Quotes Attacking Religon

The Yazılıkaya sanctuary in Turkey, with the twelve gods of the underworld

My recent post linked to a few of the many essays I’ve written on religion. For those who want an even briefer summary of my views here are a few quotes that exemplify my views.  I should note that I’ve had many friends who were practitioners of various religions. While I disagree with them, I also recognize that I could be mistaken. With this caveat out of the way here are a few quotes to give you a general sense of my feeling toward religion:

There is no point beating around the bush. Supernatural concepts have no philosophical warrant. Furthermore, it is not that such concepts are displaced only if we accept, from the start, a naturalistic or scientific vision of things. There simply are no good arguments—theological, philosophical, humanistic, or scientific—for beliefs in divine beings, miracles, or heavenly afterlives. ~Owen Flanagan

There is no greater social evil than religion. It is the cancer in the body of humanity. Human credulity and superstition, and the need for comforting fables, will never be extirpated, so religion will always exist, at least among the uneducated. The only way to manage the dangers it presents is to confine it entirely to the private sphere, and for the public domain to be blind to it in all but one respect: that by law no one’s private beliefs should be allowed to cause a nuisance or an injury to anyone else.
~A. C. Grayling

All thinking men are atheists. ~ Ernest Hemingway

I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours. ~Stephen Roberts

The fact that so little of the findings of modern science is prefigured in Scripture to my mind casts further doubt on its divine inspiration. ~Carl Sagan

Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by rulers as useful. ~Lucius Annaeus Seneca

Emotional excitement reaches men through tea, tobacco, opium, whisky, and religion. ~George Bernard Shaw

The time appears to me to have come when it is the duty of all to make their dissent from religion known. ~John Stuart Mill

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

Fear of things invisible is the natural seed of that which every one in himself calleth religion. ~Thomas Hobbes

The aim of a religious movement is to inflict a malady on society, then offer the religion as a cure. ~Eric Hoffer

If you want to make a little money, write a book. If you want to make a lot of money, create a religion. ~L. Ron Hubbard

Generally speaking, the errors in religion are dangerous; those in philosophy only ridiculous. ~David Hume

Religion … the universal … neurosis of humanity. ~Sigmund Freud

Religion is all bunk. ~Thomas Edison

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

I count religion but a childish toy and hold there is no sin but ignorance.
~Christopher Marlowe

Religion is the opiate of the masses. ~Karl Marx

Say what you will about the sweet miracle of unquestioning faith, I consider a capacity for it terrifying and absolutely vile. ~Kurt Vonnegut

These [religious ideas] are given out as teachings, are not precipitates of experience or end-results of thinking: they are illusions, fulfillments of the oldest, strongest and most urgent wishes of mankind. ~Sigmund Freud

I am myself a dissenter from all known religions, and I hope that every kind of religious belief will die out. Religion is based . . . mainly on fear . . . fear of the mysterious, fear of defeat, fear of death. Fear is the parent of cruelty, and therefore it is no wonder if cruelty and religion have gone hand in hand. . . . 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

The whole thing is so patently infantile, so foreign to reality, that to anyone with a friendly attitude to humanity it is painful to think that the great majority of mortals will never be able to rise above this view of life. ~Sigmund Freud

Religion stalks across the face of human history, knee-deep in the blood of innocents, clasping its red hands in hymns of praise to an approving God. ~Philip Appleman

Religion is fundamentally opposed to everything I hold in veneration—courage, clear thinking, honesty, fairness, and, above all, love of the truth. ~H.L. Mencken

Religion is a byproduct of fear. For much of human history, it may have been a necessary evil, but why was it more evil than necessary? Isn’t killing people in the name of God a pretty good definition of insanity? ~Arthur C. Clarke

No man who ever lived knows any more about the hereafter … than you and I; and all religion … is simply evolved out of chicanery, fear, greed, imagination and poetry.
~Edgar Allan Poe

