Quotes About Religion and Secularism – Values of the Wise


freedom from religion
Astronomer Carl Sagan (photo by NASA)

As of this writing, women in Iran are combining anti-religious-zealotry + anti-authoritarianism in what is amounting to a breathtaking series of acts of public courage; many significant non-violent protests have occurred in the last two weeks, and unfortunately many women have been killed. I will say that it takes great courage to stand up to the theocracy in Iran, because those guys don’t play, as it were. And yes, it is 100% guys. A misogynistic, theocratic, intolerant regime—those poor Iranian citizens! Now, we shouldn’t have mucked around in Iranian political affairs in the 1970s, but that’s another blog. Anyway, my hat’s off to these freedom fighters—these spirited and united anticlerical agitators! They are not comfortable with the austere strictures enshrined by the mullahs and imams—their country’s purveyors of extreme religion and ideological extremism and social oppression. My hope is these brave women can throw off their hijabs and throw off their oppressors much like the black people of South Africa did vis-à-vis the apartheid regime in the 1980s.

I began my journey toward what I guess I would characterize as a mixture of agnosticism, pantheism, and Humanism—and which is marked by atheism and anti-superstition/anti-clericalism—at about age 12. I was then in Hebrew school, and hating every minute of it. I went to the mattresses with my parents about my desire to not continue wasting two afternoons a week on a foreign language that I felt had nothing to do with my middle school studies. I have always been pretty free-spirited in the sense of not wanting my time, schedule, or life plan to be dictated by others. I don’t even like to schedule appointments for myself—that’s how into an unencumbered and self-directed and impromptu lifestyle I am! At any rate, I prevailed and didn’t continue Hebrew school (nor did I have a Bar Mitzvah, which I suppose demonstrated my utter lack of interest in the Jewish lifestyle)(though I now do have a little bit of recognition and pride of my genetic/ethnic heritage as an Ashkenazi Jew descended from Eastern Europe (my grandparents came through Ellis Island around 1910-1920). I would also point out that my father being subjected to anti-Semitic bullying and teasing as a kid is bothersome to me—in large part because clearly it was Christian children being so mean, not Humanists—and certainly not Buddhists.

I belong to an organization called Freedom From Religion Foundation, whose message is that God is not necessary for ethical behavior in human beings—and in fact, religion causes much that is negative: tribalism, psychic damage, emotional and sexual abuse, and misguided misogyny. Indeed, this morning while my wife went to Catholic mass, I happened to read the monthly newspaper put out by FFRF (which, incidentally, is nondescript on the outsides when it is mailed—no doubt to preserve the privacy of folks like myself who live in Republican-leaning districts in the South!).

So, in this blog I wanted to share some quotations from individuals—both of the religiously zealous strain and the atheist/agnostic/freethinking type—that I gleaned from that informative publication. I so love it when I find fresh and rare quotations—no surprise then that I am a collector of stamps and coins and books. I am happy to share these newly-found quotations with the reader, and will certainly publish them for all to benefit from in The Wisdom Archive, right here on Values of the Wise.com. That unique searchable quotations database is now about 37,000 quotations strong, and 98% of the quotes about values are secular, humanistic, agnostic, spiritual, and scientific/philosophical in nature.

This is all very important stuff as Trumpism vies with secularism, progressivism, liberalism, rationalism, and realism for the soul of America. Indeed, as I type, Trump’s henchmen/loyalists/sycophants the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys, as well as a motley crew, a rag-tag gang of Q-Anon zealots, religious extremists, armed insurgents, ne’er-do-wells, rabble-rousers, seditionists, anarchists, Christian nationalists, neo-fascists, and anti-liberals—who stormed the United States Capitol in a brazen attempt to shred the Constitution and Bill of Rights on Jan. 6, 2021—have been making the news daily by pleading guilty to various minor charges of anti-American acts as well as seditious conspiracy and other hard-core crimes against the people of this country. This ugly force in the annals of American history is of course a quasi-authoritarian one, a white supremacist-based one, a grossly reactionary one, but it is also a largely Southern Baptist and Christian-nationalist phenomenon.

None of this is at all good, and as author Michael Gerson points out: “Leaders in the Republican Party have fed, justified and exploited conservative Christians’ defensiveness in service to an aggressive, reactionary politics. This has included deadly mask and vaccine resistance, the discrediting of fair elections, baseless accusations of gay “grooming” in schools, the silencing of teaching about the United States’ history of racism, and (for some) a patently false belief that Godless conspiracies have taken hold of political institutions.”

