A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it.
~ in The Everlasting Man
According to most philosophers, God in making the world enslaved it. According to Christianity, in making it, He set it free. God had written, not so much a poem, but rather a play; a play he had planned as perfect, but which had necessarily been left to human actors and stage-managers, who had since made a great mess of it.
~ in Orthodoxy
As long as you have mystery you have health; when you destroy mystery you create morbidity.
~ in Orthodoxy
Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, ‘Do it again’; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, ‘Do it again’ to the sun; and every evening, ‘Do it again’ to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.
~ in Orthodoxy
Carlyle said that men were mostly fools. Christianity, with its surer and more reverent realism, says that they are all fools. This doctrine is sometimes called the doctrine of original sin. It may also be described as the doctrine of the equality of man.
~ in Heretics
Certain new theologians dispute original sin, which is the only part of Christian theology which can really be proved.
~ in Orthodoxy
Humility is the mother of giants. One sees great things from the valley; only small things from the peak.
~ in The Innocence of Father Brown
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.
~ in Illustrated London News
It has been often said, very truly, 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.
~ in Charles Dickens: A Critical Study
It is the test of a good religion whether you can joke about it.
~ in All Things Considered
My country, right or wrong,” is a thing that no patriot would think of saying except in a desperate case. It is like saying, “My mother, drunk or sober.
~ in The Defendant
One of the chief uses of religion is that it makes us remember our coming from darkness, the simple fact that we are created.
~ in The Boston Sunday Post
Poets do not go mad; but chess-players do. Mathematicians go mad, and cashiers; but creative artists very seldom. I am not, as will be seen, in any sense attacking logic: I only say that this danger does lie in logic, not in imagination.
~ in Orthodoxy
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.
~ in G.K.’s Weekly
The modern critics of religious authority are like those who attack the police without ever heard of the burglars.
~ in Orthodoxy
The poet only asks to get his head into the heavens. It is the logician who seeks to get the heavens into his head. And it is his head that splits.
~ in Orthodoxy
The riddles of God are more satisfying than the solutions of man.
~ in Introduction to The Book of Job.
Theology is only thought applied to religion.
~ in The New Jerusalem
A citizen can hardly distinguish between a tax and a fine, except that the fine is generally much lighter.
A good novel tells us the truth about its hero; but a bad novel tells us the truth about its author.
A key has no logic to its shape. Its logic is: it turns the lock.
A saint is one who exaggerates what the world neglects.
All men are ordinary men; the extraordinary men are those who know it.
Americans are the people who describe their use of alcohol and tobacco as vices.
An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly understood. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly understood.
An adventure is an inconvenience, rightly considered.
Blasphemy depends upon a philosophical conviction. Blasphemy depends on belief, and is fading with it. If anyone doubts this, let him sit down seriously and try to think blasphemous thoughts about Thor.
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.
Co-educate as much as you will, there will always be a wall between the sexes until love or lust breaks it down.
Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of a readiness to die.
Despair does not lie in being weary of suffering, but in being weary of joy.
Everything has in fact another side to it, like the moon, the patroness of nonsense. Viewed from that other side, a bird is a blossom broken loose from its chain of stalk, a man a quadruped begging on its hind legs, a house a gigantesque hat to cover a man from the sun, a chair an apparatus of four wooden legs for a cripple with only two. This is the side of things which tends most truly to spiritual wonder.
Evil comes at leisure like the disease; good comes in a hurry like the doctor.
Fallacies do not cease to be fallacies even if they become fashionable.
For religion all men are equal, as all pennies are equal, because the only value in any of them is that they bear the image of the king.
He who will have all of God in his head will have his head split open.
I am incurably convinced that the object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid.
If Americans can be divorced for ‘incompatibility of temper,’ I cannot conceive why they are not all divorced. I have known many happy marriages, but never a compatible one.
If there were no God, there would be no atheists.
It has taken me twenty years of studied self-restraint, aided by the natural decay of my faculties, to make me dull enough to be accepted as a reasonable person by the average man.
It is better to speak wisdom foolishly, like the saints, rather than to speak folly wisely, like the dons.
It is the test of a good religion whether you can make a joke about it.
It is in private life that we find great characters. They are too great to get into the public world.
It is true that in certain acute and painful crises of oppression or disgrace, discontent is a duty and shame should call us like a trumpet. But it is not true that man should look at life with an eye of discontent, however high-minded. It is not true that in his primary, naked relation to the world, in his relation to sex, to pain, to comradeship, to the grave or to the weather, man ought to make discontent his ideal; it is black lunacy. Half his poor little hopes of happiness hang on his thinking a small house pretty, a plain wife charming, a lame foot not unbearable, and bad cards not so bad. 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.
It may be possible to have a good debate over whether or not Jesus believed in fairies. Alas, it is impossible to have any sort of debate over whether or not Jesus believed that rich people were in big trouble—there is too much evidence on the subject and it is overwhelming.
It might be reasonably maintained that the true object of all human life is play. Earth is a task garden; heaven is a playground. To be at last in such secure innocence that one can juggle with the universe and the stars, to be so good that one can treat everything as a joke—that may be, perhaps, the real end and final holiday of human souls.
