Quotations on Religion

The skeptic does not mean him who doubts, but him who investigates or researches, as opposed to him who asserts and thinks that he has found.

Miguel de Unamuno (1864-1936)

Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from a religious conviction.

Blaise Pascal
quoted in
Holy Horrors

A nation can assume that the addition of the words "under God" to its pledge of allegiance gives evidence that its citizens actually believe in God whereas all it really proves is that they believe in believing in God.

Huston Smith, The Religions of Man

The various modes of worship which prevailed in the Roman world were all considered by the people as equally true; by the philosophers as equally false; and by the magistrates as equally useful.

Edward Gibbon
The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

Here and there in the midst of American society you meet with men full of a fanatical and almost wild spirtualism, which hardly exists in Europe. From time to time strange sects arise which endeavor to strike out extraordinary paths to eternal happiness. Religious insanity is very common in the United States.

Alexis de Tocqueville

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

Elie Wiesel
quoted in
Holy Horrors

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-inviting 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.

Psychologist Albert Ellis
quoted in
Holy Horrors

Of the many difficulties in writing about the treatment of Jews by Christians, not least is the problem of believability. That some things could have occurred seems scarcely credible. Yet they did. . . . 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.

Theologian Clark Williamson
quoted in
Holy Horrors

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 aquiescence 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. Tocqueville persuasively attributed the humanitarian ethic to the rise of the idea of equality. . . . It was the age of equality that brought about the disappearance of such religious appurtenances as the auto-da-fé and burning at the stake, the abolition of torture and of public executions, the emancipation of the slaves. . . . 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.

Scholar Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.
speech at Brown University on the inauguration of Vartan Gregorian as president, 1989.

The foolish reject what they see and not what they think; the wise reject what they think and not what they see.

Huang Po

Man is a credulous animal, and must believe something; in the absence of good grounds for belief, he will be satisfied with bad ones.

Bertrand Russell
Unpopular Essays, "An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish"

The Christian resolve to find the world evil and ugly, has made the world evil and ugly.

Friedrich Nietzsche

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