The HyperTexts

The Best Religious Epigrams and Spiritual Epigrams
The Best Ethical Quotes and Epigrams


compiled by Michael R. Burch

Introduction to Religious, Spiritual and Ethical Epigrams

This page contains some of the greatest religious, spiritual and moral/ethical epigrams of all time, along with information about the various types of epigrams, the history of epigrams, and the endlessly fascinating people who penned them. I have worked with the interests of students young and old in mind, so if you want to learn more about epigrams, hopefully you have found the right "launching pad." I will begin with a question:

What does this colorful crowd of characters have in common: Alexander the Great, Woody Allen, Aristotle, Buddha, Catherine the Great, the Dalai Lama, Dante, Albert Einstein, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Ben Franklin, Gandhi, Thomas Jefferson, Jesus, Helen Keller, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., Mohammed, Dorothy Parker, Rumi, Mark Twain and Oscar Wilde?

Answer: They all produced immortal epigrams! Now here, to whet your appetite, are some of my favorite religious, spiritual and ethical epigrams ...

Examples of Religious, Spiritual and Ethical Epigrams

The mystics of many religions, from Christianity to Sufism, and even agnostics and atheists have at times have had visions of what seems to be heaven:

Oh Wow!!! Oh Wow!!! Oh Wow!!!—Steve Jobs' last words
All shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.—Julian of Norwich, hearing the voice of God
The lion shall lie down with the lamb and a little child shall lead them.—A common rephrasing of Isaiah 11:6-8
I go to prepare a place for you.—Jesus Christ speaking to his disciples in John 14:3
Little sparks may ignite great Infernos.—Dante, translation by Michael R. Burch
And the greatest Inferno is Love.—Michael R. Burch
God is Love, and he who abides in Love abides in God, and God abides in him.—Saint John
Love suffers long, and is kind; envies not; seeks not her own; thinks no evil; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.—Saint Paul
Love never fails.—Saint Paul
And now faith, hope and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is Love.—Saint Paul, concluding his epistle on Divine Love
To love another person is to see the face of God.—Victor Hugo
That Love is all there is, is all we know of Love.—Emily Dickinson
All, everything that I understand, I understand only because I love.—Leo Tolstoy
Love is the strongest force the world possesses, and yet it is the humblest imaginable.—Mohandas Gandhi
Love distills the eyes’ desires, love bewitches the heart with its grace.—Euripides, translation by Michael R. Burch
Be not dishearten'd—Affection shall solve the problems of Freedom yet; those who love each other shall become invincible.—Walt Whitman
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.—Walt Whitman
Elevate your words, not their volume. Rain grows flowers, not thunder.—Rumi, translation by Michael R. Burch
The danger is not aiming too high and missing, but aiming too low and hitting the mark.—Michelangelo, translation by Michael R. Burch
Truths are more likely discovered by one man than nations.—RenÚ Descartes, translation by Michael R. Burch
My objective is not to side with the majority, but to avoid the ranks of the insane.—Marcus Aurelius, translation by Michael R. Burch
I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality ... I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.—Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

If like me you have a hard time reconciling the idea of unconditional love with an "eternal hell," you may be interested to hear what I discovered through intensive study and the application of logic: There is no "Hell" in the Bible.

Here are some of my other favorite religious, spiritual and ethical epigrams:

If you can't be a good example, you'll just have to be a horrible warning.—Catherine the Great
Bigotry is the sacred disease.—Heraclitus
We may have come in on different ships, but we're all in the same boat now.Martin Luther King, Jr.
We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.—Albert Einstein
I don't know about World War III, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.—Albert Einstein
Mankind must put an end to war, or war will put an end to mankind.—John F. Kennedy
I like your Christ, but not Christianity. You Christians are so unlike your Christ.—Mohandas Gandhi
My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.Dalai Lama
Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.—Mark Twain
A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination.—Nelson Mandela
What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans, and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or in the holy name of liberty or democracy?—Mohandas Gandhi

Believe nothing because it is written in books.
Believe nothing because wise men say it is so.
Believe nothing because it is religious doctrine.
Believe nothing, even if I said it, unless you yourself know it to be true.
—Buddha

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable man persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.George Bernard Shaw

Religious, Spiritual and Ethical Teachings

Some of the most important ethical and spiritual teachings of major world religions have been passed down to the world in the form of epigrams. Here are a few quick examples:

Yesterday I was clever, that is why I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, that is why I am changing myself.—Sri Chinmoy
Turn your wounds into wisdom.—Oprah Winfrey
To thy faith add knowledge, to thy actions, love, and thy presence among the people will be a benediction.—Order of the Amaranth
Though I speak with the tongues of men of angels, and have not love, I am become as a clanging gong or a tinkling cymbal.—Saint Paul
Blessed are the peacemakers.—Jesus
Judge not, that ye be not judged.—Jesus
Hypocrite! First remove the log from your own eye, then you can help remove the speck from your brother’s eye.—Jesus
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you: this is the Law and the Prophets.—Jesus
Kindness is a mark of faith, and whoever is not kind has no faith.—Mohammed
The most excellent jihad [struggle] is that for the conquest of self.—Mohammed
The ink of the scholar is more sacred than the blood of the martyr.—Mohammed
The rights of women are sacred. See that women are maintained in the rights assigned to them.—Mohammed
If you are irritated by every rub, how will your mirror ever get polished?—Rumi
You were born with wings, so why crawl through life?—Rumi
Oh God of dust and rainbows, help us see that without dust the rainbow would not be.—Langston Hughes
Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadows.—Helen Keller

By three methods we may learn wisdom:
first, by reflection, which is noblest;
second, by imitation, which is easiest;
and third by experience, which is the bitterest.
Confucius

Ring the bells that still can ring;
Forget your perfect offering .
There is a crack in everything:
That's how the light gets in.
Leonard Cohen

To be satisfied with a little, is the greatest wisdom;
and he that increaseth his riches, increaseth his cares;
but a contented mind is a hidden treasure, and trouble findeth it not.
Akhenaton

I expect to pass this way but once; any good therefore that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to any fellow creature. Let me do it now. Let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.—Etienne Griellet

Modern Epigrams: Email Sign-Offs, Tweets, Personal Mottos, etc.

