Smiling G.K. ChestertonPlain and simple, G.K. Chesterton deserves his own page at CatholicQuotations.com. You’ll find some of my favorite quotes from Gilbert below, though if you’re hungry for more (which you will be!), please head on over to this excellent list of quotes (by topic) at Chesterton.org.

And if you’ve never even heard of G.K., do yourself a favor and check this out: Who is this guy and why haven’t I heard of him?


A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it.
The Everlasting Man, 1925

We are learning to do a great many clever things… The next great task will be to learn not to do them.
“Queen Victoria”, Varied Types, 1903

The act of defending any of the cardinal virtues has today all the exhilaration of a vice.
A Defense of Humilities, The Defendant, 1901

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.
Orthodoxy, 1908

Progress should mean that we are always changing the world to fit the vision, instead we are always changing the vision.
Orthodoxy, 1908

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.
The Thing: Why I am a Catholic, 1929

Men invent new ideals because they dare not attempt old ideals. They look forward with enthusiasm, because they are afraid to look back.
What’s Wrong With The World, 1910

Fallacies do not cease to be fallacies because they become fashions.
Illustrated London News, 4/19/30

The first two facts which a healthy boy or girl feels about sex are these: first that it is beautiful and then that it is dangerous.
Illustrated London News, 1/9/09

Among the rich you will never find a really generous man even by accident. They may give their money away, but they will never give themselves away; they are egotistic, secretive, dry as old bones. To be smart enough to get all that money you must be dull enough to want it.
A Miscellany of Men, 1912

The great majority of people will go on observing forms that cannot be explained; they will keep Christmas Day with Christmas gifts and Christmas benedictions; they will continue to do it; and some day suddenly wake up and discover why.
“On Christmas,” Generally Speaking, 1928

To have a right to do a thing is not at all the same as to be right in doing it.
A Short History of England, 1917

The reformer is always right about what is wrong. He is generally wrong about what is right.
Illustrated London News, 10/28/22

The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because they are generally the same people.
Illustrated London News, 7/16/10

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.
New York Times Magazine, 2/11/23

I still hold… that the suburbs ought to be either glorified by romance and religion or else destroyed by fire from heaven, or even by firebrands from the earth.
The Coloured Lands, 1938

Once abolish the God, and the government becomes the God.
Christendom in Dublin, 1933

All men thirst to confess their crimes more than tired beasts thirst for water; but they naturally object to confessing them while other people, who have also committed the same crimes, sit by and laugh at them.
Illustrated London News, 3/14/08

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.
Illustrated London News, 4/19/24

The whole pleasure of marriage is that it is a perpetual crisis.
“David Copperfield,” Chesterton on Dickens, 1911

If there were no God, there would be no atheists.
Illustrated London News, Where All Roads Lead, 1922

There are those who hate Christianity and call their hatred an all-embracing love for all religions.
Illustrated London News, 1/13/06

The modern city is ugly not because it is a city but because it is not enough of a city, because it is a jungle, because it is confused and anarchic, and surging with selfish and materialistic energies.
“The Way to the Stars,” Lunacy and Letters, 1958

The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.
Chapter 5, What’s Wrong With The World, 1910

The riddles of God are more satisfying than the solutions of man.
Introduction to the Book of Job, 1907

A Catholic is a person who has plucked up courage to face the incredible and inconceivable idea that something else may be wiser than he is.
The Surrender on Sex, 1934

What embitters the world is not excess of criticism, but an absence of self-criticism.
Sidelights of New London and Newer York, 1932

These are the days when the Christian is expected to praise every creed except his own.
Illustrated London News, 8/11/28

If a man called Christmas Day a mere hypocritical excuse for drunkeness and gluttony, that would be false, but it would have a fact hidden in it somewhere. But when Bernard Shaw says that Christmas Day is only a conspiracy kept up by Poulterers and wine merchants from strictly business motives, then he says something which is not so much false as startling and arrestingly foolish. He might as well say that the two sexes were invented by jewellers who wanted to sell wedding rings.
George Bernard Shaw, 1909

The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.
Illustrated London News, 1/14/11

It is assumed that the sceptic has no bias; whereas he has a very obvious bias in favour of scepticism.
Illustrated London News, 5/4/07

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.
Illustrated London News, 9/11/09

I say that a man must be certain of his morality for the simple reason that he has to suffer for it.
Illustrated London News, 8/4/06

Great truths can only be forgotten and can never be falsified.
Illustrated London News, 9/30/33

Most modern freedom is at root fear. It is not so much that we are too bold to endure rules; it is rather that we are too timid to endure responsibilities.
What’s Wrong With the World, 1910

An imbecile habit has risen in modern controversy of saying that such and such a creed can be held in one age but cannot be held in another. Some dogma was credible in the 12th century, but is not credible in the 20th. You might as well say that a certain philosophy can be believed on Mondays, but cannot be believed on Tuesdays
Orthodoxy, 1908

