Quotations about   establishment

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No man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer, on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) American political philosopher, polymath, statesman, US President (1801-09)
“Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom” (18 Jun 1779; enacted 16 Jan 1786)
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Added on 28-Mar-22 | Last updated 4-Jul-22
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If you are bored and disgusted by politics and don’t bother to vote, you are in effect voting for the entrenched Establishments of the two major parties, who please rest assured are not dumb, and who are keenly aware that it is in their interests to keep you disgusted and bored and cynical and to give you every possible psychological reason to stay at home doing one-hitters and watching MTV on primary day. By all means stay home if you want, but don’t bullshit yourself that you’re not voting. In reality, there is no such thing as not voting: you either vote by voting, or you vote by staying home and tacitly doubling the value of some Diehard’s vote.

David Foster Wallace
David Foster Wallace (1962-2008) American author, academic
McCain’s Promise (2006)
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Added on 6-Jan-22 | Last updated 6-Jan-22
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There is nothing more agreeable in life than to make peace with the Establishment — and nothing more corrupting.

A. J. P. Taylor (1906-1990) British historian, journalist, broadcaster [Alan John Percivale Taylor]
“William Cobbett” (1953), Essays in English History (1976)
 
Added on 12-Apr-21 | Last updated 19-Apr-21
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If you attack the establishment long enough and hard enough, they will make you a member of it.

Art Buchwald (1925-2007) American humorist, columnist
Speech, Horatio Alger Award Dinner, Washington, DC (May 1989)


Buchwald used a number of variations of this phrase; this particular one was reported a week later in the International Herald Tribune (24 May 1989), but other versions go back to the 1960s (e.g., "Woe to the person in this country who attacks the establishment. It isn’t jail, nor even physical harm, that he must fear. His main problem is that by attacking the Establishment, he automatically becomes a member of it, and there is no greater punishment in the world," from his column of 7 May 1968). See here for more info.
 
Added on 18-Jul-16 | Last updated 18-Jul-16
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To rebel against a powerful political, economic, religious, or social establishment is very dangerous and very few people do it, except, perhaps, as part of a mob. To rebel against the “scientific” establishment, however, is the easiest thing in the world, and anyone can do it and feel enormously brave, without risking as much as a hangnail. Thus, the vast majority, who believe in astrology and think that the planets have nothing better to do than form a code that will tell them whether tomorrow is a good day to close a business deal or not, become all the more excited and enthusiastic about the bilge when a group of astronomers denounces it.

Isaac Asimov (1920-1992) Russian-American author, polymath, biochemist
(Attributed)
 
Added on 19-Apr-16 | Last updated 19-Apr-16
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Christian establishments tend to great ignorance and corruption, all of which facilitate the execution of mischievous projects.

James Madison (1751-1836) American statesman, political theorist, US President (1809-17)
Letter to William Bradford, Jr. (1774)
 
Added on 21-Jul-15 | Last updated 21-Jul-15
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Nothing is more dreaded than the national government meddling with religion.

John Adams (1735-1826) American lawyer, Founding Father, statesman, US President (1797-1801)
Letter to Benjamin Rush (1812)
 
Added on 1-Jul-15 | Last updated 24-Jun-15
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A man of abilities and character, of any sect whatever, may be admitted to any office or public trust under the United States. I am a friend to a variety of sects, because they keep one another in order. How many different sects are we composed of throughout the United States? How many different sects will be in congress? We cannot enumerate the sects that may be in congress. And there are so many now in the United States that they will prevent the establishment of any one sect in prejudice to the rest, and will forever oppose all attempts to infringe religious liberty. If such an attempt be made, will not the alarm be sounded throughout America? If congress be as wicked as we are foretold they will, they would not run the risk of exciting the resentment of all, or most of the religious sects in America.

Edmund Randolph (1753-1813) American attorney, politician
Speech, Virginia Ratifying Committee (10 Jun 1788)
 
Added on 10-Jun-15 | Last updated 10-Jun-15
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When the gap between the ideal and real becomes too wide, the system breaks down.

Barbara W. Tuchman (1912-1989) American historian and author
A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century, Foreward (1978)
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Added on 2-Jun-15 | Last updated 2-Jun-15
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Way down deep the American people are afraid of an entangling relationship between formal religions — or whole bodies of religious belief — and government. Apart from constitutional law and religious doctrine, there is a sense that tells us it’s wrong to presume to speak for God or to claim God’s sanction of our particular legislation and His rejection of all other positions. Most of us are offended when we see religion being trivialized by its appearance in political throw-away pamphlets. The American people need no course in philosophy or political science or church history to know that God should not be made into a celestial party chairman.

