Quotations of G. K. Chesterton

Some of the most celebrated and notorious G.K. Chesterton quotations. Share them. All of them.

Topics

Timeless Truths | Free Advice | The Cult of Progress | War and Politics | Government and Politics | Society and Culture | Love, Marriage, and the Sexes | Religion and Faith | Christmas | Morality and Truth | Economic Theory and Distributism | Art and Literature | Past Words on Today’s Dilemmas | Islam | Atheism | Islam | Courage | Friendship | Liberty | The Skeptic | Today’s World

Timeless Truths

      • “Misers get up early in the morning; and burglars, I am informed, get up the night before.” – Tremendous Trifles
      • “A change of opinions is almost unknown in an elderly military man.” – A Utopia of Usurers, CW, V, p396
      • “The act of defending any of the cardinal virtues has today all the exhilaration of a vice.” – A Defense of Humilities, The Defendant, 1901
      • “A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it.” – The Everlasting Man, 1925
      • “Fallacies do not cease to be fallacies because they become fashions.” – ILN, 4/19/30
      • “Impartiality is a pompous name for indifference, which is an elegant name for ignorance.” – The Speaker, 12/15/00
      • “An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered; an adventure is an inconvenience rightly considered.” – On Running After Ones Hat, All Things Considered, 1908
      • “What embitters the world is not excess of criticism, but an absence of self-criticism.” – Sidelights on New London and Newer New York
      • “He is a [sane] man who can have tragedy in his heart and comedy in his head.” – Tremendous Trifles, 1909
      • “Among the rich you will never find a really generous man even by accident. They may give their money away, but they will never give themselves away; they are egotistic, secretive, dry as old bones. To be smart enough to get all that money you must be dull enough to want it.” – A Miscellany of Men
      • “Moderate strength is shown in violence, supreme strength is shown in levity.” – The Man Who was Thursday, 1908
      • “The simplification of anything is always sensational.” – Varied Types
      • “Customs are generally unselfish. Habits are nearly always selfish.” – ILN 1-11-08
      • “I believe what really happens in history is this: the old man is always wrong; and the young people are always wrong about what is wrong with him. The practical form it takes is this: that, while the old man may stand by some stupid custom, the young man always attacks it with some theory that turns out to be equally stupid.” – ILN, 6-3-22
      • “The center of every man’s existence is a dream. Death, disease, insanity, are merely material accidents, like a toothache or a twisted ankle. That these brutal forces always besiege and often capture the citadel does not prove that they are the citadel.” – Sir Walter Scott, Twelve Types
      • “The person who is really in revolt is the optimist, who generally lives and dies in a desperate and suicidal effort to persuade other people how good they are.” – Introduction to The Defendant
      • “To have a right to do a thing is not at all the same as to be right in doing it.” – A Short History of England, Ch.10
      • “All the exaggerations are right, if they exaggerate the right thing.” – “On Gargoyles,” Alarms and Discursions
      • “The comedy of man survives the tragedy of man.” – ILN, 2-10-06
      • “We have had no good comic operas of late, because the real world has been more comic than any possible opera.” – The Quotable Chesterton
      • “When learned men begin to use their reason, then I generally discover that they haven’t got any.” – ILN, 11-7-08
      • “The free man owns himself. He can damage himself with either eating or drinking; he can ruin himself with gambling. If he does he is certainly a damn fool, and he might possibly be a damned soul; but if he may not, he is not a free man any more than a dog.” – Broadcast talk 6-11-35
      • “Aesthetes never do anything but what they are told.” – The Love of Lead, Lunacy and Letters
      • “The aesthete aims at harmony rather than beauty. If his hair does not match the mauve sunset against which he is standing, he hurriedly dyes his hair another shade of mauve. If his wife does not go with the wall-paper, he gets a divorce.” – ILN, 12/25/09
      • “The reformer is always right about what is wrong. He is generally wrong about what is right.” – ILN, 10-28-22
      • “Reason is always a kind of brute force; those who appeal to the head rather than the heart, however pallid and polite, are necessarily men of violence. We speak of ‘touching’ a man’s heart, but we can do nothing to his head but hit it.” – Charles II, Twelve Types
      • “Man is always something worse or something better than an animal; and a mere argument from animal perfection never touches him at all. Thus, in sex no animal is either chivalrous or obscene. And thus no animal invented anything so bad as drunkeness – or so good as drink.” – Wine When it is Red, All Things Considered
      • “When we step into the family, by the act of being born, we do step into a world which is incalculable, into a world which has its own strange laws, into a world which could do without us, into a world we have not made. In other words, when we step into the family we step into a fairy-tale.” – Heretics, CW, I, p.143
      • “A thing may be too sad to be believed or too wicked to be believed or too good to be believed; but it cannot be too absurd to be believed in this planet of frogs and elephants, of crocodiles and cuttle-fish.” – Maycock, The Man Who Was Orthodox

 

Free Advice

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      • “Do not enjoy yourself. Enjoy dances and theaters and joy-rides and champagne and oysters; enjoy jazz and cocktails and night-clubs if you can enjoy nothing better; enjoy bigamy and burglary and any crime in the calendar, in preference to the other alternative; but never learn to enjoy yourself.” – The Common Man
      • “Do not look at the faces in the illustrated papers. Look at the faces in the street.” – ILN, 11/16/07
      • “When giving treats to friends or children, give them what they like, emphatically not what is good for them.” – The Chesterton Review, February, 1984
      • “I agree with the realistic Irishman who said he preferred to prophesy after the event.” – ILN, 10/7/16

 