I would bet good money that group of insurrectionists and traitors was approximately 0.5% Muslim, 0.5% Jewish, 0.0% Buddhist, 4-6% non-religious, and 94% Christian in composition. They were a mixture of libertarian as well as hard-core Republican—I doubt there was a progressive among them. The majority came from a religious—probably Southern Baptist—background/belief system. Most were authoritarian in their personalities and very intolerant. Every participant was incensed at how “liberals” and “West Coast types” and “welfare addicts” and “abortionists” and “hip-hop lovers” and “Communists” and “atheists” and “Antifa thugs” and “elitists” and “criminals” and “Nancy Pelosi lovers” have “hijacked this country” and “thrown God under the bus” in “a tireless attempt to take over” and to “prop up Joe and Hunter Biden” by “cheating in elections” and by creating an urban/non-white hegemony “to rule over the rural and working people—the good Christians, the white majority—of this country.” Prove me wrong on that if you wish to—and if you can.

It is also important to get this straight since, as the FFRF magazine indicated just recently happened, “The Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago and the local Carmelite province will pay an anonymous plaintiff $1.75 million to settle her lawsuit accusing pedophile priest Robert Boley of sexual abuse in 1987-89 at St. Cyril Catholic School in Woodlawn, IL.”

I swear [not to God] that these priests and their Church have committed such a rash of heinous and predatory crimes against the people they were supposed to be serving that it sickens me!

As well, “sexually abusive rabbis are detailed in Rabbi Abuse: Power, Gender, and Status in the Dynamics of Sexual Abuse in Jewish Culture by Elana Sztokman, an anthropologist and educator who grew up in Brooklyn, NY. The 2022 book includes 84 stories/claims of abuse and harassment. Sztokman said, ‘Rabbis have many tactics at their disposal [such as] using spiritual and religious language to lure their victims and get them to do their bidding.’” There are of course countless cases of various kinds of impropriety, outrage, and abuse by Mormons, and I wouldn’t be surprised if some pretty shady shit goes on in Amish and Scientologist communities/cults, too.

In fact, the picture of Hasidic Jewish boys walking as a group in New York City featured in the October magazine makes me pretty sad. As attorney Ryan Jayne points out, “Hasidic Jewish students spend so much time studying religion in ancient texts that there is virtually no time left for basic academics.” This is a gross usurpation of identify formation and psychological independence that I would argue is every young person’s destiny and right. Jayne also points out that “these schools rake in taxpayer dollars while committing this educational catastrophe,” and that “over the past four years, New York [state-based] yeshivas have received more than $1 billion in taxpayer funds through various programs at the federal, state and local levels.” It’s an all-around abuse of secular values, and utterly distorts a proper role of religion in society.

 

Before I get to the quotes, allow me to share some of the October birthdays for famous/notable secular humanists and atheists that I found rather inspiring:

  • Johnny Carson
  • Wallace Stevens
  • Graham Greene
  • John Keats
  • Gore Vidal
  • Denis Diderot
  • Neil DeGrasse Tyson
  • Joy Behar
  • Dan Savage
  • Giuseppe Verdi
  • John Lennon
  • Henry Cavendish
  • Thelonious Monk
  • Eleanor Roosevelt
  • Lenny Bruce
  • Hannah Arendt
  • e.e. cummings
  • Friedrich Nietzsche
  • John Kenneth Galbraith
  • Oscar Wilde
  • Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.
  • Eugene O’Neill
  • Arthur Miller
  • Michael McKean
  • John Dewey
  • Tom Petty
  • Samuel Taylor Coleridge
  • Ursula K. LeGuin
  • Doris Lessing
  • Kevin Kline
  • Seth McFarlane
  • Niccolò Paganini
  • Sylvia Plath
  • Fran Lebowitz
  • Bill Gates III
  • Joaquin Phoenix
  • John Adams

 

Frederick Edwords has written, “In modern humanism one finds a philosophy or religion that is in tune with modern knowledge, is inspiring, socially conscious, and personally meaningful. It is not only the thinking person’s outlook, but that of the feeling person as well, for it has inspired the arts as much as it has the sciences, philanthropy as much as critique. And even in critique it is tolerant, defending the rights of all people to choose other ways, to speak and to write freely, to live their lives according to their own lights.”

