Monday, July 25, 2011

Pet Peeve: Lousy Quoters

Atheists love to call out religious folks for misquoting their respective scriptures, and for ignoring the MANY instances when their respective scriptures have been altered over the years. I love to do it myself, having been raised a Baptist and knowing the Bible - and the history of such, including the changes - better than my religious friends.

But I'm going to have to call out my Atheist brethren for so often being lousy at quoting - specifically, for not ensuring a quote is accurate and is properly sourced before using it.

A case in point: Lighthouses are more useful than churches. Benjamin Franklin did not say this! But you will find this quote all over various blogs and web pages. The wikiquote page for Franklin says the origin of this phrase MAY be a paraphrase of something he wrote to his wife on 17 July 1757, given in a footnote on page 133 of Memoirs of the Life and Writings of Benjamin Franklin (1818). After describing a narrow escape from shipwreck he added:

The bell ringing for church, we went thither immediately, and with hearts full of gratitude, returned sincere thanks to God for the mercies we had received: were I a Roman Catholic, perhaps I should on this occasion vow to build a chapel to some saint, but as I am not, if I were to vow at all, it should be to build a light-house.

Another one: The government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion. This was NOT said by George Washington. It is a line from the English version of the Treaty of Tripoli of 1796, initially signed by a representative of the US on 4 November 1796 during Washington's presidency, approved by Congress 7 June 1797 and finally signed by President John Adams on 10 June 1797. Article 11 of it reads:

As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion,— as it has in itself no character or enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Musselmen,— and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

There are some terrific, verifiable quotes out there in support of secularism and even Atheism, including from the USA founding fathers and various great thinkers. The wikiquote site makes it super easy to find out if he or she really said whatever it is you want to quote!

And as Abraham Lincoln once said: “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re not quoting Martin Luther King, Jr.”

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