Mario Cuomo (1932-2015) American politician
“Religious Belief and Public Morality,” John A. O’Brien Lecture, U. of Notre Dame (13 Sep 1984)
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Added on 1-Jun-15 | Last updated 1-Jun-15
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There comes a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part, you can’t even passively take part; and you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop, And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, the people who own it, that unless you’re free the machine will be prevented from working at all.

Mario Savio (1942-1996) American political activist
“Sproul Hall Sit-In Address” (2 Dec 1964)
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Added on 21-Oct-14 | Last updated 21-Oct-14
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Of course it is quite a different matter if we consider the utility of religion as a prop of thrones; for where these are held “by the grace of God,” throne and altar are intimately associated; and every wise prince who loves his throne and his family will appear at the head of his people as an exemplar of true religion.

Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860) German philosopher
“Religion: A Dialogue,” Essays of Arthur Schopenhauer: Religion: A Dialogue, Etc. [tr. Saunders (1851)]
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Alternate translation:

Of course the matter becomes quite different if we consider the utility of religion as a mainstay of thrones; for in so far as these are bestowed "by the grace of God," altar and throne are closely related. Accordingly, every wise prince who loves his throne and his family will walk before his people as a type of true religion.
[tr. Dircks]

 
Added on 4-Apr-14 | Last updated 17-Aug-22
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I am for freedom of religion, & against all maneuvres to bring about a legal ascendancy of one sect over another.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) American political philosopher, polymath, statesman, US President (1801-09)
Letter to Elbridge Gerry (26 Jan 1799)
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Added on 29-Nov-12 | Last updated 10-Jul-22
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The clergy, by getting themselves established by law, & ingrafted into the machine of government, have been a very formidable engine against the civil & religious rights of man.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) American political philosopher, polymath, statesman, US President (1801-09)
Letter to Jeremiah Moor (18 Aug 1800)
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Added on 25-Oct-12 | Last updated 13-Jul-22
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But the purposes underlying the Establishment Clause go much further than that. Its first and most immediate purpose rested on the belief that a union of government and religion tends to destroy government and to degrade religion. The history of governmentally established religion, both in England and in this country, showed that whenever government had allied itself with one particular form of religion, the inevitable result had been that it had incurred the hatred, disrespect and even contempt of those who held contrary beliefs. That same history showed that many people had lost their respect for any religion that had relied upon the support of government to spread its faith. The Establishment Clause thus stands as an expression of principle on the part of the Founders of our Constitution that religion is too personal, too sacred, too holy, to permit its “unhallowed perversion” by a civil magistrate.

Black - destroy government and to degrade religion - wist.info quote

Hugo Black (1886-1971) American politician and jurist, US Supreme Court Justice (1937-71)
Engel v. Vitale, 370 U.S. 431-432 (1962) [majority opinion]
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Added on 17-Oct-12 | Last updated 30-Jun-22
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Churches are becoming political organizations … It probably will not be long until the churches will divide as sharply upon political, as upon theological questions; and when that day comes, if there are not liberals enough to hold the balance of power, this Government will be destroyed.

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) American lawyer, agnostic, orator
Some Mistakes of Moses, Sec. 3 “The Politicians” (1879)
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Added on 14-Dec-11 | Last updated 4-Feb-16
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The “establishment of religion” clause of the First Amendment means at least this: Neither a state nor the Federal Government can set up a church. Neither can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer one religion over another. Neither can force nor influence a person to go to or to remain away from church against his will or force him to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion. No person can be punished for entertaining or professing religious beliefs or disbeliefs, for church attendance or non-attendance. No tax in any amount, large or small, can be levied to support any religious activities or institutions, whatever they may be called, or whatever form they may adopt to teach or practice religion. Neither a state nor the Federal Government can, openly or secretly, participate in the affairs of any religious organizations or groups and vice versa. In the words of Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect “a wall of separation between Church and State.”

Hugo Black (1886-1971) American politician and jurist, US Supreme Court Justice (1937-71)
Everson v. Board of Education, 330 U.S. 16-17 (1947) – majority opinion
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See Jefferson.
 
Added on 18-Oct-11 | Last updated 29-Dec-21
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I believe in one God, and no more; and I hope for happiness beyond this life.

I believe in the equality of man; and I believe that religious duties consist in doing justice, loving mercy, and endeavouring to make our fellow-creatures happy.

But, lest it should be supposed that I believe many other things in addition to these, I shall, in the progress of this work, declare the things I do not believe, and my reasons for not believing them.

I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish Church, by the Roman Church, by the Greek Church, by the Turkish Church, by the Protestant Church, nor by any church that I know of. My own mind is my own church.

