Quotations about   religion

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Night poured over the desert. It came suddenly, in purple. In the clear air, the stars drilled down out of the sky, reminding any thoughtful watcher that it is in the deserts and high places that religions are generated. When men see nothing but bottomless infinity over their heads they have always had a driving and desperate urge to find someone to put in the way.

Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) English author
Jingo (1997)
Added on 15-Sep-20 | Last updated 15-Sep-20
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It is tiresome to keep hearing that the Bible is “the best-selling book” of all time, as though the fact that many people buy it indicates that they read it, understand it or follow it.

Sydney J. Harris (1917-1986) Anglo-American columnist, journalist, author
For the Time Being (1972)
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Added on 4-Sep-20 | Last updated 4-Sep-20
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It ain’t those parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
(Spurious)

This is not found in any of Twain's printed works, and the first version of it appeared in 1915, after Twain's death. The folksy use of "ain't" doesn't show up until the mid-1970s. For more discussion, see here.
Added on 1-Sep-20 | Last updated 1-Sep-20
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“My thoughts are not your thoughts. For as high as the heavens are the above the earth, so are my thoughts above your thoughts, my ways above your ways.” It should be written over every preacher’s pulpit. […] Because so often we think that God’s ways are our ways. God’s thoughts are our thoughts. And we created God in our own image and likeness saying, “God approves of this. God forbids that. God desires the other.” […] This is where some of the worst atrocities of religion have come from. Because people have used this to give a sacred seal of a divine approval to some of their worst hatreds, loathings, and fears.

Karen Armstrong (b. 1944) British author, comparative religion scholar
NOW Interview with Bill Moyers, PBS (1 Mar 2002)
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Quoting Isaiah 55:8.
Added on 31-Aug-20 | Last updated 31-Aug-20
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In the most deeply significant of the legends concerning Jesus, we are told how the devil took him up into a high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time; and the devil said unto him: “All this power will I give unto thee, and the glory of them, for that is delivered unto me, and to whomsoever I will, I give it. If thou, therefore, wilt worship me, all shall be thine.” Jesus, as we know, answered and said “Get thee behind me, Satan!” And he really meant it; he would have nothing to do with worldly glory, with “temporal power;” he chose the career of a revolutionary agitator, and died the death of a disturber of the peace. And for two or three centuries his church followed in his footsteps, cherishing his proletarian gospel. The early Christians had “all things in common, except women;” they lived as social outcasts, hiding in deserted catacombs, and being thrown to lions and boiled in oil.

But the devil is a subtle worm; he does not give up at one defeat, for he knows human nature, and the strength of the forces which battle for him. He failed to get Jesus, but he came again, to get Jesus’ church. He came when, through the power of the new revolutionary idea, the Church had won a position of tremendous power in the decaying Roman Empire; and the subtle worm assumed the guise of no less a person than the Emperor himself, suggesting that he should become a convert to the new faith, so that the Church and he might work together for the greater glory of God. The bishops and fathers of the Church, ambitious for their organization, fell for this scheme, and Satan went off laughing to himself. He had got everything he had asked from Jesus three hundred years before; he had got the world’s greatest religion.

Upton Sinclair (1878-1968) American writer, journalist, activist, politician
The Profits of Religion, Book Seven “The Church of the Social Revolution” (1917)
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Added on 27-Aug-20 | Last updated 27-Aug-20
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Many people believe that they are attracted by God, or by Nature, when they are only repelled by man.

William Ralph Inge (1860-1954) English prelate [Dean Inge]
More Lay Thoughts of a Dean, Part 4, ch. 1 (1931)
Added on 24-Aug-20 | Last updated 24-Aug-20
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To become a popular religion, it is only necessary for a superstition to enslave a philosophy.

William Ralph Inge (1860-1954) English prelate [Dean Inge]
“The Idea of Progress”, Romanes Lecture, Oxford (27 May 1920)
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Added on 17-Aug-20 | Last updated 17-Aug-20
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The supreme crime of the church to-day is that everywhere and in all its operations and influences it is on the side of sloth of mind; that it banishes brains, it sanctifies stupidity, it canonizes incompetence.

Upton Sinclair (1878-1968) American writer, journalist, activist, politician
The Profits of Religion, Book Two: “The Church of Good Society,” “The Canonization of Incompetence” (1917)
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Added on 13-Aug-20 | Last updated 13-Aug-20
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The first thing brought forth by the study of any religion, ancient or modern, is that it is based upon Fear, born of it, fed by it — and that it cultivates the source from which its nourishment is derived.