The Cult of Progress

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      • “Progress is a comparative of which we have not settled the superlative.” – Chapter 2, Heretics, 1905
      • “Progress should mean that we are always changing the world to fit the vision, instead we are always changing the vision.” – Orthodoxy, 1908
      • “My attitude toward progress has passed from antagonism to boredom. I have long ceased to argue with people who prefer Thursday to Wednesday because it is Thursday.” – New York Times Magazine, 2/11/23
      • “Men invent new ideals because they dare not attempt old ideals. They look forward with enthusiasm, because they are afraid to look back.” – What’s Wrong With The World, 1910
      • “Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to that arrogant oligarchy who merely happen to be walking around.” – Orthodoxy, 1908
      • “The modern world is a crowd of very rapid racing cars all brought to a standstill and stuck in a block of traffic.” – ILN, 5/29/26
      • “Comforts that were rare among our forefathers are now multiplied in factories and handed out wholesale; and indeed, nobody nowadays, so long as he is content to go without air, space, quiet, decency and good manners, need be without anything whatever that he wants; or at least a reasonably cheap imitation of it.” – Commonwealth, 1933
      • “A detective story generally describes six living men discussing how it is that a man is dead. A modern philosophic story generally describes six dead men discussing how any man can possibly be alive.” – A Miscellany of Men
      • “None of the modern machines, none of the modern paraphernalia. . . have any power except over the people who choose to use them.” – Daily News, 7-21-06
      • “I still hold. . .that the suburbs ought to be either glorified by romance and religion or else destroyed by fire from heaven, or even by firebrands from the earth.” – The Coloured Lands
      • “The whole curse of the last century has been what is called the Swing of the Pendulum; that is, the idea that Man must go alternately from one extreme to the other. It is a shameful and even shocking fancy; it is the denial of the whole dignity of the mankind. When Man is alive he stands still. It is only when he is dead that he swings.” – The New House, Alarms and Discursions
      • “To hurry through one’s leisure is the most unbusiness-like of actions.” – “A Somewhat Improbable Story.” Tremendous Trifles
      • “This is the age in which thin and theoretic minorities can cover and conquer unconscious and untheoretic majorities.” – ILN, 12/20/19
      • “The past is not what it was.” – A Short History of England

 

War and Politics

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      • “[Marxism will] in a generation or so [go] into the limbo of most heresies, but meanwhile it will have poisoned the Russian Revolution.” – ILN, 7/19/19
      • “War is not ‘the best way of settling differences; it is the only way of preventing their being settled for you.” – ILN, 7/24/15
      • “There is a corollary to the conception of being too proud to fight. It is that the humble have to do most of the fighting.” – The Everlasting Man, 1925
      • “The only defensible war is a war of defense.” – Autobiography, 1937
      • “The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.” – ILN, 1/14/11
      • “How quickly revolutions grow old; and, worse still, respectable.” – The Listener, 3-6-35

 

Government and Politics

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      • “Once abolish the God, and the government becomes the God.” – Christendom in Dublin, 1933
      • “America is the only country ever founded on a creed.” – What I Saw In America, 1922
      • “The Declaration of Independence dogmatically bases all rights on the fact that God created all men equal; and it is right; for if they were not created equal, they were certainly evolved unequal. There is no basis for democracy except in a dogma about the divine origin of man.” – Chapter 19, What I Saw In America, 1922
      • “The unconscious democracy of America is a very fine thing. It is a true and deep and instinctive assumption of the equality of citizens, which even voting and elections have not destroyed.” – What I Saw In America, 1922
      • “When you break the big laws, you do not get freedom; you do not even get anarchy. You get the small laws.” – Daily News, 7/29/05
      • “Men are ruled, at this minute by the clock, by liars who refuse them news, and by fools who cannot govern.” – The New Name,Utopia of Usurers and Other Essays, 1917
      • “If you attempt an actual argument with a modern paper of opposite politics, you will have no answer except slanging or silence.” – Chapter 3, What’s Wrong With The World, 1910
      • “He is a very shallow critic who cannot see an eternal rebel in the heart of a conservative.” – Varied Types
      • “You can never have a revolution in order to establish a democracy. You must have a democracy in order to have a revolution. – Tremendous Trifles, 1909
      • “For fear of the newspapers politicians are dull, and at last they are too dull even for the newspapers.” – All Things Considered, 1908
      • “When a politician is in opposition he is an expert on the means to some end; and when he is in office he is an expert on the obstacles to it.” – ILN, 4/6/18
      • “It is the mark of our whole modern history that the masses are kept quiet with a fight. They are kept quiet by the fight because it is a sham-fight; thus most of us know by this time that the Party System has been popular only in the sense that a football match is popular.” – A Short History of England, p.156
      • “I have formed a very clear conception of patriotism. I have generally found it thrust into the foreground by some fellow who has something to hide in the background. I have seen a great deal of patriotism; and I have generally found it the last refuge of the scoundrel.” – The Judgement of Dr. Johnson, Act III
      • “It is terrible to contemplete how few politicians are hanged.” – The Cleveland Press, 3/1/21
      • “There cannot be a nation of millionaires, and there never has been a nation of Utopian comrades; but there have been any number of nations of tolerably contented peasants.” – The Outline of Sanity, Collected Works Vol. V. 192
      • “All government is an ugly necessity.” – A Short History of England, p.63
      • “It is hard to make government representative when it is also remote.” – ILN, 8/17/18
      • “It is a good sign in a nation when things are done badly. It shows that all the people are doing them. And it is bad sign in a nation when such things are done very well, for it shows that only a few experts and eccentrics are doing them, and that the nation is merely looking on.” – Patriotism and Sport, All Things Considered
      • “The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of the Conservatives is to prevent the mistakes from being corrected.” – ILN, 4/19/24

 

