It is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence. ... The fact that believers have found joy and peace in believing gives us the right to say that the doctrine is a comfortable doctrine, and pleasant to the soul; but it does not give us the right to say that it is true. ~ William Kingdon Clifford
Believe nothing, O monks, merely because you have been told it … or because it is traditional, or because you yourselves have imagined it. Do not believe what your teacher tells you merely out of respect for the teacher. But whatsoever, after due examination and analysis, you find to be conducive to the good, the benefit, the welfare of all beings—that doctrine believe and cling to, and take it as your guide. ~ Guatama Buddha

Belief is the psychological state in which an individual holds a proposition or premise to be true.


  • He who wishes to learn must believe.
    • Aristotle, Sophistical Refutations, ch. 2.2: 165b.
    • Translation from Josef Pieper, Faith, Hope, Love (1986). San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1997, p. 13.
  • Don't you believe in flying saucers, they ask me? Don't you believe in telepathy? — in ancient astronauts? — in the Bermuda triangle? — in life after death?
    No, I reply. No, no, no, no, and again no.
    One person recently, goaded into desperation by the litany of unrelieved negation, burst out "Don't you believe in anything?"
    "Yes", I said. "I believe in evidence. I believe in observation, measurement, and reasoning, confirmed by independent observers. I'll believe anything, no matter how wild and ridiculous, if there is evidence for it. The wilder and more ridiculous something is, however, the firmer and more solid the evidence will have to be."
    • Isaac Asimov (1997) The Roving Mind. Prometheus Books. p. 349
  • There are three kinds of objects of belief. Some are always believed and never understood, such as all history, which runs through temporal and human acts. Others must be understood to be believed, such as all human reasonings. Thirdly, there are those which must be believed first and understood later, like divine matters.
  • Do you believe in fairies?...If you believe, clap your hands! Don't let Tinker die.
  • Whenever a child says "I don't believe in fairies" there's a little fairy somewhere that falls right down dead.


  • And what is meant by believing in Christ but just going with trusting and loving hearts, and committing to His love and power ourselves, our souls, and all that concerns us for time and eternity!
  • Believe nothing, O monks, merely because you have been told it … or because it is traditional, or because you yourselves have imagined it. Do not believe what your teacher tells you merely out of respect for the teacher. But whatsoever, after due examination and analysis, you find to be conducive to the good, the benefit, the welfare of all beings—that doctrine believe and cling to, and take it as your guide.
    • Attributed to Buddha in Life (March 7, 1955), p. 102. Listed as "unverified in his writings" in Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989). (This is a summary of the Kalama Sutta attributed to Buddha.)
  • Ideo credendum quod incredibile.
    • It is believable because unbelievable.
      • Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy (1621), Quoting Tertullian.
  • For fools are stubborn in their way,
    As coins are harden'd by th' allay;
    And obstinacy's ne'er so stiff
    As when 'tis in a wrong belief.


  • Scripture points out this difference between believers and unbelievers; the latter, as old slaves of their incurable perversity, cannot endure the rod; but the former, like children of noble birth, profit by repentance and correction.
    • John Calvin Golden Booklet of the True Christian Life, pg. 57.
  • No iron chain, or outward force of any kind, could ever compel the soul of man to believe or to disbelieve: it is his own indefeasible light, that judgment of his; he will reign and believe there by the grace of God alone!
  • A man with a definite belief always appears bizarre, because he does not change with the world; he has climbed into a fixed star, and the earth whizzes below him like a zoetrope. Millions of mild black-coated men call themselves sane and sensible merely because they always catch the fashionable insanity, because they are hurried into madness after madness by the maelstrom of the world.
  • We should never believe anything we have not dared to doubt.
    • Christina, Queen of Sweden, Maxims of a Queen, selected and translated by Una Birch (London: John Lane, The Bodley Head, 1907), p. 27.
  • To believe everything is weakness, to believe nothing folly.
    • Christina, Queen of Sweden, Maxims of a Queen, selected and translated by Una Birch (London: John Lane, The Bodley Head, 1907), p. 32.
  • If a man, holding a belief which he was taught in childhood or persuaded of afterwards, keeps down and pushes away any doubts which arise about it in his mind, purposely avoids the reading of books and the company of men that call into question or discuss it, and regards as impious those questions which cannot easily be asked without disturbing itthe life of that man is one long sin against mankind.
  • Belief, that sacred faculty which prompts the decisions of our will, and knits into harmonious working all the compacted energies of our being, is ours not for ourselves but for humanity. It is rightly used on truths which have been established by long experience and waiting toil, and which have stood in the fierce light of free and fearless questioning. Then it helps to bind men together, and to strengthen and direct their common action. It is desecrated when given to unproved and unquestioned statements, for the solace and private pleasure of the believer.
  • The fact that believers have found joy and peace in believing gives us the right to say that the doctrine is a comfortable doctrine, and pleasant to the soul; but it does not give us the right to say that it is true. And the question which our conscience is always asking about that which we are tempted to believe is not, "Is it comfortable and pleasant?" but, "Is it true?"
  • He who begins by loving Christianity better than Truth, will proceed by loving his own sect or Church better than Christianity, and end in loving himself better than all.
  • Believe, and if thy belief be right, that insight which gradually transmutes faith into knowledge will be the reward of that belief.
  • He that will believe only what he can fully comprehend, must have a very long head, or a very short creed.