Discontent is the first necessity of progress.—Thomas Alva Edison

The Edison epigram above has become my personal motto, or slogan. I've used it to "sign off" many an email and I've received a number of emails that end with epigrams. In fact, I first discovered two wonderfully touching epigrams by Michel de Montaigne and Ana´s Nin (below on this page) in emails sent to me by colleagues. On a related note, before I delve further into the greatest epigrams of all time, I'd like to consider a popular new form of epigram: the Tweet. Here's my favorite Tweet to date:

The Capitol looks beautiful and I am honored to be at work tonight.—Gabrielle Giffords

Gabrielle Giffords is the Arizona congresswoman who was recently shot and nearly killed. While so many other American politicians rage and imagine vain things, I find her words wonderfully touching and encouraging. Reading her poetic Tweet, I can actually see our nation's Capitol lit up at night, shining like a beacon, and feel her sincerity. How many senators and congressmen are humble enough to feel honored to work for their country, I wonder? In any case, I'm glad to have Gabby back, and to know that she's not only recovering from her injuries, but wants to help her country recover from its own deep-seated (albeit self-inflicted) wounds. I only hope that other Americans will exhibit some of her grace under fire. After all, if she pulled through her harrowing ordeal, so can we as a nation, if only we emulate her courage and resolve. And as I write this, I am reminded of Gabby's favorite epigram, which appears on her Facebook page:

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds.—Abraham Lincoln

Epigrams Defined

But what, exactly, is an epigram, and what do the producers of great epigrams have in common? Well, "in short," epigrams are brief, pithy, hard-hitting sayings, and the great epigrammatists are keen students of humanity who know how to get their points across in the form of verbal wallops. So the best epigrams are often wise, funny or snide commentary on human nature, societies and beliefs. For example:

Men seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses.Dorothy Parker
The ballot is stronger than the bullet.Abraham Lincoln
Your children need your presence more than your presents.Jesse Jackson
How can the Bible be "infallible" when from Genesis to Revelation slavery is commanded and condoned, but never condemned?Michael R. Burch

Puns, Word-Play, Raillery and Drollery

Jackson's epigram is a pun, or word-play, as is Lincoln's. Parker's epigram is a stellar example of raillery, which has been defined as "light, teasing banter," "gentle mockery" and "good-humored satire or ridicule." It is also an example of drollery: something whimsically comical. Raillery can be both wonderfully funny, and wonderfully effective:

If you can't be a good example, you'll just have to be a horrible warning.—Catherine the Great
There is no glory in outstripping donkeys.Marcus Valerius Martial
As blushing may make a whore seem virtuous, so modesty may make a fool seem sensible.Jonathan Swift
If you think you're too small to make an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito.—Edith Sitwell

Here's a bit of rather gentle raillery of my own, called "Saving Graces":

Life’s saving graces are love, pleasure, laughter ...
wisdom, it seems, is for the Hereafter.
Michael R. Burch

My epigram is dedicated to Christians who claim they'll inherit heaven at the expense of everyone else. (If you question the idea that good people of other religions and non-religions, for instance Einstein and Gandhi, will go to "hell," please consider reading Why "hell" is vanishing from the Bible.)

The One-Liner, or Zinger

Another category of epigram is what I call "the zinger," a potent form similar to the comedian's one-liner. The zinger upsets the applecart of our polite polities:

Questions are never indiscreet, answers sometimes are.Oscar Wilde

The Bon Mot

What a wickedly scathing line! This is a wonderful example of the bon mot ("good word"), the best way of saying something. There has never been a better critic of gossip, innuendo and scandal-mongering than Oscar Wilde (perhaps because so many prudes, busybodies and gossips considered him to be scandalous, when the real scandal was that they refused to mind their own business and stop judging him):

Scandal is gossip made tedious by morality.Oscar Wilde

Wilde is every moralist's worst nightmare, because he was wise in the ways of the world and human nature, while moralists are usually up to their eyeballs in hypocrisy. Centuries before Wilde, Aristotle proved the ancient Greeks could be equally scathing:

Wit is educated insolence.Aristotle

But epigrams can also be wonderfully touching and moving:

The births of all things are weak and tender,
therefore we should have our eyes intent on beginnings.
Michel de Montaigne

If we are to have real peace in the world,
we shall have to begin with the children.
―Mohandas Gandhi

I like not only to be loved, but also to be told that I am loved. The realm of silence is large enough beyond the grave. This is the world of light and speech. And I shall take leave to tell you that you are very dear.—George Eliot (the pen name of Mary Anne Evans)

As an Israeli, I have come to understand:
there is no way to love Israel and reject a two-state peace,
no way to love Israel and reject Palestine.
Yael Dayan, daughter of Moshe Dayan, Israel's most famous general

