that Jerome is on some sort of anti-sex binge. The quote comes from one of Jerome's letters to Furia, a widow intent on maintaining her widowhood having abandoned the desire to remarry and look after her family instead. Here is the context of the given quote:
"Some persons who aspire to the life of chastity fall midway in their journey from supposing that they need only abstain from flesh. They load their stomachs with vegetables which are only harmless when taken sparingly and in moderation. If I am to say what I think, there is nothing which so much heats the body and inflames the passions as undigested food and breathing broken with hiccoughs. As for you, my daughter, I would rather wound your modesty than endanger my case by understatement. Regard everything as poison which bears within it the seeds of sensual pleasure. A meagre diet which leaves the appetite always unsatisfied is to be preferred to fasts three days long. It is much better to take a little every day than some days to abstain wholly and on others to surfeit oneself."
- Origins? Barbara Walker has the quote in her section on Sex. Her source is Lewis Mumford, a social philosopher who contributed to books on regional planning.
This is what that fellow does who wishes to turn the whole of astronomy upside down. Even in these things that are thrown into disorder I believe the Holy Scriptures, for Joshua commanded the sun to stand still and not the earth [Jos. 10:12].
- TD. You can see the full account here. Summation: This was a quote from a fictional work by John Bale, an apostate from Catholicism who wrote a satire about Leo. Also, it is now and then paired from a citation to the Britannica encyclopedia, which is also false: (Encyc. Brit., 14th Ed. xix, pg. 217). The citation is for the article on "Respiration". The article on Leo does not reference the quote either.
- Origins? I suspect that Robert Taylor or some other early Skeptic misrecalled Bale's work as though it were non-fiction; Taylor's is the earliest sure attribution to a named source.
If a woman grows weary and at last dies from childbearing, it matters not. Let her die from bearing, she is there to do it.
- OWD/OC This has been used to portray Luther as a dogmatic geocentrist. But far from a sustained strong opposition, this is Luther’s only recorded comment on the issue. And the source is Table Talk, published by Luther's students twenty years after his death, and it was an off-hand comment purportedly in 1539 (four years before the publication of Copernicus’ book).
Further, before this passage is "Whoever wants to be clever must agree with nothing that others esteem. He must do something of his own." This shows that a major reason for Luther’s objection was Copernicus’ challenging the establishment and common sense for its own sake (as Luther saw it).
Also, at the time, there was no hard evidence for geokineticism, and Copernicus's model had almost as many epicycles as Ptolemy's. The epicycles were only thrown out later by Kepler's discovery that the orbits were elliptical.
Furthermore, Kepler was a devout Lutheran who thought he was "thinking God's thoughts after him", and saw no conflict between the Bible and Lutheran theology. He showed how Joshua 10:12 could be explained as phenomenological language, using Luther’s own principles of Biblical interpretation!
- Origins: Who else but the discredited Andrew Dickson White in the History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom (1896)? Later writers such as the Christadelphian Alan Hayward (Creation and Evolution: The Facts and Fallacies) have also irresponsibly cited this.
Idiots, the lame, the blind, the dumb, are men in whom the devils have established themselves: and all the physicians who heal these infirmities, as though they proceeded from natural causes, are ignorant blockheads....
- UI. Though popular among pro-choice sites, no one cites an original Luther work as a reference so far as I can see. It is not found in Table Talk (see below note).
I have seen the shadow of the earth upon the
moon, and I have more confidence in the shadow than I have in the church.
- OC. This (and many other quotes) are offered without attribution to any work. Often cited as collector of these is the Secular Web's Donald Morgan, who cites Luther's "Table Talk" as a general source for quotes and says, Unfortunately, when I collected these quotes, I did so only for my own amusement and I didn't keep track of the exact citations.
Well, that's helpful. I have saved a copy of Table Talk, at least, from an online source and a search reveals no such quote, and indeed, what Luther says in Table Talk of physicians and illness is far more nuanced and reveals a much more critical spirit:
DCCXXXIX. The physicians in sickness consider only of what natural causes the malady preceeds, and this they cure, or not, with their physic. But they see not that often the devil casts a sickness upon one without any natural causes. A higher physic must be required to resist the devil's diseases; namely, faith and prayer, which physic may be fetched out of God's Word. The 31st Psalm is good thereunto, where David says: "Into thine hand I commit my spirit." This passage I learned, in my sickness, to correct; in the first translation, I applied it only to the hour of death; but it should be said: My health, my happiness, my life, misfortune, sickness, death, etc., stand all in thy hands. Experience testifies this; for when we think, now we will be joyful and merry, easy and healthy, God soon sends what makes us quite the contrary...