I condemn false prophets, I condemn the effort to take away the power of rational decision, to drain people of their free will—and a hell of a lot of money in the bargain. Religions vary in their degree of idiocy, but I reject them all. For most people, religion is nothing more than a substitute for a malfunctioning brain. We must question the story logic of having an all-knowing all-powerful God, who creates faulty humans, and then blames them for his own mistakes. ~Gene Roddenberry

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 800 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 as no such thing as witches, and never had been. One does not know whether to laugh or to cry. ~Mark Twain

Every sensible man, every honorable man, must hold the Christian sect in horror. Christianity is the most ridiculous, the most absurd and bloody religion that has ever infected the world. If we believe absurdities, we shall commit atrocities. Superstition, born of paganism and adopted by Judaism, invested the Christian Church from earliest times. All the fathers of the Church, without exception, believed in the power of magic. The Church always condemned magic, but she always believed in it: she did not excommunicate sorcerers as madmen who were mistaken, but as men who were really in communication with the devil. Nothing can be more contrary to religion and the clergy than reason and common sense. ~Voltaire

Man is a marvelous curiosity . . . he thinks he is the Creator’s pet . . . he even believes the Creator loves him; has a passion for him; sits up nights to admire him; yes and watch over him and keep him out of trouble. He prays to him and thinks He listens. Isn’t it a quaint idea ~Robert G. Ingersoll

To abdicate from the rule of reason and substitute for it an authentication of belief by the intentness and degree of conviction with which we hold it can be perilous and destructive. Religious beliefs give a spurious spiritual dimension to tribal enmities … It goes with the passionate intensity and deep conviction of the truth of a religious belief, and of course of the importance of the superstitious observances that go with it, that we should want others to share it – and the only certain way to cause a religious belief to be held by everyone is to liquidate nonbelievers. The price in blood and tears that mankind generally has had to pay for the comfort and spiritual refreshment that religion has brought to a few has been too great to justify our entrusting moral accountancy to religious belief. ~Sir Peter Brian Medawar

Since the early days, [the church] has thrown itself violently against every effort to liberate the body and mind of man. It has been, at all times and everywhere, the habitual and incorrigible defender of bad governments, bad laws, bad social theories, bad institutions. It was, for centuries, an apologist for slavery, as it was an apologist for the divine right of kings. ~H.L. Mencken

History does not record anywhere or at any time a religion that has any rational basis. Religion is a crutch for people not strong enough to stand up to the unknown without help. But, like dandruff, most people do have a religion and spend time and money on it and seem to derive considerable pleasure from fiddling with it. ~Robert A. Heinlein

Nietzsche taught me to distrust every optimistic theory. I knew that [the human] heart has constant need of consolation, a need to which that super-shrewd sophist the mind is constantly ready to minister. I began to feel that every religion which promises to fulfill human desires is simply a refuge for the timid, and unworthy of a true man. … We ought, therefore, to choose the most hopeless of world views, and if by chance we are deceiving ourselves and hope does exist, so much the better. At all events, in this way man’s soul will not be humiliated, and neither God nor the devil will ever be able to ridicule it by saying that it became intoxicated like a hashish-smoker and fashioned an imaginary paradise out of naiveté and cowardice—in order to cover the abyss. The faith most devoid of hope seemed to me not the truest, perhaps, but surely the most valorous. I considered the metaphysical hope alluring bait which true men do not condescend to nibble. I wanted whatever was most difficult, in other words most worthy of man, of the man who does not whine, entreat, or go about begging. ~ Nikos Kazantzakis

Note – There are many other quotes about religion on the quotes page.

