(my thoughts on religion)


Women and Religion


Christ, for Thomasina, was not so much a person as an opening in the grass, a patch of sun, a warm spot in the loneliness. She had never been a person who respected stained glass or altars. That butterfly’s small early wings were her stained glass. That patch of earth, peeping through the melting snow, was her altar. –Kathleen Winter, Annabel

Read the Bible again sometime. Women are painted as bigger antagonists than the Egyptians and Romans combined. It stinks. –Salma Hayek, in Dogma

The Bible teaches that woman brought sin and death into the world, that she precipitated the fall of the race, that she was arraigned before the judgment seat of Heaven, tried, condemned, and sentenced. Marriage for her was to be a condition of bondage, maternity a period of suffering and anguish, and in silence and subjection, she was to play the role of a dependant on man’s bounty for all her material wants, and for all the information she might desire. ... Here is the Bible position of woman briefly summed up. –Elizabeth Cady Stanton, The Woman’s Bible

The Bible and the Church have been the greatest stumbling blocks in the way of women’s emancipation. –Elizabeth Cady Stanton, in Free Thought magazine, September 1896

The whole tone of church teaching in regard to women is, to the last degree, contemptuous and degrading. –ditto

I found nothing grand in the history of the Jews nor in the morals inculculated in the Pentateuch. I know of no other books that so fully teach the subjection and degradation of women. –Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Eighty Years and More

When women understand that governments and religions are human inventions; that bibles, prayer-books, catechisms, and encyclical letters are all emanations from the brain of man, they will no longer be oppressed by the injunctions that come to them with the divine authority of “thus saith the Lord.” –Elizabeth Cady Stanton, quoted in Thomas S. Vernon’s Great Infidels

Every form of religion which has breathed upon this earth has degraded woman. Man himself could not do this; but when he declares, “Thus saith the Lord,” of course he can do it. –Elizabeth Cady Standon, quoted by Madalyn Murray O’Hair in Women and Atheism

The Christian church has throughout the ages used its influence in opposition to the freedom of woman. –Elizabeth Cady Stanton, quoted in Ira D. Cardiff’s What Great Men Think of Religion

Women have never invented a religion; they are untainted with that madness, and they are not moralists. –George Moore, Confessions of a Young Man

One of my favorite fantasies is that next Sunday not one single woman, in any country of the world, will go to church. If women simply stop giving our time and energy to the institutions that oppress, they could cease to be. –Sonia Johnson

A wall of Bible, brimstone, church, and corruption has hitherto hemmed women into nothingness. –Lucy Stone, quoted by Andrea Moore Kerr’s Lucy Stone: Speaking Out for Equality

Fierce invectives against women form a conspicuous and grotesque portion of the writings of the Church fathers. –William EH Lecky, quoted in Frederick W. Clampett’s Luther Burbank: Our Beloved Infidel


Heresy, Infidels, Skepticism, Doubt, Dissent


I am convinced that everything that is worthwhile in the world has been accomplished by the free, inquiring, critical spirit, and that the preservation of this spirit is more important than any social system whatsoever. But the men of ritual and the men of barbarism are capable of shutting up the men of science and silencing them forever. –Sinclair Lewis, It Can’t Happen Here

As a Roman Catholic I thank God for the heretics. Heresy is only another word for freedom of thought. –Graham Greene

It is historically true that a large proportion of infidels in all ages have been persons of distinguished integrity and honor. –John Stuart Mill, quoted in Rufus K. Noyes’s Views of Religion

A large proportion of the nobelest and most valuable teaching has been the work, not only of men who did not know, but of men who knew and rejected the Christian faith. –John Stuart Mill, On Liberty

On religion in particular, the time appears to me to have come, when it is a duty of all who, being qualified in point of knowledge, have, in mature consideration, satisfied themselves that the current opinions are not only false, but hurtful, to make their dissent known.. –John Stuart Mill, The Spirit of the Age

Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear. –Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to Peter Carr, August 10, 1787

Intelligent, educated people tend to doubt the supernatural. So it is hardly surprising to find a high ratio of religious skeptics among major thinkers, scientists, writers, reformers, scholars, champions of democracy, and other world changers—people usually called great. –James A. Haught, 2000 Years of Disbelief: Famous People with the Courage to Doubt

Skepticism is the highest duty and blind faith the one unpardonable sin. –Thomas Henry Huxley, Essays on Controversial Questions

It is a heretic that makes the fire, not she which burns in it. –William Shakespeare, The Winter’s Tale

There lives more faith in honest doubt, believe me, than in half the creeds. –Alfred, Lord Tennyson, “In Memoriam”

Just think of the tragedy of teaching children not to doubt. –Clarence Darrow

The history of intellectual progress is written in the lives of infidels. –Robert G. Ingersoll, in a speech given in New York, May 1, 1881

Who at the present day can imagine the courage, the devotion to principle, the intellectual and moral grandeur it once required to be an infidel, to brave the Church, her racks, her fagots, her dungeons, her tongues of fire—to defy and scorn her heaven and her hell—her devil and her God? –Robert G. Ingersoll, “Individuality”

Infidels in all ages have battled for the rights of man, and have at all times been the fearless advocates of liberty and justice. –Robert G. Ingersoll

Doubt is part of all religion. All the religious thinkers were doubters. –Isaac Bashevis Singer, in The New York Times, December 3, 1978

If a special honor is claimed for any, then heresy should have it as the truest servitor of human kind. –Charles Bradlaugh, from a speech in London on September 25, 1881

We owe almost all our knowledge not to those who have agreed, but to those who have differed. –Charles Caleb Colton, Lacon

Great intellects are skeptical. –Friedrich Nietzsche, The Antichrist

Every great advance in natural knowledge has involved the absolute rejection of authority. –Thomas Henry Huxley, quoted in Laird Wilcox and John George’s Be Reasonable: Selected Quotations for Inquiring Minds

I am myself a dissenter from all known religions and I hope that every kind of religious belief will die out. –Bertrand Russell, quoted in Ira D. Cardiff’s What Great Men Think of Religion

In all affairs it’s a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted. –Bertrand Russell

Fantastic doctrines (like Christianity or Islam or Marxism) require unanimity of belief. One dissenter casts doubt on the creed of millions. Thus the fear and the hate; thus the torture chamber, the iron stake, the gallows, the labor camp, the psychiatric ward. –(?)

Among theologians, heretics are those who are not backed with a sufficient array of battalions to render them orthodox. –Voltaire, Philosophical Dictionary

Freethinkers are those who are willing to use their minds without prejudice and without fearing to understand things that clash with their own customs, privileges, or beliefs. This state of mind is not common, but it is essential for right thinking; where it is absent, discussion is apt to become worse than useless. –Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace

Who knows most, doubts most. –Robert Browning

They that approve a private opinion, call it opinion; but they that dislike it, heresy; and yet heresy signifies no more than private opinion. –Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan

What danger can ever come from ingenious reasoning and inquiry? The worst speculative skeptic ever I knew was a much better man than the best superstitious devotee and bigot. –David Hume, in a letter to Gilbert Elliot, March 10, 1751

But it is necessary to the happiness of man that he be mentally faithful to himself. Infidelity does not consist in believing, or in disbelieving; it consists in professing to believe what he does not believe. –Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason

I can live with doubt and uncertainty. I think it’s much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong. –Richard P. Feynman

Where it is a duty to worship the sun, it is pretty sure to be a crime to examine the laws of heat. –John Morley, Critical Miscellanies

I am not merely an opponent of Christianity; I am a heathen—and proud of it. –Gen. Erich Ludendorff, in a 1935 press interview

I am an infidel today. I do not believe what has been served to me to believe. I am a doubter, a questioner, a skeptic. When it can be proved to me that there is immortality, that there is resurrection beyond the gates of earth, then will I believe. Until then, no. –Luther Burbank, in the San Francisco Bulletin, January 22, 1926

Ah, snug lie those that slumber
Beneath Conviction’s roof.
Their floors are sturdy lumber
Their windows weatherproof.
But I sleep cold forever
And cold sleep all my kind
For I was born to shiver
in the draft from an open mind.
–Phyllis McGinley, “A Pocket Full of Wry”


Religion versus Morality


I refuse to be labeled immoral merely because I am godless. –Peter Walker

There seems to be a terrible misunderstanding on the part of a great many people to the effect that when you cease to believe you may cease to behave. –Louis Kronenberger

I now believe in nothing, to put it shortly; but I do not the less believe in morality. –Leslie Stephen, in his journal, January 26, 1865

I’m frankly sick and tired of the political preachers across this country telling me as a citizen that if I want to be a moral person, I must believe in A, B, C, and D. Just who do they think they are? And from where do they presume to claim the right to dictate their moral beliefs to me? –Sen. Barry Goldwater, in a floor speech in September 1981

Morality is subjective. You may consider something morally repugnant, but that doesn’t mean it is. You say that “lack of basic morals causes societies to crumble.” I don’t disagree with this statement, but I’m not completely retarded. I do know my history. I can’t think of a single civilization that crumbled due to viewing materials that some considered pornographic or racy. I could, however, create a very long list of communities that were seriously undermined or destroyed due to religious zealotry and self-righteousness. The Salem Witch Trials is one of my favorite examples, and I think you should go back to your high school English class and re-read The Scarlet Letter and The Crucible. –Lucian, on a comments board on ksl.com

Belief, thus, in the supernatural, great as are the services which it rendered in the early stages of human development, cannot be considered to be any longer required, either for enabling us to know what is right and wrong in social morality, or for supplying us with motives to do right and to abstain from wrong. –John Stuart Mill, Utility of Religion

Modern morality is derived from Greek and Roman sources, not from Christianity. –John Stuart Mill, quoted in Ira D. Cardiff’s What Great Men Think of Religion

A man’s ethical behavior should be based effictively on sympathy, education, and social ties and needs; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death. –Albert Einstein, Ideas and Opinions

Whenever morality is based on theology, whenever right is made dependent on divine authority, the most immoral, unjust, infamous things can be justified and established. –Ludwig Feuerbach, The Essence of Christianity

The truth is that no profession of faith or lack of faith has anything to do with a man’s morals. … Away with the bugbear that to be good we must be pious. –from an 1870 issue of the Iconoclast

…the entirety of human morals is contained in this one phrase: Render others as happy as one desires oneself to be, and never inflict more pain upon them than one would like to receive at their hands. There you are, my friend, those are the only principles we should observe, and you need neither god nor religion to appreciate and subscribe to them, you need only a good heart. –Marquis de Sade, Dialogue between a Priest and a Dying Man

In Christianity, neither morality nor religion come into contact with reality at any point. –Friedrich Nietzsche

There were honest people long before there were Christians and there are... still honest people where there are no Christians. –GC Lichtenberg


Nature as Religion


You don’t have to be on your knees to pray. This is me praying. This is me giving thanks, on the knee of the mountain. I’m a moving prayer. See the tracks behind me? Can you read what I wrote there? –Graham Joyce, The Silent Land

I…never shall see it is more religious to sit in a hot church trying to listen to a commonplace sermon than looking at a beautiful sky, or the waves coming in. –Kate Greenaway

Forests were the first temples of the Divinity, and it is in the forests that men have grasped the first idea of architecture. –François-Rene de Chateaubriand, Génie du christianisme

What else is nature but God? –Seneca the Younger, De beneficiis

…I remember the words of anthropologist Richard Nelson. Nature isn’t merely created by God, Nelson writes, nature is God. When we walk in the woods we can experience the sacredness with our entire body, breathe it, drink the sacred water as a living communion, touch the living branch. –Sy Safransky, “Trail’s End,” from Four in the Morning

I’ve often thought of the forest as a living cathedral, but this might diminish what it truly is. If I have understood Koyukon teachings, the forest is not merely an expression or representation of sacredness, nor a place to invoke the sacred; the forest is sacredness itself. Nature is not merely created by God; nature is God. Whoever moves within the forest can partake directly of sacredness, experience sacredness with his entire body, breathe sacredness and contain it within himself, drink the sacred water as a living communion, bury his feet in sacredness, open his eyes and witness the burning beauty of sacredness. –Richard Nelson, The Island Within

For as long as I can remember, I’ve searched for things to worship—bits of rock, storm fronts, bugs with turquoise glitter on their wings. But rocks chip, storms churn themselves out, and bugs can be crushed with a heel or a raindrop. Gods change colors and spin themselves new garments every day. The most we can hope for is to be allowed to watch. … I’m looking for the place where worship finds balance, where it does not debase me or exalt me so high that I can’t return. Gods change colors and spin themselves new garments every day. I want to be able to stand in awe of them, one at a time. –Sheri Reynolds, Bitterroot Landing

My profession is to be always on the alert to find God in nature, to know his lurking-places, to attend all the oratorios, the operas, in nature. –Henry David Thoreau

Every walk to the woods is a religious rite, every bath in the stream is a saving ordinance. Communion service is at all hours, and the bread and wine are from the heart and marrow of Mother Earth. There are no heretics in Nature’s church; all are believers, all are communicants. The beauty of natural religion is that you have it all the time; you do not have to seek it afar off in myths and legends, in catacombs, in garbled texts, in miracles of dead saints or wine-bibbing friars. It is of today; it is now and here; it is everywhere. –John Burroughs, Accepting the Universe

I believe in God, only I spell it Nature. –Frank Lloyd Wright, in an August 14, 1966 issue of Quote

God is the great mysterious motivator of what we call nature, and it has often been said by philosophers that nature is the will of God. And I prefer to say that nature is the only body of God that we shall ever see. –Frank Lloyd Wright, quoted in Patrick J. Meehan’s Truth against the World: Frank Lloyd Wright Speaks for an Organic Architecture

But there is a spirituality that is more like a lowly emanation from the most humble and earthbound things; that of a particular house, a garden, a neighborhood, a grove of trees, a pristine beach, a holy well, a field of wheat. Here spirituality is indistinguishable from enchantment, for in an enchanted world the things of nature and even of culture reek of holiness. Enchantment is nothing more than spirituality deeply rooted in the earth. –Thomas Moore, The Re-Enchantment of Everyday Life

Connection with gardens, even small ones, even potted plants, can become windows to the inner life. The simple act of stopping and looking at the beauty around us can be prayer. –Patricia R. Barrett, The Sacred Garden

We must return to nature and nature’s god. –Luther Burbank

And this, our life, exempt from public haunt, finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything. –William Shakespeare, As You Like It

What I know of the divine science and Holy Scripture I learnt in woods and fields. –St. Bernard of Clairvaux, Epistles, no. 106

Listen to a man of experience: thou wilt learn more in the woods than in books. Trees and stones will teach you that which you can never learn from masters. –ditto

There is no religion healthier for a man’s spiritual and physical well-being than the pagan worship of the woodsman. –Irvin S. Cobb, Izaak Walton League Monthly, February 1923

I do not know much about gods; but I think that the river
Is a strong brown god—sullen, untamed, and intractable.
–TS Eliot, Four Quartets, “The Dry Salvages”


Catholicism and the Papacy


In the street one meets with all forms of dementia and the priest is by no means the most striking. Two thousand years of it has deadened us to the idiocy of it. –Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer

Why should we take advice on sex from the pope? If he knows anything about it, he shouldn’t! –George Bernard Shaw

Strangely, many Catholics won’t admit a priest would ever molest an altar boy, but they’re willing to believe you can stick your crippled arm into a babbling brook [in Lourdes] and be cured. –Brian Strause, Maybe a Miracle

Leave it to the Catholics to destroy existence. –Salma Hayek, in Dogma

I am angry at the Catholic church, because it says that women can’t be priests. Right. Like my big dream is to run around in a long black dress and fuck altar boys. But I think I should have the choice. The pope agrees that women cannot be priests, and this is his reason: because there were no women priests when Jesus lived. And that’s true. But there was also no pope. Does that stop him? –EL Greggory

I do not like the reappearance of the Jesuits. If ever there was a body of men who merited damnation on earth and in Hell, it is this society of Loyola’s. Nevertheless, we are compelled by our system of religious tolerance to offer them an asylum. –John Adams, in a letter to Thomas Jefferson, May 5, 1816 (This quote made me chuckle because I’m an alumnae of a Jesuit university.)

The Society of Jesus is the most dangerous of orders, and has done more mischief than all the others. –Napoleon Bonaparte, to Barry O’Meara, November 2, 1816

The Catholics came up with some truly impressive forms of torture that would have been the envy of any jackbooted Nazi storm trooper. –Judith Hayes, The Happy Heretic

Starvation is a very real issue. Inexcusably, forty thousand of the world’s children under the age of five die every day from starvation, easily preventable diseases, and neglect. And what are the portly priests doing about it? They are threatening Catholic parents with eternal damnation if they try to limit their children to a number they can feed and care for. The Catholic position on this is unshakable, unyielding, and utterly cruel: If the babies starve, they starve; so be it. It’s no skin off those portly, priestly, Catholic bellies. –ditto

And of course [Mother Theresa’s] incessant parroting of the Catholic position that birth control is “unnatural” makes you want to pound your own forehead. Of course it’s unnatural. So is operating on a ruptured appendix. Or having a pacemaker implanted in your heart, as Mother Theresa did in 1989. And having surgery to clear a blocked blood vessel is likewise unnatural, though Theresa had that unnatural thing done to her in 1993. Unambiguous hypocrisy, anyone? –ditto

If your right eye offends you, pluck it out
If your right arm offends you, cut it off
And if your reason offends you, become a Catholic.
–Heinrich Heine, quoted in Ira D. Cardiff’s What Great Men Think of Religion

Has science ever retreated? No! It is Catholicism which has always retreated before her, and will always be forced to retreat. –Émile Zola, quoted in Rufus K. Noyes’s Views of Religions

I believe the dissemination of Catholicity to be the most horrible means of political and social degradation left in the world. –Charles Dickens, quoted in Rufus K. Noyes’s Views of Religion

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 or chemistry. –HL Mencken, Notebooks

In Italy, the Inquisition was condemning people to death until the end of the eighteenth century, and inquisitional torture was not abolished in the Catholic Church until 1816. The last bastion of support for the reality of witchcraft and the necessity of punishment has been the Christian churches. –Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World

It took the Church until 1832 to remove Galileo’s work from its list of books which Catholics were forbidden to read at the risk of dire punishment of their immoral souls. –Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot

The popes set Europe in flames. Perhaps it is yours to reestablish scaffolds and racks, but it shall be my care that you do not succeed. –Napoleon Bonaparte, to a high church official, quoted in Rufus K. Noyes’s Views of Religion

[Catholicism’s] disastrous theology had prepared the way for Hitler and his “final solution.” [The Church published] over a hundred anti-Semitic documents. Not one conciliar decree, not one papal encyclical, bull, or pastoral directive suggests that Jesus’s command, “love your neighbor as yourself,” applied to Jews. Jews were hounded from one land to another. One pope gave them a month to quit their homes in Italy, leaving them only two places of refuge. During the Crusades, they were slaughtered in the thousands, out of devotion to Christ. A Jew who showed his nose on Good Friday was virtually committing suicide, even though the man on the cross had a Jewish nose. … There is, tragically, an undeniable link between…the papal legislation, the pogroms—and the gas chambers and crematoria of the Nazi death camps. –Peter de Rosa, former Jesuit theologian, Vicars of Christ: The Dark Side of the Papacy

The most evil thing in the world today is the Roman Catholic Church. –HG Wells, quoted in Ira D. Cardiff’s What Great Men Think of Religion

The Catholic Church so far has been the implacable enemy of all freedom of thought. –Sigmund Freud, quoted in Ira D. Cardiff’s What Great Men Think of Religion


Religion as a Source of Evil and Depravity


It is becoming quite clear that religion is at the heart of so many civil wars and international struggles. People seem willing to kill, maim, torture, and die for a religious or spiritual belief which moves them to believe that their source of the divine is the only source. … Consider: In the name of God, a fatwa against Salman Rushdie. In the name of God, murder in the Balkans. In the name of God, the bombing of the World Trade Center. In the name of God, the siege at Waco, Texas. In the name of God, Hindus and Muslims kill each other in India. In the name of God, blood warfare between Protestants and Catholics in Ireland. In the name of God, Shi’ites and Sunnis are at each other’s throats in Iraq and Iran, as are Arabs and Jews in the Middle East. In the name of God, a doctor is murdered because he believed in a woman’s right to choose. In the name of God, what is going on? –Shirley MacLaine, addressing the American Society of Newspaper Editors, Baltimore, 1993