Society and Culture

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      • “I never could see anything wrong in sensationalism; and I am sure our society is suffering more from secrecy than from flamboyant revelations.” – ILN, 10/4/19
      • “With all that we hear of American hustle and hurry, it is rather strange that Americans seem to like to linger on longer words.” – What I Saw in America
      • “It is true that I am of an older fashion; much that I love has been destroyed or sent into exile.” – The Judgement of Dr. Johnson, Act III
      • “I think the oddest thing about the advanced people is that, while they are always talking about things as problems, they have hardly any notion of what a real problem is.” – Uses of Diversity
      • “There have been household gods and household saints and household fairies. I am not sure that there have yet been any factory gods or factory saints or factory fairies. I may be wrong, as I am no commericial expert, but I have not heard of them as yet.” – ILN, Dec 18, 1926
      • “Over-civilization and barbarism are within an inch of each other. And a mark of both is the power of medicine-men.” – ILN, 9-11-09
      • “By experts in poverty I do not mean sociologists, but poor men.” – ILN, 3/25/11
      • “The modern city is ugly not because it is a city but because it is not enough of a city, because it is a jungle, because it is confused and anarchic, and surging with selfish and materialistic energies.” – The Way to the Stars, Lunacy and Letters
      • “Self-denial is the test and definition of self-government.” – The Field of Blood, Alarms and Discursions

 

Love, Marriage and The Sexes

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      • “Love means loving the unlovable – or it is no virtue at all.” – Heretics, 1905
      • “A man imagines a happy marriage as a marriage of love; even if he makes fun of marriages that are without love, or feels sorry for lovers who are without marriage.” – Chaucer
      • “Women are the only realists; their whole object in life is to pit their realism against the extravagant, excessive, and occasionally drunken idealism of men.” – A Handful of Authors
      • “The whole pleasure of marriage is that it is a perpetual crisis.” – David Copperfield, Chesterton on Dickens, 1911
      • “A good man’s work is effected by doing what he does, a woman’s by being what she is.” – Robert Browning
      • “Women have a thirst for order and beauty as for something physical; there is a strange female power of hating ugliness and waste as good men can only hate sin and bad men virtue.” – Chesterton on Dickens
      • “Marriage is a duel to the death which no man of honour should decline.” – Manalive
      • “The first two facts which a healthy boy or girl feels about sex are these: first that it is beautiful and then that it is dangerous.” – ILN, 1/9/09
      • “I have little doubt that when St. George had killed the dragon he was heartily afraid of the princess.” – The Victorian Age in Literature

 

Religion and Faith

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      • “One of the chief uses of religion is that it makes us remember our coming from darkness, the simple fact that we are created.” – The Boston Sunday Post, 1/16/21
      • “The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because they are generally the same people.” – ILN, 7/16/10
      • “If there were no God, there would be no atheists.” – Where All Roads Lead, 1922
      • “There are those who hate Christianity and call their hatred an all-embracing love for all religions.” – ILN, 1/13/06
      • “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.” – Chapter 5, What’s Wrong With The World, 1910
      • “The riddles of God are more satisfying than the solutions of man.” – Introduction to the Book of Job, 1907
      • “It has been often said, very truely, that religion is the thing that makes the ordinary man feel extraordinary; it is an equally important truth that religion is the thing that makes the extraordinary man feel ordinary.” – Charles Dickens
      • “Theology is only thought applied to religion.” – The New Jerusalem
      • “The truth is, of course, that the curtness of the Ten Commandments is an evidence, not of the gloom and narrowness of a religion, but, on the contrary, of its liberality and humanity. It is shorter to state the things forbidden than the things permitted: precisely because most things are permitted, and only a few things are forbidden.” – ILN 1-3-20
      • “These are the days when the Christian is expected to praise every creed except his own.” – ILN 8-11-28
      • “Puritanism was an honourable mood; it was a noble fad. In other words, it was a highly creditable mistake.” – Blake

 

Christmas

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      • “What life and death may be to a turkey is not my business; but the soul of Scrooge and the body of Cratchit are my business.” – Christmas, All Things Considered
      • “If a man called Christmas Day a mere hypocritical excuse for drunkeness and gluttony, that would be false, but it would have a fact hidden in it somewhere. But when Bernard Shaw says that Christmas Day is only a conspiracy kept up by Poulterers and wine merchants from strictly business motives, then he says something which is not so much false as startling and arrestingly foolish. He might as well say that the two sexes were invented by jewellers who wanted to sell wedding rings.” – George Bernard Shaw, Ch. 6
      • “Any one thinking of the Holy Child as born in December would mean by it exactly what we mean by it; that Christ is not merely a summer sun of the prosperous but a winter fire for the unfortunate.” – The New Jerusalem, Ch. 5
      • “The more we are proud that the Bethlehem story is plain enough to be understood by the shepherds, and almost by the sheep, the more do we let ourselves go, in dark and gorgeous imaginative frescoes or pageants about the mystery and majesty of the Three Magian Kings.” – Christendom in Dublin, Ch.3
      • “The great majority of people will go on observing forms that cannot be explained; they will keep Christmas Day with Christmas gifts and Christmas benedictions; they will continue to do it; and some day suddenly wake up and discover why.” – On Christmas, Generally Speaking

 