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10 thoughts on “Quotes Attacking Religon

  1. Hi John –
    I’m on your side, I really am; all my life I’ve been a rational relativist left-leaning intellectual sciency kind of person, and I do agree with all these famous people saying religions and, more importantly, people who follow religions, are stupid. BUT – but, but… That’s not the end of it, is it? If it were just a case of religion is irrational and liberal relativism (or whatever you want to call it – rational Marxist scientific naturalism, perhaps?) in other words the belief set of the nice intellectual people – were provably better, more consistent or, and here I think is the key, more fundamentally true in some way, there would be no argument, and religions and their believers would have boiled away into obscurity long ago, just like we all hoped they would.
    But that didn’t happen, did it? Is it all down to the human inability, or unwillingness, to be rational? Is rational boring – too much like school? Then maybe we need to confront, or at least understand this, because we now live in the era of Cambridge Analytica, where the comfortable hegemony of the rational scientific relativist has been horrendously upended and shown not to be the stronger side – even with all the proofs and theories, graphs and data on our side. A few well-placed hate memes on Facebook and it all comes crumbling down around us, doesn’t it? We can’t even save the planet, the thing we’re all standing on!

    So – and of course this is the focus of my interest, instead of just hoping to embarrass and berate religious people with a series of quotes in the condescending hope that they’ll “see the light” and capitulate over to the side of the good rational planet-savers, let’s try to understand more what’s going on.

    I recently read this Boston Review article which covers everything I’m saying with much more clarity –

    To summarize the argument – one of the pivotal paragraphs includes these lines:
    “…Catholic dogma, like most American politicians, holds that democracies can only exist on a strong bedrock of religious values. Secular theorists of democracy such as Jürgen Habermas and John Rawls do not agree, of course, but they accept the basic premise that relativism is a problem and that democracies must have some means of adjudicating truth claims. In the place of theology, they use different forms of neo-Kantian philosophy to derive a democratic ethic from pure reason.”

    Next par – ” …there is a price for admission into democratic debate: we must all agree that our commitments are “relative.” This does not mean that we should become apathetic or abandon our values altogether. It does mean, though, that we should not enter the public sphere under the preconception that our own perception of the truth is the only valid one, and that it should acquire the force of law.”

    As a philosopher, I’m sure you’ll appreciate, the problem of relativism, in its most reduced form, is that we don’t (can’t – haven’t yet but we’re working on it) agree on what’s true. Perhaps there is no external truth at all, That’s just NOT GOOD ENOUGH for most people, it’s not enough. In fact, not only is it not enough, it’s the wrong ballpark. Us sciento rationalists seem to think that “showing” or “proving” is going to change anyone’s mind – no way José! People want to be sure, to be secure, to have certainty – preferably of their own salvation – and science and rational enlightenment liberalism don’t give them that. The worst thing the Climate lobby could do was to claim 97% of scientists were on their side. Why not round up a bit – if we’d said 100% – that’s certainty, and much more palatable.

    We need to start going for the heart – that’s where truth – according to most people – lies.

    To misquote L Ron Hubbard – if you want a few people to believe you, make a rational argument, if you want a lot of people to believe you, make an emotional argument.

    People who believe all this religious hogwash aren’t necessarily more stupid than us, or if they are, it doesn’t really make much truck to say that the cleverest people in the world are unable to convince the rest – why? because we don’t understand them.

    No – we need to start to do what the religions have been doing for the last two thousand-odd years – start talking abut love – God IS love. It doesn’t matter that the message has been horribly misinterpreted and twisted – what we need to figure out is where is the love in science – Sagan and Dawkins’ standing in awe of the universe – and see how that can just begin to scratch the surface of deeply held emotional belief.

    Because Democracy is in its death throes and it’s up to us what comes after. If we don’t mobilize pretty soon we all know it’s going to be the kind of lowest common denominator religious fundamentalism as seen on The Handmaid’s Tale.
    God bless! – oh, no, sorry, In His Name! and a bit of Hare Krishna on the side.

  2. thanks Guy. Agree with most of what you say. Of course, that was just one post out of almost a thousand and I don’t mean to suggest (obviously) that quotes will solve the problem. The last two posts were meant simply to make my own views clear. The best answer to all this, in my view, is to continue the project of transhumanism. If interested your issues are addressed often in various posts on the site. Thanks again for the comment. JGM

  3. I don’t think that the Erasmus quote fits here:

    “There is nothing I congratulate myself on more heartily than on never having joined a sect. ~Erasmus

    Erasmus was deeply religious; the thrust of much of his writing was that the Church had abandoned spirituality for ritual and materialism, and simply wasn’t religious any more. He wanted to make the world MORE religious, not less.