There is a dark side to religious devotion that is too often ignored or denied. As a means of motivating people to be cruel or inhumane—as a means of inciting evil, to borrow the vocabulary of the devout—there may be no more potent force than religion. When the subject of religiously inspired bloodshed comes up, many Americans immediately think of Islamic fundamentalism, which is to be expected in the wake of the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington. But men have been committing heinous acts in the name of God ever since mankind began believing in deities, and extremists exist within all religions. Muhammad is not the only prophet whose words have been used to sanction barbarism; history has not lacked for Christians, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs, and even Buddhists who have been motivated by scripture to butcher innocents. Plenty of these religious extremists have been homegrown, corn-fed Americans. Faith-based violence was present long before Osama bin Laden, and it will be with us long after his demise. –Jon Krakauer, Under the Banner of Heaven

Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced an inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth. –Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia

I almost shudder at the thought of alluding to the most fatal example of the abuses of grief which the history of mankind has preserved—the Cross. Consider what calamities that engine of grief has produced! –John Adams, in a letter to Thomas Jefferson

As I understand the Christian religion, it was, and is, a revelation. But how has it happened that millions of fables, tales, legends, have been blended with both Jewish and Christian revelation that have made them the most bloody religion that ever existed? –John Adams, in a letter to FA Van der Kamp, December 27, 1816

The priesthood have, in all ancient nations, nearly monopolized learning. ... And, ever since the Reformation, when or where has existed a Protestant or dissenting sect who would tolerate A FREE INQUIRY? The blackest billingsgate, the most ungentlemanly insolence, the most yahooish brutality, is patiently endured, countenanced, propagated, and applauded. But touch a solemn truth in collision with a dogma of a sect, though capable of the clearest proof, and you will find you have disturbed a nest, and the hornets will swarm about your eyes and hand, and fly into your face and eyes. –John Adams, in a letter to John Taylor, 1814

During many ages there were witches. The Bible said so. The Bible commanded that they should not be allowed to live. Therefore the Church, after doing its duty in but a lazy and indolent way for eight hundred years, gathered up its halters, thumbscrews, and firebrands, and set about its holy work in earnest. She worked hard at it night and day during nine centuries and imprisoned, tortured, hanged, and burned whole hordes and armies of witches, and washed the Christian world clean with their foul blood. Then it was discovered that there was no such thing as witches, and never had been. One doesn’t know whether to laugh or to cry. Who discovered that there was no such thing as a witch—the priest, the parson? No, these never discover anything. –Mark Twain, Europe and Elsewhere

So much blood has been shed by the Church because of an omission from the Gospel: “Ye shall be indifferent as to what your neighbor’s religion is.” Not merely tolerant of it, but indifferent to it. Divinity is claimed for many religions, but no religion is great enough or divine enough to add that new law to its code. –Mark Twain, quoted in Albert B. Paine’s Mark Twain: A Biography

There is one notable thing about our Christianity: bad, bloody, merciless, money-grabbing and predatory as it is—in our country particularly, and in all other Christian countries in a somewhat modified degree—it is still a hundred times better than the Christianity of the Bible, with its prodigious crime—the invention of Hell. Measured by our Christianity of today, bad as it is, hypocritical as it is, empty and hollow as it is, neither the Deity nor His Son is a Christian, nor qualified for that moderately high place. Ours is a terrible religion. The fleets of the world could swim in spacious comfort in the innocent blood it has spilt. –Mark Twain

Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction. –Blaise Pascal, Pensées

Many of the worst punishments have been carried out with frightening sincerity in the name of religion. –John McIlwain, Dungeons and Torture

Too often in time past, religion has brought forth criminal and shameful actions. … How many evils has religion caused! –Lucretius, On the Nature of Things

The most detestable wickedness, the most horrid cruelties, and the greatest miseries that have afflicted the human race have had their origin in this thing called revelation, or revealed religion. –Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason

Whence arose all the horrid assassinations of whole nations of men, women, and infants, with which the Bible is filled; and the bloody persecutions, and tortures unto death, and religious wars, that since that time have laid Europe in blood and ashes; whence arose they, but from this impious thing called religion, and this monstrous belief that God has spoken to man? –Thomas Paine, quoted in Ira D. Cardiff’s What Great Men Think of Religion

The ne plus ultra of wickedness is embodied in what is commonly presented to mankind as the creed of Christianity. –John Stuart Mill, quoted in Ira D. Cardiff’s What Great Men Think of Religion

When has religion ever been unifying? Religion has introduced many wars in this world, enough bloodshed and violence. –Elie Wiesel

The Augustinian doctrine of the damnation of unbaptized infants and the Calvinistic doctrine of reprobation...surpass in atrocity any tenets that have ever been admitted into any pagan creed. –William EH Lecky, History of European Morals

It had been boldly predicted by some of the early Christians that the conversion of the world would lead to the establishment of perpetual peace. In looking back, with our present experience, we are driven to the melancholy conclusion that, instead of diminishing the number of wars, ecclesiastical influence has actually and very seriously increased it. –William EH Lecky, History of European Morals

One is often told that it is a very wrong thing to attack religion, because religion makes men virtuous. So I am told; I have not noticed it. ... You find this curious fact, that the more intense has been the religion of any period and the more profound has been the dogmatic belief, the greater has been the cruelty and the worse has been the state of affairs. In the so-called ages of faith, when men really did believe the Christian religion in all its completeness, there was the Inquisition, with its tortures; there were millions of unfortunate women burned as witches; and there was every kind of cruelty practiced upon all sorts of people in the name of religion. –Bertrand Russell, Why I Am Not a Christian

Christianity is the most ridiculous, the most absurd, and bloody religion that has ever infected the world. –Voltaire, in a letter to Frederick the Great

For 1,700 years, the Christian sect has done nothing but harm. –Voltaire, in a letter to Frederick the Great

We have seen the collusion of Christianity with pogrom and Holocaust…What is the goodness of this world…when millions are killed by those baptized in the name of the Redeemer? …The immensity of human suffering and death inflicted on Jews for 1,500 years by some who called themselves Christian, and the apparent worthlessness to Christians of the lives of those who did not convert to Christianity, fundamentally question Christian claims about the value of human life…Christians have lost forever the credibility of their claim to a superior religion and a superior ethic. –Clark Williamson, Has God Rejected His People?: Anti-Judaism in the Christian Church

Is religion a force for good? The evidence of history and the evidence of current events cast doubt on the truism. –James Haught

Christianity and Western civilization—what countless crimes have been committed in thy name! –Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Barrel of a Pen

What mean and cruel things men do for the love of God. –W. Somerset Maugham, A Writer’s Notebook

As a historian, I confess to a certain amusement when I hear the Judeo-Christian tradition praised as the source of our present-day concern for human rights; that is, for the valuable idea that all individuals everywhere are entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness on this earth. In fact, the great religious ages were notable for their indifference to human rights in the contemporary sense. They were notorious not only for acquiescence in poverty, inequality, exploitation, and oppression, but also for enthusiastic justifications of slavery, persecution, abandonment of small children, torture, and genocide. During most of the history of the West…religion enshrined and vindicated hierarchy, authority, and inequality, and had no compunction about murdering heretics and blasphemers. Until the end of the 18th century, torture was normal investigative procedure in the Catholic church as well as in most European states… Human rights is not a religious idea. It is a secular idea, the product of the last four centuries of Western history…The basic human rights documents—the American Declaration of Independence and the French Declaration of the Rights of Man—were written by political, not by religious, leaders. –Arthur Schlesinger Jr., in a 1989 speech at Brown University

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 practiced it on one another. The first Protestants of the Church of England blamed persecution in the Romish Church, but practiced it upon the Puritans. These found it wrong in the bishops, but fell into the same practice themselves both here [in England] and in New England. –Benjamin Franklin, “An Essay on Toleration”

Experience witnesseth that ecclesiastical establishments, instead of maintaining the purity and efficacy of religion, have had a contrary operation. During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What has been its fruits? More or less, in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry, and persecution. –ditto

The fruits of Christianity were religious wars, butcheries, crusades, inquisitions, extermination of the natives of America, and the introduction of African slaves in their place. –Arthur Schopenhauer, “Religion—A Dialogue”

No nations are more warlike than those which profess Christianity. –Pierre Bayle, Thoughts on the Comment

Religion, which should most distinguish us from beasts, and ought most peculiarly to elevate us, as rational creatures, above brutes, is that wherein men often appear most irrational, and more senseless than beasts themselves. –John Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding

The same means that have supported every other popular belief have supported Christianity. War, imprisonment, and falsehood; deeds of unexampled and incomparable atrocity have made it what it is. –Percy Bysshe Shelly, in his notes to “Queen Mab”

Christianity indeed has equaled Judaism in the atrocities, and exceeded it in the extent of its desolation. Eleven millions of men, women, and children have been killed in battle, butchered in their sleep, burned to death at public festivals of sacrifice, poisoned, tortured, assassinated, and pillaged in the spirit of the Religion of Peace, and for the glory of the most merciful God. –Percy Bysshe Shelly, A Refutation of Deism

Theological religion is the source of all imaginable follies and disturbances; it is the parent of fanaticism and civil discord; it is the enemy of mankind. –Voltaire, Philosophical Dictionary

Barbarity, caprice; these qualities, however nominally disguised, we may universally observe from the ruling character of the deity in all regular religions. –David Hume, quoted in Rufus K. Noyes’s Views of Religion

Twelve centuries of moral and political darkness, in which Europe was involved, had nearly completed the destruction of human dignity. … During this long and doleful knight of ignorance, slavery, and superstition, Christianity reigned triumphant; its doctrines and divinity were not called in question. The power of the pope, the clergy, and the church were omnipotent; nothing could restrain their frenzy, nothing could control the cruelty of their fanaticism; with mad enthusiasm they set on foot the most bloody and terrific crusades, the object of which was to recover the Holy Land. Seven hundred thousand men are said to have perished in the first two expeditions, which had been thus commenced and carried on by the pious zeal of the Christian church, and in the total amount, several million were found numbered with the dead: the awful effects of religious fanaticism presuming upon the aid of heaven. –Elihu Palmer, Principles of Nature

It is in the names of the gods of Olympus that the Greeks condemned Socrates to drink the hemlock; it is in the name of Jehovah that the high-priests and Pharisees crucified Jesus. It is in the name of Jesus, himself become God, that fanaticism ignominiously condemned to the stake men like Giodano Bruno, Vanini, Étienne Dolet, John Huss, Savanarola, and numerous other heroic victims; that the Inquisition ordered Galileo to belie his conscience; that thousands and thousands of unfortunates accused of witchcraft were burnt alive in popular ceremonies; it was with the express benediction of Pope Gregory XIII that the butchery of St. Bartholomew drenched Paris in blood. –Camille Flammarion, Dreams of an Astronomer

It was Christianity which first painted the devil on the world’s walls. It was Christianity which first brought sin into the world. Belief in the cure which it offered has now been shaken in its deepest roots, but belief in the sickness which it taught and propagated continues to exist. –Friedrich Nietzsche

Who can estimate the misery that has been caused by this infamous doctrine of eternal punishment? Think of the lives it has blighted—of the tears it has caused—of the agony it has produced. Think of the millions who have been driven to insanity by this most terrible of dogmas. This doctrine renters God the basest and most cruel being in the universe. … There is nothing more degrading than to worship such a god. –Robert G. Ingersoll, “Heretics and Heresies”

In the name of religion many great and fine deeds have been performed. In the name of religion also, thousands and millions have been killed, and every possible crime has been committed. –Jawaharlal Nehru

Well, it [religion] has done terrifying things. Religious ideas are inflammatory in a way that I find difficult to understand. There are very few wars over the theory of relativity. Very few heated arguments, for that matter. Whereas, in Northern Ireland, they are killing one another over religion. –Quentin Crisp

If a man wishes to have God recognized in the constitution of our country, let him read the history of the Inquisition, and let him remember that hundreds of millions of men, women, and children have been sacrificed to placate the wrath, or win the approbation of this god. –Robert G. Ingersoll, “God in the Constitution”

The church in all ages and among all peoples has been the consistent enemy of the human race. Everywhere and at all times, it has opposed the liberty of thought and expression. It has been the sworn enemy of investigation and intellectual development. It has denied the existence of facts, the tendency of which was to undermine its power. It has always been carrying fagots to the feet of Philosophy. It has erected the gallows for Genius. It has built the dungeon for Thinkers. And today the orthodox church is as much as opposed as it ever was to the mental freedom of the human race. –ditto

For the first time I understood the dogma of eternal pain...For the first time my imagination grasped the height and depth of the Christian horror. Then I said: “It is a lie, and I hate your religion. If it is true, I hate your God.” From that day I have had no fear, no doubt. For me, on that day, the flames of hell were quenched. From that day I have passionately hated every orthodox creed. That Sermon did some good. –Robert G. Ingersoll, “Why I am Agnostic”

The most heinous and the most cruel crimes of which history has record have been committed under the cover of religion or equally noble motives. –Mohandas Gandhi, in a July 7, 1927, issue of Young India

Throughout history, religious wars have always been the most brutal and cruel and merciless. –Al Gore, speaking at a Religious Freedom Day ceremony in Richmond, VA, on January 14, 1994

It is so obvious that it hurts—that so many of the things that are wrong in the world are actually due to religious conflicts. –Rabbi Herman Schaalman

It is time that outraged public sentiment cry out in detestation of the outrages committed in the name of religion. –Ella Wheeler Wilcox, quoted in Rufus K. Noyes’s Views of Religions

Religion can breed harassment, bigotry, prejudice, intolerance, and deception. … We Christians must admit that our religion has propagated, in the name of Jesus, devilish acts, bloody wars, awful persecutions, hate crimes, and political chaos. We have seen leaders of Operation Rescue harassing neighbors and demonstrating at women’s clinics in most detestable and criminal ways. The hate that certain elements of the Christian community have cultivated toward neighbors of a homosexual orientation resembles the environment of hell. … This New Right confronts us with a threat far greater than the old threat of Communism. –Rev. Robert H. Meneilly, in Liberty magazine, March-April 1994

Religious hatreds tend to be merciless and absolute. –Lance Morrow, in Time, March 15, 1993

Christianity…made, for nearly 1,500 years, persecution, religious wars, massacres, theological feuds and bloodshed, heresy huntings and heretic burnings, prisons, dungeons, anathemas, curses, opposition to science, hatred of liberty, spiritual bondage, the life without love or laughter… –MM Mangasarian, “The Martyrdom of Hypatia”

The predominant emphasis on the motive of fear for the enforcement of absolute commands has made religious morality develop the most intense cruelty that the human heart has known. –Morris R. Cohen, in a 1933 issue of Religion Today

Christianity persecuted, tortured, and burned. Like a hound it tracked the very scent of heresy. It kindled wars, and nursed furious hatreds and ambitions. It sanctified, quite like Mohammedanism, extermination and tyranny. –George Santayana, “Christian Morality”

If one takes full account of the persecution of heretics, the frequency and savagery of the religious wars which Christianity had endangered, the harm caused, especially to children, by the pernicious doctrine of original sin, a case could be made for saying that the world would have been better off without Christianity. –AJ Ayer, Thomas Paine

In Jerusalem…the angry face of Yahweh is brooding over the hot rocks which have seen more holy murder, rape, and plunder than any other place on earth. Its inhabitants are poisoned by religion. –Arthur Koestler, quoted in Amos Elon’s Jerusalem: City of Mirrors


Agnosticism and Atheism


When I became convinced that the universe is natural, that all the ghosts and gods are myths, there entered into my brain, into my soul, into every drop of my blood the sense, the feeling, the joy of freedom. The walls of my prison crumbled and fell. The dungeon was flooded with light and all the bolts and bars and manacles became dust. –Robert Green Ingersoll, “Why I Am An Agnostic”

... I’m now a reverent agnostic. Which isn’t an oxymoron, I swear. I now believe that whether or not there’s a God, there is such a thing as sacredness. Life is sacred. The Sabbth can be a sacred day. Prayer can be a sacred ritual. There is something transcendendent, beyond the everyday. It’s possible that humans created this sacredness ourselves, but that doesn’t take away from its power or importance. –AJ Jacobs, The Year of Living Biblically

I do not consider it an insult, but rather a compliment to be called an agnostic. I do not pretend to know where many ignorant men are sure—that is all that agnosticism means. –Clarence Darrow, in a speech given at the John Scopes trial

Not one man in a thousand has the strength of mind or the goodness of heart to be an atheist. –Samuel Tyler Coleridge, in a letter to Thomas Allsop

Most people whose intelligence is much above the average are, nowadays, openly or secretly agnostic. –Bertrand Russell, quoted in Ira D. Cardiff’s What Great Men Think of Religion

Agnosticism, in fact, is not a creed, but a method, the essence of which lies in the rigorous application of a single principle … the axiom that every man should be able to give a reason for the faith that is in him. –Thomas Henry Huxley, “Agnosticism”

In matters of the intellect, follow your reason as far as it will take you, without any other consideration. And negatively, in matters of the intellect do not pretend that conclusions are certain which are not demonstrated or demonstrable. That I take to be the agnostic faith, which if a man keep whole and undefiled, he shall not be ashamed to look the universe in the face, whatever the future may have in store for him. –ditto

It is wrong for a man to say that he is certain of the objective truth of any proposition unless he can produce evidence which logically justifies that certainty. This is what agnosticism asserts; and, in my opinion, it is all that is essential to agnosticism. –Thomas Henry Huxley, Agnosticism and Christianity

I never talk about religion—or my lack of it. But I think you should know where I stand. What you believe is your business, and I may not like what you say, but I’ll defend to the death my right to disagree with you. –MK Wren, A Gift upon the Shore

I don’t believe in God because I don’t believe in Mother Goose. –Clarence Darrow, in a speech in Toronto in 1930

In spite of all the yearnings of men, no one can produce a single fact or reason to support the belief in God and in personal immortality. –Clarence Darrow

Atheism leaves a man to sense, to philosophy, to natural piety, to laws, to reputation: all of which may be guides to an outward moral virtue, though religion were not; but superstition dismounts all these and erecteth an absolute monarchy in the minds of men. –Francis Bacon, “Of Superstition”

The mystery of the beginning of all things is insoluble by us; and I for one must be content to remain an Agnostic. I think an Agnostic would be the more correct description of my state of mind. The whole subject [of God] is beyond the scope of man’s intellect. –Charles Darwin, Life and Letters

It is among men of genius and science that atheism alone is found. –Percy Bysshe Shelly, A Refutation of Deism

All thinking men are atheists. –Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms

My atheism…is true piety towards the universe and denies only gods fashioned by men in their own image, to be servants of their human interests. –George Santayana, “On My Friendly Critics”

Atheism and a kind of second innocence belong together. –Friedrich Nietzsche, The Genealogy of Morals

It is not hardness of heart or evil passions that drive certain individuals to atheism, but rather a scrupulous intellectual honesty. –Steve Allen, Reflections

I’m an atheist, and that’s it. I believe there’s nothing we can know except that we should be kind to each other and do what we can for other people. –Katharine Hepburn, in Ladies’ Home Journal, October 1991

Atheism strikes me as morally superior, as well as intellectually superior, to religion. Since it is obviously inconceivable that all religions can be right, the most reasonable conclusion is that they are all wrong. Does this leave us shorn of hope? Not a bit of it. Atheism, and the related conviction that we have just one life to live, is the only sure way to regard all our fellow creatures as brothers and sisters. … Even the compromise of agnosticism is better than faith. It minimizes the totalitarian temporation, the witless worship of the absolute and the surrender of reason. –Christopher Hitchens, “The Lord and the Intellectuals”

I’m a born again atheist. –Gore Vidal

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. –(?)

