THE BLOG
01/08/2015 06:22 pm ET Updated Mar 10, 2015

Teaching the Bible as Literature in Public High School -- Part 11

Aphorisms 2 - Suspending Judgment

In choosing aphorisms, I always made a point of exposing students to different viewpoints and cautioned them not to accept any aphorism as true until they had critically evaluated its claim. I suggested that they think of at least three strong arguments both for and against each aphorism's truth. It's a good way to give students practice in critical reading while suspending judgment - an indispensable skill for college and life.

While students were discussing these aphorisms, I withdrew to the background and simply allowed things to happen. An easy informality descended on the class as each student spoke and the others listened. If there was a particularly insightful aphorism that might otherwise be passed over, I would ask students to comment on its meaning. However, I was usually silent lest they become dependent on the teacher, thereby undercutting the purpose of these discussions - accustoming them to think for themselves while speaking in class.

If asked to explain an aphorism, I would first ask for a volunteer, briefly comment myself, or suggest that it was sometimes good to cultivate the mystery of things by waiting until the meaning suggested itself at some later time.

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Any system of religion that has anything in it that shocks the mind of a child cannot be a true system. - Thomas Paine

Prayer does not change God, but it changes him who prays. - Soren Kierkegaard

The god of the cannibals will be a cannibal, of the crusaders a crusader, and of the merchants a merchant. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

The religion that is afraid of science dishonors God and commits suicide. - R. W. Emerson

It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty God, or no Gods. -- Thomas Jefferson

The unbeliever believes more than he thinks, the believer less than he thinks. - Franz Grillparzer

We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another. - Jonathan Swift

Science without religion is lame; religion without science is blind. - Albert Einstein

Dogma is nothing else but the express prohibition of thinking. - Ludwig Feuerbach

I want nothing to do with any religion concerned with keeping the masses satisfied to live in hunger, filth, and ignorance. - Jawaharlal Nehru

Religion may in most of its forms be defined as the belief that the gods are on the side of the Government. - Bertrand Russell

There's a Bible on that shelf here. But I keep it next to Voltaire - poison and antidote. - Bertrand Russell

I read the Bible to understand what is happening today. - Elie Wiesel

It belongs to the depth of the religious spirit to have felt forsaken, even by God. - Alfred North Whitehead

The Church is by definition countercultural. If the Church is singing the same tune as everybody else, who needs it? - Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk

A good life is the only religion. - Thomas Fuller

Science deals mainly with facts; religion deals mainly with values. The two are not rivals. They are complementary. - Martin Luther King, Jr.

You may go over the world and you will find that every form of religion which has breathed upon this earth has degraded women. There is not one which has not made her subject to man. - Elizabeth Cady Stanton

God makes everything out of nothing. But the nothingness shows through. - Paul Valery

The wish to pray is in itself a prayer. - George Bernanos

God preordained for his own glory and the display of his mercy and justice a part of the human race to eternal salvation without any merit of their own, and another part in just punishment of their sin to eternal damnation. - John Calvin

How can great wisdom care so little about the torments of innocent creatures? How can a merciful God allow all this to happen and keep silent? - Isaac B. Singer

Religion has not civilized man, man has civilized religion. - Robert G. Ingersoll

I can't believe in a God who only saves people who live in certain latitudes. If I had happened to be born in Delhi, I'd probably be a Hindu, or in Iran a Muslim. - Archbishop Robert Runcie

The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose. - Shakespeare

As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods; they kill us for their sport. - Shakespeare

Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the masses. - Karl Marx

All your western theologies, the whole mythology of them, are based on the concept of God as a senile delinquent. - Tennessee Williams

My father considered a walk in the mountains as the equivalent of church-going. - Aldous Huxley

No one has the capacity to judge God. We are drops in that limitless ocean of mercy. - Mahatma Gandhi

There is only one religion, though there are a hundred versions of it. - George Bernard Shaw

It is not disbelief that is dangerous to our society; it is belief. - G. B. Shaw

You cannot criticize the New Testament. It criticizes you. - John Chapman

The true Christian is in all countries a pilgrim and a stranger. - George Santayana

The Bible is literature, not dogma. - G. Santayana

He loses nothing who loses not God. - George Herbert

If men are so wicked with religion, what would they be without it? - Ben Franklin

