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Bertrand Russell

Meditation 260
Quotations XXIII

"I hate quotations, tell me what you know." Ralph Waldo Emerson.

But as some people do like quotations and think they can be useful in succinctly communicating an opinion, we will publish a selection occasionally, mostly but not entirely relevant. This is the twenty-third in an ongoing series.

  1. Religion is based, I think, primarily and mainly upon fear. It is partly the terror of the unknown and partly, as I have said, the wish to feel that you have a kind of elder brother who will stand by you in all your troubles and disputes. Fear is the basis of the whole thing - 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. It is because fear is at the basis of those two things. In this world we can now begin a little to understand things, and a little to master them by help of science, which has forced its way step by step against the Christian religion, against the churches, and against the opposition of all the old precepts. Science can help us to get over this craven fear in which mankind has lived for so many generations. Science can teach us, and I think our own hearts can teach us, no longer to look around for imaginary supports, no longer to invent allies in the sky, but rather to look to our own efforts here below to make this world a better place to live in, instead of the sort of place that the churches in all these centuries have made it. Bertrand Russell

  2. The radical novelty of modern science lies precisely in the rejection of the belief, which is at the heart of all popular religion, that the forces which move the stars and atoms are contingent upon the preferences of the human heart. Walter Lippmann

  3. Religion will not regain its old power until it can face change in the same spirit as does science. Alfred North Whitehead

  4. We must learn from the mistakes of others. You can't possibly live long enough to make them all yourself. Sam Levenson

  5. Science is a first-rate piece of furniture for a man's upper chamber, if he has common sense on the ground floor. Oliver Wendell Holmes

  6. Let us put theology out of religion. Theology has always sent the worst to heaven, the best to hell. Robert G. Ingersoll

  7. Science is the record of dead religions. Oscar Wilde

  8. God cannot be put into the national Constitution without putting liberty out of it. Lemuel K. Washburn

  9. The day that this country ceases to be free for irreligion, it will cease to be free for religion - except for the sect that can win political power.
    Robert Houghwout Jackson, U.S. Supreme Court justice

  10. I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidae with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of caterpillars. Charles Darwin

  11. So many Christians long for integration of church and state because they know it would be a Christian influence on government and politics. But would they still want religion's interference in the state if that religion were Buddhism or some other belief system that differed from their own? If the government were run by Muslim tenets, they'd be crying out for separation of church and state. Anonymous

  12. Few people can be happy unless they hate some other person, nation, or creed. Bertrand Russell

  13. The greatest achievement ever made in the cause of human progress is the total and final separation of church and state. If we have nothing else to boast of, we could lay claim with justice that the first among the nations we of this country made it an article of organic law that the relations between man and his maker were a private concern, into which other men have no right to intrude. To measure the stride thus made for the Emancipation of the race, we have only to look back over the centuries that have gone before us, and recall the dreadful persecutions in the name of religion that have filled the world. David Dudley Field

  14. It is contended by many that ours is a Christian government, founded upon the Bible, and that all who look upon that book as false or foolish are destroying the foundation of our country. The truth is, our government is not founded upon the rights of gods, but upon the rights of men. Our Constitution was framed, not to declare and uphold the deity of Christ, but the sacredness of humanity. Ours is the first government made by the people for the people. It is the only nation with which the gods have nothing to do. And yet there are some judges dishonest and cowardly enough to solemnly decide that this is a Christian country, and that our free institutions are based upon the infamous laws of Jehovah. Robert G. Ingersoll

  15. In addition, the New York Supreme Court, in a well known case (Miami Military Institute v. Leff 129 Misc. 481, 220 N.Y.S. 799, 810) said of the principle of religious freedom that it, 'has always been regarded by the American people as the very heart of its national life.' This would be difficult to maintain in a democracy without institutional separation of church and state. Anson Phelps Stokes

  16. We are all capable of believing things which we know to be untrue, and then, when we are finally proved wrong, impudently twisting the facts so as to show that we were right. George Orwell

  17. Certainly the affirmative pursuit of one's convictions about the ultimate mystery of the universe and man's relation to it is placed beyond the reach of law. Government may not interfere with organized or individual expressions of belief or disbelief. Propagation of belief - or even of disbelief - in the supernatural is protected, whether in church or chapel, mosque or synagogue, tabernacle or meeting-house. Felix Frankfurter, U.S. Supreme Court justice

  18. The government of the United States is in no sense founded upon the Christian religion. The United States is not a Christian nation any more than it is a Jewish or a Mohammedan nation. U.S. Treaty with Tripoli

  19. I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute - where no Catholic prelate would tell the president (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote - where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference - and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the president who might appoint him or the people who might elect him. John F. Kennedy

  20. To hear many religious people talk, one would think God created the torso, head, legs and arms, but the devil slapped on the genitals. Don Schrader