It is true, I deny an incomprehensible Trinity, and the fable regarding the fall of man, which is absurd in our day. It is true, I deny the sacrilegious story of a God born of a virgin to redeem the race. –Leo Tolstoy, quoted in Ira D. Cardiff’s What Great Men Think of Religion

I do not believe in any revealed religion. I will have nothing to do with your immortality; we are miserable enough in this life, without the absurdity of speculating upon another. –Lord Byron, in a letter to the Rev. Francis Hodgson, 1811

I do not believe in original sin, indulgences, the infallibility of the Pope, or obedience to any church official if it is against my conscience. I am not interested in earning “merit” or in being saved by incantation. –Ammon Hennacy, The Book of Ammon

… I do not believe in the divinity of Christ, and there are many other of the postulates of the orthodox creed to which I cannot subscribe. –William Howard Taft, in a letter to Yale, declining their offer of presidency

We have fools in all sects, and imposters in most; why should I believe mysteries no one can understand, because written by men who chose to mistake madness for inspiration and style themselves Evangelicals. –Lord Byron, quoted in Rufus K. Noyes’s Views of Religion

There was a time when I believed in the story and the scheme of salvation, so far as I could understand it, just as there was a time when I believed there was a Devil. … Suddenly the light broke through to me and I knew this God was a lie. … I sensed it was a silly story long before I dared to admit even to myself that it was a silly story. For indeed it is a silly story, and each generation nowadays swallows it with greater difficulty. … Why do people go on pretending about this Christianity? –HG Wells, quoted in Ira D. Cardiff’s What Great Men Think of Religion


Religion and God as Manmade (or Fear-Borne) Things


Zeal compensates for fear. ... The religious zealot who shouts, beats, and kills is perhaps not the one who is secure with his faith but the one who is so fearful of the challenges, so aware of the fickleness of conviction, that he has no choice but to strengthen it with the drumbeat of mindless fanaticism. –Shulem Deen, All Who Go Do Not Return

When mankind finally sees the face of God, he will find it to be his own reflection, for it is truly man who created God in his image. –from Bride Queens of the Demon Lord

No man who ever lived knows any more about the hereafter … than you and I; and all religion … simply evolved out of chicanery, fear, greed, imagination, and poetry. –Edgar Allan Poe, quoted in Rufus K. Noyes’s Views of Religions

It was fear that first brought gods into the world. –Petronius Arbiter, Satyricon

It was fear in the world that created the gods. –Statius, Thebaid

Religion is based, I think, primarily and mainly upon ... fear of the mysterious, fear of death. Fear is the parent of cruelty, and therefore it is no wonder if cruelty and religion have gone hand in hand. –Bertrand Russell, Why I am Not a Christian

God has not created man, but man created God. –Ludwig Feuerbach, quoted in Rufus K. Noyes’s Views of Religions

I would believe in a religion if it existed ever since the beginning of time, but when I consider Socrates, Plato, Mahomet, I no longer believe. All religions have been made by men. –Napoleon Bonaparte, to Gaspard Gourgaud, January 28, 1817

Man has conceived a God in his own likeness. It is in the name of this pretended God that monarchs and pontiffs have in all the ages, and under cover of all religions, bound humanity in a slavery from which it has not yet freed itself. –Camille Flammarion, Dreams of an Astronomer

… when one is afraid one ceases to reason…when the brain is disturbed, one believes anything and examines nothing. Ignorance and fear, you will repeat to them, ignorance and fear—those are the twin bases of every religion. –The Marquis de Sade, Philosophy in the Bedroom

There is a sort of transcendental ventriloquy through which men can be made to believe that something which was said on earth came from heaven. –Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, Aphorisms

There is nothing more innately human than the tendency to transmute what has become customary into what has been divinely ordained. –Suzanne LaFollette, The Beginnings of Emancipation

The whole religious complexion of the modern world is due to the absence from Jerusalem of a lunatic asylum. –Havelock Ellis, Impressions and Comments

All religions were made and formulated by men. … What we call God’s justice is only man’s idea of what he would do if he were God. –Elbert Hubbard, quoted in Ira D. Cardiff’s What Great Men Think of Religion


Distain for—and/or Fear of—Religious People


… if God thought the way churchy people do, He could never have created the world. He would have been too narrow-minded to think it up. – Paula Sharp, I Loved You All

Still, it’s odd that so many Christians can’t seem to grasp the Golden Rule—“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you…”—especially when it comes to sex. For example, I’m relatively certain that William Bennett doesn’t want me dictating the content of his sex life. There are activities I enjoy that I doubt very much Bennett would enjoy. And guess what? I’m happy to let William Bennett pursue his sexual pleasures in peace and quiet. Why can’t William Bennett do the same unto me? What about the right to be left alone? It’s never occurred to me to burst into the bedroom of a conservative Christian couple engaged in loving, missionary-position, procreative sexual intercourse and try and talk them into sodomizing each other. (“No, no, no. Fuck her in the ass!”) I would never do that unto someone. So how come so many fundamentalist Christians out there are trying to talk me out of my boyfriend’s ass and into procreative, missionary-position sex with some miserable ex-lesbian? Why are they doing that unto me? –Dan Savage, Skipping towards Gomorrah: The Seven Deadly Sins and the Pursuit of Happiness in America

By attempting to pin the blame for the attacks of September 11 on the American Civil Liberties Union, abortion-rights groups, pagans, gay men, and lesbians, and federal judges, Falwell not only exposed himself for what he was (hateful, divisive, mean-spirited), but he also exposed Christian fundamentalism for what it is (hateful, divisive, mean-spirited). Thanks to Falwell, millions of Americans realized that Christian fundamentalists hate all the same things about the United States that the Islamic fundamentalists hate: liberated women, sexual freedom, secular culture, fundamental human rights…
     After September 11, reasonable Americans could no longer pretend that all men of faith were harmless do-gooders. The nineteen hijackers were men of faith, and in their own twisted minds, they meant well—they thought they were doing God’s work, just as Falwell thinks he’s doing God’s work. Osama bin Laden, if he’s still alive somewhere, is a man of faith. John Walker, aka the American Taliban, is a man of faith.
     … In the case of both Walker and Falwell—and in the case of September 11—faith wasn’t the solution to the problem, faith was and is the problem. “If we believe absurdities,” Voltaire said, “we will commit atrocities.” On September 11, Islamo-fascists, heads stuffed with absurdities, committed the most appalling atrocities. It was religious fanaticism that brought down the World Trade Center, not secularism, and a murderous intolerance inflamed by hate-mongering clerics. Falwell did a real public service by reminding Americans immediately after the attacks that the Islamic world doesn’t have a monopoly on religious hatred and fanaticism, nor does the Islamic world have a monopoly on hateful clerics. –ditto

The God-loving people who fashioned the soaring vaults and delicate windows of Chartres had murder on their minds. Some of the workers may well have been veterans of the First Crusade, an expedition to save the Holy Land from the Muslims that was part religious frenzy, part military adventure, and part social fad. On that excursion, begun four years after work on Chartres began, the Crusaders slaughtered thousands of noncombatants, leveled whole communities, and finally “saved” the holy city of Jerusalem by massacring all its inhabitants—men, women, children, Muslims, Jews: everybody. … We can pray one minute and kill the next. … We like to think that our erratic behavior is a thing of the past, that we’ve outgrown the excesses of the Crusades. But nothing could be further from the truth. There are people in Belfast today who will repeat the catechism, then go toss a bomb into a crowded pub. –Phil Donahue, The Human Animal

The pioneers and missionaries of religion have been the real cause of more trouble and war than all other classes of mankind. –Edgar Allan Poe, quoted in Ira D. Cardiff’s What Great Men Think of Religion

Christians have been the most intolerant of all men. –Voltaire, Philosophical Dictionary

The acceptance of a creed, any creed, entitles the acceptor to membership in the sort of artificial extended family we call a congregation. It is a way to fight loneliness. Any time I see a person fleeing from reason and into religion, I think to myself, There goes a person who simply cannot stand being so goddamned lonely anymore. –Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., in an address to a Unitarian congregation on January 27, 1980

Here [in Jerusalem], no mercy is shown. One hates one’s fellow man to the glory of God. –Selma Lagerlof, Jerusalem

No chapter inhuman history has been so largely written in terms of persecution and intolerance as the one dealing with religious freedom. From ancient times to the present day, the ingenuity of man has known no limits in its ability to forge weapons of oppression for use against those who dare to express or practice unorthodox religious beliefs. –Frank Murphy, Prince v. Massachusetts, 1944

In the experiences of a year of the presidency, there has come to me no other such unwelcome impression as the manifest religious intolerance which exists among many of our citizens. I hold it to be a menace to the very liberties we boast and cherish. –Warren G. Harding, in an address on March 24, 1922

After coming in contact with a religious man, I always feel that I must wash my hands. –Friedrich Nietzsche, The Antichrist

People whose daily life appears too empty and monotonous easily grow religious; this is comprehensible and excusable, but they have no right to demand religious sentiments from those whose daily life is not empty and monotonous. –Friedrich Nietzsche, Human, All-Too-Human

The Christian resolve to find the world ugly and bad has made the world ugly and bad. –Friedrich Nietzsche, Die fröhliche Wissenschaft

The reverse side of Christian compassion for the suffering of one’s neighbor is a profound suspicion of all the joy of one’s neighbor, of his joy in all that he wants to do and can. –Friedrich Nietzsche, Daybreak

Tacked above the Girardi sink is a picture of Jesus Christ floating up to Heaven in a pink nightgown. How disgusting can human beings be! The Jews I despise for their narrow-mindedness, their self-righteousness, the incredibly bizarre sense that these cavemen who are my parents and relatives have somehow gotten of their superiority—but when it comes to tawdriness and cheapness, to beliefs that would shame even a gorilla, you simply cannot top the goyim. What kind of base and brainless schmucks are these people to worship somebody who, number one, never existed, and number two, if he did, looking as he does in that picture, was without a doubt The Pansy of Palestine. In a pageboy haircut, with a Palmolive complexion—and wearing a gown that I realize today must have come from Fredericks of Hollywood! Enough of God and the rest of that garbage! Down with religion and human groveling! –Philip Roth, Portnoy’s Complaint

The Devil can cite scripture to suit his purpose. –William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice [folks who condemn homosexuality by citing Leviticus should take heed!]

No man ever believes that the Bible means what it says: He is always convinced that it says what he means. –George Bernard Shaw

There are scores of thousands of human insects who are ready at a moment’s notice to reveal the Will of God on every possible subject. –ditto

The man of business ... goes on Sunday to the church with the regularity of the village blacksmith, there to renounce and abjure before his God the line of conduct which he intends to pursue with all his might during the following week. –George Bernard Shaw, Fabian Essays in Socialism

Beware of the man whose God is in the skies. –George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman

In religion and politics people’s beliefs and convictions are in almost every case gotten at second-hand, and without examination, from authorities who have not themselves examined the questions at issue but have taken them at second-hand from other nonexaminers, whose opinions about them were not worth a brass farthing. –Mark Twain, Autobiography

Man is the religious animal. He is the only religious animal. He is the only animal that has the True Religion—several of them. He is the only animal that loves his neighbor as himself and cuts his throat if his theology isn’t straight. He has made a graveyard of the globe in trying his honest best to smooth his brother’s path to happiness and heaven. ... The higher animals have no religion. And we are told that they are going to be left out in the Hereafter. I wonder why? It seems questionable taste. –Mark Twain, “The Damned Human Race”

Some religious opinions are beautiful, moral, enlightening, uplifting; others are bizarre, crazy, socially dangerous, vengeful, personally destructive. There are millions of religious fanatics in the world. Some of them act crazy. You wouldn’t want them in your house. You wouldn’t want your daughter to marry one of them. –Steve Allen, Reflections

What chiefly concerns and alarms many of us are the problems arising from religious fanaticism. As long as large numbers of militant enthusiasts are persuaded that they alone have access to the truth, and that the rest of us are infidels, we remain under threat. –Anthony Storr, Human Destructiveness

I would say, welcome infidelity! Welcome atheism! Welcome anything … in preference to the gospel as preached [by persons who] convert the very name of religion into an engine of tyranny and barbarous cruelty. –Frederick Douglass, “The Meaning of the Fourth of July for the Negro”

Fanaticism is a camouflage for cruelty. Fanatics are seldom humane, and those who sincerely dread cruelty will be slow to adapt to a fanatical creed. –Bertrand Russell, Theory and Practice of Bolshevism

From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step. –Denis Diderot, Essay on Merit and Virtue

Religious fanaticism has clearly produced, and in all probability will continue to produce, enormous amounts of bickering, fighting, violence, bloodshed, homicide, feuds, wars, and genocide. For all its peace-keeping potential, therefore, arrant (not to mention arrogant) religiosity has led to immense individual and social harm by fomenting an incredible amount of anti-human and anti-humane aggression. –Albert Ellis, in Free Inquiry, spring 1988

Which is more dangerous, fanaticism or atheism? Fanaticism is certainly a thousand times more deadly; for atheism inspires no bloody passion, whereas fanaticism does. … Fanaticism causes crimes to be committed. –Voltaire, Philosophical Dictionary

You are never dedicated to something you have complete confidence in. (No one is fanatically shouting that the sun is going to rise tomorrow. They know it’s going to rise tomorrow.) When people are fanatically devoted to political or religious faiths or any other kinds of dogmas or goals, it’s always because those dogmas or goals are in doubt. –Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Fanaticism is … overcompensation for doubt. –Robertson Davies, Manticore

All fanaticism is a strategy to prevent doubt from becoming conscious. –HA Williams, The True Wilderness

Men insist most vehemently upon their certainties when their hold upon them has been shaken. Frantic orthodoxy is a method for obscuring doubt. –Reinhold Niebuhr, Does Civilization Need Religion?

Most fundamentalists do not believe this world, this earth, these bodies we inhabit are holy. Since they see this world as sinful and this time as evil, they seek only a world that comes after. Several hundred years ago, the Inquisitors felt they were acting with the greatest human kindness when they tortured, burned, and hanged those they called “Witches” in order that their souls might be saved. They are not so different from their descendents … who wistfully yearn for salvation, even if it takes the form of nuclear war. –Margot Adler, Drawing Down the Moon

There is something wrong with a man if he does not want to break the Ten Commandments. –GK Chesterton

Why has a religious turn of mind always a tendency to narrow and harden the heart? –Robert Burns

“And would you mock God?”
“God is not mocked except by believers.”

This is ultimately what I like about the Born-Again Lifestyle: Even though I see fundamental Christians as wild-eyed maniacs, I respect their verve. They are probably the only people fighting against America’s insipid Oprah Culture—the pervasive belief system that insists that everyone’s perspective is valid and that no one can be judged. As far as I can tell, most people I know are like me; most of the people I know are bad people (or they’re good people, but they consciously choose to do bad things). We deserve to be judged. –Chuck Klosterman, Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs

The trouble with born-again Christians is that they are an even bigger pain the second time around. –Herb Caen, in the San Francisco Chronicle, July 20, 1981

Why do born-again people so often make you wish they’d never been born the first time? –Katherine Whitehorn, in The Observer, May 20, 1979

He’s a born-again Christian. The trouble is, he suffered brain damage during rebirth. –anonymous

Even the weakest disputant is made so conceited by what he calls religion, as to think himself wiser than the wisest who thinks differently from him. –Walter Savage Landor, Imaginary Conversations

It seems almost impossible for religious people to really grasp the idea of intellectual freedom. They seem to think that a man is responsible for his honest thoughts; that unbelief is a crime, that investigation is sinful; that credulity is a virtue, and that reason is a dangerous guide. –Robert G. Ingersoll, Atheist Truth versus Religion’s Ghosts

Strange, but true, that those who have loved God most have loved men least. –Robert G. Ingersoll, in a speech given in New York, April 25, 1881

When the missionaries came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land. They said “Let us pray.” We closed our eyes. When we opened them we had the Bible and they had the land. –Desmond Tutu


Thoughts on Religion


Religion is like a house of cards. One finger tap of fact and it all falls over. –Kim Stanley Robinson, The Years of Rice and Salt

God is a thing I think I see in glimmers all over: an enormous and vague warmth I sometimes catch pulsing around me, giving me shivers and making tears prick my eyes; a mysterious and limitless Thing threaded through all the world and refusing to be reduced to a name or a set of rules and instead winding itselfthrough millions of stories, true and made up, connecting all breathing things. -Emily Henry, The Love That Split the World

A church is not for praying
It’s for celebrating the life that bleeds through the pain.
–Hot Chip, “How Do You Do”

... [King Utopus] decreed that every man might cultivate the religion of his choice, and might proselytize for it, provided he did so quietly, modestly, rationally, and without bitterness toward others. In matters of religion, he was not at all quick to dogmatize, because he suspected that God perhaps likes various forms of worship and has therefore deliberately inspired different people with different views. On the other hand, he was quite sure that it was arrogant folly for anyone to enforce conformity with his own beliefs by means of threats or violence. He supposed that if one religion is really true and the rest false, that one true one will prevail by its own natural strength, provided only that men consider the matter reasonably and moderately. But if they try to decide these matters by fighting and rioting, since the worst men are always the most headstrong, the best and holiest religion in the world will be crowded out by blind superstitions, like grain choked out of a field by thorns and briars. So he left the whole matter open, allowing each individual to choose what he would believe. The only exception he made was a positive and strict law against any person who should sink so far below the dignity of human nature as to think that the soul perishes with the body, or that the universe is ruled by mere chance, rather than divine providence ... In the churches no image of the gods is to be seen, so that each man may be free to form his own image of God after his heart’s desire, in any shape he pleases. There is no special name for God, apart from the common word “Mithra” ... They light incense, scatter perfumes, and burn a great number of candles—not that they think these practices profit the divine nature in any way, any more than human prayers do; but they like this harmless kind of worship. They feel that sweet smells, lights, and rituals elevate the mind, and lift it with a livelier devotion toward the adoration of god. –Thomas More, Utopia

Religion to me has always been the wound, not the bandage. –Dennis Potter, in a 1994 interview on Channel 4’s Seeing the Blossom

So far as religion of the day is concerned, it is a damned fake. ... Religion is all bunk. ... All bibles are man-made. –Thomas Edison, quoted in Ira D. Cardiff’s What Great Men Think of Religion

Religion consists in a set of things which the average man thinks he believes, and wishes he was certain. –Mark Twain, Notebook

The religions of the world are luminous in their individuality, and they have valuable social and soulmaking functions. Surely someday we will quit killing each other over their different strategies. –Coleman Barks, in the introduction to The Essential Rumi

Let your religion be less of a theory and more of a love affair. –GK Chesterton

Nothing in human life, least of all religion, is ever right until it is beautiful. –Harry Emerson Fosdick, As I See Religion

I have recently been examining all the known superstitions of the world, and do not find in our particular superstition [Christianity] one redeeming feature. They are all alike, founded upon fables and mythologies. –Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to Dr. Woods

When a religion is good, I conceive it will support itself; and when it does not support itself, and God does not take care to support it so that its professors are obliged to call for help of the civil power, ’tis a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one. –Benjamin Franklin, in a letter to Richard Price, October 9, 1780

When I do good, I feel good; when I do bad, I feel bad. That’s my religion. –Abraham Lincoln, quoted in William H. Herndon and Jesse W. Weik’s Herndon’s Lincoln: The True Story of a Great Life (Lincoln was recollecting a comment heard by a man at an Indiana church meeting, circa 1810)

I care not for a man’s religion whose dog and cat are not the better for it. –Abraham Lincoln

I wish it (Christianity) were more productive of good works ... I mean real good works ... not holy-day keeping, sermon-hearing ... or making long prayers, filled with flatteries and compliments despised by wise men, and much less capable of pleasing the Deity. –Benjamin Franklin, Works, Vol. VII

I think vital religion has always suffered when orthodoxy is more regarded than virtue. The scriptures assure me that at the last day we shall not be examined on what we thought but what we did. –Benjamin Franklin, in a letter to his father

Religion is fundamentally opposed to everything I hold in veneration—courage, clear thinking, honesty, fairness, and, above all, love of the truth. –HL Mencken, Autobiographical Notes

I believe that religion, generally speaking, has been a curse to mankind. –HL Mencken, in the New York Times Magazine, September 11, 1955

Most people’s religion is what they want to believe. –Luther Burbank, Why I Am an Infidel

Religion is comparable to a childhood neurosis. –Sigmund Freud, The Future of an Illusion

When a man is freed of religion, he has a better chance to live a normal and wholesome life. –Sigmund Freud

There is nothing in religion but fiction. –George Bernard Shaw, Back to Methuselah

I loathe the mess of mean superstitions and misunderstood prophecies which is still rammed down the throats of children under the name of Christianity. –George Bernard Shaw, quoted in Ira D. Cardiff’s What Great Men Think of Religion

There is too much undissolved wrath and punishment in most religions. –Joshua Liebman, Peace of Mind

I regard monotheism as the greatest disaster ever to befall the human race. I see no good in Judaism, Christianity, or Islam—good people, yes, but any religion based on a single, well, frenzied and virulent god, is not as useful to the human race as, say, Confucianism, which is not a religion but an ethical and educational system. –Gore Vidal, At Home

Christianity has done a great service for love by making a sin of it. –Anatole France, The Garden of Epicurus

Religion is a collective insanity. –Mikhail A. Bakunin, quoted in Rufus K. Noyes’s Views of Religions

Religion has been a curse on the world and humanity will never know freedom until this curse has been exorcised. It is the curse of ignorance, which has cast its dark shadow over thousands of years of human suppression. –David Icke

My objection to Christianity is that it is infinitely cruel, infinitely selfish, and, I might add, infinitely absurd. –Robert G. Ingersoll

My own view on religion is that of Lucretius. I regard it as a disease born of fear and as a source of untold misery to the human race. –Bertrand Russell, Has Religion Made Useful Contributions to Civilization?

