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Women Without Superstition:
"No Gods - No Masters"

Edited by Annie Laurie Gaylor

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Selected Quotes

Mary Wollstonecraft

Revolutionary for Womankind
April 27, 1759 - September 10, 1797
. . . the being cannot be termed rational or virtuous, who obeys any authority, but that of reason. (A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, 1792)

Anne Newport Royall

Lobbyist for the separation of church & state

June 11, 1769 - October 1, 1854

Good works instead of long prayers. (Anne Royall's motto)

Frances Wright

The Free Enquirer

September 6, 1795 - December 13, 1852

I am not going to question your opinions. I am not going to meddle with your belief. I am not going to dictate to you mine. All that I say is, examine, inquire. Look into the nature of things. Search out the grounds of your opinions, the for and the against. Know why you believe, understand what you believe, and possess a reason for the faith that is in you. ("Divisions of Knowledge," 1828)

Harriet Martineau

Free roving philosopher

June 12, 1802 - June 27, 1876

. . . I would not exchange my freedom from old superstition, if I were to be burned at the stake next month, for all the peace and quiet of orthodoxy, if I must take the orthodoxy with the peace and quiet. (Letter to Mr. Atkinson, February 1848, Harriet Martineau's Autobiography)

Lydia Maria Child

Abolitionist, author, anti-theologian

February 11, 1802 - October 20, 1880

It is impossible to exaggerate the evil work theology has done in the world. (The Progress of Religious Ideas Through Successive Ages, 1855)

Ernestine L. Rose

Atheist & America's first woman's rights canvasser

January 13, 1810 - August 4, 1892

I was a rebel at the age of five.

. . . Sisters, . . . I entreat you, if you have an hour to spare, a dollar to give, or a word to utter--spare it, give it, and utter it, for the elevation of woman! And when your minister asks you for money for missionary purposes, tell him there are higher, and holier, and nobler missions to be performed at home. When he asks for colleges to educate ministers, tell him you must educate woman, that she may do away with the necessity of ministers, so that they may be able to go to some useful employment. If he asks you to give to the churches (which means to himself) then ask him what he has done for the salvation of woman. When he speaks to you of leading a virtuous life, ask him whether he understands the causes that have prevented so many of your sisters from being virtuous, and have driven them to degradation, sin, and wretchedness. When he speaks to you of a hereafter, tell him to help to educate woman, to enable her to live a life of intelligence, independence, virtue, and happiness here, as the best preparatory step for any other life. And if he has not told you from the pulpit of all these things; if he does not know them; it is high time you inform him, and teach him his duty here in this life. (Seventh National Woman's Rights Convention, New York, Nov. 25 - 26, 1856)

Margaret Fuller

High priestess of transcendentalism

May 23, 1810 - July 19, 1850

Give me truth; cheat me by no illusion.

You see how wide the gulf that separates me from the Christian Church. . . . Do you not place Christ then in a higher place than Socrates, for instance, or Michael Angelo? Yes! Because if his life was not truer, it was deeper, and he is a representative of the ages. But then I consider the Greek Apollo as one also! . . .

. . . I do not reject the church either. Let men who can with sincerity live in it. I would not--for I believe far more widely than any body of men I know. And as nowhere I worship less than in the places set apart for that purpose, I will not seem to do so. The blue sky seen above the opposite roof preaches better than any brother, because, at present, a freer, simpler medium of religion. (Memoirs)

Emma Martin

Early British freethought pamphleteer

1812 - 1851

There is yet another consideration which is fatal to the Christian religion, and that is its persecuting spirit. It calls in the aid of Ecclesiastical and civil laws, and the iron hand of custom to condemn, and if possible to punish those who may express different opinions to its own. . . . Perish the cause which has no more rational argument in its favour than that which the stake or prison can supply!

Religion, with an upward glancing eye, asks what there is above. Philosophy looks around her and seeks to make a happy home of earth. Religion asks what God would have her do:--Philosophy, what nature's laws advise. Religion has never given us laws in which cruelty and vice may not be seen, but Philosophy's pure moral code may be thus briefly stated:--

Happiness is the great object of human existence. . . . ("A Few Reasons for Renouncing Christianity")

Elizabeth Cady Stanton

"A fearless, serene agnostic"

November 12, 1815 - October 26, 1902

I have endeavoured to dissipate these religious superstitions from the minds of women, and base their faith on science and reason, where I found for myself at last that peace and comfort I could never find in the Bible and the church. . . . The less they believe, the better for their own happiness and development. . . .