Morality and Truth

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      • “Men do not differ much about what things they will call evils; they differ enormously about what evils they will call excusable.” – ILN, 10/23/09
      • “It’s not that we don’t have enough scoundrels to curse; it’s that we don’t have enough good men to curse them.” – ILN, 3/14/08
      • “There is a case for telling the truth; there is a case for avoiding the scandal; but there is no possible defense for the man who tells the scandal, but does not tell the truth.” – ILN, 7/18/08
      • “The whole truth is generally the ally of virtue; a half-truth is always the ally of some vice.” – ILN, 6/11/10
      • “Truth is sacred; and if you tell the truth too often nobody will believe it.” – ILN, 2/24/06
      • “Civilization has run on ahead of the soul of man, and is producing faster than he can think and give thanks.” – Daily News, 2/21/02
      • “It is not bigotry to be certain we are right; but it is bigotry to be unable to imagine how we might possibly have gone wrong.” – The Catholic Church and Conversion
      • “There’d be a lot less scandal if people didn’t idealize sin and pose as sinners.” – The Father Brown Omnibus
      • “All men thirst to confess their crimes more than tired beasts thirst for water; but they naturally object to confessing them while other people, who have also committed the same crimes, sit by and laugh at them.” – ILN, 3/14/08
      • “Idolatry is committed, not merely by setting up false gods, but also by setting up false devils; by making men afraid of war or alcohol, or economic law, when they should be afraid of spiritual corruption and cowardice.” – ILN, 9/11/09
      • “I say that a man must be certain of his morality for the simple reason that he has to suffer for it.” – ILN 8/4/06
      • “To the humble man, and to the humble man alone, the sun is really a sun; to the humble man, and to the humble man alone, the sea is really a sea.” – Heretics, CW I, p128
      • “Great truths can only be forgotten and can never be falsified.” – ILN, 9-30-33
      • “The voice of the special rebels and prophets, recommending discontent, should, as I have said, sound now and then suddenly, like a trumpet. But the voices of the saints and sages, recommending contentment, should sound unceasingly, like the sea.” – T.P.’s Weekly, 1910
      • “All science, even the divine science, is a sublime detective story. Only it is not set to detect why a man is dead; but the darker secret of why he is alive.” – The Thing, CW. III 191
      • “Most modern freedom is at root fear. It is not so much that we are too bold to endure rules; it is rather that we are too timid to endure responsibilities.” – What’s Wrong With the World
      • “If we want to give poor people soap we must set out deliberately to give them luxuries. If we will not make them rich enough to be clean, then empathically we must do what we did with the saints. We must reverence them for being dirty.” – What’s Wrong with the World
      • “The world will very soon be divided, unless I am mistaken, into those who still go on explaining our success, and those somewhat more intelligent who are trying to explain our failure.” – Speech to Anglo-Catholic Congress 6-29-20
      • “What we call emancipation is always and of necessity simply the free choice of the soul between one set of limitations and another.” – Daily News, 12-21-05
      • “There are some desires that are not desirable.” – Orthodoxy
      • “In the struggle for existence, it is only on those who hang on for ten minutes after all is hopeless, that hope begins to dawn.” – The Speaker, 2-2-01
      • “Modern broad-mindedness benefits the rich; and benefits nobody else.” – The Church of the Servile State, Utopia of Usurers
      • “It is the main earthly business of a human being to make his home, and the immediate surroundings of his home, as symbolic and significant to his own imagination as he can.” – The Coloured Lands

 

Economic Theory and Distributism

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      • “Big Business and State Socialism are very much alike, especially Big Business.” – G.K.’s Weekly, 4/10/26
      • “[No society can survive the socialist] fallacy that there is an absolutely unlimited number of inspired officials and an absolutely unlimited amount of money to pay them.” – The Debate with Bertrand Russell, BBC Magazine, 11/27/35
      • “A citizen can hardly distinguish between a tax and a fine, except that the fine is generally much lighter.” – ILN, 5/25/31
      • “Too much capitalism does not mean too many capitalists, but too few capitalists.” – The Uses of Diversity, 1921
      • “Price is a crazy and incalculable thing, while Value is an intrinsic and indestructible thing.” – Reflections on a Rotten Apple, The Well and the Shallows, 1935
      • “Business, especially big business, is now organized like an army. It is, as some would say, a sort of mild militarism without bloodshed; as I say, a militarism without the military virtues.” – The Thing
      • “All but the hard hearted man must be torn with pity for this pathetic dilemma of the rich man, who has to keep the poor man just stout enough to do the work and just thin enough to have to do it.” – Utopia of Usurers, 1917
      • “From the standpoint of any sane person, the present problem of capitalist concentration is not only a question of law, but of criminal law, not to mention criminal lunacy.” – A Case In Point, The Outline of Sanity
      • “Because a girl should have long hair, she should have clean hair; because she should have clean hair, she should not have an unclean home; because she should not have an unclean home, she should have a free and leisured mother; because she should have a free mother, she should not have an usurious landlord; because there should not be a usurious landlord, there should be a redistribution of property; because there should be a redistribution of property, there shall be a revolution.” – What’s Wrong with the World
      • “There is only one thing that stands in our midst, attenuated and threatened, but enthroned in some power like a ghost of the Middle Ages: the Trade Unions.” – A Short History of England
      • “[Capitalism is] that commercial system in which supply immediately answers to demand, and in which everybody seems to be thoroughly dissatisfied and unable to get anything he wants.” – How to Write a Detective Story, The Spice of Life
      • “Our society is so abnormal that the normal man never dreams of having the normal occupation of looking after his own property. When he chooses a trade, he chooses one of the ten thousand trades that involve looking after other people’s property.” – Commonwealth, 10-12-32
      • “The real argument against aristocracy is that it always means the rule of the ignorant. For the most dangerous of all forms of ignorance is ignorance of work.” – NY Sun 11-3-18
      • “Making the landlord and the tenant the same person has certain advantages, as that the tenant pays no rent, while the landlord does a little work.” – Hudge and Gudge, What’s Wrong with the World
      • “You can’t have the family farm without the family.” – Tales of the Long Bow
      • “I would give a woman not more rights, but more privileges. Instead of sending her to seek such freedom as notoriously prevails in banks and factories, I would design specially a house in which she can be free.” – What’s Wrong World

 

Art and Literature

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      • “Art, like morality, consists of drawing the line somewhere.” – ILN, 5/5/28
      • “The decay of society is praised by artists as the decay of a corpse is praised by worms.” – Shaw, 1909
      • “The artistic temperament is a disease that afflicts amateurs.” – Chapter 16, Heretics, 1905
      • “Savages and modern artists are alike strangely driven to create something uglier than themselves. but the artists find it harder.” – ILN, 11/25/05
      • “The beautification of the world is not a work of nature, but a work of art, then it involves an artist.” – ILN, 9-18-09
      • “By a curious confusion, many modern critics have passed from the proposition that a masterpiece may be unpopular to the other proposition that unless it is unpopular it cannot be a masterpiece.” – On Detective Novels, Generally Speaking
      • “And all over the world, the old literature, the popular literature, is the same. It consists of very dignified sorrow and very undignified fun. Its sad tales are of broken hearts; its happy tales are of broken heads.” – Charles Dickens
      • “The aim of good prose words is to mean what they say. The aim of good poetical words is to mean what they do not say.” – Daily News, 4-22-05

