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Category Archives: religion

“The vision people hold of the world to come is but a reflection, with predictable wishful distortions, of the world in which they live.”

– James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time


“The word ‘safety’ brings us to the real meaning of the world ‘religious’ as we use it.”

– James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time

“I don’t think of myself at my core, as cynical. So much of it is location. Who is Muslim? WHo is a Catholic? Who is a Christian? Who’s Buddhist? Ninety-nine-point-nine percent of it is where you happen to be born. So how can one be right and another be wrong? It seems pretty clear to me that it’s a coping mechanism for people who cannot handle the not knowing of things. I am okay knowing I will never be able to comprehend the world.”

– Sarah Silverman

“Where there is no God, it’s difficult to give much intellectual credence to evil as an organizing principle in human affairs, as a vague comprehended supernatural force. It’s a useful way of talking about a side of human nature, and it’s metaphorically rich and, for that reason, hard to live without. Harder to live without evil, it would seem, than without God.”

– Ian McEwan, The Art of Fiction No. 173

“What is so beautiful and simultaneously dangerous about Christianity is that Christians want to convert everyone to their faith – so with the beauty of this ideal comes the fact that they’ve killed so many people. There is nothing more beautiful in Christianity than the fact that Christ was killed for everybody. Christ’s last words were incredible, they were: ‘I’m thirsty; Father, why have you forsaken me?’ and ‘I’m dying’ – which are all so human. It’s so amazing that a religion can be built on these words, the words of a man at the moment of such weakness and despair.”

– Christian Boltanski

“Have faith. ‘Have faith’ was like saying be tall and shapely. She wanted to be tall and shapely but of course she was not; she was short and her behind was flat and that stubborn soft bit of her lower belly bulged, even when she wore her Spanx body-shaper. When she said this, Father Patrick laughed.

” ‘ “Have faith” is not really like saying be tall and shapely. It’s more like saying be okay with teh bulge and with having to wear Spanx,’ he said.”

– Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, “The Shivering,” The Thing Around Your Neck

“I have now reached the stage where as soon as anyone says life moves around a single, organizing principle I stop listening to them. I don’t feel that life organizes itself around any single principle. It’s a religious impulse to only grasp at one thing, one explanation.

Ian McEwan, The Believer Book of Writers Talking to Writers

“There are no dirty words any more, they’ve been neutered, now they’re only parts of speech; but I recall the feeling, puzzled, baffled, when I found out some words were dirty and the rest were clean. The bad ones in French were the religious ones, the worst ones in any language were what they were most afraid of and in English it was the body, that was even scarier than God. You could also say Jesus Christ, but it meant you were angry or disgusted. I learned about religion the way most children then learned about sex, not in the gutter but in the gravel-and-cement schoolyard, during the winter months of real school. They would cluster in groups, holding each other’s mittened hands and whispering. They terrified me by telling me there was a dead man in the sky watching everything I did and I retaliated by explaining where babies came from. Some of their other phoned mine to complain, though I think I was more upset than they were: they didn’t believe me but I believed them.”

– Margaret Atwood, Surfacing

“Science has far surpassed religion in delivering awe. How is it that hardly any major religion has looked at science and concluded, ‘This is better than we thought? The universe is much bigger than our prophets said – grander, more subtle, more elegant. God must be even greater than we dreamed’? Instead they say, ‘No, no, no! My god is a little god, and I want him to stay that way.’ ”

– Carl Sagan

“Suppose a public proclamation were suddenly made at this moment repealing all laws relating to crime. I fancy neither you nor I would have the courage even to go home alone under the protection of religious motives. If, on the other hand, all religions were in the same way declared untrue, we should go on living as before.”

– Schopenhauer

“Religions are like glow-worms: they need darkness in order to shine. A certain degree of general ignorance is the condition for the existence of any religion, the element in which alone it is able to live.”

– Schopenhauer, Philalethes

“When you find out that there is no ultimate good or evil in which you can place your faith, the world does not fall apart at the seams. It simply means that every decision is more difficult, more critical, because you are creating the good and evil yourself and they are very real.”

– Anne Rice, The Feast of All Saints

“What do we do here when we spend years of work and thought and thousands of pounds on a new gun that turns out just a hairsbreadth wrong after all? Scrap it. Scrap it without wasting another hour or another pound on it. Well, you have made for yourself something that you call a morality or a religion or what not. It doesn’t fit the facts. Well, scrap it. Scrap it and get one that does fit.

“That is what is wrong with the world at present. It scraps its obsolete steam engines and dynamos; but it won’t scrap its old prejudices and its old moralities and its old religions and its old political constitutions. What’s the result? In machinery it does very well; but in morals and religion and politics it is working at a loss that brings it nearer bankruptcy every year. Don’t persist in that folly. If your old religion broke down yesterday, get a newer and better one tomorrow.”

– George Bernard Shaw, Major Barbar

“Everybody who had finished Grade 8 in the country schools had to go into town to write those examinations. I loved that – the rustling sheets of foolscap, the important silence, the big stone high-school building. I wondered at it. And at myself, drawing maps with ease and solving problems, knowing quantities of answers. I thought I was so clever. But I wasn’t clever enough to understand the simplest thing. I didn’t even understand that examinations made no difference in my case. I wouldn’t be going to high school. That was before school buses; you had to board in town. My parents didn’t have the money. And they didn’t think of my life going in that direction, the high-school direction. They thought that I would stay at home and help my mother, maybe hire out to help women in the neighborhood who were sick or having a baby. Until such time as I got married. that was what they were waiting to tell me when I got the results of the examination.

You think my mother might have a different idea, since she had been a schoolteacher herself. But she said God didn’t care. God isn’t interested in what kind of job or what kind of education anybody has, she told me. He doesn’t care two hoots about that, and it’s what He cares about that matters.

This was the first time I understood how God could become a real opponent, not just some kind of nuisance or large decoration.”

– Alice Munro, “The Progress of Love”