Below are a few dozen additional quotes about religion and secular humanism:

“On Sept. 17, 1787, delegates to the Constitutional Convention gathered in Philadelphia to sign a document that would become the world’s first secular Constitution. Until then, rulers reigned hand in hand with priests and holy men, conducting crusades and persecuting religious minorities in the name of divine justice.” —Chris Nelson

“We must find a way to reconcile our ever-shrinking world with its ever-growing diversity—diversity of thought, diversity of culture, and diversity of belief. In short, we must find a way to live together as one human family.” —Barack Obama

“We want you and this organization [the FFRF] out of our schools and out of THE GREAT STATE OF ALABAMA where we are CHRISTIANS. Have fun burning in HELL.” —John Cammon

“Some things must be said, and there are times when silence becomes an accomplice to injustice.” —Ayaan Hirsi Ali

“Much of what considers itself Christian America has assumed the symbolism and identity of white authoritarian populism–an alliance that is a serious, unfolding threat to liberal democracy.” —Michael Gerson

“You can stop trying to force your satanic views on others. Yours is not some noble calling. It is not your destiny to save the world. You willingly allow yourselves to be used as puppets of evil, and despite your own delusional opinions to the contrary, you WILL stand before God one day, and your knees will bow and your tongues confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. Now is the day of salvation. You need to repent and believe before the day of wrath.” —Paul Martin

“This Court continues to dismantle the wall between the separation of church and state that the Framers fought to build….” —Sonia Sotomayor

“Right-wing activists, in short, don’t just insist that children must be protected from ideas that might lead them to question their parents’ worldview; they also wanted to make sure that learning itself is conceived as fundamentally passive. The teacher’s job is to transmit objective facts and absolute truths; the students’ job is to absorb them. Educators who instead emphasize active learning, with children invited to construct meaning, pose just as great a threat to those on the right as those who reveal disturbing truths about racism or debunk a beloved fable about the origin of life on earth.” —Alfie Kohn

“Atheists are perfectly free to believe in nothing according to the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America. Have a nice life. All atheists will be shocked at death.” —Thomas Ziegler

“Once, there were limits, things that could disqualify you from office, especially in the party that claimed a special relationship with Jesus. But those limits don’t exist anymore. Conservatives have sacrificed any claim to principle. In an unholy transaction, they stuck with Trump because there was a Supreme Court seat and they were willing to tolerate his moral void in order to hijack the court. They didn’t care how he treated women as long as he gave them the opportunity to rip away rights from women. They wanted to impose their warped morality, A Handmaid’s Tale world, on the rest of us.” —Maureen Dowd

“Thomas Jefferson, in his 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptist Association, declared that when the American people adopted the Establishment Clause, they built ‘a wall of separation between church and state.’” —Chris Nelson

“Police chaplains are not unconstitutional. If you do not believe God exists, then why does this bother you? Let me guess, you just want to get rid of the Christian police chaplains, am I right? Jewish and Muslim chaplains are okay I bet. Do you even know what a police chaplain does in the first place? I bet you don’t. So kindly take your demands and put them in your anal cavity.” —Jeffrey Schoen

“In a sense, this matter [abortion rights, in Kansas] should never really have been on the ballot at all. Reproductive freedom is an individual choice, a basic right, like the freedom to marry who one chooses (provided they agree, of course). The continuance (or not) of a pregnancy is, or should be, a matter between the woman concerned, her partner (if any), and her physician, and is certainly not the business of any priest of politician. And individual rights are not up for popular vote.” —John Pratt

“Jerry Falwell Jr. said [in 2016], ‘We’re never going to have a perfect candidate unless Jesus Christ is on the ballot,’ noting, ‘We’re all sinners.’ Well, Falwell certainly was: four years later, he was ousted from running Liberty University after a sex scandal of his own.” —Maureen Dowd

“I learned that there is no savior, no higher power to help me with my problems. I must be a self-responsible human being and turn to myself if I want to resolve or solve simple and complex problems in my own life. …faith in God, prayer, and worship is the lack of action. It’s the abdication of self-responsibility to do something ourselves and to better our world.” —Andrea Gutierrez

“This is my Bible. I am what it says I am. I have what it says I have. I can do what it says I can do.” —Joel Osteen

“The will of almighty God, may He be praised, decreed the release of this oppressed nation from the yoke of the tyranny and crimes of the satanical regime and from the yoke of the domination of oppressive powers, especially the government of the world-devouring America, and to unfurl the banner of Islamic justice over our beloved country.” —Ruhollah Khomeini

“From the beginning, men used God to justify the unjustifiable.” ―Salman Rushdie

“We want to take back the country and establish a Christ-like nation. A nation where the national religion is Christian…. where you will never see a college that isn’t a Christian college. …[E]very school in these United States should teach Christian values. Every school should teach the Ten Commandments in elementary school. It cannot be any other way. There should be no secular teaching in the schools.” —Dalton Clodfelter

“It is the test of a good religion whether you can joke about it.” —G. K. Chesterton

“The Earth is going uncared for due to the religious imposing their harmful ‘dominion’ and ‘afterlife’ views on the government. Why care for the world when we’re required to dominate it and simply return to our home in the sky once it is destroyed?” —Ashley Huh