You say grace before meals. All right. But I say grace before the play and the opera, and grace before the concert and pantomime, and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing; And grace before I dip the pen in the ink.
From an unpublished poem called “A Grace” in his notebook

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.
Utopia of Usurers, 1917

Art, like morality, consists of drawing the line somewhere.
Illustrated London News, 5/5/28

A new philosophy generally means in practice the praise of some old vice.
Illustrated London News, 1/6/06

Our materialistic masters could, and probably will, put Birth Control into an immediate practical programme while we are all discussing the dreadful danger of somebody else putting it into a distant Utopia.
GK’s Weekly, 1/17/31

Psychoanalysis is a science conducted by lunatics for lunatics. They are generally concerned with proving that people are irresponsible; and they certainly succeed in proving that some people are.
Illustrated London News, 6/23/28

Men do not differ much about what things they will call evils; they differ enormously about what evils they will call excusable.
Illustrated London News, 10/23/09

It is still bad taste to be an avowed atheist. But now it is equally bad taste to be an avowed Christian.
“Introductory Remarks,” Heretics, 1905

“My country, right or wrong,” is a thing that no patriot would think of saying. It is like saying, “My mother, drunk or sober.”
The Defendant, 1901

There are only two kinds of people, those who accept dogmas and know it, and those who accept dogmas and don’t know it.
“The Mercy of Mr. Arnold Bennett,” Fancies Versus Fads, 1923

[Capitalism is] that commercial system in which supply immediately answers to demand, and in which everybody seems to be thoroughly dissatisfied and unable to get anything he wants.
“How to Write a Detective Story,” The Spice of Life, 1965

I would rather a boy learnt in the roughest school the courage to hit a politician, or gained in the hardest school the learning to refute him – rather than that he should gain in the most enlightened school the cunning to copy him.
Illustrated London News, 8/31/12

The average businessman began to be agnostic, not so much because he did not know where he was, as because he wanted to forget. Many of the rich took to scepticism exactly as the poor took to drink; because it was a way out.
Eugenics and Other Evils, 1922

The sort of man who admires Italian art while despising Italian religion is a tourist and a cad.
“Roman Converts,” Dublin Review, Jan-Mar. 1925

I believe what really happens in history is this: the old man is always wrong; and the young people are always wrong about what is wrong with him. The practical form it takes is this: that, while the old man may stand by some stupid custom, the young man always attacks it with some theory that turns out to be equally stupid.
Illustrated London News, 6/3/22

I said that I opened my intellect as I opened my mouth, in order to shut it again on something solid. I was doing it at the moment. And as I truly pointed out, it would look uncommonly silly if I went on opening my mouth infinitely, for ever and ever.
Tremendous Trifles, 1909

Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of a readiness to die.
Orthodoxy, 1908

If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.
What’s Wrong With The World, 1910

We are like the penny, because we have the image of the king stamped on us, the divine king.
Charles Dickens, 1906

The great saint may be said to mix all his thoughts with thanks. All goods look better when they look like gifts.
St. Francis of Assisi, 1923

The difficulty explaining why I am Catholic is that there are 10,000 reasons all amounting to one reason: that Catholicism is true.
Twelve Modern Apostles and Their Creeds, 1926

Let your religion be less of a theory and more of a love affair.
St. Francis of Assisi, 1923

We do not really want a religion that is right where we are right. We want a religion that is right where we are wrong. We do not want, as the newspapers say, a church that will move with the world. We want a church that will move the world.
The Catholic Church and Conversion, 1926

We’re all in the same boat, and we’re all seasick.
What’s Wrong with the World, 1910

All government is an ugly necessity.
A Short History of England, 1917

I believe in getting into hot water. I think it keeps you clean.
Illustrated London News, 3/10/06

You cannot love a thing without wanting to fight for it.
Appreciations and Criticisms of the Works of Charles Dickens, 1911

Men spoke much in my boyhood about restricted or ruined men of genius: and it was common to say that many a man was a Great Might-Have-Been. To me it’s a more solid and startling fact that any man in the street is a Great Might-Not-Have-Been.
Orthodoxy, 1908

Christianity got over the difficulty of combining furious opposites by keeping them both and keeping them both furious.
Orthodoxy, 1908

It is absurd for the Evolutionist to complain that it is unthinkable for an admittedly unthinkable God to make everything out of nothing, and then pretend that it is more thinkable that nothing should turn itself into everything.
St. Thomas Aquinas: The Dumb Ox, 1933

Somehow one can never manage to be an atheist.
The Ball and the Cross, 1909

I have little doubt that when St. George had killed the dragon he was heartily afraid of the princess.
The Victorian Age in Literature, 1913

Great truths can only be forgotten and can never be falsified.
Illustrated London News, 9/30/33

Progress should mean that we are always changing the world to fit the vision, instead we are always changing the vision.

To each man one soul only is given; to each soul only is given a little power — the power at some moments to outgrow and swallow up the stars.
The Napoleon of Notting Hill

The issue is now clear. It is between light and darkness and every one must choose his side.
(Chesterton’s last words)

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