Epigrams can also be wise, and liberating:

If you would lift me you must be on higher ground.―Ralph Waldo Emerson

It takes courage to push yourself to places that you have never been before, to test your limits, to break through barriers. And the day came when the risk it took to remain tight inside the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.Ana´s Nin

Shake off all fears of servile prejudices, under which weak minds are servilely crouched. Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call on her tribunal for every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a god; because if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear.Thomas Jefferson

The rank is but the guinea’s stamp; the man’s the gowd [gold] for a’ [all] that!Robert Burns

Epigrams like the last one above helped fuel the American and French revolutions; Burns was saying that commoners had the same "mettle" and worth as royals and lords. Here's a similar epigram by another great poet:

I am his Highness' dog at Kew;
pray tell me, sir, whose dog are you?
Alexander Pope

Aphorisms

Epigrams which convey essential truths or principles are called aphorisms:

A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.―Unknown
The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.―Unknown
A watched pot never boils.―Unknown
Life is short, art long.―Hippocrates

The epigram is the simple, elegant black dress of literature; it leaves nearly everything bared and yet still temptingly open to the imagination. The best epigrammatists produce belle lettres ("beautiful letters" or "fine writing") en brief ("in brief").

But there is as much diversity
among epigrammatists as there is in the sea,
or in any university,
as we shall see ...

The Chiasmus

Other types of epigrams employ wordplay. For instance, the chiasmus repeats the same or very similar words in a different order:

It's not the size of the dog in the fight that counts, it's the size of the fight in the dog.—Dwight D. Eisenhower
It's not the men in your life that count, it's the life in your men.—Mae West
I do not believe in a fate that will fall on us no matter what we do. I do believe in a fate that will fall on us if we do nothing.Ronald Reagan

Spoonerisms

The spoonerism is an aural chiasmus. Rather than the words being reordered, different words with similar sounds are "remixed":

Love is either wholly folly, or fully holy.—Michael R. Burch

Personal Sayings

Sometimes we can know a man intimately through his most concise sayings. Alexander the Great seems to have believed himself to be a god, or a son of the gods, and yet he had to confront his own mortality, which left him, at best, a demigod:

There is nothing impossible to him who will try.Alexander the Great
Heaven cannot brook two suns, nor earth two masters.Alexander the Great
Sex and sleep alone make me conscious that I am mortal.Alexander the Great
I am dying with the help of too many physicians.Alexander the Great
A tomb now suffices him for whom the whole world was not sufficient.Alexander the Great
To the strongest!Alexander the Great [when asked who should inherit his empire]

Epitaphs

Then there are "dead serious" epigrams, called epitaphs. These are the inscriptions that appear on headstones, and they can convey morals, or somber warnings. Here's one of mine dedicated to the children of Gaza, called "Epitaph for a Palestinian Child":

I lived as best I could, and then I died.
Be careful where you step: the grave is wide.
Michael R. Burch

I wrote the poem above before 9-11. If you read the testimony of the FBI agent, James N. Fitgerald, who reported what the 9-11 conspirators said when they were

Epithets

An epithet defines or characterizes someone or something. In Homer's day epithets were often complimentary. But today epithets are generally non-complimentary, if not insulting or downright offensive. Modern epithets often descend into derogatory slang and racial invective. But in the hands of a master epigrammatist like Will Rogers, they can still be sublime in effect:

An economist's guess is liable to be as good as anybody else's.—Will Rogers
Make crime pay. Become a lawyer.—Will Rogers
A fool and his money are soon elected.—Will Rogers

Parody and Lampooning

Another genre of epigrams engages in parody and lampooning. Here's one I hope to someday include it in a book of poems to be titled Why I Left the Religious Right:

I've got Jesus's name on a wallet insert
and "Hell is for Queers" on the back of my shirt
and I uphold the Law,
for grace has a flaw:
the Church must have someone to drag through the dirt.
Michael R. Burch

Proverbs and Wisdom Sayings

Yet another class of epigram (although one that is generally less entertaining) has any number of names. Let's begin with "proverb" and a famous illustration by one of the world's best-known epigrammatists:

Neither a borrower nor a lender be.―Shakespeare

Early to bed, early to rise
makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.
—Ben Franklin

Miguel de Cervantes defined a proverb as "a short sentence based on long experience." There are, it seems, a bazillion other names for such bits of homey wisdom: adage, moral, homily, bromide, aphorism, apophthegm, axiom, dictum, maxim, motto, folk wisdom, platitude, motto, precept, saw, saying, truism, catchphrase, formula, gnome, pithy saying, etc. But alas!, many proverbs are boring and some are untrue, to boot. How many men got up early every morning, were poor as dirt, and died early deaths? Surely multitudes! But many epigrams contain both vital wisdom and sparkling humor. Sometimes the epigram is the salvo a brilliant, battle-savvy cynic launches against human ignorance, intolerance, cruelty and insanity:

There are many humorous things in the world; among them, the white man's notion that he is less savage than the other savages.Mark Twain

To determine the truth of Twain's remark, just inquire with any black American slave, or any Native American who walked the Trail of Tears, or any Palestinian who's been herded inside the walled ghetto of Gaza and had the gates slammed shut in his face. None of them will praise the white man's self-avowed "democratic ideals" or his "Judeo-Christian ethics." If you don't agree with Twain, please be assured that he is the keener observer and savvier student of history and human nature. But if you read his epigrams, you may quickly close the gap! And I believe Einstein was in general agreement with Twain when he said:

I don't know what weapons will be used in World War III, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.Albert Einstein