  • I would rather work with five people who really believe in what they are doing rather than five hundred who can't see the point.


  • Dionysus: He who believes needs no explanation.
    Pentheus: What's the worth in believing worthless things?
    Dionysus: Much worth, but not worth telling you, it seems.


  • I am a lover of truth, a worshipper of freedom, a celebrant at the altar of language and purity and tolerance. That is my religion, and every day I am sorely, grossly, heinously and deeply offended, wounded, mortified and injured by a thousand different blasphemies against it. When the fundamental canons of truth, honesty, compassion and decency are hourly assaulted by fatuous bishops, pompous, illiberal and ignorant priests, politicians and prelates, sanctimonious censors, self-appointed moralists and busy-bodies, what recourse of ancient laws have I? None whatever. Nor would I ask for any. For unlike these blistering imbeciles my belief in my religion is strong and I know that lies will always fail and indecency and intolerance will always perish.
    • Stephen Fry, in his "Trefusis Blasphemes" radio broadcast, as published in Paperweight (1993).
  • He does not believe that does not live according to his belief.


  • What is true is already so. Owning up to it doesn't make it worse. Not being open about it doesn't make it go away. And because it's true, it is what is there to be interacted with. Anything untrue isn't there to be lived. People can stand what is true, for they are already enduring it.
  • Where knowledge suffices, we have no need of belief; but where knowledge does not prove its virtue or appears insufficient, we should not dispute the rights of belief.
    • Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, letter to J. D. Falk (January 25, 1813), in Werke, Briefe und Gespräche (Zurich: Artemis-Ausgabe, 1949), Vol. 22, p. 680.


  • I always divide people into two groups. Those who live by what they know to be a lie, and those who live by what they believe, falsely, to be the truth.
  • The Savage interrupted him. "But isn't it natural to feel there's a God?"

    "You might as well ask if it's natural to do up one's trousers with zippers," said the Controller sarcastically. "You remind me of another of those old fellows called Bradley. He defined philosophy as the finding of bad reason for what one believes by instinct. As if one believed anything by instinct! One believes things because one has been conditioned to believe them. Finding bad reasons for what one believes for other bad reasons–that's philosophy. People believe in God because they've been conditioned to.


  • Be not afraid of life. Believe that life is worth living, and your belief will help create the fact.
    • William James, in "Is Life Worth Living?" The Will to Believe and Other Essays in Popular Philosophy (1897).
  • Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe.
    • Jesus, as quoted in Gospel of John 4:48
  • Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.
    • Jesus, John 20:27


  • Believe, when you are most unhappy, that there is something for you to do in the world.
  • If it were so, as conceited sagacity, proud of not being deceived, thinks, that we should believe nothing that we cannot see with our physical eyes, then we first and foremost ought to give up believing in love. If we were to do so and do it out of fear lest we be deceived, would we not then be deceived? We can, of course, be deceived in many ways. We can be deceived by believing what is untrue, but we certainly are also deceived by not believing what is true. We can be deceived by appearances, but we certainly are also deceived by the sagacious appearance, by the flattering conceit that considers itself absolutely secure against being deceived. Which deception is more dangerous? Whose recovery is more doubtful, that of the one who does not see, or that of the person who sees and yet does not see? What is more difficult—to awaken someone who is sleeping or to awaken someone who, awake, is dreaming that he is awake?
  • Believing something to be true is a complicated affair. It may consist in taking something to be true, pure and simple; or it may consist in believing, but not knowing, something to be true—that is, entertaining doubts about its truth. In the former case the difference between belief and knowledge may not arise. It does in the latter.
  • To succeed, we must first believe that we can.
    • Michael Korda, as quoted in Marketing Construction Services (2000) by Paul Pryor, p. 14.