The biblical point of view . . . proclaims that the way, the real way, from the creation to the kingdom is trod not on the surface of success, but in the depths of failure. - Martin Buber

The religion of one seems madness to another. - Thomas Browne

Children need models rather than critics. - Joseph Joubert

We can believe in our own religion without having to feel that it is the sole repository of truth. - Arnold Toynbee

Profound ignorance makes a man dogmatic. - Jean de La Bruyere

Despise the flesh, for it passes away; be solicitous for your soul, which will never die. - Saint Basil

All religions are ancient monuments to superstition, ignorance, and ferocity. - Baron D' Holbach

The danger of success is that it makes us forget the world's dreadful injustice. - Jules Renard

What mean and cruel things men do for the love of God. - W. Somerset Maugham

I have made a ceaseless effort not to ridicule, not to bewail, not to scorn human actions, but to understand them. - Baruch Spinoza

You are not a human being in search of a spiritual experience. You are a spiritual being in immersed in a human experience. - Teilhard de Chardin

Neither great poverty nor great riches will hear reason. - Henry Fielding

All God wants of man is a peaceful heart. - Meister Eckhart

Suffering is the substance of life and the root of personality, for it is only suffering that makes us persons. - Miguel de Unamuno

Augustine

In the absence of justice, what is government but organized robbery.

Love [God] and do what you like.

What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has the eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men.

Thomas Aquinas

There is but one Church in which men find salvation, just as outside the ark of Noah it was not possible for anyone to be saved.

The things that we love tell us what we are.

That the saints may enjoy their beatitude and the grace of God more abundantly, they are permitted to see the punishment of the damned in hell.

If forgers and malefactors are put to death by the secular power, there is much more reason for excommunicating and even putting to death one convicted of heresy.

Woman is defective and misbegotten, for the active power of the male seed tends to the production of a perfect likeness in the male sex, while the production of a woman comes from defect in the active power.

Martin Luther

I more fear what is within me than what comes from without.

I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God's hands that I still possess.

A theologian is born by living, nay dying and being damned, not by thinking, reading and speculating.

The fewer the words, the better the prayer.

LaoTzu

Darkness within darkness - the gateway to all understanding.

He who is contented is rich.

Silence is the source of great strength.

When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.

Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.

Health is the greatest possession. Contentment is the greatest treasure. Confidence is the greatest friend. Non-being is the greatest joy.

Simplicity, patience, and compassion - these are the greatest treasures.

It is better to do one's own duty, however defective it may be, than to follow the duty of another, however well one may perform it. He who does his duty as his own nature reveals it, never errs.

Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Do not resist them - that only creates sorrow.

Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.

Only those who know internal peace can give it to others.

Michel de Montaigne

How many things served us yesterday for articles of faith, which today are fables!

Man is certainly stark mad; he cannot make a worm, and yet he will be making gods by dozens.

Nothing is so firmly believed as that which we least know.

The laws of conscience, which we pretend to be derived from nature, proceed from custom.

It is putting a very high price on one's conjectures to have someone roasted alive on their account.

Immanuel Kant

Enlightenment is man's leaving his self-caused immaturity. Immaturity is the incapacity to use one's intelligence without the guidance of another. Such immaturity is self-caused if it is not caused by lack of intelligence, but by lack of determination and courage to use one's intelligence without being guided by another. Sapere aude! Have the courage to use your own intelligence! is therefore motto of the Enlightenment.

Through laziness and cowardice a large part of mankind, even after nature has freed them from alien guidance, gladly remain immature. It is because of laziness and cowardice that it is so easy for others to usurp the role of guardians. It is so comfortable to remain a minor!

If I have a book which provides meaning for me, a pastor who has conscience for me, a doctor who will judge my diet for me, then I do not need to exert myself. I do not have any need to think; if I can pay, others will take over the tedious job for me. The guardians who have kindly undertaken the supervision will see to it that by far the largest part of mankind . . . should consider the step into maturity not only as difficult but also as very dangerous.

Victor Hugo

Adversity makes men, and prosperity makes monsters.

Our acts make or mar us; we are the children of our deeds.

Have no fear of robbers or murderers. They are external dangers. We should fear ourselves.

Prejudices are the real robbers; vices the real murderers. The great dangers are within us. Why worry about what threatens our heads or purses? Let us think instead of what threatens our souls.
Who gives to the poor, lends to God.