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Jack Huberman: The Quotable Atheist

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Huberman, Jack. The Quotable Atheist: Ammunition for Non-Believers, Political Junkies, Gadflies, and Those Generally Hell-Bound (New York: Nation Books, 2007)

Jack (Bush-Hater's Handbook, Bushit!) Huberman's collection of atheist quotations is a unique item on bookstore shelves; only with the very recent flourishing of atheist-positive books have mainstream publishers figured out that some of us clamor for something deeper than cherubs and chicken soup. Alphabetized by authors' last names, these quotations from famous atheists (and others) fill a definite need.

These two selections in particular are definitely--as the subtitle puts it--ammunition for atheists, as they illustrate the worst aspects of fundamentalist religion:

"From the polluted fountain of that absurd and erroneous doctrine, or rather raving, which claims and defends liberty of conscience for everyone...comes, in a word, the worst plague of all: liberty of opinions and free speech" (p. 134, Pope Gregory VI; quoted by Lyman Beecher in Plea for the West, pp. 142-3, p. 156)

"Burn the libraries, for their value is in this one book [the Koran]... If these writings of the Greeks agree with the word of Allah, they are useless and need not be preserved; if they disagree, they are pernicious and ought to be destroyed." (p. 229, Omar ibn al-Khattab)

This pair of parallel quotations, however, strikes me as dubious:

"All religious are equally sublime to the ignorant, useful to the politician, and ridiculous to the philosopher." (p. 192, Lucretius)

"Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by rulers as useful." (p. 272, Seneca)

Huberman has made a good effort with this collection, and it is one that I anticipate returning to again. As with any unsourced quotations, though, remember: caveat quotor.

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