Upton Sinclair (1878-1968) American writer, journalist, activist, politician
The Profits of Religion, Book 1 “The Church of Conquerors,” “The Great Fear” (1917)
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Added on 6-Aug-20 | Last updated 6-Aug-20
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No matter what the belief, if it had modestly said, “This is our best thought, go on, think farther!” then we could have smoothly outgrown our early errors and long since have developed a religion such as would have kept pace with an advancing world. But we were made to believe and not allowed to think. We were told to obey, rather than to experiment and investigate.

Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1860-1935) American sociologist, writer, reformer, feminist
His Religion and Hers, ch. 10 (1923)
Added on 7-Jul-20 | Last updated 7-Jul-20
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It is as absurd to argue men, as to torture them, into believing.

John Henry Newman (1801-1890) English prelate, Catholic Cardinal, theologian
“The Usurpations of Reason,” Sermon, Oxford, England (11 Dec 1831)
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The philosophical historian must admit that all the changes which the Catholic Church has undergone — its concessions to Pagan superstition, its secular power, its ruthless extirpation of rebels against its authority, its steadily growing centralisation and autocracy — were forced upon it in the struggle for existence. Those who wish that Church history had been different are wishing the impossible, or wishing that the Church had perished. But this argument is not valid as a defence of a divine institution. It is rather a merciless exposure of what happens, and must happen, to a great idea when it is enslaved by an institution of its own creation. The political organisation which has grown up round the idea ends by strangling it, and continues to fight for its own preservation by the methods which govern the policy of all other political organisations –force, fraud, and accommodation.

William Ralph Inge (1860-1954) English prelate [Dean Inge]
“Institutionalism and Mysticism” (1914), Outspoken Essays: First Series (1914)
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Added on 6-Jul-20 | Last updated 6-Jul-20
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The reason ours is a creedless faith is because we have a theory about Creation and our theory — unlike that of most religious traditions — is that Creation is too grand, too glorious, too complex and too mysterious to be captured in any narrow creed or reflected in any single metaphor. It is exactly because we so cherish the world in all its multi-hued grandeur that we resist the temptation to see it through only one lens. Our conviction is that we will come a little closer to the truth about the world — and certainly be more receptive to its splendour if we set a variety of vehicles to apprehend it: all the world’s great religious traditions, for example, but also the sciences, the secular arts, the disciplines of mysticism, and the electric touch of love.

William F. "Bill" Schulz b. 1949) American Unitarian Universalist minister and activist
Finding Time & Other Delicacies (1992)
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Added on 26-Jun-20 | Last updated 26-Jun-20
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Human psychology has a near-universal tendency to let belief be colored by desire.

Richard Dawkins (b. 1941) English ethologist, evolutionary biologist, author
The God Delusion (2006)
Added on 23-Jun-20 | Last updated 23-Jun-20
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I love being with people. But I need a script, a role, something that will help me overcome my fears of rejection and shame. Most religions and belief systems provide a blueprint for some sort of community. And the religion’s leaders model a way of being. For example, in my book Choke, a character enacts his own death and resurrection every night — as does the narrator in Fight Club. Here’s Jesus, allowing himself to look terrible in front of his peers. That’s the biggest purpose of religious gathering: permission to look terrible in public.

Chuck Palahniuk (b. 1962) American novelist and freelance journalist
“Those burnt tongue moments–Chuck Palahniuk in interview”, Interview by Andrew Lawless, Three Monkeys (May 2005)
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Added on 16-Jun-20 | Last updated 16-Jun-20
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With St. Paul it is quite different. He is a saint without a luminous halo. His personal characteristics are too distinct and too human to make idealisation easy. For this reason he has never been the object of popular devotion. Shadowy figures like St. Joseph and St. Anne have been divinised and surrounded with picturesque legends; but St. Paul has been spared the honour or the ignominy of being coaxed and wheedled by the piety of paganised Christianity. No tender fairy-tales are attached to his cult; he remains for us what he was in the flesh. It is even possible to feel an active dislike for him.