Jokes are generally honest. Complete solemnity is almost always dishonest.
Journalism largely consists in saying “Lord Jones Dead” to people who never knew Lord Jones was alive.
Man is more himself, man is more manlike, when joy is the fundamental thing in him, and grief the superficial. Melancholy should be an innocent interlude, a tender and fugitive frame of mind; praise should be the permanent pulsation of the soul. Pessimism is at best an emotional halfholiday; joy is the uproarious labour by which all things live.
Marriage is an adventure, like going to war.
Nine times out of ten, the coarse word is the word that condemns an evil and the refined word the word that excuses it.
No man’s really good till he knows how bad he is, or might be; till he’s realised exactly how much right he has to all this snobbery, and sneering, and talking about ‘criminals,’ as if they were apes in a forest ten thousand miles away; till he’s got rid of all the dirty self-deception of talking about low types and deficient skulls; till he’s squeezed out of his soul the last drop of the oil of the Pharisees; till his only hope is somehow or other to have captured one criminal, and kept him safe and sane under his own hat.
Our Lord commanded us to forgive our enemies, but not to have none.
Pragmatism is a [philosophy] of human needs, and one of the first of human needs is to be something more than a pragmatist.
Rossetti makes the remark somewhere, bitterly but with great truth, that the worst moment for the atheist is when he is really thankful and has nobody to thank.
Silence is the unbearable repartee.
Take away the supernatural, and what remains is the unnatural.
The anarchist … is disappointed with the future as well as the past.
The artistic temperament is a disease that afflicts amateurs.
The best way a man could test his readiness to encounter the common variety of mankind would be to climb down a chimney into any house at random, and get on as well as possible with the people inside. And that is essentially what each one of us did on the day that he was born.
The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because they are generally the same people.
The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult, and left untried.
The dipsomaniac and the abstainer are not only both mistaken, but they both make the same mistake. They both regard wine as a drug and not as a drink.
The function of the imagination is not to make strange things settled, so much as to make settled things strange.
The globe-trotter lives in a smaller world than the peasant. He is always breathing the air of locality. . . . The man in the cabbage field has seen nothing at all; but he is thinking of the things that unite men–hunger and babies, and the beauty of women, and the promise or menace of the sky.
The madman is not the man who has lost his reason. The madman is the man who has lost everything except his reason.
The men who really believe in themselves are all in lunatic asylums.
The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid.
The objection to an aristocracy is that it is a priesthood without a god.
The one stream of poetry which is continually flowing is slang.
The people who are most bigoted are the people who have no convictions at all.
The whole case for Christianity is that a man who is dependent upon the luxuries of life is a corrupt man, spiritually corrupt, politically corrupt, financially corrupt. There is one thing that Christ and all the Christian saints have said with a sort of savage monotony. They have said simply that to be rich is to be in peculiar danger of moral wreck.
The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as foreign land.
The worst tyrant is not the man who rules by fear; the worst tyrant is he who rules by love and plays on it as on a harp.
There are no words to express the abyss between isolation and having one ally. It may be conceded to the mathematicians that four is twice two. But two is not twice one; two is two thousand times one. That is why, in spite of a hundred disadvantages, the world will always return to monogamy.
There are only three things in the world that women do not understand; and they are liberty, equality, and fraternity.
There is but an inch of difference between the cushioned chamber and the padded cell.
There is more simplicity in the man who eats caviare on impulse than in the man who eats grapenuts on principle.
There is the tragedy that is founded on the worthlessness of life; and there is the deeper tragedy that is founded on the worth of it. The one sort of sadness says that life is so short that it can hardly matter; the other that life is so short that it will matter forever.
This alarming growth of good habits really means a too great emphasis on those virtues which mere custom can ensure, it means too little emphasis on those virtues which custom can never quite ensure, sudden and splendid virtues of inspired pity or of inspired candour.
There are no uneducated men. They may escape the trivial examinations, but not the tremendous examinations of existence. The dependence of infancy, the enjoyment of animals, the love of woman, and the fear of death—these are more frightful and more fixed than all conceivable forms of the cultivation of the mind.
To be clever enough to get all that money, one must be stupid enough to want it.
Tolerance is the virtue of people who don’t believe anything.
To love means loving the unlovable. To forgive means pardoning the unpardonable. Faith means believing the unbelievable. Hope means hoping when everything seems hopeless.
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 the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking around.
Truth must necessarily be stranger than fiction; for fiction is the creation of the human mind and therefore congenial to it.
Unfortunately, if you regard Nature as a mother, you discover that she is a step-mother. The main point of Christianity was this: that Nature is not our mother: Nature is our sister. We can be proud of her beauty, since we have the same father; but she has no authority over us; we have to admire, but not to imitate. This gives to the typically Christian pleasure in this earth a strange touch of lightness that is almost frivolity.
We must make up our minds to be ignorant of much, if we would know anything.
What is bad in the candid friend is simply that he is not candid. He is keeping something back–his own gloomy pleasure in saying unpleasant things.
When people abandon the truth, they don’t believe in nothing, they believe in anything.
Winston Churchill – Select Quotes