Quotations about   organized religion

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All these years later, the way many of us are doing church is broken and we know it, even if we do not know what to do about it. We proclaim the priesthood of all believers while we continue with hierarchical clergy, liturgy, and architecture. We follow a Lord who challenged the religious and political institutions of his time while we fund and defend our own. We speak and sing of divine transformation while we do everything in our power to maintain our equilibrium. If redeeming things continue to happen to us in spite of these deep contradictions in our life together, then I think that is because God is faithful even when we are not.

Barbara Brown Taylor (b. 1951) American minister, academic, author
Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith (2006)
Added on 1-Oct-21 | Last updated 1-Oct-21
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I have no objection to churches so long as they do not interfere with God’s work.

Brooks Atkinson (1894-1984) American drama critic and journalist
Once Around the Sun, “Number 10” (1951)
Added on 7-Sep-21 | Last updated 7-Sep-21
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When theology erodes and organization crumbles, when the institutional framework of religion begins to break up, the search for a direct experience which people can feel to be religious facilitates the rise of cults.

Daniel Bell (1919-2011) American sociologist, writer, editor, academic
“Religion in the Sixties,” Social Research (Fall 1971)
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Added on 1-Mar-21 | Last updated 1-Mar-21
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“Which of them shall be accounted greatest?” Let the churches stop trying to outstrip each other in the number of their adherents, the size of its sanctuary, the abundance of wealth. If we must compete let us compete to see which can move toward the greatest attainment of truth, the greatest service of the poor, and the greatest salvation of the soul and bodies of men. If the Church entered this kind of competition we can imagine what a better world this would be.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) American clergyman, civil rights leader, orator
“Cooperative Competition / Noble Competition,” sermon outline
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Added on 30-Dec-16 | Last updated 30-Dec-16
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They will have Christ for a Lord and not for a Brother. Christ preaches the greatness of man, but we hear only the greatness of Christ.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
Journal (1838)
Added on 31-Oct-16 | Last updated 31-Oct-16
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“Do unto others …” is a good rule of thumb. I live by that. Forgiveness is probably the greatest virtue there is. But that’s exactly what it is -­‐ a virtue. Not just a Christian virtue. No one owns being good. I’m good. I just don’t believe I’ll be rewarded for it in heaven. My reward is here and now. It’s knowing that I try to do the right thing. That I lived a good life. And that’s where spirituality really lost its way. When it became a stick to beat people with. “Do this or you’ll burn in hell.”

You won’t burn in hell. But be nice anyway.

Ricky Gervais (b. 1961) English comedian, actor, director, writer
“Why I’m an Atheist,” Wall Street Journal (19 Dec 2010)
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Added on 4-Aug-16 | Last updated 4-Aug-16
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A professional priesthood is like a group of professional politicians. First of all, it is under an obligation to keep itself in office.

Hendrik Willem van Loon (1882-1944) Dutch-American historian and journalist
The Arts (1939)
Added on 5-Apr-16 | Last updated 5-Apr-16
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Jesus is great, I love Jesus — is there a better role model? No. It’s religion, it’s the people who get in between, it’s the bureaucracy, you know? […] It’s how people abuse Jesus. Was there ever a greater victim of name dropping than Jesus Christ?

William "Bill" Maher (b. 1956) American comedian, political commentator, critic, television host.
Be More Cynical (2000)
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Added on 17-Feb-16 | Last updated 17-Feb-16
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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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My opinion is that there would never have been an infidel, if there had never been a priest. The artificial structures they have built on the purest of all moral systems, for the purpose of deriving from it pence and power, revolts those who think for themselves, and who read in that system only what is really there.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) American political philosopher, polymath, statesman, US President (1801-09)
Letter to Mrs. Samuel H. Smith [Margaret Bayard Smith] (6 Aug 1816)
Added on 9-May-11 | Last updated 13-Apr-15
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The neer to the church, the further from God.

John Heywood (1497?-1580?) English playwright and epigrammist
Proverbes, Part 1, ch. 9 (1546)
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Added on 6-Apr-11 | Last updated 13-Jul-20
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When religion becomes organzied, man ceases to be free. It is not God that is worshiped but the group or the authority that claims to speak in his name. Sin becomes disobedience to authority and not violation of integrity.

Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan (1888-1975) Indian philosopher, statesman
East and West: Some Reflections, Preface (1955)
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Variants:
  • "It is not God that is worshiped but the authority that claims to speak in His name."
  • An expanded version in Religion, Science and Culture, ch. 3 "The World Communities of Ideals" (1965) includes an inserted second sentence: "If we think that it is a question of life or death -- what concept of God we accept -- then our hearts are filled with fury."
Added on 22-Dec-10 | Last updated 2-Aug-16
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The Priesthood, have in all ancient Nations, nearly monopolized Learning. Read over again all the Accounts We have of Hindoos, Chaldeans, Persians Greeks, Romans, Celts, Teutons, We Shall find that Priests had all the Knowledge, and really governed all Mankind. Examine Mahometanism. Trace Christianity from its first Promulgation, Knowledge has been almost exclusively confined to the Clergy. And even since the Reformation, when or where has existed a Protestant or dissenting Sect, who would tolerate, A free Inquiry? The blackest Billingate, the most ungentlemanly insolence, the most yahooish brutality, is patiently endured countenanced propagated and applauded: But touch a solemn Truth in collission with a dogma of a Sect, though capable of the clearest proof; and you will Soon find you have disturbed a Nest, and the hornets will swarm about your legs and hands and fly into your face and Eyes.

John Adams (1735-1826) American lawyer, Founding Father, statesman, US President (1797-1801)
Letter to John Taylor (24 Jan 1815)
Added on 18-Jul-08 | Last updated 19-Oct-21
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The church is always trying to get other people to reform; it might not be a bad idea to reform itself a little, by way of example.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
A Tramp Abroad (1880)
Added on 16-Aug-07 | Last updated 26-Jan-19
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