For fifty years the women of this nation have tried to dam up this deadly stream that poisons all their lives, but thus far they have lacked the insight or courage to follow it back to its source and there strike the blow at the fountain of all tyranny, religious superstition, priestly power, and the canon law. ("The Degraded Status of Woman in the Bible," 1896)

I can say that the happiest period of my life has been since I emerged from the shadows and superstitions of the old theologies, relieved from all gloomy apprehensions of the future, satisfied that as my labors and capacities were limited to this sphere of action, I was responsible for nothing beyond my horizon, as I could neither understand nor change the condition of the unknown world. Giving ourselves, then, no trouble about the future, let us make the most of the present, and fill up our lives with earnest work here. ("The Pleasures of Age," The Boston Investigator, February 2, 1901)

The happiest people I have known have been those who gave themselves no concern about their own souls, but did their uttermost to mitigate the miseries of others. (Eighty Years And More: 385)

Lucy N. Colman

The abolitionist infidel

July 26, 1818 - January 18, 1906

If your Bible is an argument for the degradation of woman, and the abuse by whipping of little children, I advise you to put it away, and use your common sense instead. (The Truth Seeker, March 5, 1887)

Marian Evans

"George Eliot"

November 22, 1819 - December 22, 1880

The clergy are, practically, the most irresponsible of all talkers. ("Evangelical Teaching: Dr. Cumming," 1855)

Susan B. Anthony

"A creed of perfect equality"

February 15, 1820 - March 13, 1906

Cautious, careful people, always casting about to preserve their reputation and social standing, never can bring about a reform. Those who are really in earnest must be willing to be anything or nothing in the world's estimation, and publicly and privately, in season and out, avow their sympathy with despised and persecuted ideas and their advocates, and bear the consequences. (The Life and Work of Susan B. Anthony, Volume I)

Work is my gospel. (New York Press, February 6, 1905).

I pray every single second of my life; not on my knees but with my work. My prayer is to lift women to equality with men. Work and worship are one with me. I know there is no God of the universe made happy by my getting down on my knees and calling him "great." (Interview by Nellie Bly, New York World, February 2, 1896)

Ella E. Gibson

The "ungodly" woman

May 8, 1821 - March 5, 1901

Christianity is an insult to the wisdom of the nineteenth century. To place before its progress and development a leader, ruler, king, savior, god, whose knowledge was less than a modern five-year-old school girl, is an outrage upon humanity. (The Godly Women of the Bible, 1870s)

Matilda Joslyn Gage

Author -- Woman, Church & State

March 25, 1826 - March 18, 1898

. . . in order to help preserve the very life of the Republic, it is imperative that women should unite upon a platform of opposition to the teaching and aim of that ever most unscrupulous enemy of freedom -- the Church. (Woman's National Liberal Union Resolutions, 1890)

The world has seemingly awaited the advent of heroic souls who once again should dare all things for the truth. The woman who possesses love for her sex, for the world, for truth, justice and right, will not hesitate to place herself upon record as opposed to falsehood, no matter under what guise of age or holiness it appears. (Woman, Church & State, 1893)

. . . do not allow the Church or the State to govern your thought or dictate your judgment.

Lois Waisbrooker

A "female Abraham Lincoln"

1826 - October 3, 1909

Until you let go of God and take hold of yourselves, of the innate powers of your own beings, there is no hope for you. . . . stop praying and go to work. ("The Curse of Godism," c. 1896)

Elmina D. Slenker

Plain truths in plain words

December 23, 1827 - 1908

When a mere girl, my mother offered me a dollar if I would read the Bible through; . . . despairing of reconciling many of its absurd statements with even my childish philosophy, . . . I became a sceptic, doubter, and unbeliever, long ere the "Good Book" was ended. (Studying the Bible, 1870)

Lillie Devereux Blake

The rector's foe

August 12, 1833 - December 30, 1913

Every denial of education, every refusal of advantages to women, may be traced to this dogma [of original sin], which first began to spread its baleful influence with the rise of the power of the priesthood and the corruption of the early Church. (Woman's Place To-Day, 1883)


Bestselling victorian novelist

January 1, 1839 - January 25, 1908

Christianity is a formula: it is nothing more. ("The Failure of Christianity," 1895)

Marilla M. Ricker

Distinguished attorney, freethought missionary

March 18, 1840 - November 12, 1920

Children should be taught that no amount of so-called religion will compensate for rheumatism; that Christianity has nothing to do with morality; that vicarious atonement is a fraud and a lie; that to be born well and strong is the highest birth; that the Bible is no more inspired than The Philistine; that sin is a transgression of the laws of life; and that the blood of all the bulls and goats and lambs of ancient times, and the blood of Jesus or any other man never had nor can have the least effect in making a life what it would have been had it obeyed the laws of life. ("What Is Prayer?" The Four Gospels, 1911)

If you must believe in anything, believe in yourselves, in your senses and in your minds. To accept a religious creed is to accept another's mind in place of your own, and generally contrary to your own. When religious belief comes in brains go out.

