Quotations about   religion

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Every man’s reason is, and must be, his guide; and I may as well expect that every man should be of my size and complexion, as that he should reason just as I do. Every man seeks for truth; but God only knows who has found it. It is, therefore, as unjust to persecute as it is absurd to ridicule people for those several opinions which they cannot help entertaining upon the conviction of their reason.

Lord Chesterfield (1694-1773) English statesman, wit [Philip Dormer Stanhope]
Letter to his son (21 Sep 1747)
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Speaking of religious beliefs.
Added on 21-Jan-21 | Last updated 21-Jan-21
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I would rather be defeated than make capital out of my religion.

James A. Garfield (1831-1881) US President (1881), lawyer, lay preacher, educator
Speech, Chatauqua (1 Apr 1880)
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Added on 8-Jan-21 | Last updated 8-Jan-21
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It is now quite lawful for a Catholic woman to avoid pregnancy by a resort to mathematics, though she is still forbidden to resort to physics and chemistry.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
Minority Report, ch. 62 (1956)
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Regarding the Pope allowing the "rhythm" method of contraception.
Added on 4-Jan-21 | Last updated 4-Jan-21
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Each party abuses the other; the profane and the infidel believe both sides, and enjoy the fray; the reputation of religion in general suffers, and its enemies are ready to say, not what was said in the primitive times, Behold how these Christians love one another, — but, Mark how these Christians HATE one another! Indeed, when religious people quarrel about religion, or hungry people about their victuals, it looks as if they had not much of either among them.

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) American statesman, scientist, philosopher
Letter to Jane Mecom (23 Feb 1769)
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On the vociferous denominational debate in America over whether a new bishop should be sent from the Church of England to the Colonies.
Added on 17-Dec-20 | Last updated 17-Dec-20
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He who knows one, knows none.

Max Müller (1823-1900) German-British philologist, Orientalist, religious studies founder
“The Science of Religion,” Lecture 1, Royal Institution (19 Feb 1870), Lectures on the Science of Religion (1872)
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Regarding religion, paraphrasing Goethe on language ("He who knows one language, knows none").
Added on 20-Nov-20 | Last updated 20-Nov-20
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I had been religiously educated as a Presbyterian; and tho’ some of the Dogmas of that Persuasion, such as the Eternal Decrees of God, Election, Reprobation, &c. appear’d to me unintelligible, others doubtful, & I early absented myself from the Public Assemblies of the Sect, Sunday being my Studying-Day, I never was without some religious Principles; I never doubted, for instance, the Existence of the Deity, that he made the World, & govern’d it by his Providence; that the most acceptable Service of God was the doing Good to Man; that our Souls are immortal; and that all Crime will be punished & Virtue rewarded either here or hereafter; these I esteem’d the Essentials of every Religion, and being to be found in all the Religions we had in our Country I respected them all, tho’ with different degrees of Respect as I found them more or less mix’d with other Articles which without any Tendency to inspire, promote or confirm Morality, serv’d principally to divide us & make us unfriendly to one another.

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) American statesman, scientist, philosopher
Autobiography, Part 2 (1785)
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Added on 19-Nov-20 | Last updated 19-Nov-20
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Whether listening to the shrieks of the Shaman sorcerers of Tatary, or to the odes of Pindar, or to the sacred songs of Paul Gerhard; whether looking at the pagodas of China, or the Parthenon of Athens, or the cathedral of Cologne; whether reading the sacred books of the Buddhists, of the Jews, or of those who worship God in spirit and in truth, we ought to be able to say, like the Emperor Maximilian, “Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto;” or, translating his words somewhat freely, “I am a man; nothing pertaining to man I deem foreign to myself.”

Max Müller (1823-1900) German-British philologist, Orientalist, religious studies founder
Chips from a German Workshop, “Lecture on the Vedas” (1866)
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It is necessary that we too should see the beam in our own eyes, and learn to distinguish between the Christianity of the nineteenth century and the religion of Christ. If we find that the Christianity of the nineteenth century does not win as many hearts in India and China as it ought, let us remember that it was the Christianity of the first century in all its dogmatic simplicity, but with its overpowering love of God and man, that conquered the world and superseded religions and philosophies, more difficult to conquer than the religious and philosophical systems of Hindus and Buddhists.

Max Müller (1823-1900) German-British philologist, Orientalist, religious studies founder
Chips from a German Workshop, Preface (1866)
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Added on 6-Nov-20 | Last updated 6-Nov-20
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If we look back into history for the character of the present sects in Christianity, we shall find few that have not in their turns been persecutors, and complainers of persecution. The primitive Christians thought persecution extremely wrong in the Pagans, but practised it on one another. The first Protestants of the Church of England blamed persecution in the Romish Church, but practised it against the Puritans. These found it wrong in the bishops, but fell into the same practice themselves, both here and in New England.

