An Atheist’s Epitaph

Beyond the universe there is nothing and within the universe the supernatural does not and cannot exist. Of all deceivers who have plagued mankind, none are so deeply ruinous to human happiness as those impostors who pretend to lead by a light above nature. Science has never killed or persecuted a single person for doubting or denying its teachings, and most of these teachings have been true; but religion has murdered millions for doubting or denying her dogmas, and most of these dogmas have been false.

That’s the epitaph on the gravestone of George F. Spencer… who died in 1908.

The New Atheism really isn’t so new.

(via Futility Closet — Thanks to Aaron for the link)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • KristenPB

    A neatly-turned response to the irritating xtian statements such as : “So-and-so the atheist is dead. Guess he isn’t atheist anymore! Hahahahahahahaha!”. They only illustrate their own presumption and blindness with such pronouncements, but they, of course, don’t realize it.

  • Gaby A.

    This is perfect.  I took the epitaph and plugged it into the banner generator in your previous post, looked pretty nice. :-)

  • Daniel

    George P. Spencer, not F.

    The full epitaph is:

       Science has never killed or persecuted a single person for doubting or denying its teaching, and most of these teaching have been true; but religion has murdered millions for doubting or denying her dogmas and most of these dogmas have been false.
       All stories about gods and devils, of heavens and hells, as they do not conform to nature, and are not apparent to sense, should be rejected without consideration.
       Beyond the universe there is nothing and within the universe the supernatural does not and cannot exist.
       Of all deceivers who have plagued mankind, none are so deeply ruinous to human happiness as those imposters who pretend to lead by a light above nature.
       The lips of the dead are closed forever.  There comes no voice from the tomb.  Christianity is responsible for having cast the fable of eternal fire over almost every grave.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Luther-Weeks/100001027655434 Luther Weeks

    “Beyond the universe there is nothing. “  May depend on what is defined as the universe.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mike-Weaver/100000377905225 Mike Weaver

    I don’t know…plenty have been exposed to violence and torture in the advancement of science. THIS is as much propaganda as religion is.

  • Bsalter

    Some revisions are appropriate… (Hey, something from 1908 is bound to need some kind of re-write, right?)
    1. Sentence 1: “the supernatural does not and cannot exist” doesn’t accurately reflect the atheist belief. I’d change it to something like “there is no evidence to support the existence of the supernatural, and no reason to make it’s existence necessary”.
    2. Sentence 3: Actually, the practitioners of science have persecuted, that’s just what humans do when they’re in groups. (We kinda suck that way.)
    3. Sentence 3: “…and most of these teachings have been true” Nope. (Ever heard of phlogistons?) But good science is open to differing hypothesis, and open to change based upon evidence.

    • http://twitter.com/ErnestValdemar Ernest Valdemar

      Re. 1): Speak for yourself. There’s no such thing as “the atheist belief,” and I personally contend that “the supernatural” is an incoherent concept. Anything that can be shown to exist is by definition natural. 

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_RPPWVLMFKJ7QCHLEVQAR5GSL5M momma J

            I’m pretty sure that if I came out and said that I do not believe in evolution, but instead believe in the Biblical account of creation that I might catch some persecution my way. I would be called stupid, ignorant, uneducated , and superstitious. I do believe in a biblical creation and yet I don’t believe either of those descriptors are accurate descriptors of myself. That’s not the point. The point is that persecution does exist for those who might not agree with scientific explanations unless they happen to be within the scientific community themselves.

           As a science teacher, I love science, but see that it has flaws because it is a tool that has been made by flawed people. Peer review and reproducibility is the best that we can do when it comes to validating one’s research. It doesn’t mean that it is right but it can certainly shrink the window of things being plausible or not. Especially when you dig down deep into the contemporary topics. We have models and descriptions of how we think things work. But just like the model of the atom has changed over the years, some descriptions are simply limited by our finite minds. Saying science, a tool made by man, is infallible is a bit presumptuous in my opinion. Science gives us clues to answer a lot of questions, but I don’t think it answers everything.

      As for the “new atheist” movement. I’m not for sure if I understand where that term is coming from or what is meant by it. I would say the movement has its origins dating back to the days of the renaissance and has been expanding since. Maybe someone could clear this up for me a bit more?

      • Anonymous

        Being called names is not persecution. Persecution is being forced to recant, tortured, killed, driven from your home, etc. Don’t compare what might happen to you with what religion has done to people!

        BTW, if you’re a science teacher, I hope you keep your non-scientific belief in a biblical creation out of the classroom, and teach what science has to say about evolution.

      • http://astoundingathiest.blogspot.com/ Ben268268

        Science may be flawed, but it’s a heck of alot better method than religion. I’m reminded of a quote from Carl Sagan.”There is no other species on Earth that does science. It is, so far, entirely a
        human invention, evolved by natural selection in the cerebral cortex for one
        simple reason: it works. It is not perfect. It can be misused. It is only a
        tool. But it is by far the best tool we have, self-correcting, ongoing,
        applicable to everything.”

        • Ben268268

          Sorry about the odd format on that, I cut and paste the quote, and apparently it kept it’s old formatting.

  • http://twitter.com/ErnestValdemar Ernest Valdemar

    BTW, Here’s Mr. Spencer’s grave at Find A Grave. With photos.

    “Spencer was a stonecutter who carved his own epitaph before he died. When it was unveiled, his acquaintances in life were suprised to see . . .”

  • ORAXX

    I wish I could have met Mr. Spencer.


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