One has only to be able to put two and two together, to understand why Twain's remark relates to Einstein's. Just consider the millions of Palestinians who suffer inside squalid refugee camps and walled ghettoes, thanks to the "democracies" of the USA, Great Britain and Israel, while 1.5 billion Muslims see and share their agony. If we don't understand why denying other people freedom, human rights and dignity will cause us to end up fighting with sticks and stones after a nuclear Armageddon . . . well, we're just not as observant or wise as Twain and Einstein. But we certainly can't say they didn't warn us, as did an American president who was a master of the chiasmus:

Mankind must put an end to war, or war will put an end to mankind.—John F. Kennedy

The history of such epigrams goes "way back" in time. In the 6th century B.C. the legendarily rich King Croesus of Lydia said:

In peace sons bury their fathers, but in war fathers bury their sons.—Croesus

When we consider the expensive, bloody follies of the U.S. government in the Middle East, we can only wish American politicians had heeded Will Rogers:

If there is one thing that we do worse than any other nation, it is try and manage somebody else's affairs.―Will Rogers

And a great French essayist can explain why American freedoms seem to be vanishing:

The clatter of arms drowns out the voice of law.Michel de Montaigne

Following in the same vein of questioning whether human beings are using their advanced brains to "think" when they do such things as wage war, here are two related epigrams by one of my favorite contemporary writers:

Thinking is often claimed but seldom proven. T. Merrill
It must be hard being brilliant with no way to prove it. T. Merrill

Have we remained savages, while only claiming to be an intelligent species? If we take a step back, open our eyes, look around, and see what man's most "advanced" civilizations are doing to homosexuals, Muslims and women and children on a daily basis . . . well, it's hard to credit the idea that we are actually "thinking." When I was a small boy, evangelical Christian adults informed me that just thinking about sex was "evil" (because Jesus said lust was the same as adultery) and that all adulterers went to hell. Just imagine what happened when I reached puberty: it was a terrifying, soul-shattering experience. Years later, I learned that a place called "hell" was never mentioned in the Old Testament, the epistles of Paul (the earliest-written Christian texts) or the book of Acts (ostensibly the self-recorded history of the early Christian church). The Hebrew word Sheol and the Greek word Hades clearly mean "the grave," not "hell." So the bizarre "hell" Christians use to terrorize and brainwash their own children was obviously a very late, very clumsy addition to the Bible. And yet millions of children continue to be tortured psychologically, emotionally and spiritually because "hell" is very good for church business. Mark Twain once discovered what I discovered, and said:

I found out that I was a Christian for revenue only and I could not bear the thought of that, it was so ignoble.Mark Twain

Paradox

Socrates suggested that we define our terms, so for my purposes here I will use the primary term "epigram" and define it with Webster as a "terse, sage or witty and often paradoxical saying." Paradox can be both enlightening and amusing. Here's a stellar example by a contemporary writer:

Nowadays we make quick work of our courtships; it's our divorces that we spend a lot of time on.—Richard Moore

Less Heroic Couplets: Funding Fundamentals
by Michael R. Burch

"I found out that I was a Christian for revenue only and I could not bear the thought of that, it was so ignoble." — Mark Twain

Making sense from nonsense is quite sensible! Suppose
you’re running low on moolah, need some cash to paint your toes ...
Just invent a new religion; claim it saves lost souls from hell;
have the converts write you checks; take major debit cards as well;
take MasterCard and Visa and good-as-gold Amex;
hell, lend and charge them interest, whether payday loan or flex.
Thus out of perfect nonsense, glittery ores of this great mine,
you’ll earn an easy living and your toes will truly shine!

Originally published by Lighten Up Online

Truth-tellers

Jesus Christ often castigated the Pharisees for being hypocrites. But the great epigrammatists are more likely to be brutally honest about human nature, which also means about themselves ...

I can resist everything except temptation.Oscar Wilde
The only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it.Oscar Wilde
Those who restrain desire, do so because theirs is weak enough to be restrained.—William Blake
There is a charm about the forbidden that makes it unspeakably desirable.Mark Twain
To forbid us anything is to make us have a mind for it.Michel de Montaigne
Nothing so needs reforming as other people’s habits.Mark Twain
Must I do all the evil I can before I learn to shun it? Is it not enough to know the evil to shun it? If not, we should be sincere enough to admit that we love evil too well to give it up.—Mohandas Gandhi

What some of the world's greatest writers and wits seem to be telling us, if I apprehend them correctly, is that orthodox morality is dubious at best, if it is morality at all. The great wits listen to sermons about sex being a "sin" and roll their eyeballs toward the heavens, then write scathing epigrams as a way of possibly curing man of his folly. They know the preacher who lectures his flock on the "evils" of sex is just as randy as the rest of them, and probably less inhibited (unless he's a septuagenarian and his hormones have "petered" out, pun intended). Wilde, Blake and Twain understood human nature and were honest about it, and themselves. Twain pointed out that any red-blooded man would give up any possible shot at heaven for a few blissful seconds with the Eve of his dreams. Anyone who claims the Holy Spirit cures human beings of sexual desire is obviously wrong, because human sexuality is not a "disease." But I digress. To continue . . . on these pages you will find some of the wittiest, funniest, pithiest and scathingest things human beings have said, to this late date, on our planet.

