Jonathan Miller’s 'A Short History of Disbelief'


Quotations used in his three programmes - laboriously compiled If you

find any typos or errors please e-mail



Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?

Then he is not Omnipotent.

Is he able but not willing?

Then he is malevolent.

Is God both able and willing?

Then whence cometh evil?

Is he neither able nor willing?

  Then why call him God?

Lucretius - On the Nature of Things  - “Nature does all things spontaneously by herself without their meddling “


Aristotle – “A tyrant must put on the appearance of uncommon  devotion to religion. Subjects are less apprehensive of illegal treatment from a ruler whom they consider god-fearing and pious. On the other hand they do less easily move against him believing that he has the gods on his side.”



“On the subject of the nature of the gods, the first question is ‘Do the gods exist or do the not?’ It is difficult you may say to deny that they exist. I would agree if we were arguing the matter in a public assembly, but in a private discussion of this kind, it is perfectly easy to do so.”


  Seneca  -

   "Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.”



Surely you don’t believe in the gods. What is your argument? Where’s your proof?



Why should I fear death?

If I am, then death is not.

If Death is, then I aA

Long time men lay oppressed with slavish fear.

Religious tyranny did domineer.

At length the mighty one of Greece

  Began to assent the liberty of man.


Jonathan Miller

“There is a sense in which the road to atheism is paved, not with science,

but with religious intentions”  (such the Deists)


Jonathan Miller on David Hume:-


“Although he never admitted to being an atheist as such, he was clearly and

unquestionably the most vividly elegant skeptic of them all.” (Renaissance Philosophers)


Adam Smith (1723-90) on Hume

“I have always considered David Hume as approaching as nearly the idea of a perfectly

wise and virtuous man as perhaps the nature of human frailty will allow”


David Hume 1711-76

“Generally speaking, errors in religion are dangerous, those in philosophy are only ridiculous”


“God’s power is infinite. Whatever he wills is executed but neither man nor other animals

is happy. Therefore he does not will their happiness. Epicurus's questions are yet unanswered”


“No-one, I am confident will mistake my intentions. No-one has a deeper sense of religion or

pays more profound admiration to the supreme being”


George Bush Snr.

“I don’t know that atheists should be considered patriots, nor should they be considered citizens”.


John Adam

“God is an essence we know nothing of. Until this awful blasphemy is got rid of there will

never be any liberal science in the world”


Thomas Jefferson

“The clergy  believe that any power confided in me will be used in opposition to their s

chemes. And they believe rightly”



James Buchanan

“I have seldom met an intelligent person whose views were not narrowed and distorted by religion”

William Henry Harrison
"We admit of no government by divine right....The only legitimate right to govern is an 
express grant of power from the governed"

George Washington

“Let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained 
without religion. Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national 
morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle” 

"The government of the United States is in no sense founded on the
Christian Religion."

President Thomas Jefferson –"I do not find in Christianity one redeeming feature."

President Abraham Lincoln -"The Bible is not my book, nor Christianity my religion."


"My earlier views on the unsoundness of the Christian scheme of salvation and human origin of the scriptures have become clearer and stronger with advancing years, and I see no reason for thinking I shall ever change them" - in Lincoln's original letter to J. S. Wakefield

President James Madison - "A just government has no need for the clergy or the church."

President John F. Kennedy
"I believe in an America where religious intolerance will someday
end... where every man has the same right to attend or not attend the church
of his choice.

President George W. Bush  "The United States is a Christian nation founded upon Christian principles and beliefs."