Man has asked for the truth and the Church has given him miracles. He has asked for knowledge, and the Church has given him theology. He has asked for facts, and the Church has given him the Bible. This foolishness should stop. The Church has nothing to give man that has not been in cold storage for two thousand years. Anything would become stale in that time.

A great many things are protected and praised that should be exposed and denounced. One of them is religion. A religious person is a dangerous person. He may not become a thief or a murderer, but he is liable to become a nuisance. He carries with him many foolish and harmful superstitions, and he is possessed with the notion that it is his duty to give these superstitions to others. That is what makes trouble. Nothing is so worthless as superstition. . . . ("Science Against Creeds," I Am Not Afraid Are You?)

Annie Besant

The quixotic Victorian

October 1, 1847 - September 20, 1933

"God" is always the equivalent of "I do not know." ("The Gospel of Atheism")

Susan H. Wixon

"Born a liberal"

c. late 1840's - August 28, 1912

Freethought has always been the best friend woman had . . .

The cause of the subjugation of woman reaches far back, and is wound around with the rusted chain of ancient theology and a false faith. Under pagan rule woman was treated with honor and regard, and she had many rights and privileges which were lost to her under Christian rule.

If ever there was an ingeniously woven plot, it is that of the "Fall of Man," with Paul of Tarsus for its mouthpiece. ("Woman--Four Centuries of Progress," 1893)

Ella Wheeler Wilcox

"Just the art of being kind"

November 5, 1850 - October 30, 1919

The World's Need
So many Gods, so many creeds,
So many paths that wind and wind,
When just the art of being kind
Is all this sad world needs.

Helen H. Gardener

"Ingersoll in soprano"

January 21, 1853 - July 26,1925

I do not know the needs of a god or of another world. . . . I do know that women make shirts for seventy cents a dozen in this one.

This religion and the Bible require of woman everything, and give her nothing. They ask her support and her love, and repay her with contempt and oppression.

. . . there is no book which tells of a more infamous monster than the Old Testament, with its Jehovah of murder and cruelty and revenge, unless it be the New Testament, which arms its God with hell, and extends his outrages throughout all eternity !

It is thought strange and particularly shocking by some persons for a woman to question the absolute correctness of the Bible. She is supposed to be able to go through this world with her eyes shut, and her mouth open wide enough to swallow Jonah and the Garden of Eden without making a wry face. . . . Of all human beings a woman should spurn the Bible first.

Every injustice that has ever been fastened upon women in a Christian country has been 'authorized by the Bible' and riveted and perpetuated by the pulpit. (Men, Women and Gods, 1885)

Ellen Battelle Dietrick

Rich, ripe thought

The day has gone by when a monk can tear a Hypatia from the pursuit of philosophy and throw her to a rabble of insane monastics to be dragged to a violent death. . . . Man has made himself a law unto himself, publishing it in his pretended "heavenly" revelations, dogmas, and statutes. Woman is now constructing a law unto herself, and she is putting it forth, not on a pretendedly supernatural, but on a natural, basis. ("Cardinal Gibbons' Ignorance," Liberty, 1895)

Josephine K. Henry

Awakening Kentucky womanhood

February 22, 1846 - 1928

Is not the Church to-day a masculine hierarchy, with a female constituency, which holds woman in Bible lands in silence and in subjection? No institution in modern civilization is so tyrannical and so unjust to woman as is the Christian Church. It demands everything from her and gives her nothing in return. (Statement, The Woman's Bible, 1898)

Etta Semple

"Scattering seeds of kindness"

September 21, 1855 - April 11, 1914

I never yet have seen the person who could withstand the doubt and unbelief that enter his mind when reading the Bible in a spirit of inquiry. ("A Pious Congressman Twice Answered," Truth Seeker, 1895)

Hypatia Bradlaugh Bonner

Atheist editor, educator

March 31, 1858 - August 23, 1934

Heresy makes for progress. (Reformer, 1897)

Less power to religion, the greater power to knowledge. ("Testament," 1942)

Charlotte Perkins Gilman

"Like light from a diamond"

July 3, 1860 - August 17, 1935

. . . [Let us inquire] what glory there was in an omnipotent being torturing forever a puny little creature who could in no way defend himself? Would it be to the glory of a man to fry ants?