All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.

Thomas Paine (1737-1809) American political philosopher and writer
The Age of Reason, Part 1, ch. 1 (1794)
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Added on 9-Jun-11 | Last updated 22-Feb-21
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The settled opinion here is, that religion is essentially distinct from Civil Govt., and exempt from its cognizance; that a connexion between them is injurious to both; that there are causes in the human breast which ensure the perpetuity of religion without the aid of the law; that rival sects, with equal rights, exercise mutual censorships in favor of good morals; that if new sects arise with absurd opinions or over-heated imaginations, the proper remedies lie in time, forbearance, and example; that a legal establishment of religion without a toleration could not be thought of, and with a toleration, is no security for public quiet & harmony, but rather a source of discord & animosity; and, finally, that these opinions are supported by experience, which has shewn that every relaxation of the alliance between Law & religion, from the partial example of Holland to its consummation in Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, &c., has been found as safe in practice as it is sound in theory.

James Madison (1751-1836) American statesman, political theorist, US President (1809-17)
Letter to Edward Everett (18 Mar 1823)
 
Added on 3-Aug-10 | Last updated 30-May-17
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I consider the Government of the United States as interdicted by the Constitution of the United States from meddling with religious institutions, their doctrines, discipline, or exercises [….]  But it is only proposed that I should recommend, not prescribe, a day of fasting and praying. That is, I should indirectly assume to the United States an authority over religious exercises, which the Constitution has directly precluded them from. It must be meant, too, that this recommendation is to carry some authority and to be sanctioned by some penalty on those who disregard it; not indeed of fine and imprisonment, but of some degree of proscription perhaps in public opinion. And does the change in the nature of the penalty make the recommendation less a law of conduct for those to whom it is directed? […] Every one must act according to the dictates of his own reason and mine tells me that civil powers alone have been given the President of the United States, and no authority to direct the religious exercise of his constituents.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) American political philosopher, polymath, statesman, US President (1801-09)
Letter to Samuel Miller (23 Jan 1808)
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On refusing to issue a Thanksgiving proclamation during his presidency.
 
Added on 23-Apr-10 | Last updated 6-Jul-22
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[I]t is contrary to the principles of reason and justice that any should be compelled to contribute to the maintenance of a church with which their consciences will not permit them to join, and from which they can derive no benefit; for remedy whereof, and that equal liberty as well religious as civil, may be universally extended to all the good people of this commonwealth.

George Mason
George Mason (1725-1792) American statesman, Founding Father [George Mason IV]
Virginia Declaration of Rights (1776)
 
Added on 1-Nov-07 | Last updated 10-Jun-15
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That to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves [and abhors], is sinful and tyrannical; that even the forcing him to support this or that teacher of his own religious persuasion, is depriving him of the comfortable liberty of giving his contributions to the particular pastor whose morals he would make his pattern, and whose powers he feels most persuasive to righteousness; and is withdrawing from the ministry those temporal rewards, which proceeding from an approbation of their personal conduct, are an additional incitement to earnest and unremitting labours for the instruction of mankind.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) American political philosopher, polymath, statesman, US President (1801-09)
“Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom” (18 Jun 1779; enacted 16 Jan 1786)
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The words in [brackets] were removed before final passage. The term "temporal rewards" was mistranscribed into statute as "temporary rewards."
 
Added on 26-Sep-07 | Last updated 4-Jul-22
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The clergy … believe that any portion of power confided to me will be exerted in opposition to their schemes. And they believe rightly: for I have sworn upon the altar of god eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man. But this is all they have to fear from me: and enough, too, in their opinion ….

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) American political philosopher, polymath, statesman, US President (1801-09)
Letter to Benjamin Rush (23 Sep 1800)
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On members of the clergy who had "a very favorite hope of obtaining an establishment of a particular form of Christianity thro' the U. S.; and as every sect believes its own form the true one, every one perhaps hoped for his own, but especially the Episcopalians & Congregationalists."

Usually elided to: "I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man."
 
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 8-Jul-22
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The most radical revolutionary will become a conservative the day after the revolution.

Hannah Arendt (1906-1975) German-American philosopher, political theorist
“Civil Disobedience,” The New Yorker (12 Sep 1970)
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Reprinted in Crises of the Republic (1972).
 
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 11-Aug-22
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Bureaucracy defends the status quo long past the time when the quo has lost its status.

Lawrence J Peter
Lawrence J. Peter (1919-1990) American educator, management theorist
Peter’s Quotations: Ideas for Our Time (1977)
 
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 3-Apr-20
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