 

Past Words on Today’s Dilemmas

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      1. Absentee Fathers – “What is called matriarchy is simply moral anarchy, in which the mother alone remains fixed because all the fathers are fugitive and irresponsible.” – The Everlasting Man, p.186
      2. Back To Nature – “Properly speaking, of course, there is no such thing as a return to nature, because there is no such thing as a departure from it. The phrase reminds one of the slightly intoxicated gentleman who gets up in his own dining room and declares firmly that he must be getting home.” – The Chesterton Review, August, 1993
      3. Bigotry -“Bigotry is an incapacity to conceive seriously the alternative to a proposition.” – Lunacy and Letters
      4. Capital Punishment -“For my part, I would have no executions except by the mob; or, at least, by the people acting quite exceptionally. I would make capital punishment impossible except by act of attainder. Then there would be some chance of a few of our real oppressors getting hanged. – ILN, 2/13/09
      5. Condom Distribution -“Our materialistic masters could, and probably will, put Birth Control into an immediate practical programme while we are all discussing the dreadful danger of somebody else putting it into a distant Utopia.” – GK’s Weekly, 1/17/31
      6. Credibility of the Media -“Modern man is staggering and losing his balance because he is being pelted with little pieces of alleged fact which are native to the newspapers; and, if they turn out not to be facts, that is still more native to newspapers.” – ILN, 4/7/23
      7. The Cult of Fame – “America has a genius for the encouragement of fame.” – The Father Brown Omnibus
      8. The Education System
        • “The purpose of Compulsory Education is to deprive the common people of their commonsense.” – ILN, 9/7/29
        • “Though the academic authorities are actually proud of conducting everything by means of Examinations, they seldom indulge in what religious people used to descibe as Self-Examination. The consequence is that the modern State has educated its citizens in a series of ephemeral fads.” – Nash’s Pall Mall Magazine, April, 1935
      9. Cloning – “We are learning to do a great many clever things…The next great task will be to learn not to do them.- Queen Victoria, Varied Types
      10. A Litigious Society – “The position we have now reached is this: starting from the State, we try to remedy the failures of all the families, all the nurseries, all the schools, all the workshops, all the secondary institutions that once had some authority of their own. Everything is ultimately brought into the Law Courts. We are trying to stop the leak at the other end.” – ILN, 3/24/23
      11. September 11 – “The architecture of New York chiefly consists of buildings being destroyed.” – G.K.’s Weekly, 1/16/26
      12. Police Authority – “Anyone who is not an anarchist agrees with having a policeman at the corner of the street; but the danger at present is that of finding the policeman half-way down the chimney or even under the bed.” – What I Saw In America, 1922
      13. Psychoanlysis – “Psychoanalysis is a science conducted by lunatics for lunatics. They are generally concerned with proving that people are irresponsible; and they certainly succeed in proving that some people are.” – ILN, 6/23/28
      14. Reproductive Rights – “Let all the babies be born. Then let us drown those we do not like.” – Babies and Distributism, GK’s Weekly, 11/12/32
      15. Separation of Church and State – “Religious liberty might be supposed to mean that everybody is free to discuss religion. In practice it means that hardly anybody is allowed to mention it.” – Autobiography, 1937
      16. Urban Planning – “The whole structural system of the suburban civilization is based on the case for having bathrooms and the case against having babies.” -G.K.’s Weekly, 7-6-29
      17. Vegetarianism – “A modern vegetarian is also a teetotaler, yet there is no obvious connection between consuming vegetables and not consuming fermented vegetables. A drunkard, when lifted laboriously out of the gutter, might well be heard huskily to plead that he had fallen there through excessive devotion to a vegetable diet.” – William blake
      18. Z.Z. Top – “You cannot grow a beard in a moment of passion.” – How I Met the President, Tremendous Trifles

 

