I boldly assert, in fact I think I know, that a lot of friendships and connections absolutely depend upon a sort of shared language, or slang. Not necessarily designed to exclude others, this can establish a certain comity and, even after a long absence, re-establish it in a second.
When I look back on what I did for the Left, I'm in a small way quite proud of some of it -- I only wish I'd done more.
But everybody agrees, somewhere in his heart, that there ought to be some connection between what you believe and how you behave, what you advocate for others and how you live yourself.
The unspoken agreement to concede the black community to the sway of the pulpit is itself a form of racist condescension.
What I do mind is the pitying glance, or the heavy sigh, that is deployed these days. I am not ready to be patronized, or condescended to, unless by someone of some eminence who has earned that right. And even then I regard it as a sign of weakness rather than strength.
Principles have a way of enduring, as do the few irreducible individuals who maintain allegiance to them.
I can claim copyright only in myself, and occasionally in those who are either dead or have written about the same events, or who have a decent expectation of anonymity, or who are such appalling public shits that they have forfeited their right to bitch.
I'm a member of no party. I have no ideology. I'm a rationalist. I do what I can in the international struggle between science and reason and the barbarism, superstition and stupidity that's all around us.
There is a division within the neo-conservative movement, which is, by the way, one of the tests of its authenticity as a tendency. I would say I was a supporter of Paul Wolfowitz.
If you've led a rather bohemian and rackety life, as I have, it's precisely the cancer that you'd expect to get. That's a bit of a yawn.
And it seems possible, moving to the psychological arena, that people can be better off believing in something than in nothing, however untrue that something may be.
As well as being a vulgar producer of her own spectacle, and an embarrassment to her family, Cindy Sheehan is at best a shifty fantasist.
Here's someone who says there's no such thing, it's all intelligent design. How sure am I of my own views? Don't take refuge in the false security of consensus, and the feeling that whatever you think you're bound to be okay, because you're in the safely moral majority.
I sympathize afresh with the mighty Voltaire who, when badgered on his deathbed and urged to renounce the devil, murmured that this was no time to be making enemies.
For me, to remember friendship is to recall those conversations that it seemed a sin to break off: the ones that made the sacrifice of the following day a trivial one.
Dogma in power does have a unique chilling ingredient not exhibited by power, however ghastly, wielded for its own traditional sake.
Terrorism works better as a tactic for dictatorships, or for would-be dictators, than for revolutionaries .
I learned that to be amusing was not to be frivolous and that language -- always the language -- was the magic key as much to prose as to poetry.
The deficit, then, is not the difference between what America spends and what America earns; it is, to a striking extent, the difference between what the rich owe and what the rich pay.
Very often the test of one's allegiance to a cause or to a people is precisely the willingness to stay the course when things are boring, to run the risk of repeating an old argument just one more time, or of going one more round with a hostile or (much worse) indifferent audience.
Revolution from above, in some states and cases, is ... often preferable to the status quo, or to no revolution at all.
And how easy it is to recognize the revenant shapes that the old unchanging enemies--racism, leader worship, superstition--assume when they reappear amongst us (often bodyguarded by their new apologists).
Ruthless and arrogant though power can appear, it is only ever held by mere mammals who excrete and yearn, and who suffer from insomnia and insecurity. These mammals are also necessarily vain in the extreme, and often wish to be liked almost as much as they desire to be feared.
Very often, people embarking on such guesswork make the vulgar assumption that the lower the motives, the more likely they are to be authentic.
It's normally agreed that the question 'How are you?' doesn't put you on your oath to give a full or honest answer.
One ought not to quarrel with the aim of impartiality. It is just that, as an objective, it is harder to attain than its advocates imagine.
What I used to say to people, when I was much more engagé myself, is that you can't be apolitical. It will come and get you. It's not that you shouldn't be neutral. It's that you won't be able to stay neutral.
In particular, it is absurd to hope to banish envy of other people's possessions or fortunes, if only because the spirit of envy can lead to emulation and ambition and have positive consequences.
The forces of piety have always and everywhere been the sworn enemy of the open mind and the open book.