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) American statesman, scientist, philosopher
Letter in The London Packet (3 Jun 1772)
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Added on 5-Nov-20 | Last updated 5-Nov-20
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Newton and Descartes started to try and prove that God existed in the same way as they would try and prove something in the laboratory or with their mathematics … And when you try and mix science and religion you get bad science and bad religion. The two are doing two different things. … Science can give you a diagnosis of cancer. It can even cure your disease, but it cannot touch your grief and disappointment, nor can it help you to die well.

Karen Armstrong (b. 1944) British author, comparative religion scholar
“The Reason of Faith,” Interview with Michael Brunton, Ode (Sep-Oct 2009)
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Added on 26-Oct-20 | Last updated 26-Oct-20
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In religions which have lost their creative spark, the gods eventually become no more than poetic motifs or ornaments for decorating human solitude and walls.

Nikos Kazantzakis (1883-1957) Greek writer and philosopher
Zorba the Greek, ch. 12 (1946)
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If there is one thing which a comparative study of religions places in the clearest light, it is the inevitable decay to which every religion is exposed. It may seem almost like a truism, that no religion can continue to be what it was during the lifetime of its founder and its first apostles. Yet it is but seldom borne in mind that without constant reformation, i.e. without a constant return to its fountain-head, every religion, even the most perfect, nay the most perfect on account of its very perfection, more even than others, suffers from its contact with the world, as the purest air suffers from the mere fact of its being breathed.

Max Müller (1823-1900) German-British philologist, Orientalist, religious studies founder
Chips from a German Workshop, Preface (1866)
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Added on 23-Oct-20 | Last updated 23-Oct-20
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The worship of God is a Duty; the hearing and reading of Sermons may be useful; but, if Men rest in Hearing and Praying, as too many do, it is as if a Tree should Value itself on being water’d and putting forth Leaves, tho’ it never produc’d any Fruit.

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) American statesman, scientist, philosopher
Letter to Joseph Huey (6 Jun 1753)
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Added on 22-Oct-20 | Last updated 22-Oct-20
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A lot of the arguments about religion going on at the moment spring from a rather inept understanding of religious truth. Our notion changed during the early modern period when we became convinced that the only path to any kind of truth was reason. That works beautifully for science but doesn’t work so well for the humanities. Religion is really an art form and a struggle to find value and meaning amid the ghastly tragedy of human life.

Karen Armstrong (b. 1944) British author, comparative religion scholar
“The Reason of Faith,” Interview with Michael Brunton, Ode (Sep-Oct 2009)
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Added on 19-Oct-20 | Last updated 19-Oct-20
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The position which believers and unbelievers occupy with regard to their various forms of faith is very much the same all over the world. The difficulties which trouble us, have troubled the hearts and minds of men as far back as we can trace the beginnings of religious life. The great problems touching the relation of the Finite to the Infinite, of the human mind as the recipient, and of the Divine Spirit as the source of truth, are old problems indeed; and while watching their appearance in different countries, and their treatment under varying circumstances, we shall be able, I believe, to profit ourselves, both by the errors which others committed before us, and by the truth which they discovered. We shall know the rocks that threaten every religion in this changing and shifting world of ours, and having watched many a storm of religious controversy and many a shipwreck in distant seas, we shall face with greater calmness and prudence the troubled waters at home.

Max Müller (1823-1900) German-British philologist, Orientalist, religious studies founder
Chips from a German Workshop, Vol. 1, Preface (1866)
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Added on 16-Oct-20 | Last updated 16-Oct-20
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The evangelist was preaching “sin and redemption,” the infinite grace of God and His pardon for human frailty. He was very much in earnest, and he meant well, but Jurgis, as he listened, found his soul filled with hatred. What did he know about sin and suffering — with his smooth, black coat and his neatly starched collar, his body warm, and his belly full, and money in his pocket — and lecturing men who were struggling for their lives, men at the death grapple with the demon powers of hunger and cold! — This, of course, was unfair; but Jurgis felt that these men were out of touch with the life they discussed, that they were unfitted to solve its problems; nay, they themselves were part of the problem — they were part of the order established that was crushing men down and beating them! They were of the triumphant and insolent possessors; they had a hall, and a fire, and food and clothing and money, and so they might preach to hungry men, and the hungry men must be humble and listen! They were trying to save their souls — and who but a fool could fail to see that all that was the matter with their souls was that they had not been able to get a decent existence for their bodies?

