Our instinctive dislike of hypocrisy can get in the way of seeing what is really at stake when it comes to choosing a leader. Indeed, we might even make better decisions if we could realize that far from being a liability in a leader, hypocrisy is an essential part of democratic politics. [note: Runciman defines a hypocrite as "a person who hides his or her true beliefs behind a facade of useful platitudes."]
Nobel Laureate in Economics
We can’t improve politics by simply expecting politicians to do good. There are no interests other than those of individuals, and politicians will pursue their own interests just like anyone else, by trying to get reelected, advance their careers, and so on. This means that economists ought to stop acting as if they were advising benevolent despots. If you want to improve government, you must try to improve the rules of the game rather than the individual players.
...I think politicians have low credibility because our institutions at present don't reward truth-telling among them. Quite the contrary. It's easy to get away with blatant lies and misleading euphemism and doublespeak. So the incentive structure favors bending the truth among politicians, more so than one finds in the institutions of science.
It is human nature to justify and rationalize one's own behavior, to exaggerate one's own altruism, and to disguise and conceal one's selfishness. It is thus a part of human nature always to produce some gap or tension between the inner private person and the public persona. It is human nature to act out one's public persona so convincingly that one sometimes deludes one's self, and it is human nature to expose and mock the false pretensions of others.
It's natural to think that living things must be the handiwork of a designer. But it was also natural to think that the sun went around the earth. Overcoming naive impressions to figure out how things really work is one of humanity's highest callings. Our own bodies are riddled with quirks that no competent engineer would have planned but that disclose a history of trial-and-error tinkering: a retina installed backward, ... goose bumps that uselessly try to warm us by fluffing up long-gone fur.
Founding Father of United States
He that lives upon hope will die fasting.
Iconic Philosopher of 19th Century
Hope is the worst of evils, for it prolongs the torment of man.
Founder of Apple
No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.
Philosophy and Psychology Professor
Our lives are awash with deceit, but becoming aware of it would [...] undermine the foundations on which our lives are built. Self-deception is not a pathological state, a deviation from the norm of truthfulness. It is normal, ‘healthy’ and adaptive. It helps get us through the night [and] oils the machinery of social intercourse... In this sense, there is arguably something nihilistic about urging others to seek self-knowledge, and something self-destructive about pursuing it.
Nobel Laureate in Physics
The human mind remains extraordinarily difficult to understand, but so is the weather. We can't predict whether it will rain one month from today, but we do know the rules that govern the rain, even though we can't always calculate their consequences. I see nothing about the human mind any more than about the weather that stands out as beyond the hope of understanding as a consequence of impersonal laws acting over billions of years. There do not seem to be any exceptions to this natural order.
Because [humans] are able to think about our future, have long memories, and form deep bonds of affection with our comrades and family members, facing the fact of death is more difficult than for [other animals]. Nearly all of us fear death. But because our culture is permeated by a religiously grounded belief in an afterlife, loss of faith in God raises the question of death in a different and more anxious way than would be the case if religion had never offered the hope of eternal survival.
Evolutionary Biologist, Writer, Atheism Activist
The total amount of suffering per year in the natural world is beyond all decent contemplation. ... In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, [others] are going to get lucky, and you won't find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.
I listen to all these complaints about rudeness and intemperateness, and the opinion that I come to is that there is no polite way of asking somebody: have you considered the possibility that your entire life has been devoted to a delusion? But that’s a good question to ask. Of course we should ask that question and of course it’s going to offend people. Tough.
We [atheists] don't believe in souls. Now that's a heresy, and should be even more distressing to people than our denial of gods. There is no immortal, constant part of any of us that will survive after death — our minds are the product of a material brain. We are literally soulless machines made of meat, honed by millions of years of ruthless, pitiless evolution. And so is everyone else.
Nobel Laureate in Physics
...the worldview of science is rather chilling. Not only do we not find any point to life laid out for us in nature, no objective basis for our moral principles, no correspondence between what we think is the moral law and the laws of nature... We even learn that the emotions that we most treasure, our love for our [family], are made possible by chemical processes in our brains that are what they are as a result of natural selection acting on chance mutations over millions of years.
When there is no second life or higher power to appease; when our lives are machines — complex misunderstood machines cunningly designed to conceal the gears and pulleys behind a facade of self-delusional sublimation, but machines nonetheless — grinding and belching the choking gritty smoke of status-whoring displays in service to our microscopic puppetmasters [...then one must rationally embrace hedonism]. Are you prepared to embrace the meaning of your ultimately inconsequential existence?
The same goes for sluts. A man who sleeps with many women gets high fives from his buddies and sexual interest from girls who can’t help their burning loins. But girls who sleep around are socially ostracized, used by men and shunned by women. It has always been and it will always be as long as a woman has 400 eggs to a man’s nearly infinite number of sperm.