Quotations about   worship

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Whoever increases the sum of human joy, is a worshipper.

He who adds to the sum of human misery, is a blasphemer.

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) American lawyer, agnostic, orator
Speech to the Jury, Trial of C. B. Reynolds for Blasphemy, Morristown, New Jersey (May 1887)
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Added on 20-Oct-21 | Last updated 20-Oct-21
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Like all music, the figured bass should have no other end and aim than the glory of God and the recreation of the soul; where this is not kept in mind there is no true music, but only an infernal clamour and ranting.

[Und soll wie aller Musik also auch des Generalbasses Finis und Endursache anders nicht als nur zu Gottes Ehre und Recreation des Gemütes sein. Wo dieses nicht in acht genommen wird, ists keine eigentliche Musik, sondern ein Teuflisches Geplerr und Geleier.]

Johann Sebastian Bach
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) German composer
Student instructions on accompaniment (1738)

Quoted in Albert Schweitzer, J. S. Bach, ch. 9 (1905) [tr. Newman (1966)].
Added on 11-Aug-21 | Last updated 11-Aug-21
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All laws for the purpose of making man worship God, are born of the same spirit that kindled the fires of the auto da fe, and lovingly built the dungeons of the Inquisition. All laws defining and punishing blasphemy — making it a crime to give your honest ideas about the Bible, or to laugh at the ignorance of the ancient Jews, or to enjoy yourself on the Sabbath, or to give your opinion of Jehovah, were passed by impudent bigots, and should be at once repealed by honest men.

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) American lawyer, agnostic, orator
Some Mistakes of Moses, Sec. 3 “The Politicians” (1879)
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Added on 11-Aug-21 | Last updated 11-Aug-21
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Dogs want only love but cats demand worship.

Lucy Maud Montgomery
Lucy Maud Montgomery (1874-1942) Canadian author
Emily of New Moon (1923)
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Added on 10-Aug-21 | Last updated 10-Aug-21
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But when you frequent places of public worship, as I would have you go to all the different ones you meet with, remember that, however erroneous, they are none of them objects of laughter and ridicule. Honest error is to be pitied, not ridiculed. The object of all the public worships in the world is the same; it is that great eternal Being who created everything. The different manners of worship are by no means subjects of ridicule. Each sect thinks its own the best; and I know no infallible judge, in this world, to decide which is the best.

Lord Chesterfield (1694-1773) English statesman, wit [Philip Dormer Stanhope]
Letter to his son (16 Feb 1748)
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Added on 11-Feb-21 | Last updated 11-Feb-21
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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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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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Those Divine demands which sound to our natural ears most like those of a despot and least like those of a lover, in fact marshal us where we should want to go if we knew what we wanted. He demands our worship, our obedience, our prostration. Do we suppose that they can do Him any good, or fear, like the chorus in Milton, that human irreverence can bring about ‘His glory’s diminution’? A man can no more diminish God’s glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word ‘darkness’ on the walls of his cell. But God wills our good, and our good is to love Him (with that responsive love proper to creatures) and to love Him we must know Him: and if we know Him, we shall in fact fall on our faces. If we do not, that only shows that what we are trying to love is not yet God — though it may be the nearest approximation to God which our thought and fantasy can attain. Yet the call is not only to prostration and awe; it is to a reflection of the Divine life, a creaturely participation in the Divine attributes which is far beyond our present desires. We are bidden to ‘put on Christ’, to become like God. That is, whether we like it or not, God intends to give us what we need, not what we now think we want. Once more, we are embarrassed by the intolerable compliment, by too much love, not too little.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) English writer and scholar [Clive Staples Lewis]
The Problem of Pain, ch. 3 “The Intolerable Compliment” (1940)
Added on 29-Nov-16 | Last updated 29-Nov-16
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Judaism holds that man can most genuinely worship God by imitating those qualities that are godly: As God is merciful, so must we be compassionate; as God is just, so must we deal justly with our neighbor; as God is slow to anger, so must we be tolerant.

Morris N. Kertzer (1910-1983) American rabbi, writer
“What is a Jew?” Look Magazine (1954)
Added on 10-Jun-15 | Last updated 10-Jun-15
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Idolatry is worse than atheism.

Abdal Hakim Murad (b. 1960) British Muslim shaykh, researcher, writer, academic [b. Timothy John Winter]
“Contentions 2,” #37
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Added on 15-May-15 | Last updated 15-May-15
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So long as men worship the Caesars and Napoleons, Caesars and Napoleons will duly rise and make them miserable.