    However, there are some interesting subtleties that pop up occasionally in his writing. In the second half of “The Praise of Folly”, he delves into the notion of religious ecstasy; a perceptive reader can sense that Erasmus is grasping for a more abstract form of spirituality than conventional god-centered religion.

  4. “rational Marxist scientific naturalism”

    Marxism has finished, it was a religion. Marxian ‘laws of history’ never existed, the non-existent laws were religious and no wonder: Marxism was a child of religion. Religious laws were in Marxism replaced by proletarian morality which amounted to survival of the fittest for the Marxian millenarian. Take away the chiliastic, and you are left with an analog to religious fervor.
    The ‘opposite’ child of religion, fascism, is alive and well as fascism can dispense with laws and simply eradicate opponents without need of laws; fascism is DIY lawmaking. We can see that clearly in Russia, China, and now in the US.

    Though pure science does play God to a limited degree, pure science is not based on religion. However applied science in its disruption does indeed play God– thus applied science could possibly be termed religious.

  5. Readers searching for a middle path between atheism and theism may benefit from Anthony Kronman’s Confessions of a Born-Again Pagan. He rejects religion but not the “divine.” Though I have difficulty with his position, there is a lot of good stuff to chew on. –Sylvia Wojcik

  6. Religion can be completely accepted by classifying it as a subset of escapism. Life is dire enough for so many that an open question is: can one survive without escaping reality?
    Religion is probably the most prevalent way to escape. Then comes alcohol, fine arts, sex, drugs, Rock n’ Roll. Traveling is a ‘get away’– as travel agents like to advertise. When you merely attend a showing at a movie theater, you are escaping reality if only for two or so hours.
    We know that organized religion has existed for at least 7,000 years. Thus it has developed very sophisticated ways. Today with high tech, the negatives have been force multiplied; we saw that on TV when we watched sophisticated jets fly into the WTC and the Pentagon. Yet religion has been so imbedded in the mind (or soul in this case) it is hard to remove.
    Go with the flow might be the way to Go. Don’t reject religion, make up your own. The Church of the Divine Spiritual Scam Artist (don’t believe a word of the Word).
    Nowadays Satanism is as valid as any faith. There’re no rules in religion anymore, only legal boundaries.

    The most likely outcome is that the religious will retreat further into dreamland as life becomes more complicated. They will still be here albeit more out There than they will be Here. High tech means they can make their own reality.

  7. Thanks for this extremely useful group of quotes John! I hope others will also pick it up. It should be more widely accessible.

  8. I agree wholeheartedly with your views regarding religion. The Roman Catholic Church could end hunger and poverty throughout the world if it released the assets that it holds just in the USA. Would the church do that, as a testament to promote its humanitarian mission? No way. Not till the Earth freezes over, and even then, I suspect not.

    One only has to look back through the ages – the Spanish Inquisition and the witch trials over here in the UK. What God would ever countenance such barbaric and inhuman treatment? Not one that I want any covenant with for sure.

    Religion is corrupt and evil at its core, but there are many many kind souls who do good work and believe in the Holy Trinity, Allah, etc. I am not trying to insult the true helpers of the various religions, my argument is with the doctrine that says love and peace is the answer, yet at all times, is filling its own coffers with cash and assets.

    Love and peace to all and I apologize in advance, to the people who may be offended by what I say.

  9. While some of these quotes do rightly condemn the neagtives of and done by religion, they are strawmans of religion and are intellectually childish, done in the name of “rational inquiry”, blinded by their confirmation biases, they have not steelmanned their opponents view, which is very poor and an insult agaisnt reason and deems them hypocrites.

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