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The official blog of University of Missouri Skeptics, Atheists, Secular Humanists, & Agnostics

Ambrose Bierce: A writer you should read

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Ambrose Bierce was an American writer from the 19th century.

Ambrose Bierce, looking skeptical

Here are some excerpts from his celebrated The Devil’s Dictionary:

FAITH, n. Belief without evidence in what is told by one who speaks without knowledge, of things without parallel.

RELIGION, n. A daughter of Hope and Fear, explaining to Ignorance the nature of the Unknowable.

SCRIPTURES, n. The sacred books of our holy religion, as distinguished from the false and profane writings on which all other faiths are based.

RUBBISH, n. Worthless matter, such as the religions, philosophies, literatures, arts and sciences of the tribes infesting the regions lying due south from Boreaplas.

MAN, n. An animal so lost in rapturous contemplation of what he thinks he is as to overlook what he indubitably ought to be. His chief occupation is extermination of other animals and his own species, which, however, multiplies with such insistent rapidity as to infest the whole habitable earth and Canada.

ACADEME, n. An ancient school where morality and philosophy were taught.

CHRISTIAN, n. One who believes that the New Testament is a divinely inspired book admirably suited to the spiritual needs of his neighbor. One who follows the teachings of Christ in so far as they are not inconsistent with a life of sin.

ADMIRATION, n. Our polite recognition of another’s resemblance to ourselves.

ACADEMY, n. [from ACADEME] A modern school where football is taught.

ACCUSE, v.t. To affirm another’s guilt or unworth; most commonly as a justification of ourselves for having wronged him.

BOUNDARY, n. In political geography, an imaginary line between two nations, separating the imaginary rights of one from the imaginary rights of the other.

MIRACLE, n. An act or event out of the order of nature and unaccountable, as beating a normal hand of four kings and an ace with four aces and a king.

Bierce was cynical and skeptical as shit. His satire had a bit more bite than Colbert’s.

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Seth Kurtenbach is a philosophy Master’s student and computer science PhD student at the University of Missouri.  His research focuses on applications of formal logic and game theory to questions about knowledge and rationality.  He is growing a mighty beard, in order to increase his philosophical powers.  Feel free to contact Seth at seth.kurtenbach@gmail.com with inquiries about philosophy, logic, guest blogging, or visiting to give a presentation!

Helpful resources:

Godisimaginary.com
Iron Chariots Wiki
Skeptics’ Annotated Bible / Skeptics’ Annotated Qur’an
AtheismResource.com
TalkOrigins.org

YouTubers: Evid3nc3Thunderf00tTheAmazingAtheistThe Atheist ExperienceEdward Current, NonStampCollectorMr. DeityRichard DawkinsQualiaSoup

Blogs: Zachary ErnstGreta ChristinaPZ MyersThe Friendly AtheistWWJTD?Debunking ChristianitySkepChick, Rationally Speaking.

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About Seth Kurtenbach

Philosophy grad student who wandered into a computer science PhD program with a backpack full of modal logic and decision theory.

One comment on “Ambrose Bierce: A writer you should read

  1. rocketkirchner
    May 15, 2012

    one of the great aphorists of his time . i find myself qouting him alot over the years on a variety of subjects. Gore Vidal drew from him alot in his critique of American culture and agression overseas. good post Seth .

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This entry was posted on May 15, 2012 by in Author: Seth Kurtenbach.
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