When I was ill at Schmalcalden, the physicians made me take as much medicine as though I had been a great bull. Alack for him that depends upon the aid of physic. I do not deny that medicine is a gift of God, nor do I refuse to acknowledge science in the skill of many physicians; but, take the best of them, how far are they from perfection? A sound regimen produces excellent effects. When I feel indisposed, by observing a strict diet and going to bed early, I generally manage to get round again, that is, if I can keep my mind tolerably at rest.
I have no objection to the doctors acting upon certain theories, but, at the same time, they must not expect us to be the slaves of their fancies. We find Avicenna and Galen, living in other times and in other countries, prescribing wholly different remedies for the same disorders. I won't pin my faith to any of them, ancient or modern. On the other hand, nothing can well be more deplorable than the proceeding of those fellows, ignorant as they are complaisant, who let their patients follow exactly their own fancies; `tis these wretches who more especially people the graveyards.
Able, cautious, and experienced physicians, are gifts of God. They are the ministers of nature, to whom human life is confided; but a moment's negligence may ruin every thing. No physician should take a single step, but in humility and the fear of God; they who are without the fear of God are mere homicides. I expect that exercise and change of air do more good than all their purgings and bleedings; but when we do employ medical remedies, we should be careful to do so under the advice of a judicious physician. See what happened to Peter Lupinus, who died from taking internally a mixture designed for external application. I remember hearing of a great lawsuit, arising out of a dose of appium being given instead of a dose of opium. Of course in Luther's day medicine was still primitive enough that his cautions were entirely sensible.
Now here's an update, November 2012. I have found the source for the quote in a personal letter written by Luther to Wenzel Link, dated July 14, 1528. It's not quite in line with the quote:
My opinion of lunatics is, that all idiots and insane persons are possessed by devils, though on that account they will not be damned; but I think Satan tries men in different ways, some severely, some lightly, some for a long time, some for a short one. Physicians may attribute such things to natural causes, and sometimes cure them by medicene, but they are ignorant of the power of devils.
Luther goes on to say that because Jesus healeed sick people with demons, he is "forced to believe that many are made dumb, deaf, and lame by Satan's malice," and he also supposes that demons can cause other kinds of sickness and even storms or blight.
At worst, then, Luther was about on the level of Joyce Meyer with this stuff; but his other comments from Table Talk, when added in the mix, make him out to be more reasonable that the popular form of the quote implies.
- Whoever wants to be a Christian should tear the eyes out of his reason.
- OWD. This is representative of several unsourced quotes attributed to Luther. There's a large collection of unsourced Luther quotes out there, so for this all we can say is, demand more evidence.
Odo of Cluny
"To embrace a woman is to embrace a sack of manure".
- TD.Hannam passed this one to me. It apparently came from Robert Ingersoll.
" It is allowed, by all who have any knowledge of the scriptures that everything there is conveyed enigmatically, i.e., esoterically."
- Origins? Some "Joan Smith, Misogynies (New York: Fawcett Columbine, 1989), p. 61." This happened to be in a library a few blocks from me so I checked it. Smith references not an original source, but Karen Armstrong's Gospel According to Woman, p. 23. I checked that too; a later edition has it on page 26, but with no citation at all. Dead end.
Gave a long speech about environmental abuses by the white race, including the bumper sticker phrase, "The earth does not belong to man; man belongs to the earth."
- OWD. Such a line is attributed to Origen in Contra Celsus; I find no such line in an online copy of that work.
- Origins? Kuhn in Who is this King of Glory? gave this attribution. Matt Paulson comments:
While I haven't read the whole of his Contra Celsus, this actually seems to me to sound like something that Origen would say, based on what I have read from him. According to Origen--following both Scripture and the Platonic tradition--the human being is tripartate, consisting of body, soul, and spirit. Similarly (see esp. book 4 of his De Principiis), Origen held that Scripture has a literal meaning (body), a moral meaning (soul), and an intellectual/spiritual meaning (spirit).
