Long time no post. Sorry about that. As you can see from my last post, I finally found someone to keep me out of the comically miserable world of online dating. While I've thought of many other topics about which to comment since then, I haven't gotten around to posting any of them.
In an effort to break open my writer's block, I've decided to gather some quotes here that I believe speak to some of the craziness bouncing around the airwaves this month about religion in the public square. In fact, there have been various moments in this unusually long presidential primary season in which God, Christianity, the Bible and differences in creed have emerged. In addition to Romney’s "Faith in America" address on December 6, 2007, one of the more memorable of such moments happened at the May 3, 2007 Republican debate, where one reporter asked the GOP hopefuls the following question:
"Is there anyone on the stage who does not … believe in evolution?"
Of the 10 candidates, three (Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee and Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo) raised their hands. Brownback has already dropped out of the race and Tancredo’s numbers are still too low to count, but Huckabee is surging to the front in many polls. He’s become what you might call a “contender.” This actually makes sense, given that according to a recent Gallup poll, 68% of Republican voters say they DO NOT believe in the theory of evolution (compared to 37% of Independents, 40% of Democrats who don't and 48% of Americans overall.)
Given that in a 2006 poll, 84% of Americans said that religion played a very or fairly important role in their lives, no one should be surprised to see the candidates for the presidency wearing their religion on their sleeves. Even the candidates of the relatively secular democratic party are testifying about their faith and its importance in their lives. Thus, with candidates on both sides of the "aisle" flinging religiosity at the cameras, I thought it was time to look at some of the things that others have said in the past about God and about religion's place in society. I've gathered quotes from a variety of voices, from various points of view. I'll leave you to figure out mine from the editorial choices I've made, both in selection and juxtaposition. I will open with one of my favorite jokes by Emo Philips, which is exactly on point:
I was walking across a bridge one day, and I saw a man standing on the edge, about to jump off. So I ran over and said, "Stop! Don't do it!"
"Why shouldn't I?" he said.
"Well, there's so much to live for!"
"Well... are you religious?"
He said yes.
I said, "Me too! Are you Christian or Buddhist?"
"Me too! Are you Catholic or Protestant?"
"Me too! Are you Episcopalian or Baptist?"
"Wow! Me too! Are you Baptist Church of God or Baptist Church of the Lord?"
"Baptist Church of God!"
"Me too! Are you original Baptist Church of God, or are you reformed Baptist Church of God?"
"Reformed Baptist Church of God!"
"Me too! Are you Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1879, or Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1915?"
He said, "Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1915!"
I said, "Die, heretic scum!", and pushed him off.
QUOTES OF THE MONTH:
"There is one fundamental question about which I often am asked. What do I believe about Jesus Christ? I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Savior of mankind. My church's beliefs about Christ may not all be the same as those of other faiths. Each religion has its own unique doctrines and history. These are not bases for criticism but rather a test of our tolerance. Religious tolerance would be a shallow principle indeed if it were reserved only for faiths with which we agree."
"When I told the people of Northern Ireland that I was an atheist, a woman in the audience stood up and said, 'Yes, but is it the God of the Catholics or the God of the Protestants in whom you don't believe?'"
Thomas Jefferson, 1816, in a letter to Mrs. H. Harrison Smith:
"I never told my own religion nor scrutinized that of another. I never attempted to make a convert, nor wished to change another's creed. I am satisfied that yours must be an excellent religion to have produced a life of such exemplary virtue and correctness. For it is in our lives, and not from our words, that our religion must be judged."
James Madison, 1785, Memorial and Remonstrance:
"Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other sects?"
John F. Kennedy, Address to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association on September 12th, 1960:
"I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish—where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source—where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials—and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all."
"...I pledge allegiance to the Christian flag and to the Savior, for whose Kingdom it stands, one Savior, crucified, risen, and coming again, with life and liberty for all who believe."
"Among politicians the esteem of religion is profitable; the principles of it are troublesome."
"At least two thirds of our miseries spring from human stupidity, human malice and those great motivators and justifiers of malice and stupidity, idealism, dogmatism and proselytizing zeal on behalf of religious or political idols."
"Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom."
"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 blind-folded fear.
"I don't spend much time thinking about whether God exists. I don't consider that a relevant question. It's unanswerable and irrelevant to my life, so I put it in the category of things I can't worry about.
"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, even if religion vanished; but religious superstition dismounts all these and erects an absolute monarchy in the minds of men."
"My atheism, like that of Spinoza, is true piety towards the universe and denies only gods fashioned by men in their own image to be servants of their human interests."
"We will be a better country when each religious group can trust its members to obey the dictates of their own religious faith without assistance from the legal structure of their country."
"...There is no such thing as ... separation of state and church ... in the Constitution. It's a lie of the left."
Thomas Jefferson, in a Letter to Connecticut Baptists:
"Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between Church and State."
"I recognize and celebrate that our country is founded upon Judeo-Christian values, and I have pledged my life to defend America and all her values, the values that have made us the noblest experiment in history. But public—but political intolerance by any political party is neither a Judeo-Christian nor an American value. The political..."
"The political tactics of division and slander are not our values, they are..."
"They are corrupting influences on religion and politics, and those who practice them in the name of religion or in the name of the Republican Party or in the name of America shame our faith, our party and our country."
