...never [enter] into dispute or argument with another. I never saw an instance of one of two disputants convincing the other by argument. I have seen many, on their getting warm, becoming rude, & shooting one another. ... When I hear another express an opinion which is not mine, I say to myself, he has a right to his opinion, as I to mine; why should I question it? His error does me no injury and shall I become a Don Quixote, to bring all men by force of argument to one opinion? ... There are two classes of disputants most frequently to be met with among us. The first is of young students, just entered the threshold of science, with a first view of its outlines, not yet filled up with the details & modifications which a further progress would bring to their knoledge. The other consists of the ill-tempered & rude men in society, who have taken up a passion for politics. ... Consider yourself, when with them, as among the patients of Bedlam, needing medical more than moral counsel. Be a listener only, keep within yourself and endeavor to establish with yourself the habit of silence, especially on politics. In the fevered state of our country, no good can ever result from any attempt to set one of these fiery zealots to rights, either in fact or principle. They are determined as to the facts they will believe and the opinions on which they will act. Get by them, therefore, as you would by an angry bull; it is not for a man of sense to dispute the road with such an animal.
Thomas Jefferson
If the Pentateuch be true, religious persecution is a duty. The dungeons of the Inquisition were temples and the clank of every chain upon the limbs of heresy was music in the ear of God. If the Pentateuch was inspired, every heretic should be destroyed; and every man who advocates a fact inconsistent with the sacred book, should be consumed by sword and flame.In the Old Testament no one is told to reason with a heretic and not one word is said about relying upon argument, upon education, nor upon intellectual development—nothing except simple brute force. Is there to-day a christian who will say that four thousand years ago, it was the duty of a husband to kill his wife if she differed with him upon the subject of religion? Is there one who will now say that, under such circumstances, the wife ought to have been killed? Why should God be so jealous of the wooden idols of the heathen? Could he not compete with Baal? Was he envious of the success of the Egyptian magicians? Was it not possible for him to make such a convincing display of his power as to silence forever the voice of unbelief? Did this God have to resort to force to make converts? Was he so ignorant of the structure of the human mind as to believe all honest doubt a crime? If he wished to do away with the idolatry of the Canaanites, why did he not appear to them? Why did he not give them the tables of the law? Why did he only make known his will to a few wandering savages in the desert of Sinai? Will some theologian have the kindness to answer these questions? Will some minister, who now believes in religious liberty and eloquently denounces the intolerance of Catholicism, explain these things; will he tell us why he worships an intolerant God? Is a god who will burn a soul forever in another world, better than a christian who burns the body for a few hours in this? Is there no intellectual liberty in heaven? Do the angels all discuss questions on the same side? Are all the investigators in perdition? Will the penitent thief, winged and crowned, laugh at the honest folks in hell? Will the agony of the damned increase or decrease the happiness of God? Will there be, in the universe, an eternal auto da fe?
Robert G. Ingersoll
I’ll find out who’s inside. Wait here and keep alert!’ Hallam rasped. He skirted the main path to skulk towards one of the shuttered windows on the building’s eastern wall. There was a crack in the wood and he gently inched closer to peer inside.There was a hearth-fire with a pot bubbling away and a battered table made of a length of wood over two pieces of cut timber. A small ham hung from the rafters, away from the rats and mice. He couldn’t see anyone but there was a murmur of voices. Hallam leaned in even closer and a young boy with hair the colour of straw saw the movement to stare. It was Little Jim. Thank God, the child was safe. Snot hung from his nose and he was pale. Hallam put a finger to his lips, but the boy, not even four, did not understand and just gaped innocently back.Movement near the window. A man wearing a blue jacket took up a stone bottle and wiped his long flowing moustache afterwards. His hair was shoulder-length, falling unruly over the red collar of his jacket. Tied around his neck was a filthy red neckerchief. A woman moaned and the man grinned with tobacco stained teeth at the sound. Laughter and French voices. The woman whimpered and Little Jim turned to watch unseen figures. His eyes glistened and his bottom lip dropped. The woman began to plead and Hallam instinctively growled.The Frenchman, hearing the noise, pushed the shutter open and the pistol’s cold muzzle pressed against his forehead. Hallam watched the man’s eyes narrow and then widen, before his mouth opened. Whatever he intended to shout was never heard, because the ball smashed through his skull to erupt in a bloody spray as it exited the back of the Frenchman’s head.There was a brief moment of silence. ‘28th!’ Hallam shouted, as he stepped back against the wall. ‘Make ready!
David Cook