William Ralph Inge (1860-1954) English prelate [Dean Inge]
“St. Paul” (1914), Outspoken Essays: First Series (1914)
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Added on 15-Jun-20 | Last updated 15-Jun-20
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Every sect is a moral check on its neighbour. Competition is as wholesome in religion as in commerce.

Walter Savage Landor (1775–1864) English writer and poet
Imaginary Conversations, “Dialogues of Literary Men,” ch. 29 “Martin and Jack” (1824-29)
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There are a score of great religions in the world, each with scores or hundreds of sects, each with its priestly orders, its complicated creed and ritual, its heavens and hells. Each has its thousands or millions or hundreds of millions of “true believers”; each damns all the others with more or less heartiness — and each is a mighty fortress of Graft.

Upton Sinclair (1878-1968) American writer, journalist, activist, politician
The Profits of Religion, Book 1 “The Church of Conquerors,” “The Priestly Lie” (1917)
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Added on 19-May-20 | Last updated 19-May-20
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Men of faith know that throughout history the crimes committed in liberty’s name have been exceeded only by those committed in God’s name.

Other Authors and Sources
Mills E. Godwin, Governor of Virginia (Dec 1966)

On KKK cross-burnings. Quoted in various papers of the time.
Added on 11-May-20 | Last updated 11-May-20
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The craving for signs and wonders — that broad road which attracts so many converts and wins so rapid a success — leads religion at last to its destruction, as Christ seems to have warned His own disciples.

William Ralph Inge (1860-1954) English prelate [Dean Inge]
“Roman Catholic Modernism” (1909), Outspoken Essays: First Series (1911)
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Added on 11-May-20 | Last updated 11-May-20
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So oft in theologic wars,
The disputants, I ween,
Rail on in utter ignorance
Of what each other mean,
And prate about an Elephant
Not one of them has seen!

John Godfrey Saxe (1816-1887) American poet and satirist
“The Blind Men and the Elephant,” Moral, The Poems of John Godfrey Saxe (1872)
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Added on 8-May-20 | Last updated 11-May-20
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When the heavy-handed dogmatist requires a categorical assent to the literal truth of the miraculous, in exactly the same sense in which physical facts are true, a tension between faith and reason cannot be avoided.

William Ralph Inge (1860-1954) English prelate [Dean Inge]
“Bishop Gore and the Church of England” (1908), Outspoken Essays: First Series (1911)
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Added on 20-Apr-20 | Last updated 20-Apr-20
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A love of order, seemliness, and good taste has led the Anglican Church along a middle path between what a seventeenth-century divine called “the meretricious gaudiness of the Church of Rome and the squalid sluttery of fanatic conventicles.”

William Ralph Inge (1860-1954) English prelate [Dean Inge]
“Bishop Gore and the Church of England” (1908), Outspoken Essays, First Series (1919)
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The reference is to "S. P. of Cambridge," believed to be the later Bishop Simon Patrick, who published in 1662 the pamphlet "A Brief Account of the new Sect of Latitude-men," lauding "that virtuous mediocrity which our Church observes between" the alternatives quoted by Inge. Reprinted in John Dunton, The Phenix, Vol. 2, ch. 4 (1707).
Added on 13-Apr-20 | Last updated 13-Apr-20
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I do not see in religion the mystery of the incarnation, but the mystery of the social order; religion attaches to heaven an idea of equality that stops the rich from being massacred by the poor.

[Quant à moi, je ne vois pas dans la religion le mystère de l’incarnation, mais le mystère de l’ordre social; elle rattache au ciel une idée d’égalité qui empêche que le riche ne soit massacré par le pauvre.]

Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) French emperor, military leader
Statement (4 Mar 1806)
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Quoted in Opinions de Napoléon sur divers sujets de politique et d'administration, recueillies par un membre de son conseil d'état (1833).
Added on 2-Apr-20 | Last updated 10-Apr-20
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Human beings are more alike than unalike. There’s no real mystique. Every human being, every Jew, Christian, back-slider, Muslim, Shintoist, Zen Buddhist, atheist, agnostic, every human being wants a nice place to live, a good place for the children to go to school, healthy children, somebody to love, the courage, the unmitigated gall, to accept love in return, some place to relax on Saturday or Sunday night, and some place to experience their God.