How ya doin'?' I always think, What kind of a question is that?, and I always reply, 'A bit early to tell.
I try to deny myself any illusions or delusions, and I think that this perhaps entitles me to try and deny the same to others, at least as long as they refuse to keep their fantasies to themselves.
There are times when it is conservative to be a revolutionary, when the world must be turned on its head in order to be stood on its feet.
I think the cultural task is to separate our impulses and needs and desires from the supernatural and, above all, from the superstitious.
Doubt, skepticism, innovation, and inquiry are the only means by which wonder, beauty, awe, and symmetry will be discovered.
Ronald Reagan said that he sought a Star Wars defense only in order to share the technology with the tyrants of the U.S.S.R.
I don't think there's any need to have essays advocating selfishness among human beings; I don't know what your impression has been, but some things require no further reinforcement.
I'm very depressed how in this country you can be told That's offensive as though those two words constitute an argument.
Evolution is, as well as smarter than we are, infinitely more callous and cruel, and also capricious.
Cluster bombs are perhaps not good in themselves, but when they are dropped on identifiable concentrations of Taliban troops, they do have a heartening effect.
The whole reason for the success of Dr. King's civil-rights movement was that it was not a movement for itself. The civil-rights movement understood very clearly, and stated very beautifully, that it was a question of humanism, not a sectarian movement at all.
Skepticism rather than credulity is the highest principle that the human intellect can use to ennoble our existence.
It is not that there are no certainties, it is that it is an absolute certainty that there are no certainties.
Philosophy begins where religion ends, just as by analogy chemistry begins where alchemy runs out, and astronomy takes the place of astrology.
Urging humans to be superhumans, on pain of death and torture, is the urging of terrible self-abasement at their repeated and inevitable failure to keep the rules.
The enduring rapture with magic and fable has always struck me as latently childish and somehow sexless (and thus also related to childlessness).
The gods that we've made are exactly the gods you'd expect to be made by a species that's about half a chromosome away from being chimpanzee.
The creation story is ridiculous garbage. And has given us a completely false picture of our origin as a species and the origins of the cosmos. If you want a good mythical story it would be the life of Socrates.
The noble title of dissident must be earned rather than claimed; it connotes sacrifice and risk rather than mere disagreement.
The role of dissident is not, and should not be, a claim of membership in a communion of saints. In other words, the more fallible the mammal, the truer the example.
If I was told to sacrifice something to prove my devotion to God, if I was told to do what all monotheists are told to do and admire the man who said 'Yes I'll gut my kid to show my love of God.'
The most educated person in the world now has to admit -- I shall not say confess -- that he or she knows less and less but at least knows less and less about more and more.
The dullest person, after all, has gleaned from mere observation that highly intelligent parents often produce offspring so stupid that they can barely breathe. (And, much more interesting from the eugenic point of view, that the opposite is also true.).
To reflect upon the event horizon is a great deal more awe-inspiring than a burning bush or a wooden statue that weeps or pees or bleeds.
So there's nothing more vulgar than the sound of someone saying, God Bless America, someone who doesn't really believe it, but he thinks it will make him look good to other people. I think it's the most nauseating spectacle.
God did not create man in his own image. Evidently, it was quite the other way about, which is the painless explanation for the profusion of gods and religions, and the fratricide both between and among faiths, that we see all about us and that has so retarded the development of civilization.
The mildest criticism of religion is also the most radical and the most devastating one. Religion is man-made.
There are days when I miss my old convictions as if they were an amputated limb. But in general I feel better, and no less radical, and you will feel better too, I guarantee, once you leave hold of the doctrinaire and allow your chainless mind to do its own thinking.
The governor of Texas, who, when asked if the Bible should also be taught in Spanish, replied that 'if English was good enough for Jesus, then it's good enough for me.
Religion is man-made. Even the men who made it cannot agree on what their prophets or redeemers or gurus actually said or did.
I have a strong constitution which has served me quite well, though if I hadn't had such a strong one I might have led a more healthy life perhaps.
We know that our life is essentially tragic. I'm absolutely not for handing over that very important department of our psyche to those who say, Why didn't you say so before? God has a plan for you in mind.