Christianity tells people to repent and promises them forgiveness. It therefore has nothing (as far as I know) to say to people who do not know they have done anything to repent of and who do not feel that they need forgiveness. –CS Lewis, Mere Christianity

Every established fact which is too bad to admit of any other defense is always presented to us as an injunction of religion. –John Stuart Mill, The Subjugation of Women

The memory of my own suffering has prevented me from ever shadowing one young soul with the superstitions of the Christian religion. –Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Eighty Years and More

I count religion but a childish toy,
And hold there is no sin but ignorance.
–Christopher Marlowe, “The Jew of Malta”

We have just religion enough to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another. –Jonathan Swift, Thoughts on Various Subjects

Religious controversies are always productive of more acrimony and irreconcilable hatreds than those which spring from any other cause. –George Washington, in a letter to Sir Edward Newenham, June 22, 1792

Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it, you’d have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion. –Steven Weinberg

Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people. –Karl Marx, Preface, A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right

That does not keep me from having a terrible need of—shall I say the word—religion. Then I go out at night and paint the stars. –Vincent Van Gogh, in a letter to his brother Theo

Religion is a bandage that man has invented to protect a soul made bloody by circumstance. –Theodore Herman Albert Dreiser

And what is the religion of many persons but a kind of demonism that delights in human sacrifices and causes them to look with horror on the greatest part of mankind? Plutarch, it is well known, has observed very justly that it is better not to believe in a god than to believe him to be a capricious and malevolent being. –Richard Price, in a letter to Thomas Jefferson, October 26, 1788

Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise, every expanded prospect. –James Madison, in a letter to William Bradford, Jr., April 1, 1774

There is only one religion, though there are a hundred versions of it. –George Bernard Shaw, Plays Pleasant and Unpleasant, Vol. II

One religion is as true as another. –Robert Burton, Anatomy of Melancholy

So many religions, so many paths to reach the one and the same goal. –Ramakrishna

All religions are ancient monuments to superstitions, ignorance, ferocity; and modern religions are only ancient follies rejuvenated. –Baron D’Holbach

Truth, in matters of religion, is simply the opinion that has survived. –Oscar Wilde, The Critic as Artist

Self-denial is the shining sore on the leprous body of Christianity. –Oscar Wilde

I call Christianity the one great curse, the one great intrinsic depravity ... the one immortal blemish on the human race. –Friedrich Nietzsche, The Antichrist

Christianity was from the beginning, essentially and fundamentally, life’s nausea and disgust with life, merely concealed behind, masked by, dressed up as, faith in “another” or “better” life. –Friedrich Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy

The religions of the world are the ejaculations of a few imaginative men. –Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The Poet”

Evangelical Christianity, as everyone knows, is founded upon hate, as the Christianity of Christ was founded upon love. –HL Mencken, in his coverage of the Scopes Trial, in The Baltimore Evening Sun

Religion is fundamentally opposed to everything I hold in veneration—courage, clear thinking, honesty, fairness, and, above all, love of the truth. –HL Mencken, Autobiographical Notes

To sum up: 1. The cosmos is a gigantic flywheel making 10,000 revolutions a minute. 2. Man is a sick fly taking a dizzy ride on it. 3. Religion is the theory that the wheel was designed and set spinning to give him the ride. –HL Mencken, “Coda,” in Smart Set

Christianity, above all, consoles; but there are naturally happy souls who do not need consolation. Consequently, Christianity begins by making such souls unhappy, for otherwise it would have no power over them. –André Gide, journal, October 10, 1892

The idea of a good society is something you do not need a religion and eternal punishment to buttress; you need a religion if you are terrified of death. –Gore Vidal

Christianity has made a terror of death which was unknown to the gay calmness of the Pagan. –Marie Louise de la Ramée, The Failure of Christianity

Religion is the venereal disease of mankind. –Henri de Montherlant

Not all religion is to be found in the church, any more than all knowledge is found in the classroom. –(?)

Religions are like farts. Yours is good, but everyone else’s stinks. –(?)

I won’t take my religion from any man who never works except with his mouth. –Carl Sandburg

Without cultural sanction, most or all our religious beliefs and rituals would fall into the domain of mental disturbance. –John Schumaker

Religions contradict one another—on small matters, such as whether we should put on a hat or take one off on entering a house of worship, or whether we should eat beef and eschew pork or the other way around, all the way to the most central issues, such as whether there are no gods, one God, or many gods. –Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot

Finding that no religion is based on facts and cannot therefore be true, I began to reflect what must be the condition of [hu]mankind trained from infancy to believe in error. –Robert Owen

Christianity is a pestilent superstition. –Tacitus, quoted in Rufus K. Noyes’s Views of Religion

What excellent fools religion makes of men. –Ben Jonson, “Sejanus”

Every sensible man, every honest man, must hold the Christian sect in horror. But what shall we substitute in its place? you say. What? A ferocious animal has sucked the blood of my relatives. I tell you to rid yourselves of this beast, and you ask me what you shall put in its place? –Voltaire, quoted in Ira D. Cardiff’s What Great Men Think of Religion

Examine the religious principles which have, in fact, prevailed in the world, and you will scarcely be persuaded that they are anything but sick men’s dreams. –David Hume, The Natural History of Religion

Earth groans beneath religion’s iron age
And priests dare babble of a God of peace
Even whilst their hands are red with guiltless blood
Murdering the while, uprooting every germ
Of truth, exterminating, spoiling all,
Making the earth a slaughterhouse.
–Percy Bysshe Shelly, “Queen Mab”

I would never want to be a member of a group whose symbol was a guy nailed to two pieces of wood. –George Carlin

Religion is like an onion; you peel away the layers, and you’re left with nothing. –knowledge acquired in Kristen Boyer’s Christology class


Religion as a Means of Enslavement/Power/Control


It is to the interest of states to be deceived in religion. –Diodorus Siculus, quoted in Ira D. Cardiff’s What Great Men Think of Religion

Since the masses of the people are inconstant, full of unruly desires, passionate, and reckless of consequence, they must be filled with fears to keep them in order. The ancients did well, therefore, to invent gods, and the belief in punishment after death. –Polybius, Histories

Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful. –Seneca, quoted in Ira D. Cardiff’s What Great Men Think of Religion

How can you have order in a state without religion? For, when one man is dying of hunger near another who is ill of surfeit, he cannot resign himself to this difference unless there is an authority which declares “God wills it thus.” Religion is excellent stuff for keeping common people quiet. –Napoleon Bonaparte, quoted in American Freeman

I am terrified of restrictive religious doctrine, having learned from history that when men who adhere to any form of it are in control, common men like me are in peril. –James A. Michener, The World Is My Home

As long as we have a master in heaven, we will be slaves on earth. –Mikhail A. Bakunin, God and the State

A tyrant must put on the appearance of uncommon devotion to religion. Subjects are less apprehensive of illegal treatment from a ruler whom they consider god-fearing and pious. On the other hand, they do less easily move against him, believing that he has the gods on his side. –Aristotle, Politics

All religions have based morality on obedience, that is to say, on voluntary slavery. That is why they have always been more pernicious than any political organization. For the latter makes use of violence, the former—of the corruption of the will. –Alexander Herzen, From the Other Shore

The garb of religion is the best cloak for power. –William Hazlitt, “On the Clerical Character”

There can be but little liberty on earth while men worship a tyrant in heaven. –Robert G. Ingersoll

“Theocracy” has always been the synonym for a bleak and narrow, if not a fierce and blood-stained, tyranny. –William Archer, quoted in Ira D. Cardiff’s What Great Men Think of Religion

All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian, or Turkish [Muslim], appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit. –Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason

I want nothing to do with any religion concerned with keeping the masses satisfied to live in hunger, filth, and ignorance. –Jawaharlal Nehru, quoted in Edgar Snow’s Journey to the Beginning

Often in history we see that religion, which was meant to raise us and make us better and nobler, has made people behave like beasts. Instead of bringing enlightenment of them, it has often tried to keep them in the dark; instead of broadening their minds, it has frequently made them narrow-minded and intolerant of others. –ditto

Christ and Moses standing in the back of St. Pat’s, looking around. Confused, Christ is, at the grandeur of the interior, the baroque interior, the rococo baroque interior. Because his route took him through Spanish Harlem, and he was wondering what the hell fifty Puerto Ricans were doing living in one room when that stained glass window is worth 10 Gs a square foot. –Lenny Bruce, The Essential Lenny Bruce

All religions are founded on the fear of the many and the cleverness of the few. –Stendhal

Lycurgus, Numa, Moses, Jesus Christ, Mohammed, all these great rogues, all these great thought-tyrants, knew how to associate the divinities they fabricated with their own boundless ambition; and, certain of captivating the people with the sanction of those gods, they were always studious, as everyone knows, either to consult them exclusively about, or to make them exclusively respond to, what they thought likely to serve their own interests. –The Marquis de Sade, Philosophy in the Bedroom

Organized religion, being founded on superstition, is, perforce, not scientific. And all that which is not scientific—that is, truthful—must be bolstered up by force, fear, and falsehood. Thus we always find slavery and organized religion going hand in hand. –Elbert Hubbard, quoted in Ira D. Cardiff’s What Great Men Think of Religion


Religion Promotes Ignorance/Fear/Suppression
and Limits Progress


You find as you look around the world that every single bit of progress in humane feeling, every improvement in the criminal law, every step toward the diminution of war, every step toward better treatment of the colored races, or every mitigation of slavery, every moral progress that there has been in the world, has been consistently opposed by the organized churches of the world. I say quite deliberately that the Christian religion, as organized in its churches, has been and still is the principal enemy of moral progress in the world. –Bertrand Russell, Why I am Not a Christian

Every step which the intelligence of Europe has taken has been in spite of the clerical party. –Victor Hugo, quoted in Ira D. Cardiff’s What Great Men Think of Religion

The careful student of history will discover that Christianity has been of very little value in advancing civilization, but has done a great deal toward retarding it. –Matilda Joslyn Gage, Woman, Church, and State

It’s not because of Christianity that Western culture has gotten as far as it has. Religious activity never promotes culture … it’s individual initiative that does that, never anything else. Christianity has parisitized on Hellenism for centuries and done everything to take on itself the honor of what Hellenism has meant to Western culture by distorting and denying and falsifying obvious facts… Christianity is the venereal disease of Western culture … Hellenism, on the other hand, was the paradisiacal intercourse between human imagination and earthly reality. –Christer Kihlman, The Blue Mother

[Christian nations are the most enlightened and progressive] in spite of their religion, not because of it. The Church has opposed every innovation and discovery from the day of Galileo down to our own time, when the use of anesthetics in child-birth was regarded as a sin because it avoided the biblical curse pronounced against Eve. –Mark Twain, quoted in Albert B. Paine’s Mark Twain: A Biography

Throughout history, increase of civilization has been correlated with decrease of religiosity. –Bertrand Russell, quoted in Ira D. Cardiff’s What Great Men Think of Religion

All human progress, even in morals, has been the work of men who have doubted the current moral values, not of men who have whooped them up and tried to enforce them. The truly civilized man is always skeptical and tolerant. –HL Mencken, Minority Report

The loss of religious faith among the most civilized portion of the race is a step from childishness toward maturity. –Charles Eliot Norton, in a letter to Goldwin Smith, June 14, 1897

I wouldn’t say that religion has promoted the social progress of mankind. I say that it has been a detriment to the progress of civilization, and I would also say this: that the emancipation of the mind from religious superstition is as essential to the progress of civilization as is emancipation from physical slavery. –former California governor Culbert Olson

When certain unmarried men, who had lost their capacity to sin, sat indoors, breathing bad air, and passed resolutions about what was right and what was wrong, making rules of the guidance of the people, instead of trusting to the natural, happy instincts of the individual, they ushered in the Dark Ages. These are the gentlemen who blocked human evolution absolutely for a thousand years. –Elbert Hubbard, quoted in Ira D. Cardiff’s What Great Men Think of Religion


The Ridiculous Side of God/Religion


Pray, verb. To ask that the laws of the universe be annulled on behalf of a single partitioner confessedly unworthy. –Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary

Yes, reason has been a part of organized religion ever since two nudists took dietary advice from a talking snake. –Jon Stewart, on The Daily Show

The proposition that the entire human race—consisting of enormous hordes of humanity—would be placed in serious danger of a fiery eternity characterized by unspeakable torments purely because a man disobeyed a deity by eating a piece of fruit offered him by his wife is inherently incredible. –Steve Allen, Steve Allen on the Bible, Religion, & Morality

Can anyone with intelligence really believe that a child born today should be doomed because the snake tempted Eve and Eve tempted Adam? To believe that is not God-worship; it is devil-worship. –Clarence Darrow, Why I Am an Agnostic, and Other Essays

Life in Lubbock, Texas, taught me two things: One is that God loves you and you’re going to burn in hell. The other is that sex is the most awful, filthy thing on earth and you should save it for someone you love. –Butch Hancock

The trinitarian believes a virgin to be the mother of a son who is her maker. –Francis Bacon, quoted in Rufus K. Noyes’s Views of Religion

The biblical account of Noah’s Ark and the Flood is perhaps the most implausible story for fundamentalists to defend. Where, for example, while loading his ark, did Noah find penguins and polar bears in Palestine? –Judith Hayes

But in the old days the good people justified Jehovah in his treatment of the heathen. The wretches who were murdered were idolaters and therefore unfit to live. According to the Bible, God had never revealed himself to these people and he knew that without a revelation they could not know that he was the true God. Whose fault was it then that they were heathen? –Robert G. Ingersoll, “Why I Am Agnostic”

Did it ever occur to you that if God wrote the Old Testament and told the Jews to crucify or kill anybody who disagreed with them in religion, and that this God afterward took upon himself flesh and came to Jerusalem, and taught a different religion, and the Jews killed him—did it ever occur to you that he reaped exactly what he had sown? –Robert G. Ingersoll, “Orthodoxy”

It has always seemed absurd to suppose that a god would choose for his companions, during all eternity, the dear souls whose highest and only ambition is to obey. –Robert G. Ingersoll, “Individuality”

The notion that faith in Christ is to be rewarded by an eternity of bliss, while a dependence upon reason, observation, and experience merits everlasting pain, is too absurd for refutation, and can be relieved only by that unhappy mixture of insanity and ignorance called “faith.” –Robert G. Ingersoll, The Gods

The Christian church has set up a religion of pomp and revenue in pretended imitation of a person [Jesus] who lived a life of poverty. –Thomas Paine

The most preposterous notion that H. sapiens has ever dreamed up is that the Lord God of Creation, Shaper and Ruler of all the Universes, wants the saccharine adoration of His creatures, can be swayed by their prayers, and becomes petulant if He does not receive this flattery. Yet this absurd fantasy, without a shred of evidence to bolster it, pays all the expenses of the oldest, largest, and least productive industry in all history. –Robert A. Heinlein, Time Enough for Love

We despise all reverences and all the objects of reverence which are outside the pale of our own list of sacred things. And yet, with strange inconsistency, we are shocked when other people despise and defile the things which are holy to us. –Mark Twain, Following the Equator

The Christian view that all intercourse outside marriage is immoral was … based upon the view that all sexual intercourse, even within marriage, is regrettable. A view of this sort, which goes against biological facts, can only be regarded by some people as a morbid aberration. The fact that it is embedded in Christian ethics has made Christianity throughout its whole history a force tending towards mental disorders and unwholesome views of life. –Bertrand Russell

When lip service to some mysterious deity permits bestiality on Wednesday and absolution on Sunday, cash me out. –Frank Sinatra

You never see animals going through the absurd and often horrible fooleries of magic and religion. … Dogs do not ritually urinate in the hope of persuading heaven to do the same and send down rain. Asses do not bray a liturgy to cloudless skies. Nor do cats attempt, by abstinence from cat’s meat, to wheedle the feline spirits into benevolence. Only man behaves with such gratuitous folly. It is the price he has to pay for being intelligent but not, as yet, quite intelligent enough. –Aldous Huxley, Texts and Pretexts

If a woman opens a consulting firm on Bond Street, and sits there in strange robes professing to tell the future by cards or crystals or revelations made to her by spirits, she is prosecuted as a criminal for imposture. But if a man puts on strange robes and opens a church in which he professes to absolve us from the guilt of our misdeeds, to hold the keys of heaven and hell … to alleviate the lot of souls in purgatory, to speak with the voice of God, and to dictate what is sin and what is not to all the world, the police treat him with great respect, and nobody dreams of prosecuting him as an outrageous imposter. –George Bernard Shaw


Thoughts on God(s)


“You are angry at the God you were taught to believe in as a child,” Arturo answered. “The God who is supposed to watch over you and protect you, who answers your prayers and forgives your sins. This God is just a story. Religions try to capture God, but God is beyond religion. The true God lies beyond our comprehension. We can't understand His will; He can't be explained in a book. He didn't abandon us and He will not save us. He has nothing to do with our being here. God doesn't not change, He simply is. I don't pray to God for forgiveness or favors, I only pray to be closer to Him, and when I pray, I fill my heart with love. When I pray this way, I know that God is love. When I feel that love, I remember that we don't need angels or a heaven, because we are a part of God already.” –Nando Parrado, Miracle in the Andes: 72 Days on the Mountain and My Long Trek Home

... I did not feel God as most people sees Him. I did feel something larger than myself, something in the mountains and the glaciers and the glowing sky that, in rare moments, reassured me, and made me feel that the world was orderly and loving and good. If this was God, it was not God as a being or a spirit or some omnipotent, superhuman mind. It was not a God who would choose to save us or abandon us, or change in any way. It was simply a silence, a wholeness, an awe-inspiring simplicity. It seemed to reach me through my own feelings of love, and I have often thought that when we feel what we call love, we are really feeling our connection to this awesome presence. I feel this prescence still when my mind quiets and I really pay attention. I don't pretend to understand what it is or what it wants from me. I don't want to understand these things. I have no interest in any God who can be understood, who speaks to us in one holy book or another, and who tinkers with our lives according to some divine plan, as if we were characters in a play. How can I make sense of a God who sets one religion above the rest, who answers one prayer and ignores another, who sends sixteen young men home and leaves twenty-nine others dead on a mountain? –ditto

I have found God, but he is insufficient. –Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer

Surely someone must believe this world is a gift with no strings attached. Like Buddhists or someone like that. All I know is that the Catholic God must have some pretty bad manners, giving away presents, then attaching strings to them like He’s some gazillionaire who sets his kids up in paradise and says it’s all theirs as long as they follow the rules. As long as they do what Daddy wants them to do. God should be smart enough to know that doesn’t make His children love their good old Dad; it just makes them fear Him. –Brian Strause, Maybe a Miracle

“God never gives us more to deal with than we can handle.”
          It’s this thought that made me never want to go to church again, this notion of a compassionate God where war, rape, murder, starvation, and genocide—it’s all part of His plan. Surely, no one has ever endured more genocide than they could deal with. We’re just too insignificant and small-brained ever to understand the wisdom of His ways. But there’s no use bringing that up. I have so much more restraint than people give me credit for. –ditto

That’s a pretty serious bomb to drop on your kid. Sorry about your pain; I could protect you from it, but there’s something bigger at work here, so you’re just going to have to suck it up. After all, it’s God’s will. It’s hard to argue with that, not because God’s will is so supreme, but because it’s so irrational. “God’s will” sounds like a legal document left behind by a crazy millionaire after he dies. He promises his son a gold-embossed mansion, but only if he agrees to kill the family dog in front of the kids. –ditto

The God I know doesn’t go around trying to hurt people to prove how powerful and almighty He is. I don’t know that God, but if your God treats people that way, I’d really think twice about praying to Him ’cause basically you’re just getting down on your knees to a sadist. –ditto

It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are 20 gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg. –Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia

I imagine it great vanity in me to suppose that the Supremely Perfect does in the least regard such an inconsiderable nothing as man. More especially, since it is impossible for me to have any positive, clear idea of that which is infinite and incomprehensible, I cannot conceive otherwise than that He, the Infinite Father, expects or requires no worship or praise from us, but that He is even infinitely above it. –Benjamin Franklin, “Articles of Belief and Acts of Religion”

I’ve been sitting here and thinking about God. I don’t think I believe in God any more. It is not only me, I think of all the millions who must have lived like this in the war. The Anne Franks. And back through history. What I feel I know now is that God doesn’t intervene. He lets us suffer. If you pray for liberty then you may get relief just because you pray, or because things happen anyhow which bring you liberty. But God can’t hear. There’s nothing human like hearing or seeing or pitying or helping about him. I mean perhaps God has created the world and the fundamental laws of matter and evolution. But he can’t care about the individuals. He’s planned it so some individuals are happy, some sad, some lucky, some not. Who is sad, who is not, he doesn’t know, and he doesn’t care. So he doesn’t exist, really.
      These last few days I’ve felt Godless. I’ve felt cleaner, less muddled, less blind. I still believe in a God. But he’s so remote, so cold, so mathematical. I see that we have to live as if there is no God. Prayer and worship and singing hymns—all silly and useless. –John Fowles, The Collector