“The fact that people have religious experiences is interesting from the psychological point of view, but it does not in any way imply that there is such a thing as religious knowledge…. Unless he can formulate this ‘knowledge’ in propositions that are empirically verifiable, we may be sure that he is deceiving himself.” ~ A. J. Ayer

“Instilling in a child that they are causing their own suffering because they sinned utterly destroys that child. It took me many years to build myself up, have faith in myself, and realize that I do not need religion to be a good person.” —Kye Binik

“I have never in my life been in such a satanic warfare, spiritual warfare, that I’ve felt in the past two years on the [Flagler County School] Board, especially during this election season. We need a breakthrough. Have have not had a conservative, God-fearing majority on the board.” —Jill Woolbright

“I have never quite understood why people who firmly believe they are doing God’s will are regarded as good—even heroic. For them the choice is a tactical one that serves their own best interests, a simple consequence of a cost-benefit analysis.” —Alan M. Dershowitz

“I think God is using this [book banning crusade I started against certain children’s books at the library in Llano, TX] to bring awareness to people who had no clue what was going on. It’s a battle between good and evil.” —Eva Carter

“The idea that something was ‘God’s plan’ is a convenient way for followers of religion to justify any act, whether it be a tragic or fortunate event. The time spent praying, worshipping, proselytizing, and studying a religious text in organized religion could be spent on improving oneself and one’s own ability to actualize their hopes and achievements.” —Robert Ebersole

“In the eyes of many of our Christian citizens, it is more important to honor the will of a higher being—a God that provides no support for the children in foster programs, or the mothers in dire financial circumstances, or the survivors of sexual assault.” —Abigail Jablon

“The world would be better without religion and its various ideologies impairing our lives. [Furthermore], believing in ourselves will bring change sooner—because we aren’t relying on any miracles.” —Jana Kimball

“[My devoutly religious grandmother who didn’t take the COVID vaccine, and who died a grueling death alone in the hospital, mumbling prayers to herself] is one of the many reasons why I have placed confidence in myself rather than some supernatural being. It doesn’t matter how devoted, obedient, or trusting you are to that deity—what doesn’t exist cannot honor your faith, and my grandmother discovered this the hard way. Had she forgone her religious pride and opted to take the vaccine, perhaps she would still be with us today. Rather, my tear-stained eyes were forced to watch with blurry vision as we lowered her casket into the ground. How ironic that the mahogany casket was brandished with a cross.” —Caleb Buell

“Welcome atheism! Welcome anything in preference to the gospel, as preached by these Divines! They convert the very name of religion into an engine of tyranny and barbarous cruelty, and serve to confirm more infidels, in this age, than all the infidel writings of Thomas Paine, Voltaire, and Bolingbroke put together have done!” —Frederick Douglass

“When we blindly adopt a religion, a political system, a literary dogma, we become automatons. We cease to grow.” —Anais Nin

“There are billions of women worldwide who are being taught that they are lesser [than men] and that their role in life is predetermined by a god who claims to love all his people equally. I also know many Christians who are only ‘believers’ because they want to avoid eternal suffering in a fiery afterlife.” —Shelby Rhoades

“Belief in God gives you an ‘out’ to owning up to your mistakes, and a way to back out of the responsibilities we have to each others as members of humankind. When you remove God from the equation, everything becomes a lot more personal. Your mistakes become your own; your responsibilities, unquestionable. At first, the reality of that can be uncomfortable, but that discomfort is proof of the personal growth that is occurring.” —Liliana Austin

“Religion has actually convinced people that there is an invisible man living in the sky who sees everything you do and and wants you to follow a special list of ten things—or he’ll send you to a place of fire, smoke, and crying forever and ever. BUT, he loves you.” —George Carlin

“For the past two years, I have struggled with being accepted by my strict, Pentecostal family. I have faced opposition from my father in the form of no financial or emotional aid. … An excerpt from John 15:5 specifically haunted me: ‘Apart from me, you can do nothing.’ To me, this was a challenge to prove to myself that I am the writer of my own story and that I am responsible for my own accomplishments. This [stuff] has shaped me into who I am, and I have come out stronger for it.” —Ashley Huh

“Nobody has the right to not be offended. That right doesn’t exist in any declaration I have ever read. If you are offended, it is your problem—and frankly lots of things offend lots of people. I can walk into a bookshop and point out a number of books that I find very unattractive in what they say. But it doesn’t occur to me to burn the bookshop down! If you don’t like a book, read another book! If you start reading a book and you decide you don’t like it, nobody is telling you to finish it.” —Salman Rushdie

 

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