Motivational Calls to Action

A good epigram can be a call to action:

Discontent is the first necessity of progress.—Thomas Alva Edison

An epigram can also be a call to compassion, empathy and kindness:

Always be kinder than necessary,
for everyone you meet is fighting
some kind of battle.
attributed to T.H. Thompson and John Watson

Don't judge a man until you've walked a mile in his moccasins.—Native American proverb

The Method Behind the Madness

Robert Frost, perhaps America's last major poet, said "poetry begins in delight and ends in wisdom." I would like to paraphrase him, if I may, and say:

Epigrams delight us into wisdom.—Michael R. Burch

Which is not to say that they invariably make us happy! Below is my favorite among my own epigrams; it illustrates, perhaps, how much can be squeezed into a tight compartment while still leaving breathing room for "special effects" like meter, rhyme and alliteration:

If God
is good
half the Bible
is libel.
Michael R. Burch

In brief, the epigram is the Harry Houdini of literature. Here are a few more of my all-time favorite epigrams:

To be or not to be, that is the question.Shakespeare
Our existence is a short circuit of light between two eternities of darkness.—Vladimir Nabokov
The secret of getting things done is to act!Dante Alighieri
Imagine there’s no heaven; it’s easy if you try; no hell below us; above us, only sky.—John Lennon

The Prophet Mohammed

The great prophet of Islam, Mohammed, is also known as Muhammad. His full name was Abu al-Qasim Muhammad Ibn Abd Allah Ibn Abd al-Muttalib Ibn Hashim. He was born circa. 570 AD, and died on June 8, 632 AD. He was born in Mecca and died in Medina, both in the Hejaz region of present-day Saudi Arabia. Muhammad is the founder of Islam and the greater Muslim community, and he is the originator of the poetry of the Koran (although he did not create the written versions, being unable to write; but then Jesus didn't write a single book of the Bible either). Here are some of Mohammed's teachings:

Kindness is a mark of faith, and whoever is not kind has no faith.
Every act of kindness is sadaqah [holy or godly charity].
The most excellent jihad [struggle] is that for the conquest of self.
The ink of the scholar is more sacred than the blood of the martyr.
The best among you are those who are best to their wives.
Admonish your wives with kindness.
The rights of women are sacred. See that women are maintained in the rights assigned to them.
What is better than charity, fasting and prayer? Keeping peace and good relations between people, as quarrels and bad feelings destroy mankind.
To overcome evil with good is good, to resist evil by evil is evil.
The best of the houses is the house where an orphan gets love and kindness.
It is better for a leader to make a mistake in forgiving than to make a mistake in punishing.
The best among you are those who are best to their wives.
Do you love your Creator? Love your fellow-beings first.
Bad conduct destroys divine service as condiment destroys honey.
Assist any person oppressed, whether Muslim or non-Muslim.
Whoever hath been given gentleness hath been given a good portion, in this world and the next.
God is gentle and loveth gentleness.
But determine that if people do you good, you will do good to them; and if they oppress you, you will not oppress them.
When you see a person who has been given more than you in money and beauty, think of those who have been given less.
Do not hate one another, nor be jealous of one another; and do not desert one another, but O Allah's worshippers, be Brothers!
The best people are those who are most useful to others.
Happy is the person who finds fault with himself instead of finding fault with others.
True Muslims, in their mutual love, kindness and compassion are like the human body: when one of its parts is in agony, the entire body feels the pain, both in sleeplessness and fever.

I believe it is very important for Jews, Christians and other non-Muslims to consider how the last teaching above relates to the present-day situation of the Palestinians, millions of whom are completely innocent women and children who have been denied basic human rights, freedom and self-determination by the "people of the book." The governments of Israel and the United States are very quick to condemn acts of terrorism by Palestinian individuals, but refuse to look in the mirror and condemn acts of large-scale, systematic, grinding terrorism inflicted daily on Palestinians. That terrorism includes racial discrimination, apartheid, Jim Crow laws and kangaroo courts, arrests of minors without due process of law, torture, extrajudicial assassinations, home demolitions, ethnic cleansing, and what appears to be slow genocide. When we have empathy and compassion for our neighbors, what must we think, say and do when we see their children being treated like serfs and pariahs? What would Americans do if they saw such things happening to children they care about? Obviously, some American men would grab weapons and go to war to defend them. So it is very hypocritical for Americans to condemn Muslim men for refusing to accept what they see happening to the children they love. And while terrorism is a horror, it is self-evident that the far greater horror has been practiced against Palestinians who don't have militaries with advanced weapons, by nations that do. How anyone who condones such injustice and hypocrisy can invoke the name of Jesus Christ by calling himself a "Christian," is beyond me.

Excerpts from the Final Sermon of Mohammed

Men, it is true that you have certain rights with regard to your women, but they also have certain rights over you ... To them belongs the right to be fed and clothed in kindness ... Do treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers.

Since all mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab, nor does a non-Arab have any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over a black, nor a black over a white, except by piety and good action.

[The quote above reminds me of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speaking eloquently of his wonderful dream that one day his children would be judged by the content of their character, rather than by the color of their skin.]

Even as the fingers of the two hands are equal, so are human beings equal to one another. No one has any right, nor any preference to claim over another. You are brothers.

Behold! All practice of the days of ignorance are now under my feet. The blood revenges of the days of ignorance are remitted.

[Here, the Prophet Mohammed seems to be saying that blood revenge belongs to the days of ignorance, and that in his opinion the days of ignorance are over. As human beings have now acquired the ability to destroy themselves, and the world, we can no longer afford to seek revenge for the sake of revenge, if we ever could afford such a highly dubious luxury. Here, Mohammed seems to agree with Albert Einstein and John F. Kennedy when they called for the end of war, simply because man cannot expect to survive the next major global war.]