  • I think it’s okay to believe in anything that makes you a better person, whether it’s real or not. You have to believe in something. Me, I choose to believe in nothing, with all my heart, and I am a better person for it.
    • Adam Marek, Grandma’s Dragon, in Robin D. Laws (ed.) The Lion and the Aardvark (2013), ISBN 978-1-908983-02-2, p. 223
  • Give to us clear vision that we may know where to stand and what to stand for—because unless we stand for something, we shall fall for anything.
    • Peter Marshall, Senate chaplain, prayer offered at the opening of the session (April 18, 1947); reported in Prayers Offered by the Chaplain, the Rev. Peter Marshall, 1947–1948 (1949), p. 20, Senate Doc. 80–170.
  • Belief is a beautiful armor, but makes for the heaviest sword; like punching underwater, you never can hit who you're trying for.
  • The long duration of a belief, he thought, is at least proof of an adaption in it to some portion or other of the human mind; and if, on digging down to the root, we do not find, as is generally the case, some truth, we shall find some natural want or requirement of human nature which the doctrine in question is fitted to satisfy: among which wants the instincts of selfishness and of credulity have a place, but by no means an exclusive one.
  • A man may be a heretic in the truth; and if he believe things only because his pastor says so, or the assembly so determine, without knowing other reason, though his belief be true, yet the very truth he holds becomes his heresy.


  • Nothing is so firmly believed as that which we least know.
  • We believe, because we love.
    • John Henry Newman, "Love the Safeguard of Faith against Superstition" (preached on 21 May 1839), in Oxford University Sermons (London, 1880), p. 236.


  • Consciously or unconsciously, the strategy of true believers is to isolate themselves from skeptics.
  • Incrédules les plus crédules. Ils croient les miracles de Vespasien, pour ne pas croire ceux de Mose.
    • The incredulous are the most credulous. They believe the miracles of Vespasian that they may not believe those of Moses.
    • Blaise Pascal, Pensèes (1669), II, XVII. 120.
  • The simple believes everything, But the prudent man carefully considers his ways.
    • Proverbs 14:15, World English Bible
  • Seeing is beleeving.
    • Parœmiologia Anglo-Latina, a collection of proverbs in English and Latin that was published in London in 1639 by John Clarke (1596?-1658).


  • Believe as hard as you want to. But convincing yourself however firmly still can’t change the reality of things. Seeing is believing. But seeing isn’t knowing. Believing isn’t knowing. Subjective convictions are meaningless in science, and eyewitness testimony is the least reliable form of evidence.
  • If you believe in the sinfulness of the world, for instance, then you will search out from normal sense data those facts that confirm your belief. But beyond that, at other levels you also organize your mental world in such a way that attracts to yourself events that - again - will confirm your beliefs.
    • Jane Roberts, The Individual and the Nature of Mass Events, Session 833, Page 163.
  • To believe is to be happy; to doubt is to be wretched. To believe is to be strong. Doubt cramps energy. Belief is power. Only so far as a man believes strongly, mightily, can he act cheerfully, or do any thing that is worth the doing.
  • Man is a credulous animal, and must believe something; in the absence of good ground for belief, he will be satisfied with bad ones.
    • Bertrand Russell, in "An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish" in Unpopular Essays (1950).
  • Man is essentially a dreamer, wakened sometimes for a moment by some peculiarly obtrusive element in the outer world, but lapsing again quickly into the happy somnolence of imagination. Freud has shown how largely our dreams at night are the pictured fulfilment of our wishes; he has, with an equal measure of truth, said the same of day-dreams; and he might have included the day-dreams which we call beliefs.


  • A thing that nobody believes cannot be proved too often.
  • For the heart, it needs to believe.
  • Take you up when you feeling down
    When you're sick he will come around
    Takes his cures from out the ground
    He's the one who can hypnotize
    And you'll never believe your eyes
    He can cause the dead to rise.
    • 10cc Erik Stewart and Graham Gouldman. Baron Samedi from the album Sheet Music
  • One needs something to believe in, something for which one can have whole-hearted enthusiasm. One needs to feel that one's life has meaning, that one is needed in this world.


  • Know how to rank beliefs not according to their plausibility but by the harm they may cause.
    • Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable (2007) Ch. 13: Appelles the Painter, or What Do You Do If You Cannot Predict? p. 203.