Upton Sinclair (1878-1968) American writer, journalist, activist, politician
The Jungle, ch. 23 (1906)
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Added on 15-Oct-20 | Last updated 15-Oct-20
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The Faith you mention has doubtless its use in the World. I do not desire to see it diminished, nor would I endeavour to lessen it in any Man. But I wish it were more productive of good Works, than I have generally seen it: I mean real good Works, Works of Kindness, Charity, Mercy, and Publick Spirit; not Holiday-keeping, Sermon-Reading or Hearing; performing Church Ceremonies, or making long Prayers, filled with Flatteries and Compliments, despis’d even by wise Men, and much less capable of pleasing the Deity.

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) American statesman, scientist, philosopher
Letter to Joseph Huey (6 Jun 1753)
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Which is it? Is man one of God’s blunders? Or is God one of man’s blunders?

[Wie? ist der Mensch nur ein Fehlgriff Gottes? Oder Gott nur ein Fehlgriff des Menschen?]

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) German philosopher and poet
Twilight of the Idols [Die Götzen-Dämmerung], “Apophthegms and Darts [Sprüche und Pfeile]” #7 (1889)

Alt. trans.:
  • "How is it? Is man only a mistake of God? Or God only a mistake of man? --" [tr. Common (1896)]
  • "What? Is man just one of God's mistakes? Or is God just one of man's? --" [tr. Large (1998),"Maxims and Barbs"]
  • "What? Is man just God's mistake? Or is God just man's mistake?" [tr. Norman (2005), "Arrows and Epigrams"]
  • "What? Is man merely a mistake of God's? Or God merely a mistake of man's?" [tr. Hollingdale (1968)]
  • "Which is it? Is man only a blunder of God? Or is God only a blunder of man?" [tr. Ludovici (1911), "Maxims and Missiles"]
Added on 12-Oct-20 | Last updated 12-Oct-20
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The one and only test of a valid religious idea, doctrinal statement, spiritual experience, or devotional practice was that it must lead directly to practical compassion. If your understanding of the divine made you kinder, more empathetic, and impelled you to express this sympathy in concrete acts of loving-kindness, this was good theology. But if your notion of God made you unkind, belligerent, cruel, or self-righteous, or if it led you to kill in God’s name, it was bad theology. Compassion was the litmus test for the prophets of Israel, for the rabbis of the Talmud, for Jesus, for Paul, and for Muhammad, not to mention Confucius, Lao-tsu, the Buddha, or the sages of the Upanishads.

Karen Armstrong (b. 1944) British author, comparative religion scholar
The Spiral Staircase: My Climb Out of Darkness (2004)
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Added on 12-Oct-20 | Last updated 12-Oct-20
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He must be a man of little faith, who would fear to subject his own religion to the same critical tests to which the historian subjects all other religions. We need not surely crave a tender or merciful treatment for that faith which we hold to be the only true one. We should rather challenge it for the severest tests and trials, as the sailor would for the good ship to which he trusts his own life, and the lives of those who are dear to him. In the Science of Religion, we can decline no comparisons, nor claim any immunities for Christianity, as little as the missionary can, when wrestling with the subtle Brahmin, or the fanatical Mussulman, or the plain speaking Zulu.

Max Müller (1823-1900) German-British philologist, Orientalist, religious studies founder
Chips from a German Workshop, vol. 1, Preface (1866)
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Added on 9-Oct-20 | Last updated 16-Oct-20
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Compassion is not a popular virtue. Very often when I talk to religious people, and mention how important it is that compassion is the key, that it’s the sine qua non of religion, people look kind of balked, and stubborn sometimes, as much to say, “What’s the point of having religion if you can’t disapprove of other people?”

Karen Armstrong (b. 1944) British author, comparative religion scholar
NOW Interview with Bill Moyers, PBS (1 Mar 2002)
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Added on 5-Oct-20 | Last updated 5-Oct-20
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I think vital Religion has always suffer’d, when Orthodoxy is more regarded than Virtue. And the Scripture assures me, that at the last Day, we shall not be examin’d what we thought, but what we did; and our Recommendation will not be that we said Lord, Lord, but that we did GOOD to our Fellow Creatures.

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) American statesman, scientist, philosopher
Letter to his parents, Josiah and Abiah Franklin (13 Apr 1738)
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Franklin cites Matt. 26 in the letter, but it should be Matt. 25:31-46.
Added on 1-Oct-20 | Last updated 1-Oct-20
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There are some forms of religion that must make God weep. There are some forms of religion that are bad, just as there’s bad cooking or bad art or bad sex, you have bad religion too. Religion that has concentrated on egotism, that’s concentrated on belligerence rather than compassion.

Karen Armstrong (b. 1944) British author, comparative religion scholar
NOW Interview with Bill Moyers, PBS (1 Mar 2002)
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Added on 28-Sep-20 | Last updated 28-Sep-20
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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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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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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)
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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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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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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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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)
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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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).
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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).
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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."
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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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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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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.
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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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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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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)]
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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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