Havelock Ellis  “The whole religious complexion of the modern world is due to the absence from Jerusalem of a lunatic asylum”


Emile Zola – “Civilisation will not attain perfection until the last stone, from the last church, falls on the last priest”


Alexander Pope 1688-1744

“Nature and nature’s laws lay hid in night

God said “let there be Newton" and all was light


Bertrand Russell

“So far as I can remember there’s not one word in the gospels in praise of intelligence” 


Jonathan Miller- “While the deists were busy reconstructing Christianity, at the same time being careful to avoid the accusation of atheism, the world of science had been steadily progressing”


On the Blasphemy Law 1697 –“originally had no mention of Atheism, but would have caught any denial of Christianity etc. - the punishment for which was death without pardon or reprieve”


Pierre Charron – Catholic Theologian 1541-1603 on wisdom:-


 “All Religions have this in common, that they are an outrage to common sense for they are pieced together out of a variety of elements, some of which seem so unworthy, sordid and at odds with man’s reason, that any strong and vigorous intelligence laughs at them”


The Reformation – an Internal Reconstruction  by  17th & 18th century Deists – upper class critics of religion with limited tolerance – class and status.


Thomas Hobbes –1588-1679  -- Materialist  & ‘monist’


“The universe, the whole mass of things that are, is corporeal, that is to say, body, and hath the dimensions of magnitude, length, breadth and depth. Every part of the universe is ‘body’ and that which is not ‘body’ is no part of the universe, and because the universe is all, that which is no part of it is nothing, and consequently nowhere.”


Biblical scholar Richard Bently 1662-1742 said of Hobbes “Not one English infidel in 100 is any other than a Hobbist, which I know to be rank Atheism”


‘Tis very questionable there ever was such a monster in nature as a serious atheist who lived and died so, in the clear exercise of his reason and senses

                                                   Thomas Curteis 1725 Dissertation on Atheism


Baron d’Holbach - Frenchman and first avowed atheist.


“If we go back to the beginning we shall find that ignorance and fear created the gods that fancy enthusiasm or deceit adorned them, that weakness worships them, that credulity preserves them and that custom respect and tyranny support them in order to make the blindness of men serve their own interests.”


“If the ignorance of nature gave birth to gods, the knowledge of  nature is calculated to destroy them”


“It is only by dispelling the clouds and phantoms of religion that we shall discover truth, reason and morality.”


from:- ‘The System of Nature’ – The Atheists Bible



Richard Hooker priest 1554-1600

“With our contentions their irreligious humour is much strengthened –

nothing pleaseth them better than these manifold oppositions upon the matter of religion”


Matthew Hammond Unitarian burned at the stake by the Bishop of Norwich.

“Christ is not God, not the saviour of the world, but a mere man, a sinful man and an abominable idol. All who worship him are abominable idolaters and Christ did not rise again from death to life nor did he ascend into heaven.”


Encyclopedia Britanica on Atheism 1771

“Many people have pretended to atheism or have been recorded atheist by the world. But it is justly questioned whether any man seriously adopted such a principle”


Thomas Curteis 1725 Dissertation on Atheism

“’Tis very questionable there ever was such a monster in nature as a serious atheist who lived and died so in the clear exercise of his reason and senses.”



London Magazine 1774

“An atheist is I think impossible, most who would be thought atheists are so out of indolence, because they will not give themselves time to reason”



Yuri Gagarin  speaking from orbit – “I don’t see any God up here”


Victor Hugo – “There is in every village a torch- the schoolteacher, and an extinguisher: the priest.”


Galileo Galilei 1564 – 1647

“In questions of science the authority of a thousand is not worth the reasoning of a single individual”


“ To command their professors of astronomy to refute their own observations is to command them not to see what they do see and not to understand what they do understand.”



Tennessee Williams – “All the religions are based on the concept of God as a senile delinquent.”


Lord Byron – “I do not believe in any religion, I will have nothing to do with immortality. We are miserable enough in this life without speculating upon another.”


Charlie Chaplain – “By simple common sense I do not believe in God”


Polly Toynbee – Journalist – “ludicrous, absurd, weird”

Gore Vidal – Author – “ugly”

Steven Weinberg – physicist – “corrosive”

Collin McGinn – philosopher – “Rubbish, untrue, dangerous”