No one committing a crime is responsible for it but himself. The child is not responsible for the crime of his father, nor the father for the crime of his child.

All those who listen to me shall pass on my words to others and those to others again; and may the last ones understand my words better than those who listen to me directly.

In his last sermon, Mohammed was saying what great men and women of peace like Einstein, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa and Nelson Mandela would also say, more than a thousand years later. Are there verse in the Koran that seem contradictory? Yes, there are. But there are also verses in the Bible that wildly and blatantly contradict the core message of Jesus Christ, the apostles, and the Hebrew prophets. How can anyone explain Deuteronomy 22, in which Moses clearly commanded that girls who had been raped should be stoned to death (a horrendous method of execution), or sold to their rapists (meaning they could be raped "legally" the rest of their lives)? How can anyone defend the "wisdom" of Moses, when he said that only girls who were raped in fields should be spared, because their cries for help could not be heard? Was it "wise" or mere primitive barbarism for him to assume that girls who were raped within shouting distance of a town were "guilty" of some terrible crime? What if the rapist had his hand over the girl's mouth, or a knife to her throat, or if she was just too terrified to scream? Even if she chose not to scream, in what dimension is having sex a "crime" worthy of a gruesome execution, or being forced to become a sex slave for life?

And how can any human being with a functional heart and brain explain Exodus 21, in which Moses allowed fathers to sell their own daughters as sex slaves for life, with the option (but not the requirement) to buy them back if they didn't "please" their new masters? How can anyone explain Numbers 31, in which Moses told his warriors to slaughter mothers and their male babies, keeping only the virgin girls alive, obviously as sex slaves?

Many Jews and Christians call Islam a "false religion" because there are questionable verses in the Koran, but the Bible is far worse that Hitler's Mein Kampf in many passages. Moses, Joshua and King David (all called "types" of Jesus by Christian theologians) were mass murders guilty of matricide, infanticide, ethnic cleansing and attempted genocide. David, called "the man after God's own heart" by Christians, killed every woman when he smote the land, offered hundreds of human foreskins as a dowry for his first wife, and ordered the slaughter of the lame and the blind when Jerusalem was taken from the Jebusites. Jesus had compassion on the handicapped, but according to the Bible, David hated them so bitterly that he awarded the captaincy of his armies to Joab simply for being the man willing to assassinate them.

Why was David accorded so much undeserved glory, by the writers of the Bible? The answer is simple. David's victories, which came at the expense of the lives of so many innocent people, provided the land and gold needed to build the Jerusalem temple. That temple brought the Levite priests and scribes tremendous wealth, influence and power. So of course they loved David and Solomon, the glorious kings who gave them their glorious temple. They either wrote or transcribed the early books of the Bible, and of course the victors and their propagandists have always "spun" things to suit themselves. If you read the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament) carefully, you can easily see it is full of "spin," and that kings were considered "righteous" not because they were good, but only if they won battles and got rid of the altars and priests of the "wrong" sects and cults. The Levites obviously wanted everyone to come worship, sacrifice and tithe at the Jerusalem temple (where they would receive lion's share), so they not only disdained the "high places" where other people worshipped and sacrificed, but they even called for the murder of the rival priests. When the boy-king Josiah was enthroned, and still too young to think for himself, they seized the opportunity to write the dreadful book of Deuteronomy, then pretended it was a "book of Moses" that had been "lost," then "found." Deuteronomy is full of barbaric commandments, such as the ones for fathers to sell their daughters as sex slaves and murder them if they were raped. And it constantly reminds the Israelites to obey the Levites and "share" with them. It also gave them license to murder rival priests. According to the Hebrew Bible, after the "new" book of "Moses" was "discovered," the Levites incited an orgy of mayhem and murder. Then not only executed their rivals, they even dug up their bones to desecrate them.

So it is past time for Jews and Christians to be honest about the Bible, and its human origins. No one should use the Bible to deny freedom and human rights to Muslims, because no one in his right mind can possibly claim that all the verses in the Bible came from a loving, wise, just God.


The Oscar Goes to Wilde: Epigrams by the Divine Oscar Wilde

Questions are never indiscreet, answers sometimes are.
Scandal is gossip made tedious by morality.
Morality is simply the attitude we adopt towards people we personally dislike.
The books that the world calls immoral are books that show the world its own shame.
Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others to live as one wishes them to live.
I can resist everything except temptation.
The only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it.
Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess.
Self-denial is the shining sore on the leprous body of Christianity.
Whenever a man does a thoroughly stupid thing, it is always from the noblest motives.
Experience is the name everyone gives to their mistakes.
Always forgive your enemies: nothing annoys them so much.
There is no sin except stupidity.
Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.
We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.
A thing is not necessarily true because a man dies for it.

The Twain Well Met: Epigrams by Mark Twain

It's not the parts of the Bible that I don't understand that bother me, it's the parts I do understand.
To be good is noble; but to show others how to be good is nobler and less trouble.
Always do right. That will gratify some of the people, and astonish the rest.
By trying we can easily learn to endure adversity. Another man's, I mean.
Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.
Let us live so that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry.
Lord save us all from a hope tree that has lost the faculty of putting out blossoms.
Loyalty to petrified opinion never yet broke a chain or freed a human soul.
Martyrdom covers a multitude of sins.
There is a charm about the forbidden that makes it unspeakably desirable.
Nothing so needs reforming as other people’s habits.
There are several good protections against temptations, but the surest is cowardice.
Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example.
The Christian's Bible is a drug store. Its contents remain the same, but the medical practice changes.
Denial ain't just a river in Egypt.
Truth is the most valuable thing we have. Let us economize it.
Truth is mighty and will prevail. There is nothing wrong with this, except that it ain't so.
Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please.
Facts are stubborn; statistics are more pliable.
It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you do know that ain't so.
Don't tell fish stories where the people know you; but particularly, don't tell them where they know the fish.
It is better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than to open it and remove all doubt.
If at first you don't succeed, try again. Then quit; there's no use being a damn fool about it.