Islam

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      • “A good Moslem king was one who was strict in religion, valiant in battle, just in giving judgment among his people, but not one who had the slightest objection in international matters to removing his neighbour’s landmark.” – ILN, Nov. 4, 1911
      • “I do not know much about Mohammed or Mohammedanism. I do not take the Koran to bed with me every night. But, if I did on some one particular night, there is one sense at least in which I know what I should not find there. I apprehend that I should not find the work abounding in strong encouragements to the worship of idols; that the praises of polytheism would not be loudly sung; that the character of Mohammed would not be subjected to anything resembling hatred and derision; and that the great modern doctrine of the unimportance of religion would not be needlessly emphasised.” – ILN, Nov. 15, 1913
      • “A man making the confession of any creed worth ten minutes’ intelligent talk, is always a man who gains something and gives up something. So long as he does both he can create; for he is making an outline and a shape. Mohamet created, when he forbade wine but allowed five wives: he created a very big thing, which we have still to deal with.” – The Victorian Compromise and Its Enemies, The Victorian Age in Literature
      • “To do Mohammed justice, his main attack was against the idolatries of Asia. Only he thought, just as the Arians did and just as the Unitarians do, that he could attack them better with a greater approximation to plain theism. What distinguishes his heresy from anything like an Arian or Albigensian heresy is that, as it sprang up on the borders of Christendom, it could spread outwards to a barbaric world.” – A Note on Comparative Religion, Where All Roads Lead
      • “When people talk as if the Crusades were nothing more than an aggressive raid against Islam, they seem to forget in the strangest way that Islam itself was only an aggressive raid against the old and ordered civilization in these parts. I do not say it in mere hostility to the religion of Mahomet; I am fully conscious of many values and virtues in it; but certainly it was Islam that was the invasion and Christendom that was the thing invaded.” The Way of the Desert, The New Jerusalem
      • “The effort of the Crusades was sufficient to stop the advance of Islam, but not sufficient to exhaust it. A few centuries after, the Moslem attacked once more, with modern weapons and in a more indifferent age; and, amid the disputes of diplomatists and the dying debates of the Reformation, he succeeded in sailing up the Danube and nearly becoming a central European Power like Poland or Austria. From this position, after prodigious efforts, he was slowly and painfully dislodged. But Austria, though rescued, was exhausted and reluctant to pursue, and the Turk was left in possession of the countries he had devoured in his advance.” – ILN, Oct. 10, 1914
      • “Islam was something like a Christian heresy. The early heresies had been full of mad reversals and evasions of the Incarnation, rescuing their Jesus from the reality of his body even at the expense of the sincerity of his soul.” – The Age of the Crusades, A Short History of England
      • “Now a man preaching what he thinks is a platitude is far more intolerant than a man preaching what he admits is a paradox. It was exactly because it seemed self-evident, to Moslems as to Bolshevists, that their simple creed was suited to everybody, that they wished in that particular sweeping fashion to impose it on everybody. It was because Islam was broad that Moslems were narrow. And because it was not a hard religion it was a heavy rule. Because it was without a self-correcting complexity, it allowed of those simple and masculine but mostly rather dangerous appetites that show themselves in a chieftain or a lord. As it had the simplest sort of religion, monotheism, so it had the simplest sort of government, monarchy. There was exactly the same direct spirit in its despotism as in its deism. The Code, the Common Law, the give and take of charters and chivalric vows, did not grow in that golden desert. The great sun was in the sky and the great Saladin was in his tent, and he must be obeyed unless he were assassinated. Those who complain of our creeds as elaborate often forget that the elaborate Western creeds have produced the elaborate Western constitutions; and that they are elaborate because they are emancipated.” – The Fall of Chivalry, The New Jerusalem
      • “There is in Islam a paradox which is perhaps a permanent menace. The great creed born in the desert creates a kind of ecstasy out of the very emptiness of its own land, and even, one may say, out of the emptiness of its own theology. It affirms, with no little sublimity, something that is not merely the singleness but rather the solitude of God. There is the same extreme simplification in the solitary figure of the Prophet; and yet this isolation perpetually reacts into its own opposite. A void is made in the heart of Islam which has to be filled up again and again by a mere repetition of the revolution that founded it. There are no sacraments; the only thing that can happen is a sort of apocalypse, as unique as the end of the world; so the apocalypse can only be repeated and the world end again and again. There are no priests; and yet this equality can only breed a multitude of lawless prophets almost as numerous as priests. The very dogma that there is only one Mahomet produces an endless procession of Mahomets. Of these the mightiest in modern times were the man whose name was Ahmed, and whose more famous title was the Mahdi; and his more ferocious successor Abdullahi, who was generally known as the Khalifa. These great fanatics, or great creators of fanaticism, succeeded in making a militarism almost as famous and formidable as that of the Turkish Empire on whose frontiers it hovered, and in spreading a reign of terror such as can seldom be organised except by civilisation…” – Lord Kitchener
      • “…but out of the desert, from the dry places and the dreadful suns, come the cruel children of the lonely God; the real Unitarians who with scimitar in hand have laid waste the world. For it is not well for God to be alone.” – The Romance of Orthodoxy, Orthodoxy

 

Atheism

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      • “Atheism is indeed the most daring of all dogmas . . . for it is the assertion of a universal negative.” – Charles II, Twelve Types
      • “It is still bad taste to be an avowed atheist. But now it is equally bad taste to be an avowed Christian.” – Introductory Remarks, Heretics
      • “There is no bigot like the atheist.” – Magic
      • “The atheist is not interested in anything except attacks on atheism.” – Frozen Free Thought, The Well and the Shallows
      • “An interesting essay might be written on the possession of an atheistic literary style. There is such a thing. The mark of it is that wherever anything is named or described, such words are chosen as suggest that the thing has not got a soul in it. Thus they will not talk of love or passion, which imply a purpose and a desire. They talk of the “relations” of the sexes, as if they were simply related to each other in a certain way, like a chair and a table. Thus they will not talk of the waging of war (which implies a will), but of the outbreak of war – as if it were a sort of boil. Thus they will not talk of masters paying more or less wages, which faintly suggests some moral responsibility in the masters: they will talk of the rise and fall of wages, as if the thing were automatic, like the tides of the sea. Thus they will not call progress an attempt to improve, but a tendency to improve. And thus, above all, they will not call the sympathy between oppressed nations sympathy; they will call it solidarity. For that suggests brick and coke, and clay and mud, and all the things they are fond of.” – ILN, 12-7-12
      • “Progress is Providence without God. That is, it is a theory that everything has always perpetually gone right by accident. It is a sort of atheistic optimism, based on an everlasting coincidence far more miraculous than a miracle.” – Wells and the World State, What I Saw in America
      • “There are arguments for atheism, and they do not depend, and never did depend, upon science. They are arguable enough, as far as they go, upon a general survey of life; only it happens to be a superficial survey of life.” – ILN, 1-3-31
      • “I do not feel any contempt for an atheist, who is often a man limited and constrained by his own logic to a very sad simplification.” – Babies and Distributism, The Well and the Shallows
      • “Even in an empire of atheists the dead man is always sacred.” – The Meaning of Dreams, Lunacy and Letters
      • “Somehow one can never manage to be an atheist.” – The Ball and the Cross
      • “If there were no God, there would be no atheists.” – Where All Roads Lead

 