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963) English novelist, essayist and critic
Ends and Means (1937)
Added on 31-Dec-14 | Last updated 31-Dec-14
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Apart from moral conduct, all that man thinks himself able to do in order to become acceptable to God is mere superstition and religious folly. If once a man has come to the idea of a service which is not purely moral, but is supposed to be agreeable to God himself, or capable of propitiating him, there is little difference between the several ways of serving him. For all these ways are of equal value. … Whether the devotee accomplishes his statutory walk to the church, or whether he undertakes a pilgrimage to the sanctuaries of Loretto and Palestine, whether he repeats his prayer-formulas with his lips, or like the Tibetan, uses a prayer-wheel … is quite indifferent. As the illusion of thinking that a man can justify himself before God in any way by acts of worship is religious superstition, so the illusion that he can obtain this justification by the so-called intercourse with God is religious mysticism. Such superstition leads inevitably to sacerdotalism which will always be found where the essence is sought not in principles of morality, but in statutory commandments, rules of faith and observances

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) German philosopher
Quoted in Karl Hillebrand, Lectures on German Thought, Lecture 5 “The Triumvirate of Goethe, Kant, and Schiller (1787-1800)” (1879)
Added on 6-Feb-14 | Last updated 6-Feb-14
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The God of Hell should be held in loathing, contempt and scorn. A God who threatens eternal pain should be hated, not loved — cursed, not worshiped. A heaven presided over by such a God must be below the lowest hell. I want no part in any heaven in which the saved, the ransomed and redeemed will drown with shouts of joy the cries and sobs of hell — in which happiness will forget misery, where the tears of the lost only increase laughter and double bliss.

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) American lawyer, agnostic, orator
“The Great Infidels” (1881)
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Added on 25-Jan-12 | Last updated 2-Feb-16
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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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You can take away a man’s gods, but only to give him others in return.

Carl Jung (1875-1961) Swiss psychologist
The Undiscovered Self (1958)
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Added on 22-May-08 | Last updated 16-Mar-17
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Reason, Observation and Experience — the Holy Trinity of Science — have taught us that happiness is the only good; that the time to be happy is now, and the way to be happy is to make others so. This is enough for us. In this belief we are content to live and die. If by any possibility the existence of a power superior to, and independent of, nature shall be demonstrated, there will then be time enough to kneel. Until then, let us stand erect.

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) American lawyer, agnostic, orator
“The Gods” (1876)
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Added on 11-Apr-08 | Last updated 2-Feb-16
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He who carves the Buddha never worships him.

(Other Authors and Sources)
Chinese proverb
Added on 12-May-04 | Last updated 11-Feb-20
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If you don’t know how to serve men, why worry about serving the gods?

Confucius (551-479 BC) Chinese philosopher [Ku'ng Ch'iu / King Qiu, Ku'ng Fu-tzu / Kong Fuzi]
The Analects [Lun Yü], 11.11 (6th C. BC) [ed. Lao-Tse]

Common translation of this Analect, source unknown. Other translations:

  • 'Chi Lu asked about serving the spirits of the dead. The Master said, "While you are not able to serve men, how can you serve their spirits?"' [tr. Legge (1861)]

  • 'Tszlu propounded a question about ministering to the spirits of the departed. The Master replied, "Where there is scarcely the ability to minister to living men, how shall there be ability to minister to the spirits?"' [tr. Jennings (1895)]

  • 'A disciple (the intrepid Chung Yu) enquired how one should behave towards the spirits of dead men. Confucius answered, "We cannot as yet do our duties to living men; why should we enquire about our duties to dead men?"' [tr. Ku Hung-Ming (1898)]

  • 'When Chi Lu asked about his duty to his spirits the Master replied: "While still unable to do your duty to the living, how can you do your duty to the dead?"' [tr. Soothill (1910)]

  • 'Zilu asked how to serve the spirits and gods. The Master said: "You are not yet able to serve men, how could you serve the spirits?"' [tr. Leys (1997)]

  • 'Jilu asked how one should serve the gods and spirits. The Master said, "When you don't yet know how to serve human beings, how can you serve the spirits?"' [tr. Watson (2007)]

  • 'Jilu [Zilu] asked about how to serve the spirits of the dead and the gods. The Master said, "You can't even serve men properly, how can you serve the spirits?"' [tr. Annping Chin (2014), 11.12]

  • 'Ji Lu asked about how to serve and worship gods and spirits. Confucius said, "You still have not served men well. Why do you bother serving gods and spirits?"' [tr. Li (2020), 11.12]
Added on 12-May-04 | Last updated 10-Dec-20
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