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July 30, 2007



The quote cited seemed very familiar to me, so I checked my own volume of Kierkegaard and had marked this passage,

"How unreasonable people are! They never use the freedoms they have but demand those they do not have; they have freedom of thought-they demand freedom of speech."

which is from Either/Or. I found it in the collection of Kierkegaard's works entitled "The Essential Kierkegaard" edited by Howard and Eda Hong on page 38.


Hi Nigel! That great quotation is not by Kierkegaard, but rather the aestheticist "A", from "Either/Or", Diapsalmata.

This translation of the quote is the most common as it is the most colloquial. The Hong translation writes it as: "How unreasonable people are! They never use the freedoms they have but demand those they do not have; they have freedom of thought--they demand freedom of speech."

I too am amazed how much this quote appears around forums, blogs, and the internet in general. It rivals the other quote about being alone with the New Testament.


What I really want to know is the source quotation for "If you label me, you negate me." It's too colloquial to be found on Google or such...


Thanks very much for your swift replies on this...The Hong and Hong translation adds a different slant on this too. It seems to me a bad consequence of the Internet that quotations sometimes get orphaned from their sources; but a good one that people like you are out there ready to remedy this.

Peter Richards


What was that quote about the New Testament?


Hi Peter. This is the quote, where the second paragraph is always quoted:

"The matter is quite simple. The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand we are obliged to act accordingly. Take any words in the New Testament and forget everything except pledging yourself to act accordingly. My God, you will say, if I do that my whole life will be ruined. How would I ever get on in the world?

Herein lies the real place of Christian scholarship. Christian scholarship is the Church’s prodigious invention to defend it-self against the Bible, to ensure that we can continue to be good Christians without the Bible coming too close. Oh, priceless scholarship, what would we do without you? Dreadful it is to fall into the hands of the living God. Yes, it is even dreadful to be alone with the New Testament.

I open the New Testament and read: “If you want to be perfect, then sell all your goods and give to the poor and come follow me.” Good God, if we were to actually do this, all the capitalists, the officeholders, and the entrepreneurs, the whole society in fact, would be almost beggars! We would be sunk if it were not for Christian scholarship! Praise be to everyone who works to consolidate the reputation of Christian scholarship, which helps to restrain the New Testament, this confounded book which would one, two, three, run us all down if it got loose (that is, if Christian scholarship did not restrain it)."

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