If we once admit that our life here is for the purpose of race-improvement, then we question any religion which does not improve the race, or the main force of which evaporates, as it were, directing our best efforts toward the sky. . . . Improvement in the human race is not accomplished by extracting any number of souls and placing them in heaven, or elsewhere. It must be established on earth, either through achievement in social service, or through better children.

Thinking is fun to a normal mind, like any other natural exercise, and those very ancient ancestors of ours had lively brains, with no ballast. They were so intrigued by thinking on subjects concerning which nobody knew anything, that they hardly cared for the more difficult topics of real life, wherein one's glad imaginings are so brutally interrupted by stubborn facts. (His Religion and Hers, 1923)

Voltairine de Cleyre

Woman versus Orthodoxy

November 17, 1866 - June 30, 1912

The question of souls is old -- we demand our bodies, now. We are tired of promises, God is deaf, and his church is our worst enemy. ("Sex Slavery," 1890)

I can see no reason, absolutely none, why women have clung to the doom of the gods. I cannot understand why they have not rebelled. ("The Case of Woman Vs. Orthodoxy," 1896)

Emma Goldman

The "red" atheist

June 27, 1869 - May 14, 1940

Have not all theists painted their Deity as the god of love and goodness? Yet after thousands of years of such preachments the gods remain deaf to the agony of the human race. Confucius cares not for the poverty, squalor and misery of the people of China. Buddha remains undisturbed in his philosophical indifference to the famine and starvation of the outraged Hindoos; Jahve continues deaf to the bitter cry of Israel; while Jesus refuses to rise from the dead against his Christians who are butchering each other. ("The Philosophy of Atheism," 1916)

Zona Gale

Pulitzer Prize winner

August 26, 1874 - December 27, 1939

I remember well my mother telling me, at five: "Some little girls and boys think that Santa Claus comes down the chimney Christmas eve and brings the toys." And that I said decisively and rudely: "You can't make me believe any such stuff as that." (Zona Gale's Unfinished Autobiography)

Margaret Sanger

"Woman of the Century"

September 14, 1879 - September 6, 1966

No Gods - No Masters (Motto, The Woman Rebel, 1914)

I wanted each woman to be a rebellious Vashti, not an Esther. (An Autobiography, 1938)

If Christianity turned the clock of general progress back a thousand years, it turned back the clock two thousand years for woman. Its greatest outrage upon her was to forbid her to control the function of motherhood under any circumstances, thus limiting her life's work to bringing forth and rearing children. Coincident with this, the churchmen deprived her of her place in and before the courts, in the schools, in literature, art and society. They shut from her heart and her mind the knowledge of her love life and her reproductive functions. They chained her to the position into which they had thrust her, so that it is only after centuries of effort that she is even beginning to regain what was wrested from her. (Woman and the New Race, 1920)

Marian Noel Sherman, M.D.

Missionary doctor to atheist with a mission

1892 - 1975

A believer is not a thinker and a thinker is not a believer. (Interview, Daily Colonist, c. 1969)

There is no evidence at all for the existence of a supernatural Supreme Being. Some people say they know God exists because they feel him in their hearts. Again that is just childhood conditioning. Others are fond of saying that there had to be someone, or something to act as a First Cause, but even a child can see through that argument. If you tell a child "God made the world" he will usually ask "Then who made God?" If we reply, as the catechism states, "No one made God. He always was," then why couldn't we just say that about the world in the first place?. . . No, man is the measure of all things. It's only fear of death and egotism that makes us invent a God who will give us everlasting life. Religious people often accuse atheists of being arrogant and of placing ourselves in the position of God, but really it is the theist who has all the vanity. He can't stand to think that he will ever cease to exist. As Freud said, Christianity is the most egotistical of the religions. It is based on the premise "Jesus saves me." (Toronto Star Weekly, Sept. 11, 1965)

Dora Russell

The heretical "Girton girl"

1894 - May 31, 1986

It is no mere accident that Christianity is a good fighting religion. (The Right To Be Happy, 1927)

When the male of the species, enamoured of his stargazing, set up a God outside this planet as arbiter of all events upon it, and repudiated nature, together with sex, for a promised dream of a future life, he turned his back on that creative life and inspiration that lay within himself and his partnership with woman. In very truth he sold his birthright for a mess of pottage. (The Religion of the Machine Age, 1982)