I hate God. I hate whatever made this world, I hate whatever made the human race, made men like Caliban possible and situations like this possible.
      If there is a God he’s a great loathsome spider in the darkness.
      He cannot be good.
      This pain, this terrible seeing-through that is in me now. It wasn’t necessary. It is all pain, and it buys nothing. Gives birth to nothing.
     All in vain. All wasted.
     The older the world becomes, the more obvious it is. The bomb and the tortures in Algeria and the starving babies in the Congo. It gets bigger and darker.
     More and more suffering for more and more. And more and more in vain.
     It’s as if the lights have fused. I’m here in the black truth.
     God is impotent. He can’t love us. He hates us because he can’t love us.
     All the meanness and the selfishness and the lies.
     People won’t admit it, they’re too busy grabbing to see that the lights have fused. They can’t see the darkness and the spider-face beyond and the great web of it all. That there’s always this if you scratch at the surface of happiness and goodness.
     The black and the black and the black. –ditto

God so loved the world
He puked every time he looked at it,
With a few miraculous exceptions. He’s gone now.
–Douglas Dunn, “The White Poet (Homage to Jules Laforgue)”

God seems to have left the receiver off the hook, and time is running out. –Arthur Koestler, The Ghost in the Machine

God is an oppressor, He is incapable of human sympathy; behind a smiling face He hides an evil heart. –Louis de Bernières, The Book of Job

A being who can create a race of men devoid of real freedom and inevitably foredoomed to be sinners, and then punish them for being what he has made them, may be omnipotent and various other things, but he is not what the English language has always intended by the adjective holy. –John Stuart Mill, An Examination of Sir William Hamilton’s Philosophy

As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods
They kill us for their sport.
–William Shakespeare, King Lear

Strange...a God who could make good children as easily as bad, yet preferred to make bad ones; who made them prize their bitter life, yet stingily cut it short; mouths Golden Rules and forgiveness multiplied seventy times seven and invented Hell; who mouths morals to other people and has none himself; who frowns upon crimes yet commits them all; who created man without invitation, then tries to shuffle the responsibility for man’s acts upon man, instead of honorably placing it where it belongs, upon himself; and finally with altogether divine obtuseness, invites this poor, abused slave to worship him! –Mark Twain

Good God, how much reverence can you have for a Supreme Being who finds it necessary to include such phenomena as phlegm and tooth-decay in His divine system of creation? –Joseph Heller, Catch-22

The creator who could put a cancer in a believer’s stomach is above being interfered with by prayers. –Bret Harte, quoted in Rufus K. Noyes’s Views of Religion

Either God wants to abolish evil, and cannot; or he can, but does not want to… If he wants to, but cannot, he is impotent. If he can, but does not want to, he is wicked… If, as they say, God can abolish evil, and God really wants to do it, why is there evil in the world? –Epicurus, Aphorisms

[Religion is based on] the insistence that over and above all is a purpose and a guiding hand that is beneficent and kind, and would not leave a hair unnumbered or let a sparrow fall unnoticed to the ground. Those who cherish such hallucinations forget that the all-loving power is inflicting tuberculosis, cancer, famine, and pestilence on the trusting, simple sons of men. –Clarence Darrow, Why I Am an Agnostic, and Other Essays

A false friend, an unjust judge, a braggart, hypocrite, and tyrant, sincere in hatred, jealous, vain and revengeful, false in promise, honest in curse, suspicious, ignorant, infamous and hideous—such is the God of the Pentateuch. –Robert G. Ingersoll, “Some Mistakes of Moses”

The Christian god is a three headed monster, cruel, vengeful, and capricious. If one wishes to know more of this raging, three headed beast-like god, one only needs to look at the caliber of people who say they serve him. They are always of two classes: fools and hypocrites. –Thomas Jefferson

Belief in a cruel God makes a cruel man. –Thomas Paine, quoted in George Seldes’s The Great Quotations

What He really hates is the shit that gets carried out in his name. Wars. Bigotry. Televangelism. –Chris Rock, on God, in Dogma

The best way to know God is to love many things. –Vincent Van Gogh

Isn’t God a shit. –Randolph Churchill, when asked by Evelyn Waugh what he thought of the Bible (Churchill had just read it for the first time, at Waugh’s urging)

The man who first pronounced the barbarous word God ought to have been immediately destroyed. –Denis Diderot, quoted in Rufus K. Noyes’s Views of Religion

It is very important not to mistake hemlock for parsley, but to believe or not believe in God is not important at all. –Denis Diderot

The Christian religion teaches us to imitate a God that is cruel, insidious, jealous, and implacable in his wrath. –ditto

“As everybody’s god, what will you do?” the doctor demanded.
     “You mean immediately?” asked the small god. “I will raise up prophets to make conflicting pronouncements that will inevitably be garbled in transcription, resulting in mutually exclusive definitions of orthodoxy from which the open-minded will flee in dismay. … Also, I will be capricious. I’ll reward and punish arbitrarily. I’ll peek through bedroom windows and admonish what I see there, sometimes one thing, sometimes the opposite. I will have purposes men know nothing of, and when men begin to catch on to them, I will change them. This will convince some of your people that I am unreliable. … Occasionally, I will do a conspicuous miracle to save one dying child while a thousand children starve elsewhere. This will convince sensible people I am perverse, and they will curse my name. … I will be a sham, but not a snob. I will let every man, woman, or child, no matter how greedy or wicked, claim to have a personal relationship with me. In other words, I will be as arbitrary, inconsistent, ignorant, pushy, and common as humans are, and what more have they ever wanted in a god?”
–Sheri S. Tepper, The Visitor

…monotheism does simplify things. But when people conglomerated their gods into one grand old man in the sky, they lost all respect for natural processes. It’s a very dangerous philosophy, because we are not a special creation. We’re products of the natural world, and if we’re going to survive, we have to live by its rules. –MK Wren, A Gift upon the Shore

We are always making God our accomplice so that we may legalize our own inequities. Every successful massacre is consecrated by a Te Deum, and the clergy have never been wanting in benedictions for any victorious senormity. –Henri Frédéric Amiel, Journal intime

God is the celebrity-author of the world’s best seller. We have made God into the biggest celebrity of all, to contain our own emptiness. –Daniel J. Boorstin, The Image

When God made man she was having one of her off days. –graffiti

God is alive—He just doesn’t want to get involved. –ditto

God creates out of nothing. Wonderful you say. Yes, to be sure, but he does what is still more wonderful: he makes saints out of sinners. –Søren Kierkegaard

The impotence of God is infinite. –Anatole France

God existed by Himself through an eternity before the creation without needing a universe. Why did he suddenly desire to create the universe? –Peter Angeles, The Problem of God: A Short Introduction

I love the idea of God, but it’s not stylistically in keeping with the way I function. I would describe myself as an enthusiastic agnostic who would be happy to be shown that there is a God. I can see that people who believe in God are happier. … But I doubt. –Carrie Fisher

I talk to God but the sky is empty. –Sylvia Plath, journal, February 19, 1956

If God did not exist, if would be necessary to invent him. –Voltaire, Épîtres, no. 96

Man has never been the same since God died. –Edna St. Vincent Millay

People don’t so much believe in God as that they choose not to believe in nothing. –Rafael Yglesias, Fearless

My deeply held belief is that if a god anything like the traditional sort exists, our curiosity and intelligence are provided by such a god. We would be unappreciative of those gifts ... if we suppressed our passion to explore the universe and ourselves. –Carl Sagan, Broca’s Brain

In many cultures it is customary to answer that God created the universe out of nothing. But this is mere temporizing. If we wish courageously to pursue the question, we must, of course ask next where God comes from. And if we decide this to be unanswerable, why not save a step and decide that the origin of the universe is an unanswerable question? Or, if we say that God has always existed, why not save a step and conclude that the universe has always existed? –Carl Sagan, Cosmos

What do you do when you are faced with several different gods each claiming the same territory? The Babylonian Marduk and the Greek Zeus was each considered master of the sky and king of the gods. You might decide that Marduk and Zeus were really the same. You might also decide, since they had quite different attributes, that one of them was merely invented by the priests. But if one, why not both? And so it was that the great idea arose, the realization that there might be a way to know the world without the god hypothesis... –ditto

Creator: a comedian whose audience is afraid to laugh. –HL Mencken, A Book of Burlesques

Imagine the Creator as a low comedian, and at once the world becomes explicable. –ditto

Why assume so glibly that the God who presumably created the universe is still running it? It is certainly conceivable that He may have finished it and then turned it over to lesser gods to operate. –HL Mencken, Minority Report

It takes a long while for a naturally trustful person to reconcile himself to the idea that after all God will not help him. –ditto

I cannot believe there is a god who punishes and rewards, for I see honest folk unlucky, and rogues unlucky. –Napoleon Bonaparte

That a god like Jehovah should have created this world of misery and woe, out of pure caprice, and because he enjoyed doing it, and should then have clapped his hands in praise of his own work, and declared everything to be very good—that will not do at all! –Arthur Schopenhauer, quoted in Ira D. Cardiff’s What Great Men Think of Religion

God is dead; but considering the state the species Man is in, there will perhaps be...ages yet, in which his shadow will be shown. –Friedrich Nietzsche, Die fröhliche Wissenschaft

I should only believe in a god that would know how to dance. –Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra

There is not sufficent love and goodness in the world to permit us to give some of it away to imaginary beings. –Friedrich Nietzsche, Human, All-Too-Human

Is man merely a mistake of God’s? Or God merely a mistake of man’s? –ditto

I cannot believe in a God who wants to be praised all the time. –Friedrich Nietzsche

There are many gods out there that Christians reject. I just believe in one less god than they do. The reasons you give me for not believing in Roman gods are likely the same reasons I would give you for believing in Jesus. –Dan Barker (former minister)

I respect the idea of God too much to hold it responsible for a world as absurd as this one is. –Georges Duhamel

Some fools declare that God created the universe. If God created the universe, where was he before creation? Did God create the universe out of something? If he did, who created the material out of which he created the universe? … Know, therefore, that the universe is not created; it is like time itself without beginning or end. Uncreated and indestructible, the universe is self-sustaining, working by its own inherent power. –Mahapurana, Jain sacred text

I would love to believe that God exists, but I am a logical thinker who looks at the facts before making any decisions. The fact of the matter is there are no facts.
What has God done for us lately? Where was God during the countless genocides that occurred this century?
         I have decided that God does not exist. God is just a myth used to keep humanity under control by different religious sects. Religion is just another word for control. Religion is power. Religion is money.
         It would be nice if there was such a thing as an omnipotent eternal being that really did care about us and once we died gave us a nice place to retire to. Somehow, it just seems like one big fairytale to me. –J. Stile

Not they who reject the gods are profane, but those who accept them. –Lucretius, quoted in Rufus K. Noyes’s Views of Religion

God is one among several hypotheses to account for the phenomena of human destiny, and it is now proving to be an inadequate hypothesis. To a great many people, including myself, this realization is a great relief, both intellectually and morally. It frees us to explore the real phenomena for which the God hypothesis seeks to account, to define them more accurately, and to work for a more satisfying set of concepts. –Julian Huxley, Religion without Revelation

Operationally, God is beginning to resemble not a ruler, but the last fading smile of a cosmic Cheshire cat. –ditto

We are used to discounting the river-gods and dryads of the Greeks as poetical fancies, and even the chief figures in the classical Pantheon—Venus, Minerva, Mars, and the rest—as allegories. But, forgetting that they once carried as much sanctity as our saints and divinities, we refrain from applying the same reasoning to our own objects of worship. –ditto

What do I see in the God of that infamous sect if not an inconsistent and barbarous being, today the creator of a world of destruction he repents of tomorrow; what do I see there but a frail being forever unable to bring man to heel and force him to bend a knee. This creature, although emanated from him, dominates him, knows how to offend him and thereby merit torments eternally! What a weak fellow, this God! –The Marquis de Sade, Philosophy in the Bedroom

Lo, I am with you always means when you look for God,
God is in the look of your eyes,
in the thought of looking, nearer to you than your self,
or things that have happened to you.
There’s no need to go outside.
–Rumi, “Be Melting Snow”

It takes a long while for a naturally trustful person to reconcile himself to the idea that after all God will not help him. –HL Mencken

If God were suddenly condemned to live the life which he has inflicted upon men, he would kill himself. –Alexandre Dumas

The only excuse for God is that he doesn’t exist. –Stendhal

Have I learned nothing? God,
into whose deep pocket our cries are swept,
it is you I look for
in the slate face of the water.
–Ellen Bryant Voigt, “Jug Brook”

It seems to me impossible for a civilized man to love or worship, or respect the God of the Old Testament. A really civilized man, a really civilized woman, must hold such a God in abhorrence and contempt. –Robert G. Ingersoll, “Why I Am Agnostic”

God: that dumping ground of our dreams. –Jean Rostand

What mean and cruel things men do for the love of god. –W. Somerset Maugham, A Writer’s Notebook

The existence of a world without God seems to me less absurd than the presence of a God, existing in all his perfection, creating an imperfect man in order to make him run the risk of Hell. –Armand Salacrou, “Certitudes et Incertitudes”

The misfortunes which God is represented in the book of Job as allowing Satan to inflict on Job, merely to test his faith, are indications, if not of positive malevolence, at least of a suspicious and ruthless insecurity, which is characteristic more of a tyrant than of a wholly powerful and benevolent deity. –AJ Ayer, Thomas Paine

They said God was on high and he controlled the world and therefore we must pray against Satan. Well, if God controls the world, he controls Satan. For me, religion was full of misstatements and reaches of logic that I just couldn’t agree with. … Religion was so full of inconsistencies that I could see no point in arguing each inconsistency out. –Gene Roddenberry, in the The Humanist, March-April 1991

The idea that a good God would send people to a burning hell is utterly damnable to me—the ravings of insanity, superstition gone to seed! I don’t want to have anything to do with such a God. –Luther Burbank, in an address to the First Congregational Church in San Francisco, January 31, 1926

For me, the single word “God” suggests everything that is slippery, shady, squalid, foul, and grotesque. –André Breton

If God dwells inside us like some people say, I sure hope he likes enchiladas, ’cuz that’s what he’s getting. –Jack Handey

To believe in God is to yearn for His existence, and furthermore, it is to act as if He did exist. –Miguel de Unamuno, The Tragic Sense of Life

To listen to some devout people, one would imagine that God never laughs. –Ghose Aurobindo

If God doesn’t like the way I live, let him tell me, not you. –(?)

The Three in One, the One in Three? Not so! To my own Gods I go. It may be they shall give me greater ease than your cold Christ and tangled Trinities. –Rudyard Kipling, “Plain Tales from the Hills, chapter heading to ‘Lispeth’”

How can I believe in God when just last week I got my tongue caught in the roller of an electric typewriter? –Woody Allen, Without Feathers

If only God would give me some clear sign. Like making a large deposit in my name at a Swiss bank. –ditto

Not only is there no God, but try getting a plumber on weekends. –Woody Allen, in the New Yorker, December 27, 1969

For those who believe in God, most of the big questions are answered. But for those of us who can’t readily accept the God formula, the big answers don’t remain stone-written. We adjust to new conditions and discoveries. We are pliable. Love need not be a command or faith a dictum. I am my own God. We are hear to unlearn the teachings of the church, state, and our educational system. We are here to drink beer. We are here to kill war. We are here to laugh at the odds and live our lives so well that Death will tremble to take us. –Charles Bukowski, in Life magazine, December 1988

God is just a false concept…a fairy tale in people’s minds. –from Bride Queens of the Demon Lord

Go up and tell God I want you rocked in his lap, and when he does it fuck his brains out. –Robert Louthan, “Syndrome”

God’s a funky little dude because everyone’s looking for Him and no one can find Him. –Prince

Don’t you know that God is Pooh Bear? –Jack Kerouac, On the Road


Thoughts on Jesus Christ

Dissonance between Christ and Christianity


Should the Messiah reappear, he would be a most dangerous threat to the institution of the Church originally established in his name. –Erika Gottlieb, Dystopian Fiction East and West: Universe of Terror and Trial

Jesus Christ was not a conservative. That’s a racing certainty. –Eric Heffer, in the Observer, February 20, 1983

There was only one Christian, and he died on the cross. –Friedrich Nietzsche, The Antichrist

There has been only one Christian. They caught him and crucified him—early. –Mark Twain, Notebook

If Christ were here there is one thing he would not be—a Christian. –ditto

Christ: an anarchist who succeeded. That’s all. –André Malraux

The name of Christ has caused more persecutions, wars, and miseries than any other name has caused. –John E. Remsburg, The Christ

Christ died for our sins. Dare we make his martyrdom meaningless by not committing them? –Jules Feiffer

Organized Christianity has probably done more to retard the ideals that were its founder’s than any other agency in the world. –Richard Le Gallienne, quoted in Laurence J. Peter’s Peter’s Quotations: Ideas for Our Time

I consider Christian theology to be one of the great disasters of the human race. … It would be impossible to imagine anything more un-Christlike than theology. Christ probably couldn’t have understood it. –Alfred North Whitehead, quoted in Laurence J. Peter’s Peter’s Quotations: Ideas for Our Time

It is no cynical joke, it is literally true, that the Christian churches would not recognize Christianity if they saw it. –Lincoln Steffens, quoted in Ira D. Cardiff’s What Great Men Think of Religion

As to Jesus of Nazareth, my opinion of whom you particularly desire, I think his system of morals and his religion, as he left them to us, the best the world ever saw or is likely to see; but I apprehend it has received various corrupting changes... –Benjamin Franklin, in a letter to Ezra Stiles, March 9, 1790

But a short time elapsed after the death of the great reformer of the Jewish religion [Jesus], before his principles were departed from by those who professed to be his special servants, and perverted into an engine for enslaving mankind and aggrandizing their oppressors in church and state. … The purest system of morals ever before preached to man has been adulterated and sophisticated by artificial constructions into a mere contrivance to filch wealth and power to themselves. –Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to Samuel Kercheval, January 19, 1810

My aim [in compiling Christ’s humanitarian maxims] was to justify the character of Jesus against the fictions of his pseudo-followers … the follies, the falsehoods, and the charlatanisms which his biographers father upon him. … That Jesus did not mean to impose himself on mankind as the son of God, physically speaking, I have been convinced. –Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to William Short, August 4, 1820

The truth is, that the greatest enemies of the doctrine of Jesus are those calling themselves the expositors of them, who have perverted them to the structure of a system of fancy absolutely incomprehensible, and without any foundation in his genuine words. And the day will come, when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the Supreme Being as his father, in the womb of a virgin, will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter. –Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to John Adams, April 11, 1823

But the greatest of all reformers of the depraved religion of his own country was Jesus of Nazareth. Abstracting what is really his from the rubbish in which it is buried … we have the outlines of a system of the most sublime morality which has ever fallen from the lips of man. The establishment of the innocent and genuine character of this benevolent morality, and the rescuing it from the imputation of imposture … invented by ultra-Christian sects (The immaculate conception of Jesus, his deification, the creation of the world by him, his miraculous powers, his resurrection and visible ascension, his corporeal presence in the Eucharist, the Trinity; original sin, atonement, regeneration, election, orders of the Hierarchy, etc.) is a most desirable object. –Thomas Jefferson to William Short

It is not to be understood that I am with him (Jesus Christ) in all his doctrines. I am a Materialist; he takes the side of Spiritualism; he preaches the efficacy of repentance toward forgiveness of sin; I require a counterpoise of good works to redeem it. Among the sayings and discourses imputed to him by his biographers, I find many passages of fine imagination, correct morality, and of the most lovely benevolence; and others, again, of so much ignorance, so much absurdity, so much untruth, charlatanism, and imposture, as to pronounce it impossible that such contradictions should have proceeded from the same being. I separate, therefore, the gold from the dross; restore him to the former, and leave the latter to the stupidity of some, the roguery of others of his disciples. Of this band of dupes and imposters, Paul was the great Coryphaeus, and the first corrupter of the doctrines of Jesus. –ditto