Humor Equals Wit Times Genius Squared: The Epigrams of Albert Einstein

Never lose a holy curiosity.
Morality is of the highest importance—but for us, not for God.
Whoever set himself up as a judge of Truth is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods.
Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen.
We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.
Only two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the former.
Our technology has exceeded our humanity.
I don't know about World War III, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.
Peace cannot be kept by force. It can only be achieved by understanding.

Epigrams Reign: Michel de Montaigne

The clatter of arms drowns out the voice of law.
Nothing is so firmly believed as that which least is known.
Man cannot make a worm, yet he will make gods by the dozen.
To forbid us anything is to make us have a mind for it.
Everyone calls barbarity what he is not accustomed to.
No propositions astonish me, no belief offends me, whatever contrast it offers to my own.
Our religion is made to eradicate vices, instead it encourages them, covers them, and nurtures them.
Not being able to govern events, I govern myself.

The Church Gets the Burch Rod

There's no better tonic for other people's bad ideas, than to think for oneself.Michael R. Burch

Life’s saving graces are love, pleasure, laughter ...
wisdom, it seems, is for the Hereafter.
Michael R. Burch

If God has the cattle on a thousand hills, why does he need my tithes?Michael R. Burch

If God
is good
half the Bible
is libel.
Michael R. Burch

Hell hath no fury like a frustrated fundamentalist whose God condemned him to "hell" for having "impure thoughts."Michael R. Burch

I've got Jesus's name on a wallet insert
and "Hell is for Queers" on the back of my shirt
and I uphold the Law,
for grace has a flaw:
the Church must have someone to drag through the dirt.
Michael R. Burch

Religion is the difficult process of choosing the least malevolent invisible friends.Michael R. Burch

How can the Bible be "infallible" when from Genesis to Revelation slavery is commanded and condoned, but never condemned?Michael R. Burch

Religion is the dopiate of the sheeple.Michael R. Burch

If you would persuade me, make sense.
To dissuade me, be dense
and resort to pretense.
Michael R. Burch

A Brief Take on Blake: Epigrams by William Blake

Those who restrain desire, do so because theirs is weak enough to be restrained.

To see a World in a grain of sand
And a Heaven in a wild flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.

I was angry with my friend,
I told my wrath, my wrath did end;
I was angry with my foe,
I told it not, my wrath did grow.

He who binds to himself a joy
Doth the winged life destroy.
He who kisses the joy as it flies,
Lives in eternity's sunrise.

A Smidgen of Religion

Prevent truth decay. Brush up on your Bible.—Unknown
God answers knee-mail.Unknown
Don’t give up. Moses was once a basket case.—Unknown
Forbidden fruit creates many jams.—Unknown
God is a comedian playing to an audience too afraid to laugh.Voltaire
I think, therefore I am.—Rene Descartes
All that we are is the result of what we have thought.—Buddha
The mind is everything. What you think you become.—Buddha
Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.—Buddha
Some people attend church three times in their lives: when they're hatched, when they're matched, and when they're dispatched.—Unknown
The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because generally they are the same people.G. K. Chesterton
You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love and affection.—Buddha

Funny Money

It is easy when we are in prosperity to give advice to the afflicted.―Aeschylus
Money is the wise man's religion.—Euripides
When it is a question of money, everybody is of the same religion.Voltaire
The shortest road to wealth lies in the contempt of wealth.Seneca
If you'd know the power of money, go and borrow some.Ben Franklin
If God has the cattle on a thousand hills, why does he need my tithes?Mike Burch
I found out that I was a Christian for revenue only and I could not bear the thought of that, it was so ignoble.—Mark Twain

Where there's a Will there's a Way: the Epigrams of Will Rogers

You can't say civilization don't advance...in every war they kill you in a new way.
Chaotic action is preferable to orderly inaction.
Do the best you can, and don't take life too serious.
Don't let yesterday use up too much of today.
Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there.
Everybody is ignorant, only on different subjects.
Get someone else to blow your horn and the sound will carry twice as far.
Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.
It isn't what we don't know that gives us trouble, it's what we know that ain't so.
Lettin' the cat outta the bag is a whole lot easier 'n puttin' it back in.
Liberty doesn't work as well in practice as it does in speeches.
People who fly into a rage always make a bad landing.
The United States never lost a war or won a conference.
Things ain't what they used to be and never was.
What the country needs is dirtier fingernails and cleaner minds.
If there's one thing we do worse than any other nation, it's managing somebody else's affairs.
I have a scheme for stopping war: no nation can enter a war till it's paid for the last one.
The worst thing that happens to you may be the best thing for you if you don't let it get the best of you.
You've got to go out on a limb sometimes because that's where the fruit is.
Some men learn by reading. A few learn by observation. The rest have to pee on the electric fence for themselves.