Meridel Le Sueur

Luminous with age

February 1900 - November 14, 1996

Women especially would like to believe that her [my mother's] talents were God-given. But it was not so. Her anger, her strength, her determination, even her brilliance and her oratory were things she developed, often alone, and struggled and fought for, as much as Frederick Douglass had to struggle even to read. In Texas her husband divorced her on the grounds of dangerous thoughts gleaned from reading books! (Crusaders, 1955)

Margaret Knight

BBC's "unholy menace"

November 23, 1903 - 1983

Ethical teaching is weakened if it is tied up with dogmas that will not bear examination. (Morals Without Religion, 1955)

Jesus exhorted his followers to "become as little children," and the Church throughout history has extolled credulity, and feared and distrusted the free intelligence. During the Dark Ages the Church was in control of education, and for centuries scarcely anyone who was not a potential priest learned to read or write. One of the most persistent fallacies about the Christian Church is that it kept learning alive during the Dark and Middle Ages. What the Church did was to keep learning alive in the monasteries, while preventing the spread of knowledge outside them. (Christianity, The Debit Account, 1975)

Queen Silver

"Girl philosopher"

December 13, 1910 - January 7, 1998

The greatest contribution nonbelievers have made to the world has been the Constitution of the United States. Consider how very heretical to a religious world was the idea of a Constitution predicated on "We, the People." ("Humanity's Gain From Unbelief")

Vashti Cromwell McCollum

Champion of the First Amendment

Born November 6, 1912

Between being praised and persecuted, condoned and condemned, I might understandably have become bewildered, particularly at the brand of ethics sometimes displayed by the staunch defenders of Christianity. But of one thing I am sure: I am sure that I fought not only for what I earnestly believed to be right, but for the truest kind of religious freedom intended by the First Amendment, the complete separation of church and state. (One Woman's Fight, 1951)

Ruth Hurmence Green

The born-again skeptic

January 12, 1915 - July 7, 1981

There was a time when religion ruled the world. It is known as the Dark Ages.

Catherine Fahringer

Lone star activist

Born September 18, 1922

We would be 1,500 years ahead if it hadn't been for the church dragging science back by its coattails and burning our best minds at the stake.

Barbara Smoker

President of National Secular Society

Born June 2, 1923

People who believe in a divine creator, trying to live their lives in obedience to his supposed wishes and in expectation of a supposed eternal reward, are victims of the greatest confidence trick of all time. ("So You Believe in God!" 1974)

Anne Nicol Gaylor

Founder, Freedom From Religion Foundation

Born November 25, 1926

There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds. (Wording for a monument to counter religious displays, 1995)

Meg Bowman

Atheist, feminist, educator

Born June 28, 1929

Why burn? The answer is simple. Read the Bible--the Koran--the theologians and philosophers of the world. (Why We Burn: Sexism Exorcised, 1988)

Barbara G. Walker

The skeptical feminist

Born July 2, 1930

The real reason for the persistence of the witchcraft idea was that Christian authorities couldn't let it die, without admitting that God's word was wrong, and God's servants had committed millions of legal murders and tortured millions of helpless people without cause. (The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, 1983)

Sherry Matulis

Abortion rights advocate

Born July 9, 1931

If every criminal and inhumane act ever committed were traced to its root cause, that root would be buried deep in religion. ("Paradise Lost, Paradise Found," 1981)

Kay Nolte Smith

Atheist, actress, author

July 4, 1932 - September 25, 1993

The tragedy is that every brain cell devoted to belief in the supernatural is a brain cell one cannot use to make life richer or easier or happier. ("Truth or the Consequences," 1983)

Sonia Johnson

Housewife to heretic

Born February 1936

Women must rise up and be the saviors of the world. (From Housewife to Heretic, 1983)

Barbara Ehrenreich

Atheist columnist

Born August 26, 1941

What better maxim, for a race of migrants, than "Think for yourself"? ("Cultural Baggage," New York Times Magazine, April 5, 1992)

Katha Pollitt

Columnist, The Nation

Born October 14, 1949

For me, religion is serious business--a farrago of authoritarian nonsense, misogyny and humble pie, the eternal enemy of human happiness and freedom. ("Subject To Debate," The Nation, December 26, 1994)

Taslima Nasrin

Bengali "blasphemer"

Born 1962

I said that Shariat law should be revised. I want a modern, civilized law, where women are given equal rights. I want no religious law that discriminates, none, period--no Hindu law, no Christian law, no Islamic law. Why should a man be entitled to have four wives? Why should a son get two-thirds of his parents' property when a daughter can inherit only a third? Should I be killed for saying this? . . . (The New Yorker, September 12, 1994)

Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc.

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