More to the point, however, is the fact that while Origen DID hold that SOME passages of Scripture CANNOT be taken literally (and who would deny this??), he ALSO held that ALL passages of Scripture--even those which are literally true--have a deeper, spiritual meaning as well (compare Paul's comments on Scripture in the letters to the Corinthians re the veil being removed when it is viewed through Christ).
The point is NOT that the Bible is--when taken literally--full of myths, but rather, that the reader ought to seek, and become supple to, the full depth of the text. (In passing, it is quite easy to imagine why a comment such as this would be found in Contra Celsus--I can readily imagine Origen having to respond to Celsus citing Scripture out of context, and trying to make it sound as crass as possible to the educated Greco-Roman culture of the second century.)
"It is by all means to be believed because it is absurd."
- TD. The entire speech is a fraud. See here.
- Origins? As the article reports, this speech was part of a screenplay for a movie in the 1970s.
"Each of you women is an Eve . . . You are the gate of Hell, you are the temptress of the forbidden tree; you are the first deserter of the divine law."
- TD. Alistair McGrath in Dawkins' God (100) cited Robert D. Sider, "Credo Quia Absurdum?" Classical World 73 (1978): 417-19 as an authority for the debunking of this quote.
- Origins? McGrath was specifically after Dawkins' A Devil's Chaplain (109) but it comes from earlier, in a work by Farrer about Calvin, where it is found with no source. Roger Pearse has some comments as well here, item 4; it is a distortion of a true quote which said something entirely different.
"The kingdom of heaven is thrown open to all eunuchs."
- G. However, it must be viewed in a larger context of what Tertullian said about women (AND men!). For a more thorough examination, see here.
The devil by the mysteries of his idols, imitates even the main parts of the divine mysteries.
- OWD. Never attributed to any source.
"The government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion."
- G. It comes from his Prescriptions chapter 40, found here -- but what's the big deal? Tertullian is taling about pagan cults of his time that have imitated Christian practice:
The question will arise, By whom is to be interpreted the sense of the passages which make for heresies? By the devil, of course, to whom pertain those wiles which pervert the truth, and who, by the mystic rites of his idols, vies even with the essential portions of the sacraments of God. He, too, baptizes some--that is, his own believers and faithful followers; he promises the putting away of sins by a layer (of his own); and if my memory still serves me, Mithra there, (in the kingdom of Satan,) sets his marks on the foreheads of his soldiers; celebrates also the oblation of bread, and introduces an image of a resurrection, and before a sword wreathes a crown. What also must we say to (Satan's) limiting his chief priest to a single marriage? He, too, has his virgins; he, too, has his proficients in continence. Suppose now we revolve in our minds the superstitions of Numa Pompilius, and consider his priestly offices and badges and privileges, his sacrificial services, too, and the instruments and vessels of the sacrifices themselves, and the curious rites of his expiations and vows: is it not clear to us that the devil imitated the well-known moroseness of the Jewish law?
Since, therefore he has Shown such emulation in his great aim of expressing, in the concerns of his idolatry, those very things of which consists the administration of Christ's sacraments, it follows, of course, that the same being, possessing still the same genius, both set his heart upon, and succeeded in, adapting to his profane and rival creed the very documents of divine things and of the Christian saints--his interpretation from their interpretations, his words from their words, his parables from their parables. For this reason, then, no one ought to doubt, either that "spiritual wickednesses," from which also heresies come, have been introduced by the devil, or that there is any real difference between heresies and idolatry, seeing that they appertain both to the same author and the same work that idolatry does. They either pretend that there is another god in opposition to the Creator, or, even if they acknowledge that the Creator is the one only God, they treat of Him as a different being from what He is in truth. The consequence is, that every lie which they speak of God is in a certain sense a sort of idolatry.
Giving up witchcraft is, in effect, giving up the Bible.
Inquires to Huxley whether it was "through his grandfather or grandmother that he claimed descent through a monkey."
- OC. See the full story here.
- TD/OC. McGrath, Twilight of Atheism, 81.
- Origins. It is the product of reports 30 years later and appears in no contemporary account, though there seem to be similar quotes. See detailed analysis here and here.