There are two kinds of…

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      • “There are two kinds of peacemakers in the modern world; and they are both, though in various ways, a nuisance. The first peacemaker is the man who goes about saying that he agrees with everybody. He confuses everybody. The second peacemaker is the man who goes about saying that everybody agrees with him. He enrages everybody. Between the two of them they produce a hundred times more disputes and distractions than we poor pugnacious people would ever have thought of in our lives.” – ILN, 3-3-06
      • “There are in this world of ours only two kinds of speakers. The first is the man who is making a good speech and won’t finish. The second is the man who is making a bad speech and can’t finish. The latter is the longer.” – ILN, 2-24-06
      • “There are two kinds of charlatan: the man who is called a charlatan, and the man who really is one. The first is the quack who cures you; the second is the highly qualified person who doesn’t.” – ILN, 2-15-08
      • “There are two kinds of revolutionists, as of most things – a good kind and a bad. The bad revolutionists destroy conventions by appealing to fads – fashions that are newer than conventions. The good do it by appealing to facts that are older than conventions.” ILN, 4-30-10
      • “There are only two kinds of social structure conceivable – personal government and impersonal government. If my anarchic friends will not have rules – they will have rulers. Preferring personal government, with its tact and flexibility, is called Royalism. Preferring impersonal government, with its dogmas and definitions, is called Republicanism. Objecting broadmindedly both to kings and creeds is called Bosh.” – Imperialism, What’s Wrong with the World
      • “There are two kinds of paradoxes. They are not so much the good and the bad, nor even the true and the false. Rather they are the fruitful and the barren; the paradoxes which produce life and the paradoxes that merely announce death. Nearly all modern paradoxes merely announce death.” ILN, 3-11-11
      • “There are two kinds of fires. the Bad Fire and the Good Fire. And the paradox is that the Good Fire is made of bad things, of things that we do not want; but the Bad Fire is made of good things, of things that we do want.” – The Wrong Incendiary, A Miscellany of Men
      • “There are only two kinds of people, those who accept dogmas and know it, and those who accept dogmas and don’t know it.” – The Mercy of Mr. Arnold Bennett, Fancies vs. Fads
      • “There are two kinds of rebellion. The first is one in which the slave demands something that the tyrant has got. The second is one in which he demands something that the tyrant has not got.”- ILN, 8-16-24
      • “There are only two kinds of ballads. There are sad ballads about broken hearts and cheerful ballads about broken heads.” – The Voice of Shelley, Apostle and the Wild Ducks

 

There are two ways…

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      • “It is perfectly obvious that in any decent occupation (such as bricklaying or writing books) there are only two ways (in any special sense) of succeeding. One is by doing very good work, the other is by cheating.” – The Fallacy of Success, All Things Considered
      • “There are only two ways of governing: by a rule and by a ruler.” – The Queen and the Suffragettes, What’s Wrong with the World
      • “There are two ways of being bloodless – by the avoidance of blood without, and by the absence of blood within.” – ILN, 8-3-18
      • “There are two ways of dealing with nonsense in this world. One way is to put nonsense in the right place; as when people put nonsense into nursery rhymes. The other is to put nonsense in the wrong place; as when they put it into educational addresses, psychological criticisms, and complaints against nursery rhymes.” ILN, 10-15-21
      • “There are two ways of getting home; and one of them is to stay there.” – Introduction. The Everlasting Man
      • “There are two ways of dealing with the dignity, the pain, the prejudice or the rooted humour of the poor; especially of the rural poor. One of them is to see in their tragedy only a stark simplicity, like the outline of a rock; the other is to see in it an unfathomable though a savage complexity, like the labyrinthine complexity of a living forest.” – A Shropshire Lass, GKC as MC
      • “There are two ways of renouncing the devil,” said Father Brown; “and the difference is perhaps the deepest chasm in modern religion. One is to have a horror of him because he is so far off; and the other to have it because he is so near. And no virtue and vice are so much divided as those two virtues.” – The Secret of Flambeau
      • “There are two ways in which a man may vanish – through being thoroughly conquered or through being thoroughly the Conqueror. . . For a man may vanish as Chaos vanished in the face of creation, or he may vanish as God vanished in filling all things with that created life.” – Tennyson, A Handful of Authors

 

Courage

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      • “Alone of all creeds, Christianity has added courage to the virtues of the Creator. For the only courage worth calling courage must necessarily mean that the soul passes a breaking point and does not break.” – Orthodoxy
      • “The new school of art and thought does indeed wear an air of audacity, and breaks out everywhere into blasphemies, as if it required any courage to say a blasphemy. There is only one thing that it requires real courage to say, and that is a truism.” – G.F.Watts, 1904
      • “The professional soldier gains more and more power as the general courage of a community declines.” – Heretics, 1905
      • “It is the first law of practical courage. To be in the weakest camp is to be in the strongest school.” – Heretics
      • “Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of a readiness to die.” – Orthodoxy
      • “There is not really any courage at all in attacking hoary or antiquated things, any more than in offering to fight one’s grandmother. The really courageous man is he who defies tyrannies young as the morning and superstitions fresh as the first flowers. The only true free-thinker is he whose intellect is as much free from the future as from the past.” – What’s Wrong with the World
      • “I would rather a boy learnt in the roughest school the courage to hit a politician, or gained in the hardest school the learning to refute him – rather than that he should gain in the most enlightened school the cunning to copy him.” – ILN, 8-31-12
      • “There should be a burnished tablet let into the ground on the spot where some courageous man first ate Stilton cheese, and survived.” – The Poet and the Cheese, A Miscellany of Men

 