Maya Angelou (1928-2014) American poet, memoirist, activist [b. Marguerite Ann Johnson]
“The Art of Fiction,” Paris Review, #116, Interview with George Plimpton (1990)
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A similar passage, from a speech at Ohio Dominican College (9 Dec 1993): "Humans are wonderfully different and marvelously alike. Human being are more alike than unalike. Whether in Paris, Texas, or Paris, France, we all want to have good jobs where we are needed and respected and paid just a little more than we deserve. We want healthy children, safe streets, to be loved and have the unmitigated gall to accept love. If we are religious, we want a place to perpetuate God. If not, we want a good lecture every once in a while. And everyone wants someplace to party on Saturday nights."
Added on 20-Feb-20 | Last updated 20-Feb-20
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If conversion to Christianity makes no improvements in a man’s outward actions — if he continues to be just as snobbish or spiteful or envious or ambitious as he was before — then I think we must suspect that his “conversion” was largely imaginary; and after one’s original conversion, every time one thinks one has made an advance, that is the test to apply. Fine feelings, new insights, greater interest in “religion” mean nothing unless they make our actual behavior better.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
Mere Christianity, ch. 10 “Nice People or New Men” (1952)
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Added on 30-Oct-19 | Last updated 30-Oct-19
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But your spiritual teachers caution you against enquiry — tell you not to read certain books; not to listen to certain people; to beware of profane learning; to submit your reason, and to receive their doctrines for truths. Such advice renders them suspicious counsellors. By their own creed, you hold your reason from their God. Go! ask them why he gave it.

Frances "Fanny" Wright (1795-1852) Scottish-American writer, lecturer, social reformer
A Course of Popular Lectures, Lecture 3 “Of the more Important Divisions and Essential Parts of Knowledge” (1829)
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Added on 4-Sep-19 | Last updated 4-Sep-19
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I endorse it. I think it was correct. Contrary to what many have said, it sought to outlaw neither prayer nor belief in god. In a pluralistic society such as ours, who is to determine what prayer shall be spoken and by whom? Legally, constitutionally or otherwise, the state certainly has no such right.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) American clergyman, civil rights leader, orator
Playboy interview (Jan 1965)
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On the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to ban school-led prayer.
Added on 5-May-19 | Last updated 5-May-19
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I’m working at trying to be a good Christian, and that’s serious business. It’s like trying to be a good Jew, a good Muslim, a good Buddhist, a good Shintoist, a good Zoroastrian, a good friend, a good lover, a good mother, a good buddy — it’s serious business. It’s not something where you think, Oh, I’ve got it done. I did it all day, hotdiggety. The truth is, all day long you try to do it, try to be it, and then in the evening if you’re honest and have a little courage you look at yourself and say, Hmm. I only blew it eighty-six times. Not bad.

Maya Angelou (1928-2014) American poet, memoirist, activist [b. Marguerite Ann Johnson]
“The Art of Fiction,” Paris Review, #116, Interview with George Plimpton (1990)
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Added on 3-Jan-19 | Last updated 3-Jan-19
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My personal disillusionment with the church began when I was thrust into the leadership of the bus protest in Montgomery. I was confident that the white ministers, priests and rabbis of the South would prove strong allies in our just cause. But some became open adversaries, some cautiously shrank from the issue, and others hid behind silence. My optimism about help from the white church was shattered; and on too many occasions since, my hopes for the white church have been dashed. There are many signs that the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. Unless the early sacrificial spirit is recaptured, I am very much afraid that today’s Christian church will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and we will see the Christian church dismissed as a social club with no meaning or effectiveness for our time, as a form without substance, as salt without savor. The real tragedy, though, is not Martin Luther King’s disillusionment with the church — for I am sustained by its spiritual blessings as a minister of the gospel with a lifelong commitment: The tragedy is that in my travels, I meet young people of all races whose disenchantment with the church has soured into outright disgust.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) American clergyman, civil rights leader, orator
Playboy interview (Jan 1965)
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Added on 28-Dec-18 | Last updated 28-Dec-18
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Americans rightly think their patriotism is a sort of religion strengthened by practical service.

Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859) French writer, diplomat, politician
Democracy in America, Vol. 1, “Public Spirit of the Townships of New England” (1835)
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Alt. trans.: "For in the United States it is believed, and with truth, that patriotism is a kind of devotion which is strengthened by ritual observance." [tr. Reeve (1839)]
Added on 14-Nov-18 | Last updated 14-Nov-18
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We boast our emancipation from many superstitions; but if we have broken any idols, it is through a transfer of idolatry. What have I gained, that I no longer immolate a bull to Jove or to Neptune, or a mouse to Hecate; that I do not tremble before the Eumenides, or the Catholic Purgatory, or the Calvinistic Judgment-day, — if I quake at opinion, the public opinion as we call it; or at the threat of assault, or contumely, or bad neighbors, or poverty, or mutilation, or at the rumor of revolution, or of murder? If I quake, what matters it what I quake at?

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
“Character,” Essays: Second Series (1844)
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Added on 13-Nov-18 | Last updated 13-Nov-18
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When Christianity asks the aid of government beyond mere impartial protection, it denies itself. Its laws are divine, and not human. Its essential interests lie beyond the reach and range of human governments. United with government, religion never rises above the merest superstition; united with religion, government never rises above the merest despotism; and all history shows us that the more widely and completely they are separated, the better it is for both.

John Welch (1805-1891) American politician, jurist
Board of Education of Cincinnati v. Minor, Ohio Supreme Court (1872)
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Added on 4-Sep-18 | Last updated 4-Sep-18
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It is just that all worship should be considered as one. We look on the same stars, the sky is common, the same world surrounds us. What difference does it make by what pains each seeks the truth? We cannot attain to so great a secret by one road.

[Aequum est quidquid omnes colunt, unum putari. Eadem spectamus astra, commune coelum est, idem nos munus involvit. Quid interest qua quisque prudentia verum requirat? Uno itinere no potest perveniri ad tam grande secretum.]

Quintus Aurelius Symmachus (c. 345-402) Roman statesman, orator, man of letters
“The Memorial of Symmachus, Prefect of the City” [tr. Romestin, Romestin, Duckworth (1896)]
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Petition on behalf of non-Christian Senators to Emperor Valentinian to restore the Altar of Victory to the Roman Senate.

Alt. trans.: "We gaze up at the same stars; the sky covers us all; the same universe encompasses us. Does it matter what practical system we adopt in our search for the Truth? The heart of so great a mystery cannot be reached by following one road only."
Added on 1-Aug-18 | Last updated 1-Aug-18
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The government’s ability to enforce generally applicable prohibitions of socially harmful conduct, like its ability to carry out other aspects of public policy, “cannot depend on measuring the effects of a governmental action on a religious objector’s spiritual development.” To make an individual’s obligation to obey such a law contingent upon the law’s coincidence with his religious beliefs, except where the State’s interest is “compelling” — permitting him, by virtue of his beliefs, “to become a law unto himself” — contradicts both constitutional tradition and common sense.

Antonin Scalia (1936-2016) US Supreme Court justice
Employment Division v. Smith, 494 U.S. 872, majority opinion (1990)
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Opinion holding that the state could prohibit religious-based peyote use.
Added on 31-Jul-18 | Last updated 31-Jul-18
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Every subject’s duty is the king’s; but every subject’s soul is his own.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
Henry V, Act 4, sc. 1 [King Henry] (1599)
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Added on 9-Apr-18 | Last updated 9-Apr-18
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There are many signs that the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. Unless the early sacrificial spirit is recaptured, I am very much afraid that today’s Christian church will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and we will see the Christian church dismissed as a social club with no meaning or effectiveness for our time, as a form without substance, as salt without savor. The real tragedy, though, is not Martin Luther King’s disillusionment with the church — for I am sustained by its spiritual blessings as a minister of the gospel with a lifelong commitment. The tragedy is that in my travels, I meet young people of all races whose disenchantment with the church has soured into outright disgust.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) American clergyman, civil rights leader, orator
Playboy interview (Jan 1965)
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Added on 6-Apr-18 | Last updated 6-Apr-18
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For some reason, the most vocal Christians among us never mention the Beatitudes. But, often with tears in their eyes, they demand that the Ten Commandments be posted in public buildings. And of course, that’s Moses, not Jesus. I haven’t heard one of them demand that the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes, be posted anywhere. “Blessed are the merciful” in a courtroom? “Blessed are the peacemakers: in the Pentagon? Give me a break!

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. (1922-2007) American novelist, journalist
A Man Without A Country, ch. 9 (2005)
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The Beatitudes (Matthew 5).
Added on 2-Apr-18 | Last updated 2-Apr-18
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Depend upon it, as long as the church is living so much like the world, we cannot expect our children to be brought into the fold.