The doctrines of Jesus are simple, and tend all to the happiness of man. But compare with these the demoralizing dogmas of Calvin. 1. That there are three Gods. 2. That good works, or the love of our neighbor, is nothing. 3. That faith is every thing, and the more incomprehensible the proposition, the more merit the faith. 4. That reason in religion is of unlawful use. 5. That God, from the beginning, elected certain individuals to be saved, and certain others to be damned; and that no crimes of the former can damn them; no virtues of the latter save. –Thomas Jefferson, to Benjamin Waterhouse

I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ. –Mahatma Gandhi

If Jesus had been killed twenty years ago, Catholic school children would be wearing little electric chairs around their necks instead of crosses. –Lenny Bruce

If Jesus Christ came back today and saw what was being done in his name, he’d never stop throwing up. –Max von Sydow, in Hannah and Her Sisters

That Jesus Christ was not a god is evident from his own words, where, speaking on the day of judgment, he says, “Of that day and hour, knoweth no man, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the son.” This is giving up all pretension to divinity, acknowledging in the most explicit manner that he did not know all things. –Ethan Allen, Reason, the Only Oracle of Man

My firm conviction is that Jesus … was put to death like any other fanatic who professed to be a prophet or a messiah; there have been such persons at all times. –Napoleon Bonaparte

Jesus died for my sins—I’m making sure he gets his money’s worth! –seen on a button


Freedom of Religion

Separation of Church and State


I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute... –John F. Kennedy, in a speech at the Greater Houston Ministerial Association, September 12, 1960

No man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever… –Thomas Jefferson, Virginia Act for Religious Freedom

Leave the matter of religion to the family altar, the church, and the private schools, supported entirely by private contributions. Keep the church and the state forever separated. –Ulysses S. Grant, in a speech in Des Moines, Iowa, in 1875

I do not want church groups controlling the schools of our country. They must remain free. –Eleanor Roosevelt, “My Day” column, July 8, 1949

Once you attempt legislation upon religious grounds, you open the way for every kind of intolerance and religious persecution. –William Butler Yeats, remarks on the adoption of the Irish Constitution of 1937

On Sept. 11, our nation was attacked by terrorists who dislike America in part for its official policy of government neutrality toward religion. These terrorists come from nations where there is no separation of religion and state. They want a theocracy where one faith is mandated by the government. It would be highly ironic if our response to this threat was to lower our own wall of separation between church and state. Rather, we should reaffirm the importance of that wall in safeguarding the principle of religious freedom and the incredible religious diversity it gives us. –in a pamphlet produced by the Democrats for Religious Freedom

One of the best ways for True Believers to defend their indefensible claims is to have the state give those beliefs some sort of stamp of approval. This is what we’re witnessing whenever the Religious Right pushes for public-school prayer, the public posting of the Ten Commandments, and so on. Insecure fundamentalists challenge the separation of church and state because of their insecurity. –Judith Hayes, The Happy Heretic

What do gods and governments have in common? They share the same first two letters. Other than that—nothing. Yet human history is replete with theocracies of every conceivable variety. And they were all dismal failures. From the bloody sacrifices of the Aztecs, to the bloody Roman Catholic Inquisitions, to the bloody jihads of the Muslim Middle East, we have proved time and again that theology and government don’t mix. Combining religion and government is like repeated incestuous unions—aberrations are bound to result. You’d think we’d have learned that by now. –ditto

And here, in the United States, the world’s superpower, the Religious Right is still trying in earnest to break down that wall of separation between church and state that has served us so well for so long. Their hue and cry is always based on some rhetoric about restoring this country to its “original Christian foundation,” a myth that ranks with some other common misconceptions. George Washington chopped down a cherry tree and would not tell a lie about it. Abraham Lincoln freed all the slaves. John Kennedy ushered into the White House all the glory of King Arthur’s Camelot. And I know how to turn iron into gold. –ditto

Our founders clearly created a secular government that was carefully separated from religion. You can peer and probe and dissect to your heart’s content, but you will never find Christ or Christianity referred to, even obliquely, in our admirable founding documents. It is because of those documents that Christians are free to worship as they please, a priceless freedom enjoyed in precious few countries throughout history. Christians should be grateful for that freedom and stop trying to force their beliefs, posthumously, on our founders (and on the rest of us—today). We the people are truly a diverse group, and this has always been one of our greatest strengths. –ditto

Gods and governments don’t mix. Our secular democracy is one of the most successful in history. Why can’t we leave it alone? –ditto

Government’s business is to provide its citizens with health and safety; defense against enemies; education; and the freedom to pursue life, liberty, and happiness. Among our cherished freedoms are the freedom of speech and the right to worship as we please. It is not government’s business to promote one religion over another. Government must stay out of religion, and religions must stay out of government. –ditto

All it takes for America to become a theocracy is for nonbelievers to do nothing. –ditto

Religious ideologies and their fanaticisms are dangerous enough, but when these or other ideologies become frenzied elements of the political area, the only area of absolute power over human lives…they become potentially dangerous in their impact on a free society. –Robert Nisbet, Prejudices: A Philosophical Dictionary

“Thank the Lord”? That sounded like a prayer. A prayer in a public school! God has no place within these walls, just like facts don’t have a place within an organized religion! –Superintendent Chalmers, in The Simpsons

I’m completely in favor of the separation of Church and State. My idea is that these two institutions screw us up enough on their own, so both of them together is certain death. –George Carlin

As Christians try to force prayer into public schools, they often settle for a moment of silence. But that supposedly innocuous “moment of silence” is a deafening roar to a nonbeliever. –Judith Hayes, In God We Trust: But Which One?

[In] the formation of the American governments … it will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service had interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the influence of heaven. … These governments were contrived merely by the use of reason and the senses. –John Adams, A Defense of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America

…The government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion... –Treaty with Tripoli, passed unanimously by the US Senate and signed by President John Adams on June 10, 1797

I do not believe that any type of religion should ever be introduced into the public schools of the United States. –Thomas Edison, quoted in George Seldes’s The Great Quotations

The religious factions that are growing throughout our land are not using their religious clout with wisdom. They are trying to force government leaders into following their position 100 percent. If you disagree with these religious groups on a particular moral issue, they complain, they threaten you with a loss of money or votes or both. ... And I am even more angry as a legislator who must endure the threats of every religious group who thinks it has some God-granted right to control my vote on every roll call in the Senate. I am warning them today: I will fight them every step of the way if they try to dictate their moral convictions to all Americans in the name of “conservatism.” –Sen. Barry Goldwater, in a floor speech in September 1981

Religious factions will go on imposing their will on others unless the decent people connected to them recognize that religion has no place in public policy. –Sen. Barry Goldwater, in a 1981 speech


The Church/Clergy


Megachurches. I can’t be the only one frightened when our houses of worship sound like they could take on Godzilla. –Jon Stewart, in The Daily Show

The Church is an organized institution that has always been a stumbling block to progress. –Emma Goldman, What I Believe

...tell the truth, have you ever found God in church? I never did. I just found a bunch of folks hoping for him to show. Any God I ever felt in church I brought in with me. –Alice Walker, The Color Purple

I like the silent church before the service begins, better than any preaching. –Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays: First Series

In churches, every healthy and thoughtful mind finds itself … checked, cribbed, confined. –Ralph Waldo Emerson, quoted in Edwin S. Gaustad’s Faith of Our Fathers

...the Jew began carefully to observe the behavior of the Pope, the cardinals, and the other prelates and courtiers; and from what he heard and saw for himself—he was a very perceptive man—from the highest to the lowest of them, they all shamelessly participated in the sin of lust, not only the natural kind of lust but also the sodomitic variety, without the least bit of remorse or shame. And they did this to the extent that the influence of whores and young boys was of no little importance in obtaining great favors. Besides this, he observed that all of them were open gluttons, drinkers, and sots, and that after their lechery, just like animals, they were more servants of their bellies than of anything else; the more closely he observed them, the more he saw that they were all avaricious and greedy for money and that they were just as likely to buy and sell human (even Christian) blood as they were to sell religious objects pertaining to the sacraments or connected to benefices, and in these commercial ventures they carried on more trade and had more brokers than there were engaged in the textile or any other business in Paris; they called their blatant simony “mediation”and their gluttony “maintenance,”as if God did not know the intention of these wicked minds (not to mention the meaning of their words) and might allow Himself to be fooled like men by the mere names of things. –Giovanni Bocaccio, The Decameron

One should not go to church if one wants to breathe pure air. –Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

The churches have killed their Christ. –Alfred, Lord Tennyson, “Maud”

Everyday people are straying away from the church and going back to God. –Lenny Bruce, The Essential Lenny Bruce

Perhaps the most lasting pleasure in life is the pleasure of not going to church. –William Inge

To all things clergic
I am allergic.
–Alexander Woolcott

The Church is the handmaid of tyranny and the steady enemy of liberty. –Thomas B. Macaulay, quoted in Ira D. Cardiff’s What Great Men Think of Religion

The Christian churches and Christianity have nothing in common save in name: they are utterly hostile opposites. The churches are arrogance, violence, usurpation, rigidity, death; Christianity is humility, penitence, submissiveness, progress, life. –Leo Tolstoy, The Kingdom of God is within You

The church is now more like the Scribes and Pharisees than like Christ. –Florence Nightingale, quoted in Ira D. Cardiff’s What Great Men Think of Religion

In every country and every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own. –Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to Horatio Spafford, March 17, 1814

What influence, in fact, have ecclesiastical establishments had on society? In some instances they have been seen to erect a spiritual tyranny on the ruins of the civil authority; on many instances they have been seen upholding the thrones of political tyranny; in no instance have they been the guardians of the liberties of the people. Rulers who wish to subvert the public liberty may have found an established clergy convenient auxiliaries. A just government, instituted to secure and perpetuate it, needs them not. –James Madison, “A Memorial and Remonstrance”

The most refined, sublime, extensive, and astonishing constitution of policy that ever was conceived by the mind of man was framed by the Romish clergy for the aggrandizement of their own order. … They even persuaded mankind to believe, faithfully and undoubtingly, that God Almighty had entrusted them with the keys of heaven, whose gates they might open and close at pleasure … with authority to license all sorts of sins and crimes … or withholding the rain of heaven and the beams of the sun; with the management of earthquakes, pestilence, and famine; nay, with the mysterious, awful, incomprehensible power of creating out of bread and wine the flesh and blood of God himself. All these opinions they were enabled to spread and rivet among the people by reducing their minds to a state of sordid ignorance and staring timidity, and by infusing into them a religious horror of letters and knowledge. Thus was human nature chained fast forages in a cruel, shameful, and deplorable servitude. –John Adams, “A Dissertation on the Canon and the Feudal Law”

Wandering in a vast forest at night, I have only a faint light to guide me. A stranger appears and says to me: “My friend, you should blow out your candle in order to find your way more clearly.” This stranger is a theologian. –Denis Diderot, Addition aux Pensées philosophiques

Almost all Europe, for many centuries, was inundated with blood, which was shed at the direct instigation or with the full approval of the ecclesiastical authorities. –William EH Lecky, History of the Rise and Influence of the Spirit of Rationalism in Europe

I believe in God; I just don’t trust anyone who works for him. –(?), from a stand-up comedy routine on television

The church is only a secular institution in which the half-educated speak to the half-converted. –WR Inge

Buddha said: “Do not flatter your benefactor.” This saying should be repeated in a Christian church—right away it clears the air of everything Christian. –Friedrich Nietzsche, Die fröhliche Wissenschaft

Does the church today still have any necessary role to play? Does it still have the right to exist? Or could one do without it? … Today it alienates rather than seduces. Which of us would be a free spirit if the church did not exist? It is the church, and not its poison, that repels us. Apart from the church, we, too, love the poison. –Friedrich Nietzsche, The Genealogy of Morals

As to the church, my friend, I am sick of it. The spectacle presented by the indecent squabbles of priests by most denominations, and by the exemplary unfairness and rancor with which they conduct their differences … utterly repel me. –Charles Dickens, in a letter to William de Cerjat, 1864

It is time the clergy are told that thinking men, after a close examination of that doctrine [Christianity] pronounce it to be subversive of true moral development and, therefore, positively noxious. –George Eliot, quoted in Ira D. Cardiff’s What Great Men Think of Religion

I am convinced that the teaching of the church is in theory a crafty and evil lie, and in practice a concoction of gross superstition and witchcraft. –Leo Tolstoy, quoted in Ira D. Cardiff’s What Great Men Think of Religion


Dogma, Doctrine, Creeds


Creeds have been the bane of the Christian church ... made of Christendom a slaughter-house. –Thomas Jefferson, to Benjamin Waterhouse

On the dogmas of religion, as distinguished from moral principles, all mankind, from the beginning of the world to this day, have been quarreling, fighting, burning, and torturing one another, for abstractions unintelligible to themselves and to all others, and absolutely beyond the comprehension of the human mind. –Thomas Jefferson

I have never united myself to any church because I found difficulty in giving my assent without mental reservation to the long, complicated statements of Christian doctrine which characterize the articles of belief and the usual confession of faith. –Abraham Lincoln, quoted in Rufus K. Noyes’s Views of Religion

Let the human mind loose. It must be loose. It will be loose. Superstition and dogmatism cannot confine it. –John Adams, in a letter to his son, John Quincy Adams, November 13, 1816

Lord Acton’s famous phrase about power can be used of another danger. Dogma tends to corrupt, and absolute dogma corrupts absolutely. –Anthony Storr, Human Destructiveness

Dogma is a lie reiterated and authoritatively injected into the mind of one or more persons who believe that they believe what someone else believes. –Elbert Hubbard, The Note Book

The power of religious dogma, when inculcated early, is such as to stifle conscience, compassion, and finally every feeling of humanity. –Arthur Schopenhauer, “Religion—A Dialogue”

Three-fourths of the body of the doctrine known as Christianity, unwarranted by scripture and never dreamed of by Christ or his Apostles, first took coherent shape in the writings of this might Roman [Augustine]. –John Fiske, quoted in Ira D. Cardiff’s What Great Men Think of Religion

What are now called “essential doctrines” of the Christian religion, he [Christ] does not even mention. –Florence Nightingale, quoted in Ira D. Cardiff’s What Great Men Think of Religion

Dogma demands authority, rather than intelligent thought, as the source of opinion; it requires persecution of heretics and hostility to unbelievers; it asks of its disciples that they should inhibit natural kindliness in favor of systematic hatred. –Bertrand Russell, Unpopular Essays

I can hardly see how anyone ought to wish Christianity to be true; for if so the plain language of the text seems to show that the men who do not believe, and this would include my Father, Brother, and almost all my best friends, will be everlastingly punished. And this is a damnable doctrine. –Charles Darwin

What the denouncer of dogma really means is not that dogma is bad; but rather that dogma is too good to be true. –GK Chesterson, The Everlasting Man

In my religion, there would be no exclusive doctrine; all would be love, poetry, and doubt. –Cyril Connolly, The Unquiet Grave

Any dogma, no matter how extravagantly absurd, inculcated in childhood, is sure to retain its hold for life. –Arthur Schopenhauer, quoted in Rufus K. Noyes’s Views of Religion

Fatally powerful as religious systems have been, human nature is stronger and wider, and though dogmas may hamper they cannot absolutely repress its growth. –George Eliot, quoted in Ira D. Cardiff’s What Great Men Think of Religion

…instead of appropriating what was good in what the ancient peoples had to offer, the Christians seem only to have formed their doctrine from a mixture of the vices they found everywhere. –The Marquis de Sade, Philosophy in the Bedroom

This crime called blasphemy was invented by priests for the purpose of defending doctrines not able to take care of themselves. –Robert G. Ingersoll

I do not myself feel that any person who is really profoundly humane can believe in everlasting punishment. ... This doctrine, that hell-fire is a punishment for sin, is a doctrine of cruelty. It is a doctrine that put cruelty into the world and gave the world generations of cruel torture. –Bertrand Russell, Why I Am Not a Christian


The Bible


The Bible contains some of the most sublime passages in English literature, but is also full of contradictions, inconsistencies, and absurdities. –Elizabeth Cady Stanton, quoted in Ira D. Cardiff’s What Great Men Think of Religion

It [the Bible] is full of interest. It has noble poetry in it; and some clever fables; and some blood-drenched history; and some good morals; and a wealth of obscenity; and upwards of a thousand lies. –Mark Twain, “Letters from the Earth”

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, quoted in Laurence J. Peter’s Peter’s Quotations: Ideas for Our Time

The best cure for Christianity is reading the Bible. –Mark Twain

The Bible is not my Book nor Christianity my profession. –Abraham Lincoln, quoted by Joseph Lewis in a 1924 speech in New York

The Old Testament is responsible for more atheism, agnosticism, disbelief—call it what you will—than any book every written; it has emptied more churches than all the counterattractions of cinema, motor bicycle, and golf course. –AA Milne

The God of the Bible is a moral monstrosity. –Rev. Henry Ward Beecher, quoted in Ira D. Cardiff’s What Great Men Think of Religion

As a matter of fact, the New Testament is infinitely worse than the Old. In the Old there is no threat of eternal pain. Jehovah had no eternal prison—no everlasting fire. His hatred ended at the grave. His revenge was satisfied when his enemy was dead. In the New Testament, death is not the end, but the beginning of punishment that has no end. In the New Testament the malice of God is infinite and the hunger of his revenge eternal. The orthodox God, when clothed in human flesh, told his disciples not to resist evil, to love their enemies, and when smitten on one cheek to turn the other, and yet we are told that this same God, with the same loving lips, uttered these heartless, these fiendish words: “Depart ye cursed into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.” These are the words of “eternal love.” No human being has imagination enough to conceive of this infinite horror. –Robert G. Ingersoll, “Why I Am Agnostic”

If a man would follow today the teachings of the Old Testament, he would be a criminal. If he would follow strictly the teachings of the new, he would be insane. –Robert G. Ingersoll

Either God should have written a book to fit my brain, or he should have made my brain to fit his book. –ditto

So far as I can remember, there is not one word in the Gospels in praise of intelligence. –Bertrand Russell, Has Religion Made Useful Contributions to Civilization?

I would not dare so dishonor my Creator’s name by attaching it to this filthy book [the Bible]. –Thomas Paine

As to the book called the Bible, it is blasphemy to call it the Word of God. It is a book of lies and contradictions and a history of bad times and bad men. –ditto

Whenever we read the obscene stories, the voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and torturous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness, with which more than half the Bible is filled, it would be more consistent that we called it the word of a demon than the Word of God. It is a history of wickedness that has served to corrupt and brutalize mankind. –Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason

What is it the New Testament teaches us? To believe that the Almighty committed debauchery with a woman engaged to be married; and the belief of this debauchery is called faith. –ditto

Properly read, the Bible is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived. –Isaac Asimov

The Bible is one of the most genocidal books in history. –Noam Chomsky

Incidents from the Iliad and the Exodus come within the same degrees of credibility. –John Ruskin, quoted in Rufus K. Noyes’s Views of Religions

The same people [who] wrote the Bible … thought the world was flat. –(?)

If the Bible is mistaken in telling us where we came from, how can we trust it to tell us where we’re going? –(?)