Friendship

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      • “Comradeship is quite a different thing from friendship. . .” – ILN, May 19, 1906
      • “. . . For friendship implies individuality; whereas comradeship really implies the temporary subordination, if not the temporary swamping of individuality. Friends are the better for being two; but comrades are the better for being two million.” – A Case of Comrades, The Apostle and the Wild Ducks
      • “Only friendliness produces friendship. And we must look far deeper into the soul of man for the thing that produces friendliness.” – What I Saw In America
      • “It is not merely true that a creed unites men. Nay, a difference of creed unites men – so long as it is a clear difference. A boundary unites. Many a magnanimous Moslem and chivalrous Crusader must have been nearer to each other, because they were both dogmatists, than any two agnostics. “I say God is One,” and “I say God is One but also Three,” that is the beginning of a good quarrelsome, manly friendship.” – The New Hypocrite, What’s Wrong with the World
      • “A queer and almost mad notion seems to have got into the modern head that, if you mix up everybody and everything more or less anyhow, the mixture may be called unity, and the unity may be called peace. It is supposed that, if you break down all doors and walls so that there is no domesticity, there will then be nothing but friendship. Surely somebody must have noticed by this time that the men living in a hotel quarrel at least as often as the men living in a street.” – ILN, September 8, 1917
      • “These are the things which might conceivably and truly make men forgive their enemies. We can only turn hate to love by understanding what are the things that men have loved; nor is it necessary to ask men to hate their loves in order to love one another. Just as two grocers are most likely to be reconciled when they remember for a moment that they are two fathers, so two nationals are most likely to be reconciled when they remember (if only for a moment) that they are two patriots.” – ILN, June 4, 1921
      • “Because our expression is imperfect we need friendship to fill up the imperfections.” – Illustrated London News, June 6, 1931

 

Liberty

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      • “The only object of liberty is life.” – Irish Impressions p. 219
      • “The eagle has no liberty; he only has loneliness.” – The Free Man, A Miscellany of Men
      • “Liberty is the very last idea that seems to occur to anybody, in considering any political or social proposal. It is only necessary for anybody for any reason to allege any evidence of any evil in any human practice, for people instantly to suggest that the practice should be suppressed by the police.” – Illustrated London News, June 5, 1920
      • “Every sane man recognises that unlimited liberty is anarchy, or rather is nonentity. The civic idea of liberty is to give the citizen a province of liberty; a limitation within which a citizen is a king.” – The Story of the Family, The Superstition of Divorce
      • “Religious unity can look like a carnival and religious liberty can look like a funeral.” – ILN, December 28, 1929
      • “Without authority there is no liberty. Freedom is doomed to destruction at every turn, unless there is a recognized right to freedom. And if there are rights, there is an authority to which we appeal for them.” – G.K.’s Weekly, April 28, 1928
      • “The man of the true religious tradition understands two things: liberty and obedience. The first means knowing what you really want. The second means knowing what you really trust.” – G.K.’s Weekly, August 18, 1928

 

The Skeptic

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      • “It is assumed that the sceptic has no bias; whereas he has a very obvious bias in favour of scepticism.” – ILN, 5-4-07
      • “Pride consists in a man making his personality the only test, instead of making truth the test. The sceptic feels himself too large to measure life by the largest things; and ends by measuring it by the smallest thing of all.” – The Common Man
      • “It is the decisive people who have become civilised; it is the indecisive, otherwise called the higher sceptics, or the idealistic doubters, who have remained barbarians.” – ILN, 11-30-12
      • “Latter-day scepticism is fond of calling itself progressive; but scepticism is really reactionary. Scepticism goes back; it attempts to unsettle what has already been settled. Instead of trying to break up new fields with its plough, it simply tries to break up the plough.” – ILN, 2-6-09
      • “No sceptical philosopher can ask any questions that may not equally be asked by a tired child on a hot afternoon.” – George Bernard Shaw
      • “The sceptics, like bees, give their one sting and die.” – Alarms and Discursions
      • “It is quite an old-fashioned fallacy to suppose that our objection to scepticism is that it removes the discipline from life. Our objection to scepticism is that it removes the motive power. Materialism is not a thing which destroys mere restraint. Materialism itself is the great restraint.” – Heretics
      • “It is ludicrous to suppose that the more sceptical we are the more we see good in everything. It is clear that the more we are certain what good is, the more we shall see good in everything.” – Heretics
      • “Liberty has produced scepticism, and scepticism has destroyed liberty. The lovers of liberty thought they were leaving it unlimited, when they were only leaving it undefined. They thought they were only leaving it undefined, when they were really leaving it undefended.” – Eugenics and Other Evils
      • “The sceptic ultimately undermines democracy (1) because he can see no significance in death and such things of a literal equality; (2) because he introduces different first principles, making debate impossible: and debate is the life of democracy; (3) because the fading of the images of sacred persons leaves a man too prone to be a respecter of earthly persons; (4) because there will be more, not less, respect for human rights if they can be treated as divine rights.” – ILN, 1-13-12
      • “The average businessman began to be agnostic, not so much because he did not know where he was, as because he wanted to forget. Many of the rich took to scepticism exactly as the poor took to drink; because it was a way out.” – Eugenics and Other Evils

 

Today’s World

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    • “A great curse has fallen upon modern life with the discovery of the vastness of the word Education.” – A Grammar of Shelley, A Handful of Authors
    • “A strange fanaticism fills our time: the fanatical hatred of morality, especially of Christian morality.” – The Moral Philosophy of Meredith, A Handful of Authors
    • “Moderns have not the moral courage, as a rule, to avow the sincere spiritual bias behind their fads; they become insincere even about their sincerity. Most modern liberality consists of finding irreligious excuses for religious bigotry. The earlier type of bigot pretended to be more religious than he really was. The later type pretends to be less religious than he really is. He does not wear a mask of piety, but rather a mask of impiety – or, at any rate, of indifference.” – Illustrated London News, 12-27-19
    • “A fad or heresy is the exaltation of something which even if true, is secondary or temporary in its nature against those things which are essential and eternal, those things which always prove themselves true in the long run. In short, it is the setting up of the mood against the mind.” – William Blake, p. 168
    • “The sort of man who admires Italian art while despising Italian religion is a tourist and a cad.” – Roman Converts, Dublin Review, Jan-Mar. 1925
    • “I might inform those humanitarians who have a nightmare of new and needless babies (for some humanitarians have that sort of horror of humanity) that if the recent decline in the birth-rate were continued for a certain time, it might end in there being no babies at all; which would console them very much.” – ILN, 5-24-30
    • “We lose our bearings entirely by speaking of the ‘lower classes’ when we mean humanity minus ourselves.” – A Defence of Penny Dreadfuls, The Defendant
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