"Neither party should be defined by pandering to the outer reaches of American politics and the agents of intolerance, whether they be Louis Farrakhan or Al Sharpton on the left, or Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell on the right."
"The government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion."
"The United States government must not undertake to run the Churches. When an individual, in the Church or out of it, becomes dangerous to the public interest he must be checked."
"...in recent years, the notion of the separation of church and state has been taken by some well beyond its original meaning. They seek to remove from the public domain any acknowledgment of God. Religion is seen as merely a private affair with no place in public life. It is as if they are intent on establishing a new religion in America—the religion of secularism. They are wrong."
"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. They must learn to make their views known without trying to make their views the only alternatives."
"When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross."
"Religion is not "doctrinal knowledge," but wisdom born of personal experience."
George J. Mitchell:
"Although he's regularly asked to do so, God does not take sides in American politics."
"The President of the United States summons the nation to church on Thanksgiving Day to give thanks to "Almighty God" for the abundant harvest and all other blessings. But what has Almighty God—I have no desire to appear irreverent—what has Almighty God as a personal being to do with the harvests? If it is he who produces our crops, then being Almighty there should never be a failure of crops. But since crops frequently fail, it follows that there is no Almighty person in charge of them—unless he brings failure purposely. Therefore, if God is to be thanked for large crops, he must be blamed when the crops are a failure. . . . If God sends the rain and the sunshine which develops and ripens our wheat, who sends the storms and the insects which destroy much of it? And if he sends both, then why not thank him for one and blame him for the other?"
"There are two visions of America. One precedes our founding fathers and finds its roots in the harshness of our puritan past. It is very suspicious of freedom, uncomfortable with diversity, hostile to science, unfriendly to reason, contemptuous of personal autonomy. It sees America as a religious nation. It views patriotism as allegiance to God. It secretly adores coercion and conformity. Despite our constitution, despite the legacy of the Enlightenment, it appeals to millions of Americans and threatens our freedom.
"The other vision finds its roots in the spirit of our founding revolution and in the leaders of this nation who embraced the age of reason. It loves freedom, encourages diversity, embraces science and affirms the dignity and rights of every individual. It sees America as a moral nation, neither completely religious nor completely secular. It defines patriotism as love of country and of the people who make it strong. It defends all citizens against unjust coercion and irrational conformity.
"This second vision is our vision. It is the vision of a free society. We must be bold enough to proclaim it and strong enough to defend it against all its enemies."
Susan B. Anthony, on the Women's Suffrage Platform:
"I tell them I have worked 40 years to make the W.S. platform broad enough for Atheists and Agnostics to stand upon, and now if need be I will fight the next 40 to keep it Catholic enough to permit the straightest Orthodox religionists to speak or pray and count her beads upon."
"The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no god. It neither picks my pocket, nor breaks my leg."
Ulysses S. Grant:
"Leave the matter of religion to the family altar, the church, and the private school, supported entirely by private contributions. Keep the church and state forever separate."
"Science can only determine what is, but not what shall be, and beyond its realm, value judgments remain indispensable. Religion, on the other hand, is concerned only with evaluating human thought and actions; it is not qualified to speak of real facts and the relationships between them."
"When we blindly adopt a religion, a political system, a literary dogma, we become automatons. We cease to grow."
"Lighthouses are more helpful than churches."
"Three quarters of the American population literally believe in religious miracles. The numbers who believe in the devil, in resurrection, in God doing this and that—it's astonishing. These numbers aren't duplicated anywhere else in the industrial world. You'd have to maybe go to mosques in Iran or do a poll among old ladies in Sicily to get numbers like this. Yet this is the American population."
"Scientists were rated as great heretics by the church, but they were truly religious men because of their faith in the orderliness of the universe."
"The intention of the Holy Ghost is to teach us how one goes to heaven, not how heaven goes."
Clarence Darrow, at the Scopes trial, Dayton, Tennessee, July 13, 1925:
"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."
E. B. White:
"Democracy is itself, a religious faith. For some it comes close to being the only formal religion they have."
"I prayed for twenty years but received no answer until I prayed with my legs."
Ralph Waldo Emerson:
"The religion that is afraid of science dishonors God and commits suicide."
"I do not feel obligated to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reasons, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use."
"If the concept of God has any validity or any use, it can only be to make us larger, freer, and more loving. If God cannot do this, then it is time we got rid of Him."
"Religious suffering is at one and the same time the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. 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.
"The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions. The criticism of religion is therefore in embryo the criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo."
"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."
"We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another."
"Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction."
"Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind."
Susan B. Anthony:
"I always distrust people who know so much about what God wants them to do to their fellows."
"I believe in one God, and no more; and I hope for happiness beyond this life. I believe in the equality of humans; and I believe that religious duties consist in doing justice, loving mercy, and endeavoring to make our fellow creatures happy."
Jane Wagner, (line from The Search for Intelligent Life in the Universe, performed by Lily Tomlin, 1986):
"One thing I have no worry about is whether God exists. But it has occurred to me that God has Alzheimer's and has forgotten we exist."
"I'm a born-again atheist."
"Religion is comparable to a childhood neurosis."
"I do not believe in God because I do not believe in Mother Goose."
"I once wanted to become an atheist but I gave up . . . they have no holidays."
On that note... I wish you all a very MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!