The Bible is literature, not dogma. –George Santayana, The Ethics of Spinoza

It is so human a book [the Bible] that I don’t see how belief in its divine authority can survive the reading of it. –William James, in a 1904 letter

One does well to put on gloves when reading the New Testament. The proximity of so much uncleanliness almost forces one to do this. –Friedrich Nietzsche

I don’t see how anybody can read the Bible and believe it’s the word of God, or believe that it is anything but a barbarous story of a barbarous people. –former California governor Culbert Olson

There is scarcely a page of the Bible on which an open mind does not perceive a contradiction, an unlikely story, an obvious error, an historical impossibility of one sort or another. –Steve Allen, Steve Allen on the Bible, Religion, & Morality

Consider the wave of revulsion that floods the average person when he or she hears of the practice of human sacrifice by the Aztecs and other so-called primitive peoples. How savage and barbaric such practices seem. But when a Christian or Jew comes across human sacrifice in the Bible (see Jephthah’s immolation of his daughter in Judges 11:30-40), is he or she repulsed? –ditto

I cannot see how it can be argued that one should speak in tones of reverence and awe about the alleged divine instruction—in Psalms—to grab the defenseless bodies of innocent infants and dash their brains out against the nearest rocks or walls. –Steve Allen, More Steve Allen on the Bible, Religion, & Morality

It was only when I finally undertook to read the Bible through from beginning to end that I perceived that its depiction of the Lord God—whom I had always viewed as the very embodiment of perfection—was actually that of a monstrous, vengeful tyrant, far exceeding in bloodthirstiness and insane savagery the depredations of Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Attila the Hun, or any other mass murderer of ancient or modern history. –ditto


The Soul and Life after Death


That’s the real source of religions. Grief. And fear of death. Most people find their mortality so terrifying, the only way they can deal with it is to deny it. –MK Wren, A Gift upon the Shore

Christians always talked about the possibility of being reunited with their loved ones in the afterworld, but no one ever seemed to consider the idea that after twenty years of separation or more those loved ones might have pared themselves down into mere sticks of what they used to be, that they might have changed into utter strangers. –Kevin Brockmeier, A Brief History of the Dead

From the moment of death onward, the body and soul feel as little as they did before birth. –Pliny, quoted in Rufus K. Noyes’s Views of Religion

I cannot believe in the immortality of the soul. … No, all this talk of an existence for us, as individuals, beyond the grave is wrong. It is born of our tenacity of life—our desire to go on living—our dread of coming to an end as individuals. I do not dread it, though. Personally, I cannot see any use of a future life. –Thomas Edison, in an interview in the New York Times, October 2, 1910

Regarding my actions in this world, I care little in the existence of a heaven or hell; self-respect does not allow me to guide my acts with an eye toward heavenly salvation or hellish punishment. I pursue the good because it is beautiful and attracts me, and shun the bad because it is ugly and repulsive. All our acts should originate from the spring of unselfish love, whether there be continuation after death or not. –Heinrich Heine, Das Bader von Lucca

Of all the strange beliefs held so dearly by staunch believers, perhaps the most strange and most difficult to explain is the belief that doesn’t exist. That is, why can no one tell us where we were before we were born? Almost every human culture yet discovered has found it necessary to believe in an afterlife of some sort, but not a “before-life.” Why? Why are there so many versions of heaven, paradise, and the Great Beyond, but almost none about the Great Before? –Judith Hayes, The Happy Heretic

I am a hopeless materialist. I see the soul as nothing else than the sum of activities of the organism plus personal habits—plus inherited habits, memories, experiences, of the organism. I believe that when I am dead, I am dead. I believe that with my death I am just as much obliterated as the last mosquito you and I squashed. –Jack London, quoted in Ira D. Cardiff’s What Great Men Think of Religion

For my part, I cannot see how consciousness can persist when its physical basis has been destroyed, and I am too sure of the interconnection of my body and my mind to think that any survival of my consciousness apart from my body would be in any sense a survival of myself. –W. Somerset Maugham, The Summing Up


Action versus Prayer/Faith


Two hands working can do more than a thousand clasped in prayer. –proverb

The hands that help are better far than the lips that pray. –Robert G. Ingersoll

The inventor of the plow did more good than the maker of the first rosary; because, say what you will, plowing is better than praying. –Robert G. Ingersoll, quoted in Ira D. Cardiff’s What Great Men Think of Religion

Faith moves mountains, but you have to keep pushing while you are praying. –Mason Cooley

Call on God, but row away from the rocks. –Indian proverb

Pray to God, but keep rowing to the shore. –Russian proverb

Give a man a fish, and you’ll feed him for a day; give him a religion, and he’ll starve to death while praying for a fish. –(?)

I prayed for twenty years but received no answer until I prayed with my legs. –Frederick Douglass (escaped slave), quoted in Rufus K. Noyes’s Views of Religions

If I have learned one thing in this life, it is that God will not tie my shoes without me. –Doug Boyd

Give me the storm of tempest of thought and action, rather than the dead calm of ignorance and faith! –Robert G. Ingersoll, “The Gods”

Prayer, among sane people, has never superseded practical efforts to secure the desired end. –George Santayana, “Imaginative Nature of Religion”


Happiness Without Religion

Organized Religion Alternatives


When I became convinced that the Universe is natural—that all the ghosts and gods are myths—there entered into my brain, into my soul, into every drop of my blood, the sense, the feeling, of the joy of freedom. The walls of my prison crumbled and fell, the dungeon was flooded with light and all the bolts, and bars, and manacles became dust. –Robert G. Ingersoll

The first requisite for the happiness of the people is the abolition of religion. –Karl Marx, Preface, A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right

I let go of religion, and people become serene. –Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

The pursuit of happiness belongs to us, but we must first climb around or over the church to get to it. –Heywood Broun, quoted in Laurence J. Peter’s Peter’s Quotations: Ideas for Our Time

It is, I think, an error to believe that there is any need of religion to make life seem worth living. –Sinclair Lewis, quoted in Will Durant’s On the Meaning of Life

I believe that at every level of society—familial, tribal, national, and international—the key to a happier and more successful world is the growth of compassion. We do not need to become religious, nor do we need to believe in an ideology. All that is necessary is for each of us to develop our good human qualities. –Tenzin Gyatso, XIVth Dalai Lama

When I think about religion at all, I feel as if I would like to found an order for those who CANNOT believe: the Confraternity of the Faithless, one might call it, where on an altar, on which no taper burned, a priest, in whose heart peace had no dwelling, might celebrate with unblessed bread and a chalice empty of wine. Every thing to be true must become a religion. And agnosticism should have its ritual no less than faith. It has sown its martyrs, it should reap its saints, and praise God daily for having hidden Himself from man. But whether it be faith or agnosticism, it must be nothing external to me. Its symbols must be of my own creating. Only that is spiritual which makes its own form. If I may not find its secret within myself, I shall never find it: if I have not got it already, it will never come to me. –Oscar Wilde, De Profundis

We need a religion of humanity. The only true divinity is humanity. –William Pitt, quoted in Ira D. Cardiff’s What Great Men Think of Religion

Living will teach you to live better than preacher or Bible. –Johann Wolfang von Göethe, quoted in Rufus K. Noyes’s Views of Religion

Joy in the universe, and keen curiosity about it all—that has been my religion. –John Burroughs, journal, February 18, 1910

If I had to choose a religion, the sun as the universal life-giver would be my god. –Napoleon Bonaparte, quoted in Ira D. Cardiff’s What Great Men Think of Religion

If we redirect all the energy, compassion, and money that is currently being expended on religious practices, and instead devote it all to the betterment of humankind, just imagine what we could accomplish! –Judith Hayes, The Happy Heretic

Many religions possess this don’t-think-just-do attitude, and it’s a shame. Human potential should never be squandered. The world can be an astounding teacher, if given the chance. There is so much beauty and excitement in this world, waiting only to be explored. And there is so much latent human love, compassion, and talent, if only we will encourage it! –ditto

Ever since that experience, I have done my best to follow pure love wherever it takes me. It is the opposite of living behind a pane of glass; it’s raw and unorthodox and unpredictable and sublime, and it never fades. I still have to wipe tears from my eyes in art supply stores, where the colors are so clean and pure, the smells so strong and beautiful. I can still feel drunk with bliss at the sound of a friend’s laughter. I say “Oh, God” a lot. Mormons believe that this is “taking the name of the Lord in vain,” but it doesn’t feel vain to me. It feels like prayer. People tend to say it when the divine aspect of their being connects with the divine aspect of everything else, when God within touches God without. What else could a physicist say, contemplating the way light curves through the vast continuum of space and time? What else could a human body breathe when its lips touch the skin behind a lover’s ear? Every form of beauty perceived, every form of lovemaking, is God meeting God. And it is all pure. –Martha Beck, Leaving the Saints: How I Lost the Mormons and Found My Faith

i found god in myself
and i loved her
i loved her fiercely.
–Ntozake Shange

By the year 2000 we will, I hope, raise our children to believe in human potential, not God. –Gloria Steinem, quoted in Laurence J. Peter’s Peter’s Quotations: Ideas for Our Time

Happiness is the only good, reason the only torch, justice the only worship, humanity the only religion, and love the only priest. –Robert G. Ingersoll, eulogy at the grave of his brother Ebon

The world is my country, all mankind are my bretheren, and to do good is my religion. –Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason

We had no churches, no religious organizations, no Sabbath day, no holidays, and yet we worshiped. Sometimes the whole tribe would assemble and sing and pray; sometimes a smaller number, perhaps only two or three. The songs had a few words, but were not formal. The singer would occasionally put in such words as he wished instead of the usual tone sound. Sometimes we prayed in silence; sometimes each prayed aloud; sometimes an aged person prayed for all of us. At other times one would rise and speak to us of our duties to each other and to Usen. Our services were short. –Geronimo

The highest human purpose is always to reinvent and celebrate the sacred. –N. Scott Momaday

Here in this body are the sacred rivers: here are the sun and moon, as well as all the pilgrimage places. I have not encountered another temple as blissful as my own body. –Saraha

If anything is sacred the human body is sacred. –Walt Whitman, “I Sing the Body Electric”

There is no god more divine than yourself. –Walt Whitman, quoted in Rufus K. Noyes’s Views of Religions

For my part, the longer I live the less I feel the need of any sort of theological belief, and the more I am content to let unseen powers go on their way with me and mine without question or distrust. –John Burroughs, The Light of Day

So many gods, so many creeds
So many paths that wind and wind
While just the art of being kind
Is all the sad world needs.
–Ella Wheeler Wilcox, “The World’s Need”

One may sigh for all that one loses in giving up the old religion. … But the new irreligion is the manlier, honester, and simpler thing, and affords a better theory of life and a more solid basis for morality. –Charles Eliot Norton, in a letter to Goldwin Smith, January 31, 1905

I don’t believe in God. My God is patriotism. Teach a mean to be a good citizen and you have solved the problem of life. –Andrew Carnegie, quoted in Rufus K. Noyes’s Views of Religions




All faiths, it seemed, began imperatively by saying “Believe”: and from this ultimately fearful insistencey could conjure up only images of fear and domination, something to submit to but built of nonsenses, ghosts, ancient vapors. –Iain Banks, The Bridge

The trouble with your viewpoint is, you won’t find a man here who regards your personal capacity to know, to accept on faith, to discover by revelation—or otherwise singlehanded to infer and assert “God’s will” is in any way superior to his capacity. Why should anyone knuckle to your faith? And isn’t that the trouble with religion in general? ... Lord knows, men cling to whatever they happen to have been taught inc hildhood, or whatever they have to accepted since, with all the tenacity of the most instinctual insects. I'm no biologist. But the present behavior of religious men, and the whole past history of their behavior, looks entirely compulsive to me. Inflexible, unadaptive in the individual, reasonless. It sure does seem like instinct, like tropisms blown up to nth degrees by creatures capable of turning their sensations into images—who then deny they invented the images in order to worship and serve them. “Faith,” seen that way, is wholly a denial. –Philip Wylie, The Disappearance

A casual stroll through the lunatic asylum shows that faith does not prove anything. –Friedrich Nietzsche, The Antichrist

I respect faith, but doubt is what gets you an education. –Wilson Mizner

Faith: not wanting to know what is true. –Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary

Faith in God is an irrational act. –Professor Schaffer, my Fiction Writing and Intro. to Jewish Literature professor

We have but faith; we cannot know. –Alfred, Lord Tennyson, quoted in Rufus K. Noyes’s Views of Religion

Say what you will about the sweet miracle of unquestioning faith. I consider a capacity for it terrifying and absolutely vile! –Kurt Vonnegut, quoted in Laurence J. Peter’s Peter’s Quotations: Ideas for Our Time

Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurrence of the improbable. –HL Mencken, Prejudices

It was the schoolboy who said, “Faith is believing what you know ain’t so.”–Mark Twain, Following the Equator

Blind faith can justify anything. If a man believes in a different god, or even if he uses a different ritual for worshipping the same god, blind faith can decree that he should die—on the cross, at the stake, skewered on a Crusader’s sword, shot in a Beirut street, or blown up in a bar in Belfast. Memes for blind faith have their own ruthless ways of propagating themselves. This is true of patriotic and political as well as religious blind faith. –Richard Dawkins

Faith...even immunizes them against fear, if they honestly believe that a martyr’s death will send them straight to heaven. What a weapon! Religious faith deserves a chapter to itself in the annals of war technology, on an even footing with the longbow, the warhorse, the tank, and the hydrogen bomb. –ditto

When are you people going to learn? It’s not about who’s right or wrong. No denomination’s nailed it yet, and they never will because they’re all too self-righteous to realize that it doesn’t matter what you have faith in, just that you have faith. Your hearts are in the right place, but your brains need to wake up. –Salma Hayek, in Dogma

Faith in a holy cause is to a considerable extent a substitute for the lost faith in ourselves. –Eric Hoffer, The True Believer


Education/Reasoning/Science versus Religion/Ignorance


One good schoolmaster is worth a thousand priests. –Robert G. Ingersoll, in a speech given in New York, May 1, 1881

Religions are like glowworms; they shine only when it is dark. A certain amount of general ignorance is the condition of all religions, the element in which alone they can exist. And as soon as astronomy, natural science, geology, history, and knowledge of countries and peoples have spread their light broadcast, and philosophy finally is permitted to say a word, every faith founded on miracles and revelation must disappear. –Arthur Schopenhauer, “Religion—A Dialogue”

You may always observe that faith and knowledge are related as the scales of a balance; when the one goes up, the other goes down. –ditto

The truths of religion are never so well understood as by those who have lost the power of reasoning. –Voltaire, Dictionnaire Philosophique

The inspiration of the Bible depends upon the ignorance of the gentleman who reads it. –Robert G. Ingersoll, in a speech given in New York, April 25, 1881

It too often happens that the religiously disposed are in the same degree intellectually deficient. –John Henry Newman, The Idea of a University

The world holds two classes of men—intelligent men without religion, and religious men without intelligence. –Abu al-‘Ala’ Ahmad ibn ‘Abd Allah al-Ma‘arri, quoted in Ira D. Cardiff’s What Great Men Think of Religion

Men of simple understanding, little inquisitive and little instructed, make good Christians. –Michel de Montaigne, Essays

Geology shows that fossils are of different ages. Paleontology shows a fossil sequence, the list of species represented changes through time. Taxonomy shows biological relationships among species. Evolution is the explanation that threads it all together. Creationism is the practice of squeezing one’s eyes shut and wailing “Does not!” –(?)

[Creation science is] an attempt to give credibility to Hebrew mythology by making people believe that the world’s foremost biologists, paleontologists, and geologists are a bunch of incompetent nincompoops. –Ron Peterson

If we are going to teach creation science as an alternative to evolution, then we should also teach the stork theory as an alternative to biological reproduction. –Judith Hayes

Those who would legislate against the teaching of evolution should also legislate against gravity, electricity, and the unreasonable velocity of light, and also should introduce a clause to prevent the use of the telescope, the microscope, and the spectroscope, or any other instrument of precision which may in the future be invented, constructed, or used for the discovery of truth. –Luther Burbank, Science and Civilization

Scientific education and religious education are incompatible. The clergy have ceased to interfere with education at the advanced state, with which I am directly concerned, but they have still got control of the children. This means that the children have to learn about Adam and Noah instead of about evolution; about David who killed Goliath, instead of Koch who killed cholera; about Christ’s ascent into heaven instead of Montgolfier’s and Wright’s. Worse than that, they are taught that it is a virtue to accept statements without adequate evidence, which leaves them a prey to quacks of every kind in later life, and makes it very difficult for them to accept the methods of thought which are successful in science. –JBS Haldane

The essence of the liberal outlook likes not in what opinions are held, but in how they are held: instead of being held dogmatically, they are held tentatively, and with a consciousness that new evidence may at any moment lead to their abandonment. This is the way opinions are held in science, as opposed to the way in which they are held in theology. –Bertrand Russell, Unpopular Essays

If you think your belief is based upon reason, you will support it by argument rather than by persecution, and will abandon it if the argument goes against you. But if your belief is based upon faith, you will realize that argument is useless, and will therefore resort to force either in the form of persecution or by stunting or distorting the minds of the young... –Bertrand Russell

Religion is something left over from the infancy of our intelligence; it will fade away as we adopt reason and science as our guidelines. –ditto

The age of ignorance commenced with the Christian system. –Thomas Paine, quoted in Laurence J. Peter’s Peter’s Quotations: Ideas for Our Time

In science it often happens that scientists say, “You know, that’s a really good argument; my position is mistaken,” and then they actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn’t happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. –Carl Sagan

I suppose that apples might start to rise tomorrow, but the possibility does not merit equal time in physics classrooms. –Stephen J. Gould

An actually existent fly is more important than a possibly existent angel. –Ralph Waldo Emerson, quoted in Rufus K. Noyes’s Views of Religion

May it not suffice for me to say … that of course like every other man of intelligence and education I do believe in organic evolution. It surprises me that at this late date such questions should be raised. –Woodrow Wilson, in a letter to an academic on August 29, 1922

Believers are but triflers who, when they cannot explain a thing, run back to the will of God; this is, truly, a ridiculous way of expressing ignorance. –Baruch Spinoza

Knowledge and history are the enemies of religion. –Napoleon Bonaparte, Maxims

Science has done more for the development of Western civilization in 100 years than Christianity did in 1,800 years. –John Burroughs, The Light of Day

Nothing can be more contrary to religion and the clergy than reason and common sense. –Voltaire, Philosophical Dictionary

The supernatural is being swept out of the universe in the flood of new knowledge of what is natural. It will soon be as impossible for an intelligent, educated man or woman to believe in a god as it is now to believe that the earth is flat, that flies can be spontaneously generated, that disease is a divine punishment, or that death is always due to witchcraft. –Julian Huxley, Religion without Revelation

In regard to religious matters, there is an intellectual cowardice instilled into the minds of the people from their infancy; to inquire or exert their reason is denounced as sinful. –Erasmus Darwin, quoted in Rufus K. Noyes’s Views of Religion

Religion prevents our children from having a rational education; religion prevents us from removing the fundamental causes of war; religion prevents us from teaching the ethic of scientific cooperation in place of the old fierce doctrines of sin and punishment. It is possible that mankind is on the threshold of a golden age; but, if so, it will be necessary first to slay the dragon that guards the door, and this dragon is religion. –ditto

We are all tattooed in our cradles with the beliefs of our tribe; the record may seem superficial, but it is indelible. You cannot educate a man wholly out of the superstitious fears which were implanted in his imagination, no matter how utterly his reason may reject them. –Oliver Wendell Holmes, quoted in Laird Wilcox and John George’s Be Reasonable: Selected Quotations for Inquiring Minds

Science can help us to get over this craven fear in which mankind has lived for so many generations. Science can teach us, and I think our own hearts can teach us, no longer to look around for imaginary supports, no longer to invent allies in the sky, but rather to look to our own efforts here below to make this world a fit place to live in, instead of the sort of place that the churches in all these centuries have made it. –Bertrand Russell, Why I Am Not a Christian

What is called religion effeminates and demoralizes. The scientific mind must have a faith, which is science. Let us have nothing now which is not its own evidence. –Ralph Waldo Emerson, quoted in Rufus K. Noyes’s Views of Religion

The church says the earth is flat, but I know that it is round, for I have seen the shadow on the moon, and I have more faith in a shadow than in the church. –Ferdinand Magellan, quoted in George Seldes’s The Great Quotations

The atmosphere of our time is fast becoming cleared of the fumes and deadly gases that arose during the carboniferous age of theology. –John Burroughs, quoted in Thomas S. Vernon’s Great Infidels

So deeply unsound is the mass of traditions and imaginations of which popular religion consists, that future times will hardly comprehend its audacity in calling those who abjure it atheists. –Matthew Arnold, quoted in Rufus K. Noyes’s Views of Religion

…once it is possible that Nature may all alone have done what you attribute to your god, why must you go looking for someone to be her overlord? The cause and explanation of what you do not understand may perhaps be the simplest thing in the world. Perfect your physics and you will understand Nature better, refine your reason, banish your prejudices, and you’ll have no further need of your god. –Marquis de Sade, Dialogue between a Priest and a Dying Man

Gullibility and credulity are considered undesirable qualities in every department of human life—except religion. … Why are we praised by godly men for surrendering our “godly gift” of reason when we cross their mental thresholds? –Christopher Hitchens, “The Lord and the Intellectuals”

Why is it that the less intelligence people have, the more spiritual they are? They seem to fill all the vacant, ignorant spaces in their heads with soul. Which explains how it is that the less knowledge they have, the more religion. –Lincoln Steffens, quoted in Ira D. Cardiff’s What Great Men Think of Religion

Moral certainty is always a sign of cultural inferiority. The more uncivilized the man, the surer he is that he knows precisely what is right and what is wrong. –HL Mencken, Minority Report

As long as all evils are believed somehow to fit into a divine, if mysterious, plan, the effort to eradicate them must seem on the whole futile, and even impious. The history of medical progress offers innumerable instances of how men have resisted the introduction of sanitary measures because they dreaded to interfere with the providence of God. It is still felt, I believe, in many quarters, even in medical circles, that to mitigate the labor pains in childbirth is to blaspheme against the commandment that in pain children shall be brought forth. An aura of dread surrounds evil as long as evil situations remain entangled with a theory of divine government. –Walter Lippmann, A Preface to Morals

