If the people of Europe had known as much of astronomy and geology when the bible was introduced among them, as they do now, there never could have been one believer in the doctrine of inspiration. If the writers of the various parts of the bible had known as much about the sciences as is now known by every intelligent man, the book never could have been written. It was produced by ignorance, and has been believed and defended by its author. It has lost power in the proportion that man has gained knowledge. A few years ago, this book was appealed to in the settlement of all scientific questions; but now, even the clergy confess that in such matters, it has ceased to speak with the voice of authority. For the establishment of facts, the word of man is now considered far better than the word of God. In the world of science, Jehovah was superseded by Copernicus, Galileo, and Kepler. All that God told Moses, admitting the entire account to be true, is dust and ashes compared to the discoveries of Descartes, Laplace, and Humboldt. In matters of fact, the bible has ceased to be regarded as a standard. Science has succeeded in breaking the chains of theology. A few years ago, Science endeavored to show that it was not inconsistent with the bible. The tables have been turned, and now, Religion is endeavoring to prove that the bible is not inconsistent with Science. The standard has been changed.

~ Robert G. Ingersoll

The most detestable wickedness, the most horrid cruelties, and the greatest miseries, that have afflicted the human race have had their origin in this thing called revelation, or revealed religion. It has been the most dishonourable belief against the character of the divinity, the most destructive to morality, and the peace and happiness of man, that ever was propagated since man began to exist. It is better, far better, that we admitted, if it were possible, a thousand devils to roam at large, and to preach publicly the doctrine of devils, if there were any such, than that we permitted one such impostor and monster as Moses, Joshua, Samuel, and the Bible prophets, to come with the pretended word of God in his mouth, and have credit among us.Whence arose all the horrid assassinations of whole nations of men, women, and infants, with which the Bible is filled; and the bloody persecutions, and tortures unto death and religious wars, that since that time have laid Europe in blood and ashes; whence arose they, but from this impious thing called revealed religion, and this monstrous belief that God has spoken to man? The lies of the Bible have been the cause of the one, and the lies of the Testament of the other.

~ Thomas Paine

How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. The effects are apparent in many countries. Improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live. A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement; the next of its dignity and sanctity. The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property – either as a child, a wife, or a concubine – must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men. Thousands become the brave and loyal soldiers of the faith: all know how to die but the influence of the religion paralyses the social development of those who follow it. No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith. It has already spread throughout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every step; and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science, the science against which it had vainly struggled, the civilisation of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilisation of ancient Rome.

~ Winston S. Churchill

There is no solution for Europe other than deepening the democratic values it invented. It does not need a geographical extension, absurdly drawn out to the ends of the Earth; what it needs is an intensification of its soul, a condensation of its strengths. It is one of the rare places on this planet where something absolutely unprecedented is happening, without its people even knowing it, so much do they take miracles for granted. Beyond imprecation and apology, we have to express our delighted amazement that we live on this continent and not another. Europe, the planet's moral compass, has sobered up after the intoxication of conquest and has acquired a sense of the fragility of human affairs. It has to rediscover its civilizing capabilities, not recover its taste for blood and carnage, chiefly for spiritual advances. But the spirit of penitence must not smother the spirit of resistance. Europe must cherish freedom as its most precious possession and teach it to schoolchildren. It must also celebrate the beauty of discord and divest itself of its sick allergy to confrontation, not be afraid to point out the enemy, and combine firmness with regard to governments and generosity with regard to peoples. In short, it must simply reconnect with the subversive richness of its ideas and the vitality of its founding principles.Naturally, we will continue to speak the double language of fidelity and rupture, to oscillate between being a prosecutor and a defense lawyer. That is our mental hygiene: we are forced to be both the knife and the wound, the blade that cuts and the hand that heals. The first duty of a democracy is not to ruminate on old evils, it is to relentlessly denounce its present crimes and failures. This requires reciprocity, with everyone applying the same rule. We must have done with the blackmail of culpability, cease to sacrifice ourselves to our persecutors. A policy of friendship cannot be founded on the false principle: we take the opprobrium, you take the forgiveness. Once we have recognized any faults we have, then the prosecution must turn against the accusers and subject them to constant criticism as well. Let us cease to confuse the necessary evaluation of ourselves with moralizing masochism. There comes a time when remorse becomes a second offence that adds to the first without cancelling it. Let us inject in others a poison that has long gnawed away at us: shame. A little guilty conscience in Tehran, Riyadh, Karachi, Moscow, Beijing, Havana, Caracas, Algiers, Damascus, Yangon, Harare, and Khartoum, to mention them alone, would do these governments, and especially their people, a lot of good. The fines gift Europe could give the world would be to offer it the spirit of critical examination that it has conceived and that has saved it from so many perils. It is a poisoned gift, but one that is indispensable for the survival of humanity.

~ Pascal Bruckner

Most striking about the traditional societies of the Congo was their remarkable artwork: baskets, mats, pottery, copper and ironwork, and, above all, woodcarving. It would be two decades before Europeans really noticed this art. Its discovery then had a strong influence on Braque, Matisse, and Picasso -- who subsequently kept African art objects in his studio until his death. Cubism was new only for Europeans, for it was partly inspired by specific pieces of African art, some of them from the Pende and Songye peoples, who live in the basin of the Kasai River, one of the Congo's major tributaries.It was easy to see the distinctive brilliance that so entranced Picasso and his colleagues at their first encounter with this art at an exhibit in Paris in 1907. In these central African sculptures some body parts are exaggerated, some shrunken; eyes project, cheeks sink, mouths disappear, torsos become elongated; eye sockets expand to cover almost the entire face; the human face and figure are broken apart and formed again in new ways and proportions that had previously lain beyond sight of traditional European realism.The art sprang from cultures that had, among other things, a looser sense than Islam or Christianity of the boundaries between our world and the next, as well as those between the world of humans and the world of beasts. Among the Bolia people of the Congo, for example, a king was chosen by a council of elders; by ancestors, who appeared to him in a dream; and finally by wild animals, who signaled their assent by roaring during a night when the royal candidate was left at a particular spot in the rain forest. Perhaps it was the fluidity of these boundaries that granted central Africa's artists a freedom those in Europe had not yet discovered.

~ Adam Hochschild