Dwight Lyman "D. L." Moody (1837-1899) American evangelist and publisher
God’s Good News, “Where Art Thou?” [Gen. 3:9] (1897)
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Added on 23-Oct-17 | Last updated 23-Oct-17
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Man is so built that he cannot imagine his own death. This leads to endless invention of religions. While this conviction by no means proves immortality to be a fact, questions generated by it are overwhelmingly important. The nature of life, how ego hooks into the body, the problem of ego itself and why each ego seems to be the center of the universe, the purpose of life, the purpose of the universe — these are paramount questions, Ben; they can never be trivial. Science hasn’t solved them — and who am I to sneer at religions for trying, no matter how unconvincingly to me? Old Mumbo Jumbo may eat me yet; I can’t rule him out because he owns no fancy cathedrals. Nor can I rule out one godstruck boy leading a sex cult in an upholstered attic; he might be the Messiah. The only religious opinion I feel sure of is this: self-awareness is not just a bunch of amino acids bumping together!

Robert A. Heinlein (1907-1988) American writer
Stranger in a Strange Land, Part 4, ch. 33 [Jubal] (1961)
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In the "uncut" original version (1960): "Self-aware man is so built that he cannot believe in his own extinction ... and this automatically leads to endless invention of religions. While this involuntary conviction of immortality by no means proves immortality to be a fact, the questions generated by this conviction are overwhelmingly important ... whether we can answer them or not, or prove what answers we suspect. The nature of life, how the ego hooks into the physical body, the problem of the ego itself and why each ego seems to be the center of the universe, the purpose of life, the purpose of the universe -- these are paramount questions Ben; they can never be trivial. Science can't, or hasn't, coped with any of them -- and who am I to sneer at religions for trying to answer them, no matter how unconvincingly to me? Old Mumbo Jumbo may eat me yet; I can't rule Him out because He owns no fancy cathedrals. Nor can I rule out one godstruck boy leading a sex cult in an upholstered attic; he might be the Messiah. The only religious opinion that I feel sure of is this: self-awareness is not just a bunch of amino acids bumping together!"
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Though I’ve never understood how God could expect his creatures to pick the one true religion by faith — it strikes me as a sloppy way to run a universe.

Robert A. Heinlein (1907-1988) American writer
Stranger in a Strange Land, ch. 13 [Jubal] (1961)
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In the "original uncut" edition (1960, published 1991), this is given as: "I've never been able to understand 'faith' myself, nor to see how a just God could expect his creatures to pick the one true religion out of an infinitude of false ones -- by faith alone. It strikes me as a sloppy way to run an organization, whether a universe or a smaller one."
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Do not fancy, as too many do, that thou canst praise God by singing hymns to Him in church once a week, and disobeying Him all the week long. … Dost thou fancy as the heathen do, that God needs to be flattered with fine words? or that thou wilt be heard for thy much speaking, and thy vain repetitions? He asks of thee works as well as words; and more, He asks of thee works first and words after.

Charles Kingsley (1819-1875) English clergyman, historian, essayist, novelist (pseud. "Parson Lot")
The Good News of God, Sermon 4 “The Song of the Three Children (Daniel 3:16-18)” (1881)
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Isn’t it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?

Douglas Adams (1952-2001) English writer
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, ch. 16 [Ford] (1979)
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Be it observed, that the most superstitious times have always been those of the most horrible crimes.

Voltaire (1694-1778) French writer [pseud. of Francois-Marie Arouet]
“Superstition,” sec. 4, Philosophical Dictionary (1764) [tr. Besterman (1971)]
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KATE: One’s religion is whatever he is most interested in, and yours is — Success.

HARRY: Ambition — it is the last infirmity of noble minds.

James Barrie (1860-1937) Scottish novelist and dramatist
The Twelve-Pound Look (1910)
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Any religion that professes to be concerned with the souls of men and is not concerned with the slums that damn them, the economic conditions that strangle them, and the social conditions that cripple them is a dry-as-dust religion. Such a religion is the kind the Marxists like to see — an opiate of the people.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) American clergyman, civil rights leader, orator
Stride Toward Freedom (1958)
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Certainly, otherworldly concerns have a deep and significant place in all religions worthy of the name. Any religion that is completely earthbound sells its birthright for a mess of naturalistic pottage. Religion at its best, deals not only with man’s preliminary concerns but with his inescapable ultimate concern. When religion overlooks this basic fact it is reduced to a mere ethical system in which eternity is absorbed into time and God is relegated to a sort of meaningless figment of the human imagination.