  • Only those who doubt really believe, and those who do not doubt are neither tempted against their faith nor do they truly believe.
    • Miguel de Unamuno, The Life of Don Quixote and Sancho (1914), Part 2, Ch. 10, in Selected Works of Miguel de Unamuno, Volume 3, translated by Anthony Kerrigan (Bollingen Series LXXXV.3/Princeton University Press, 1967), p. 174


  • For those who believe, no explanation is necessary; for those who do not believe, no explanation is possible.
    • Franz Werfel, as quoted in Philippine Studies (1953) by Ateneo de Manila, p. 269; also in Everest: The Mountaineering History (2000) by Walt Unsworth, p. 100
  • I once had an understanding that everything would go my way
    But now we’ve come too far along for me to hold on to my own beliefs.
  • I had never doubted my own abilities, but I was quite prepared to believe that "the world" would decline to recognize them.
  • Belief is the death of intelligence. As soon as one believes a doctrine of any sort, or assumes certitude, one stops thinking about that aspect of existence.
  • There littleness was not; the least of things
    Seemed infinite; and there his spirit shaped
    Her prospects, nor did he believe,—He saw.
  • One solace yet remains for us who came
    Into this world in days when story lacked
    Severe research, that in our hearts we know
    How, for exciting youth's heroic flame,
    Assent is power, belief the soul of fact.
  • I am not going to question your opinions. I am not going to meddle with your belief. I am not going to dictate to you mine. All that I say is, examine; enquire. Look into the nature of things. Search out the ground of your opinions, the for and the against. Know why you believe, understand what you believe, and possess a reason for the faith that is in you. ...
    But your spiritual teachers caution you against enquiry — tell you not to read certain books; not to listen to certain people; to beware of profane learning; to submit your reason, and to receive their doctrines for truths. Such advice renders them suspicious counsellors. By their own creed you hold your reason from their God. Go! ask them why he gave it.
    • Frances Wright, A Course of Popular Lectures (1829), Lecture III : Of the more Important Divisions and Essential Parts of Knowledge.


  • What ardently we wish, we soon believe.
    • Edward Young, Night Thoughts (1742-1745), Night VII, Part II, line 1311.

Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations

Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 66-67.
  • Fere libenter homines id, quod volunt, credunt.
    • Men willingly believe what they wish.
    • Julius Caesar, Bellum Gallicum, III, 18.
  • There is no unbelief;
    Whoever plants a seed beneath the sod
    And waits to see it push away the clod,
    He trusts in God.
    • Elizabeth York Case, Unbelief.
  • Belief consists in accepting the affirmations of the soul; unbelief, in denying them.
  • Credat Judæus Apella non ego.
    • The Jew Apella may believe this, not I.
    • Horace, Satires, I. 5. 100.
  • Better trust all and be deceived,
    And weep that trust, and that deceiving,
    Than doubt one heart that, if believed,
    Had blessed one's life with true believing.
  • O thou, whose days are yet all spring,
    Faith, blighted once, is past retrieving;
    Experience is a dumb, dead thing;
    The victory's in believing.
  • They believed—faith, I'm puzzled—I think I may call
    Their belief a believing in nothing at all,
    Or something of that sort; I know they all went
    For a general union of total dissent.
  • A man may be a heretic in the truth; and if he believe things only because his pastor says so, or the assembly so determines, without knowing other reason, though his belief be true, yet the very truth he holds becomes his heresy.
  • Nothing is so firmly believed as what we least know.
  • Tarde quæ credita lædunt credimus.
    • We are slow to believe what if believed would hurt our feelings.
    • Ovid, Heroides, II. 9.
  • And when religious sects ran mad,
    He held, in spite of all his learning,
    That if a man's belief is bad,
    It will not be improved by burning.
  • Do not believe what I tell you here any more than if it were some tale of a tub.
    • François Rabelais, Works, Book IV, Chapter XXXVIII. ("Tale of a Tub," title of a work of Swift's).
  • I have believed the best of every man,
    And find that to believe it is enough
    To make a bad man show him at his best,
    Or even a good man swing his lantern higher.

Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers

Quotes reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895).

  • Begin by regarding every thing from a moral point of view, and you will end by believing in God.
  • The man who goes through life with an uncertain doctrine not knowing what he believes, what a poor, powerless creature he is! He goes around through the world as a man goes down through the street with a poor, wounded arm, forever dodging people he meets on the street for fear they may touch him.
  • If that impression does not remain on this intrepid and powerful people, into whose veins all nations pour their mingling blood, it will be our immense calamity. Public action, without it, will lose the dignity of consecration. Eloquence, without it, will miss what is loftiest, will give place to a careless and pulseless disquisition, or fall to the flatness of political slang. Life, without it, will lose its sacred and mystic charm. Society, without it, will fail of inspirations, and be drowned in an animalism whose rising tides will keep pace with its wealth.

See also

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