Religion … is the first enemy of the ability to think. That ability is not used by men to one-tenth of its possibility, yet before they learn to think they are discouraged by being ordered to take things on faith. Faith is the worst curse of mankind, as the exact antithesis and enemy of thought. –Ayn Rand, private notes, 1934




Countless people have been devastated for reasons that cannot be explained or justified in spiritual terms. –Cheryl Strayed, Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar

If it were true that there was no God, no Son, no Holy Mother, nor any of the lesser saints, what had happened to all my prayers? Were they perhaps circling in the empty heaven like a flock of birds whose nests had been destroyed by boys? Or were they in some secret place and, like my lost voice, struggling to get free? –Jerzy Kosinski, The Painted Bird

... what would happen to them when they suddenly discovered that there was no God, and that above the highest church dome there was only a boundless sky where airplanes with red stars painted on their wings flew? What would they do when they discovered that all their prayers were worthless and that everything they did at the altar, and everything they told people from the pulpit, was a fraud?
         The discovery of that terrible truth would strike them down with a blow worse than a father’s death or the last glimpse of his lifeless body. –ditto

I am not a religious person. I don’t meditate or chant or pray. But lines from poems I love run through my head and they feel holy to me in a way. –Dear Sugar, October 21, 2010

I’m not a religious person, but sex, violence, love, death, all of the topics that I’m constantly wrestling with, all connect back to religion. –Florence Welch, in a June/July 2011 interview in Bust magazine

... what does is say about religion itself, that mentally ill people seem to relate to it so much? –Neromancer, on MyDeathSpace.com

This rudderless world is not shaped by vague metaphysical forces. It is not God who kills the children. Not fate that butchers them or destiny that feeds them to the dogs. It’s us. Only us. –Alan Moore, Watchmen

The truth is, as everyone knows, that the great artists of the world are never puritans, and seldom ever ordinarily respectable. No virtuous man—that is, virtuous in the YMCA sense—has ever painted a picture worth looking at, or written a symphony worth hearing, or a book worth reading, and it is highly improbable that the thing has ever been done by a virtuous woman. –HL Mencken, The Vintage Mencken

Something in the mental processes of writers must incline them to nonconformity, because a remarkable number of writers are religious misfits. –James A Haught, 2000 Years of Disbelief: Famous People with the Courage to Doubt

Great sinners are apt to be very religious; and conversely the best men who have ever lived have been at war with established religions. –Elbert Hubbard, quoted in Rufus K. Noyes’s Views of Religions


…there is something holy deep inside
Of you that is so ardent and awake

That needs to lie down naked
Next to
–Hafiz, “Among Strong Men”

In my world
All that remains is the wondrous call to
Dance and prayer

Rising up like a thousand suns
Out of the mouth of a
Single bird.
–Hafiz, “Out of the Mouths of a Thousand Birds”

I do occasionally envy the person who is religious naturally, without being brainwashed into it or suckered into it by all the organized hustles. Just like having an ear for music or something. –Woody Allen, in Rolling Stone, 1987

Give us a religion that will help us to live—we can die without assistance. –Elbert Hubbard, Selected Writings

Regardless of what kind of god you believe in—a loving good, a vengeful god, a capricious god, a snooty beret-wearing French god, whatever—one has to assume that you can’t be penalized for doing the things you believe to be truly righteous and just. Certainly, this creates some pretty glaring problems: Hitler may have thought he was serving God. Stalin may have thought he was serving God (or something vaguely similar). I’m certain Osama bin Laden was positive he was serving God. It’s not hard to fathom that all of those maniacs were certain that what they were doing was right. Meanwhile, I constantly do things that I know are wrong; they’re not on the same scale as incinerating Jews or blowing up skyscrapers, but my motivations might be worse. I have looked directly into the eyes of a woman I loved and told her lies for no reason, except that those lies would allow me to continue having sex with another woman I cared about less. This act did not kill 20 million Russian peasants, but it might be more “diabolical” in a literal sense. If I died and found out I was going to hell and Stalin was in heaven, I would note the irony, but I really couldn’t complain. I don’t make the fucking rules. –Chuck Klosterman, Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs

In a democratic republic that aspires to protect religious freedom, who should have the right to declare that one person’s irrational beliefs are legitimate and commendable, while another person’s are crazy? How can a society actively promote religious faith on one hand and condemn a man for zealously adhering to his faith on the other?
         This, after all, is a country led by a born-again Christian, President George W. Bush, who believes he is an instrument of God and characterizes international relations as a biblical clash between forces of good and evil. The highest law officer in the land, Attorney General John Ashcroft, is a dyed-in-the-wool follower of a fundamentalist Christian sect—the Pentecostal Assemblies of God—who begins each day at the Justice Department with a devotional prayer meeting for his staff, periodically has himself anointed with sacred oil, and subscribes to a vividly apocalyptic worldview... –Jon Krakauer, Under the Banner of Heaven

However, if Christians really believe what they say they believe, then ear-to-ear grins should be all that you ever see at Christian funerals. A Christian’s death should be cause for celebration. What could be more wonderful than to know that your loved one is now in heaven with Jesus? Your own piddling little loneliness pales into absolute insignificance when compared to the rapturous joys of heaven. So why do any Christians ever cry over a death?
         … Isn’t there some hypocrisy, or at least some real uncertainty...when Christians cry at funerals? Is there some genuine fear, lurking just beneath the surface, that death is really the end for all of us? If not, bereaved Christian tears are inexplicable. –Judith Hayes, The Happy Heretic

[regarding a news story about the 1998 shooting in the US Capitol] But guess what was emblazoned across the entire top of page 8, spanning all six columns, in something like 40 points? “I got down on my knees and prayed and thanked God my daughter wasn’t hit.”
          Those effusively earnest and totally insensitive words were uttered by a woman who was visiting the Capitol with her six-year-old daughter, Hannah. They heard the shots. Well, I certainly understand the woman’s relief about her daughter. But while her wonderful God was protecting little Hannah, that same God allowed two men, Officers John Gibson and Jacob J. Chestnut, to be shot dead in the same violent episode.
          How can anyone, anytime, anywhere, be so callously indifferent to the suffering of others? How can anyone be so egotistically smug about their own supposed importance in the eyes of their supposedly munificent God, without seeing the cruel arrogance implicit in such an assertion? Anyone offering such a prayer of thanks is also saying, “Thank you, God, for killing those people instead of me and mine.” What a ghastly, self-centered, cold-hearted way to look at the world. If there really were a merciful God, no one would ever be murdered. –ditto

Out of all of the sects in the world, we notice an uncanny coincidence: the overwhelming majority just happen to choose the one that their parents belong to. Not the sect that has the best evidence in its favor, the best miracles, the best moral code, the best cathedral, the best stained glass, the best music: when it comes to choosing from the smorgasbord of available religions, their potential virtues seem to count for nothing, compared to the matter of heredity. This is an unmistakable fact; nobody could seriously deny it. Yet people with full knowledge of the arbitrary nature of this heredity, somehow manage to go on believing in their religion, often with such fanaticism that they are prepared to murder people who follow a different one. –Richard Dawkins

If you pray for rain long enough, it eventually does fall. If you pray for floodwaters to abate, they eventually do. The same happens in absence of prayers. –Steve Allen, Reflections

George Washington’s practice of Christianity was limited and superficial because he was not himself a Christian. … He repeatedly declined the church’s sacraments. Never did he take communion, and when his wife, Martha, did, he waited for her outside the sanctuary. … Even on his deathbed, Washington asked for no ritual, uttered no prayer to Christ, and expressed no wish to be attended by His representatives. –Barry Schwartz, George Washington: The Making of an American Symbol

No man complains of his neighbor for ill management of his affairs, for an error in sowing his land or marrying his daughter, for consuming his substance in taverns. ... In all these he has liberty; but if he does not frequent the church, or then conform in ceremonies, there is an immediate uproar. –Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia

The word miracle, as pronounced by Christian churches, gives a false impression; it is a monster. It is not one with the blowing clover and the falling rain. –Ralph Waldo Emerson, in an address to Harvard Divinity College, July 15, 1838

We must not be deceived by blind leaders of the blind, calmly expecting to be “saved” by anyone except by the kingdom within ourselves. –Luther Burbank, in an address to the First Congregational Church in San Francisco, January 31, 1926

Any system of religion that has any thing in it that shocks the mind of a child cannot be a true system. –Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason

For some loners, the structure of mainstream religion feels like a straitjacket. Having to appear in the same crowded place at the same day and time each week—in school it could barely be borne. Does the divine run on a schedule, too, with penalties for tardies? Nor can we force ourselves into feeling brotherly about a mob of strangers just because they use the same names to summon the supernatural as we do, just because they read the same holy book, or because we light candles at the feet of the same statues. –Anneli Rufus, Party of One: The Loners’ Manifesto

To a loner it hardly seems possible—not even plausible—that millions could agree on what God likes and dislikes and whether pork or beef is verboten. How, we muse, can millions nod in unison approving the validity of liturgy? How can the unseen move so many strangers in exactly the same way? Those millions—nonloners, of course—would say...unanimity by which it moves them proves it is real. Loners cannot help but suspect something else afoot, something pedestrian. We know nonloners learn by imitation. We know they shore up their self-esteem through imitation, through securing a sense of belonging. Nonloners thrive on this, so why would it not tint their view of heaven? Among nonloners, religion fends off loneliness, one of their greatest fears, both within the soul and without. Fellowship itself is a mark of faith. And it is fellowship, the heat of shouting brethren, that spurs movements—call it civilization, call it fanaticism—by which mainstream religions make history.
     Within most organized religions is a built-in drive to multiply, to proselytize, to breed. This is how they become monolilthic. It is the same survival instinct by which primitive societies laud joiners and detest outsiders. Terror of extinction still haunts the major religions: an old habit, unlikely given their numbers. –ditto

For loners, fellowship is not a factor in the faith equation. The organized in organized religion is a problem sometimes so intractable—a boulder in the road—that many loners come to think of ourselves as spiritually dead. We slink away feeling like failures, calling ourselves lapsed. Because we cannot bear a crowd, we say—blithely or bitterly, resignedly—that we are not religious.
     It is a common conceit that only shrines as big as stadiums are shrines at all.
     The crusaders have fooled us.
     Shouldn’t the divine hear a lone voice as clearly as it hears a chorus? If, in fact, it is divine, its ears ought to be good. –ditto

Alas! those good old days are gone, when a murderer could wipe the stain from his name and soothe his trouble to sleep simply by getting out his blocks and mortar and building an addition to a church. –Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad

Monarchies, aristocracies, and religions ... there was never a country where the majority of the people were in their secret hearts loyal to any of these institutions. –Mark Twain, The Mysterious Stranger

Martyrs and persecutors are the same type of man. As to which is the persecutor and which the martyr, this is only a question of transient power. –Elbert Hubbard, The Note Book

All I ask of thee, Lord,
Is to be a drinker and a fornicator
An unbeliever and a sodomite
And then to die.
–Claude de Chauvigny, “Blasphemer’s Prayer”

The idea of the sacred is quite simply one of the most conservative notions in any culture, because it seeks to turn other ideas—uncertainty, progress, change—into crimes. –Salman Rushdie, in the Herbert Reade Memorial Lecture, February 6, 1990

I do not understand how anyone can live without one small place of enchantment to turn to. –Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

While there is much that we do not know, humans are responsible for what we are or will become. No diety will save us; we must save ourselves. –Humanist Manifesto II (edited by Paul Kurtz and signed by scientists and scholars)

Everybody is waiting for the end to come, but what if it already passed us by? What if the final joke of Judgment Day was that it had already come and gone and we were none the wiser? Apocalypse arrives quietly; the chosen are herded off to heaven, and the rest of us, the ones who failed the test, just keep on going, oblivious. Dead already, wandering around long after the gods have stopped keeping score, still optimistic about the future. –Jonathan Nolan, “Memento Mori”

You’re basically killing each other to see who’s got the better imaginary friend. –Yasir Arafat (on going to war over religion)

If I had been the Virgin Mary, I would have said “No.” –Margaret Smith

Jim Bakker spells his name with two Ks because three would be too obvious. –Bill Maher

I always write with my .357 magnum handy. Why? Well, you never know when God may try to interfere. –(?)

Giving away a fortune is taking Christianity too far. –Charlotte Bingham, on philanthropy

If you believe in the light, it’s because of obscurity. If you believe in joy, it is because of sadness. If you believe in God, then you have to believe in the Devil. –Father X, exorcist at Notre Dame in Paris

Scratch the Christian and you find the pagan—spoiled. –Israel Zangwill, Children of the Ghetto

For the millions of us who press on in a secular age, under Darwin’s empty heaven, love may be all we ever know of religion, and the loss of love is that much more wrenching for its likeness to a crisis of faith. What else but a confusion of divine and human realms can account for the pain of misplaced devotion? Pain made worse by the ludicrousness of it all, the ersatz savior and the preposterous church and the disillusioned parishioner, who stumbles around in the aftermath… –Chip Brown, “Visions of Lily”

O Lord, if there is a Lord, save my soul, if I have a soul... –Ernest Renan

I don’t rent anything I can’t sell. It’s against my religion. –Howard, in Austin Stories

Practicality will keep you safe but spirituality will give you power to overcome. –Eileen Brennan

You know, the one with all the well-meaning rules that don’t work in real life—uh, Christianity. –Homer Simpson, describing the religion to which he and his family belongs, in The Simpsons

God blessed me with an abnormally large penis that allows me to do porno. Because of my job I am stronger in my relationship with God. I believe I am blessed. –Lexington Steele

In this physical cruelty there resides a madness of the will which is absolutely unexampled: the will of man to find himself guilty and reprehensible to a degree that can never be atoned for; his will to think himself punished without any possibility of the punishment becoming equal to the sin … his will to erect an ideal—that of the “holy god”—and in the face of it to feel the palpable certainty of his own absolute unworthiness. –Friedrich Nietzsche, The Genealogy of Morals

I never liked the proverb “Need teaches prayer”—it sounds so haughty, like “Need teaches begging.” Prayers extorted by fear and need from the lips of people who never prayed when times were good are nothing more than pitiful begging. –Anonymous, A Woman in Berlin: Eight Weeks in the Conquered City

Two great European narcotics: alcohol and Christianity. –Friedrich Nietzsche, The Twilight of the Gods

What I got in Sunday school ... was simply a firm conviction that the Christian faith was full of palpable absurdities, and the Christian God preposterous. ... The act of worship, as carried on by Christians, seems to me to be debasing rather than ennobling. It involves groveling before a being who, if he really exists, deserves to be denounced instead of respected. –HL Mencken, in a letter to Will Durant

Sunday School: a prison in which children do penance for the evil conscience of their parents. –HL Mencken, A Mencken Chrestomathy

There’s such a big difference between being dead and alive, I told myself, and the greatest gift that anyone can give anyone else is life. And the greatest sin a person can do to another is to take away that life. Next to that, all the rules and religions in the world are secondary; mere words and beliefs that people choose to believe and kill and hate by. –James McBride, The Color of Water

Having remained free, man strives for nothing so incessantly and so painfully as to find someone to bow down to. –(?)

Men are idolaters, and they want something to look at and kiss, or throw themselves down before; they always did, they always will; and if you don’t make it of wood, you must make it of words. –Oliver Wendell Homes, The Poet at the Breakfast Table

There is something feeble and a little contemptible about a man who cannot face the perils of life without the help of comfortable myths. Almost inevitably some part of him is aware that they are myths and that he believes in them only because they are comforting. But he dares not face this thought! Moreover, since he is aware, however dimly, that his opinions are not rational, he becomes furious when they are disputed. –Bertrand Russell, Human Society in Ethics and Politics

Every apostle or disciple, as much as they’re running to follow their savior—they’re running just as hard to escape something else. –Chuck Palahniuk, Haunted

Could there be supreme power out there somewhere? Is there a grand plan behind the big bang, the creation of the universe, the evolution of the species? I don’t know, I suppose it’s possible; I guess I’d like to at least allow for the possibility in the back of my mind. But common sense tells me otherwise. –DeLoy Bateman, former Mormon fundamentalist

Among all my patients in the second half of life—that is to say, over thirty-five—there has not been one whose problem ... was not that of finding a religious outlook on life. –Carl Jung, “Psychotherapists or the Clergy”

Sacrificing the earth for paradise is giving up on the substance for the shadow. –Victor Hugo, quoted in Rufus K. Noyes’s Views of Religions

So long as man remains free, he strives for nothing so incessantly and so painfully as to find someone to worship. But man seeks to worship what is established beyond dispute, so that all men would agree at once to worship it. For these pitiful creatures are concerned not only to find out what one or the other can worship, but to find something that all would believe in and worship; what is essential is that all may be together in it. This craving for community of worship is the chief misery of every man individually and of all humanity from the beginning of time. For the sake of common worship, they’ve slain each other with the sword. They have set up gods and challenged one another. “Put away your gods and come and worship ours, or we will kill you and your gods!” And so it will be to the end of the world, even when gods disappear from the earth; they will fall down before idols just the same. –Fyodor Dostoyevski, The Brothers Karamazov

The merit of Mahomet is that he founded a religion without an inferno. –Napoleon Bonaparte, Maxims

It is only be hearsay (by word of mouth passed down from generation to generation) that whole peoples adore the God of their fathers and of their priests. … They prostrate themselves and pray, because their fathers taught them to prostrate themselves and pray. –Percy Bysshe Shelly, The Necessity of Atheism

Martyrdom has always been a proof of the intensity, never of the correctness, of a belief. –Arthur Schnitzler, “Buch der Sprüche und Bedenken”

Soon the altars of Venus and Mars are changed to those of Jesus and Mary; the life of the imposter is published, the insipid fiction finds its dupes; he is represented as having said a hundred things which never came into his head; some few of his own drivelings instantly become the basis of his morality, and as this romance is preached to the poor, charity becomes its foremost virtue. Weird rites are instituted under the name of sacraments; the most offensive and most abominable of them all is the one whereby a priest, covered with crimes, has, notwithstanding, thanks to a few magical words, the power to bring God back in a morsel of bread. Let there be no mistake: at its very birth, this shameful cult might have been utterly destroyed had one but employed against it those weapons of the contempt it deserved; but men took it into their heads to employ persecution; the cult throve; ’twas inevitable. –The Marquis de Sade, Philosophy in the Bedroom

Your god is a machine you fabricated in your passions’ behalf, you manipulated it to their liking; but the day it interfered with mine, I kicked it out of my way, deem it fitting that I did so; and now, at this moment when I sink and my soul stands in need of calm and philosophy, belabor it not with your riddles and your cant, which alarm but will not convince it, which will irritate without improving it… –Marquis de Sade, Dialogue between a Priest and a Dying Man

Dying Man: Say, is it not necessary that gunpowder ignite when you set a spark to it?
Priest: Yes.
Dying Man: And do you find any presence of wisdom in that?
Priest: None.
Dying Man: It is then possible that things necessarily come without being first determined by a superior intelligence, and possible hence that everything derive logically from a primary cause, without there being either reason or wisdom in that primary cause?

Nothing so much amuses me as this sign of the extent to which human beings have been carried away by fanaticism and stupidity; although the prodigious spectacle of folly we are facing here may be horrible, it is always interesting. Answer me honestly, and endeavor to set personal considerations aside: were I weak enough to fall victim to your silly theories concerning the fabulous existence of the being who renders religion necessary, under what form would you advise me to worship him? Would you have me adopt the daydreams of Confucius rather than the absurdities of Brahma, should I kneel before the great snake to which the Blacks pray, invoke the Peruvians’ sun or Moses’s Lord of Hosts; to which Mohammedan sect should I rally, or which Christian heresy would be preferable in your view? –ditto

Ah my friend! Were it true that the god you preach did exist, would he need miracle, martyr, or prophecy to secure recognition? And if, as you declare, the human heart were of his making, would he not have chosen it for the repository of his law? Then would this law, impartial for all mankind because emanating from a just god, then would it be found graved deep and writ clear in all men alike, and from one end of the world to the other, all men, having this delicate and sensitive organ in common, would also resemble each other through the homage they would render the god whence they had got it; all would adore and serve him in one identical manner, and they would be as incapable of disregarding this god as of resisting the inward impulse to worship him? Instead of that, what do I behold throughout this world? As many gods as there are countries; as many different cults as there are different minds or different imaginations; and this swarm of opinions among which it is physically impossible for me to choose, say now, is this a just god’s doing? –ditto

So he speaks, and everyone around
begins to cry with him, laughing crazily,
moaning in the spreading union
of lover and beloved.

This is the true religion. All others
are thrown-away bandages beside it.
–Rumi, “I Have Five Things to Say