Favorite chesterton quotes

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Here are some of my favorite Chesterton quotes. Would you like to add your own to the list, or comment on a quote, or offer any remarks in general about G.K.?

“Fallacies do not cease to be fallacies because they become fashions.”

“To have a right to do a thing is not at all the same as to be right in doing it.”

“The reformer is always right about what is wrong. He is generally wrong about what is right.”

“Progress should mean that we are always changing the world to fit the vision; instead we are always changing the vision.”

“My attitude toward progress has passed from antagonism to boredom. I have long ceased to argue with people who prefer Thursday to Wednesday because it is Thursday.”

“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 that arrogant oligarchy who merely happen to be walking around.”

“The past is not what it was.”

“The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.”

“The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of the Conservatives is to prevent the mistakes from being corrected.”

“Women are the only realists; their whole object in life is to pit their realism against the extravagant, excessive, and occasionally drunken idealism of men.”

“Marriage is a duel to the death which no man of honor should decline.”

“The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.”

“These are the days when the Christian is expected to praise every creed except his own.”

“Civilization has run on ahead of the soul of man, and is producing faster than he can think and give thanks.”

“All science, even the divine science, is a sublime detective story. Only it is not set to detect why a man is dead; but the darker secret of why he is alive.”

“[No society can survive the socialist] fallacy that there is an absolutely unlimited number of inspired officials and an absolutely unlimited amount of money to pay them.”

“All but the hard hearted man must be torn with pity for this pathetic dilemma of the rich man, who has to keep the poor man just stout enough to do the work and just thin enough to have to do it.”

“Art, like morality, consists of drawing the line somewhere.”

"We are learning to do a great many clever things…The next great task will be to learn not to do them.”

“Religious liberty might be supposed to mean that everybody is free to discuss religion. In practice it means that hardly anybody is allowed to mention it.”

“The atheist is not interested in anything except attacks on atheism.”

“There are only two kinds of people, those who accept dogmas and know it, and those who accept dogmas and don’t know it.”

“Without authority there is no liberty. Freedom is doomed to destruction at every turn, unless there is a recognized right to freedom. And if there are rights, there is an authority to which we appeal for them.”

“A strange fanaticism fills our time: the fanatical hatred of morality, especially of Christian morality.”

“The sort of man who admires Italian art while despising Italian religion is a tourist and a cad.”

“It is assumed that the skeptic has no bias; whereas he has a very obvious bias in favor of skepticism.”

“Every man who will not have softening of the heart must at least have softening of the brain.”

“It is the root of all religion that a man knows he is nothing in order to thank God that he is something.”

“What we dread most … is a maze with no center. That is why atheism is only a nightmare.”

“Having been asked the question ‘What in your opinion were the most stupid things of 1933?’ I can answer it very simply…. By far the stupidest thing done, not only in the last year, but in the last two or three centuries, was the acceptance by the Germans of the Dictatorship of Hitler – to say nothing of Goering.”
Thanks for the great quotes. I’m saving this post!!!

I am a devoted disciple of GKC.
“There must be a final choice; a man cannot make statues without rejecting stone.”

Everlasting Man, Part 2 Chapter 5
My Dad used to smoke Chestertons . . . 😉

Seriously, this one:

Carl said:
“These are the days when the Christian is expected to praise every creed except his own.”

– seems especially relevant in Politically-Correct 2004 America.
“I have kept my truths but I have discovered, not that they were not truths, but simply that they were not mine." – Orthodoxy

One of my favorites you posted:

“Ask yourself many times during the day: Am I doing at this moment what I ought to be doing?”

There is an excellent and comprehensive selection of quotes at this web site of the american Chesterton Society:


I like the following one, not because of any strong feelings about what it says, mainly because of how it creates so much cogency with so few words:

“‘My country, right or wrong,’ is a thing that no patriot would think of saying. It is like saying, ‘My mother, drunk or sober.’”
Please forgive me because I may miss the exact quote…

"Christinity has not been tried and found wanting; It has been found difficult and left untired.
My wife and I were watching Bishop Sheen Sunday night and caught this gem which he related as Chesterton’s proposal to his wife, Frances Blogg. I looked it up and it turns out that it is actually from a letter Chesterton wrote to her when she was already his fiancée. Either way … it knocked the breath out of my wife and humbled me (I was under the mistaken impression that I could write romantically)


“But there are four lamps of thanksgiving always before him. The first is for his creation out of the same earth with such a woman as you. The second is that he has not, with all his faults, ‘gone after strange women.’ You cannot think how a man’s self restraint is rewarded in this. The third is that he has tried to love everything alive: a dim preparation for loving you. And the fourth is - but no words can express that. Here ends my previous existence. Take it: it led me to you.”


‘Eloquent’ is an inadequate word for this man. Read the rest of the letter if you get the chance; the last 5 paragraphs make me wish I could express my feelings for my wife as ably.


Good night … and God love you 🙂
I hope I get this GK quote right:
I had to become a Catholic because its the only church that does not see a contradiction between a pint, a pipe and a pew.*
Two more good ones from Chesterton:

“The modern world is a crowd of very rapid racing cars all brought to a standstill and stuck in a block of traffic.”

“This is the age in which thin and theoretic minorities can cover and conquer unconscious and untheoretic majorities.”
“It will be said that a rational person accepts the world as mixed of good and evil with a decent satisfaction and a decent endurance. But this is exactly the attitude which I maintain to be defective.” “…what we need is not the cold acceptance of the world as a compromise, but some way in which we can heartily hate and heartily love it. We do not want joy and anger to neutralize each other and produce a surly contentment; we want a fiercer delight and a fiercer discontent.”

…I just love that!
Chesterton is outstanding. I have one of his favorite quotes as my signature.
Coupla my favorites:

“A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it.”

“Merely having an open mind is nothing; the object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid.”

“Before you take down a fence, ask yourself why it was put up in the first place.”
Stop making your Religion a Theology and start making it a Love Affair. G.K. Chesterton
Chesterton has to be THE most quotable modern author, period. All of the quotes submitted so far are favorites of mine— it would be difficult to pick a “top ten”, and impossible to select just one.

Someone has already posted a link to the American Chesterton Society. There is a lot of material there, and I would recommend it going into a “favorites” file so it can be accessed easily and often.

I think every Catholic ought to read “Orthodoxy”, and “The Everlasting Man”. Come to think of it, there’s no sense in restricting that recommendation to only Catholics: EVERYONE should read those two!

Three more:

“What is now called free thought is valued, not because it is free thought, but because it is freedom from thought: because it is free thoughtlessness.”

“When people impute special vices to the Christian Church, they seem to entirely forget that the world (which is the only other thing there is) has these vices much more. The Church has been cruel; but the world has been much more cruel. The Church has plotted; but the world has plotted much more. The Church has been superstitious; but it has never been so superstitious as the world is when left to itself.”

“To become a Catholic is not to leave off thinking, but to learn how to think.”
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