But a religion true to its nature must also be concerned about man’s social conditions. Religion deals with both earth and heaven, both time and eternity. Religion operates not only on the vertical plane but also on the horizontal. It seeks not only to integrate men with God but to integrate men with men and each man with himself.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) American clergyman, civil rights leader, orator
Stride Toward Freedom (1958)
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“There are two types of people in this world,” Pete volunteers helpfully, “those who think there are only two types of people in the world, and everybody else.” He sips his wine thoughtfully. “But the first kind don’t put it that way. They usually think in terms of the saved and the damned, with themselves sitting pretty in the lifeboat.”

Charles "Charlie" Stross (b. 1964) British writer
The Apocalypse Codex (2012)
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I find I never weary of great churches. It is my favorite kind of mountain scenery. Mankind was never so happily inspired as when it made a cathedral: a thing as single and specious as a statue at first glance, and yet, on examination, as lively and interesting as a forest in detail.

Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894) Scottish essayist, novelist, poet
An Inland Voyage, “Noyon Cathedral” (1878)
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The most dangerous type of atheism is not theoretical atheism, but practical atheism — that’s the most dangerous type. And the world, even the church, is filled up with people who pay lip service to God and not life service. And there is always a danger that we will make it appear externally that we believe in God when internally we don’t. We say with our mouths that we believe in him, but we live with our lives like he never existed. That is the ever-present danger confronting religion. That’s a dangerous type of atheism.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) American clergyman, civil rights leader, orator
“Rediscovering Lost Values,” sermon, Second Baptist Church, Detroit (28 Feb 1954)
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That little man in black there, he says women can’t have as much rights as men, ’cause Jesus Christ wasn’t a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.

Sojourner Truth (1797-1883) American abolitionist, women's rights activist [b. Isabella Baumfree]
“Ain’t I A Woman?” speech, Women’s Convention, Akron, Ohio (1851)
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[Dr. John] Campbell is a good man, a pious man. I am afraid he has not been in the inside of a church for many years; but he never passes a church without
pulling off his hat. This shews that he has good principles.

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) English writer, lexicographer, critic
Comment (1 Jul 1763)

In James Boswell, The Life of Samuel Johnson (1791).
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We do not need more intellectual power, we need more moral power. We do not need more knowledge, we need more character. We do not need more government, we need more culture. We do not need more law, we need more religion. We do not need more of the things that are seen, we need more of the things that are unseen. If the foundation be firm, the foundation will stand.

Calvin Coolidge (1872-1933) American lawyer, politician, US President (1925-29)
Commencement Address, Wheaton College, Norton, Mass. (17 Jun 1921)
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In effect what Luther said in 1517 was that we may appeal to a demonstrable work of God, the Bible, to override any established authority. The Scientific Revolution begins when Nicolaus Copernicus implied the bolder proposition that there is another work of God to which we may appeal even beyond this: the great work of nature. No absolute statement is allowed to be out of reach of the test, that its consequence must conform to the facts of nature.

Jacob Bronowski (1908-1974) Polish-English humanist and mathematician
Science and Human Values, Part 2 “The Habit of Truth”, §11 (1956)
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Religious discord has lost her sting; the cumbrous weapons of theological warfare are antiquated: the field of politics supplies the alchymists of our times with materials of more fatal explosion, and the butchers of mankind no longer travel to another world for instruments of cruelty and destruction. Our age is too enlightened to contend upon topics, which concern only the interests of eternity; and men who hold in proper contempt all controversies about trifles, except such as inflame their own passions, have made it a common-place censure against your ancestors, that their zeal was enkindled by subjects of trivial importance; and that however aggrieved by the intolerance of others, they were alike intolerant themselves. Against these objections, your candid judgment will not require an unqualified justification; but your respect and gratitude for the founders of the State may boldly claim an ample apology. The original grounds of their separation from the church of England, were not objects of a magnitude to dissolve the bonds of communion; much less those of charity, between Christian brethren of the same essential principles.

John Quincy Adams (1767-1848) US President (1825-29)
Speech, Plymouth (22 Dec 1802)
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