Woody Allen

Eighty percent of success is showing up.
My education was dismal. I went to a series of schools for mentally disturbed teachers.
Not only is there no God, but try getting a plumber on weekends.
On the plus side, death is one of the few things that can be done just as easily lying down.
To you I'm an atheist; to God, I'm the Loyal Opposition.
The lion and the lamb shall lie down together but the lamb won't get much sleep.
It's not that I'm afraid to die, I just don't want to be there when it happens.
If it turns out that there is a God, I don't think that he's evil. The worst you can say about him is that basically he's an underachiever.

Jonathan Swift

Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.
A wise man should have money in his head, but not in his heart.
As blushing may make a whore seem virtuous, so modesty may make a fool seem sensible.
As love without esteem is capricious and volatile; esteem without love is languid and cold.
Don't set your wit against a child.
Every man desires to live long, but no man wishes to be old.
Government without the consent of the governed is the very definition of slavery.
I never wonder to see men wicked, but I often wonder to see them not ashamed.
Nothing is so hard for those who abound in riches as to conceive how others can be in want.
We have enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another.
The stoical scheme of supplying our wants by lopping off our desires, is like cutting off our feet when we want shoes.
I never saw, heard, nor read, that the clergy were beloved in any nation where Christianity was the religion of the country. Nothing can render them popular, but some degree of persecution.

Martial Law: the Epigrams of Marcus Valerius Martial

There is no glory in outstripping donkeys.
Conceal a flaw, and the world will imagine the worst.
If fame is to come only after death, I am in no hurry for it.
Gifts are hooks.
To the ashes of the dead glory comes too late.
To be able to look back upon one's past life with satisfaction is to live twice.
Laugh, if thou art wise.
Too late is tomorrow's life; live for today.
Be content to be what you are, and prefer nothing to it, and do not fear or wish for your last day.

Mystery and Dreams

The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious.
It is the source of all true art and all science.
He to whom this emotion is a stranger,
who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe,
is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.
—Albert Einstein

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
—Langston Hughes

Whoever fights monsters should see to it
That in the process he does not become a monster.
If you gaze for long into an abyss,
the abyss gazes also into you.
—Friedrich Nietzsche

Aging Gracefully

Live as to die tomorrow.
Learn as to live forever.
—Isadore of Seville

I like not only to be loved but also to be told that I am loved. The realm of silence is large enough beyond the grave. This is the world of light and speech. And I shall take leave to tell you that you are very dear.—George Eliot

I expect to pass this way but once; any good therefore that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to any fellow creature. Let me do it now. Let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.—Etienne Griellet

Oh God of dust and rainbows, help us see that without dust the rainbow would not be.—Langston Hughes

Dust (II)
by Michael R. Burch

We are dust
and to dust we must
return ...
but why, then,
life’s pointless sojourn?

Nota Bene: the Notable Epigrams of Ben Franklin

Little strokes fell great oaks.
Plough deep while sluggards sleep.
Vessels large may venture more, but little boats should keep near shore.
There never was a good war nor a bad peace.
Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain and most fools do.
Diligence is the Mother of good luck.
Experience keeps a dear school, but fools will learn in no other.
He that goes a-borrowing goes a-sorrowing.
He that lives upon hope will die fasting.
He who multiplies riches multiplies cares.
Hide not your talents. They for use were made. What's a sundial in the shade?
Never confuse motion with action.
To find out a girl's faults, praise her to her girl friends.
To lengthen thy life, lessen thy meals.
Well done is better than well said.
Whatever is begun in anger ends in shame.
Where sense is wanting, everything is wanting.
We must indeed all hang together, or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.
They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.

Immersed in Emerson: the Epigrammatic Wisdom of Ralph Waldo Emerson

If you would lift me you must be on higher ground.
Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.
We are taught by great actions that the universe is the property of every individual in it.
Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind.
Men live on the brink of mysteries and harmonies into which they can never enter, and with their hand on the doorlatch they die outside.

Rumi

If you are irritated by every rub, how will your mirror ever get polished?

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field.
I'll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about.

When I am with you, we stay up all night.
When you're not here, I can't go to sleep.
Praise God for those two insomnias!
And the difference between them.

You were born with wings, so why crawl through life?

Miscellanea

Space is a dangerous place, especially if it's between your ears!—Unknown
The man who can't make mistakes, can't make anything.—Abraham Lincoln
Success comes in cans, not can't s.—Unknown
The tragedy of life is not so much what men suffer but rather what they miss.—Thomas Carlyle
When you come to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.—Franklin D. Roosevelt
The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today.—Franklin D. Roosevelt
When the earth reclaims your limbs, then shall you truly dance.—Kahlil Gibran
A thousand words will not leave so deep an impression as one deed.—Henrik Ibsen
Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.—Rudyard Kipling
Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadows.—Helen Keller
I may disagree with what you say, but I shall defend to the death your right to say it.—Voltaire
The hands that help are better far than the lips that pray.—Robert G. Ingersoll
There is none so blind as they that won't see.—Jonathan Swift

The world of knowledge takes a crazy turn
When teachers themselves are taught to learn.
—Bertolt Brecht

The past is history,
The future is a mystery
and now is a gift.
That's why we call it the present.
—Anonymous

Life is real! life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.
—Henry W. Longfellow

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time.
—Henry W. Longfellow

'Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.
—Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Beauty is truth, truth beauty, that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.
—John Keats

Tell all the Truth but tell it slant
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
Is Truth's superb surprise.
As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind,
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind.
—Emily Dickinson

Of all sad words of tongue or pen
The saddest are these: "It might have been!"
—John Greenleaf Whittier

The HyperTexts