Twenty times in the course of my late reading have I been on the point of breaking out, "This would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it!!!" But in this exclamation I would have been as fanatical as Bryant or Cleverly. Without religion this world would be something not fit to be mentioned in polite company, I mean hell. So far from believing in the total and universal depravity of human nature, I believe there is no individual totally depraved. The most abandoned scoundrel that ever existed, never yet wholly extinguished his conscience, and while conscience remains there is some religion.
John Adams to Thomas Jefferson (19 April 1817). The italicized section within this statement has often been quoted out of context, starting with Thomas Jefferson's reply, given below. Just before this in the letter Adams explained:
Lemuel Bryant was my Parish Priest; and Joseph Cleverly my Latin School Master. Lemuel was a jolly jocular and liberal schollar and Divine. Joseph a Schollar and a Gentleman; but a biggoted episcopalian, a down right conscientious passive Obedience Man in Church and State. The Parson and the Pedagogue lived much together, but were eternally disputing about Government and Religion. One day, when the Schoolmaster had been more than commonly fanatical and declared "If he were a Monarck, He would have but one Religion in his Dominions" the Parson cooly replied, "Cleverly! you would be the best Man in the World, if You had no Religion."
I saw my Lord with the Eye of my heart,
And I said: Truly there is no doubt that it is You.
It is You that I see in everything;
And I do not see You through anything (but You).
Civilized people—Muslims, Christians, and Jews—all understand that the source of freedom and human dignity is the Creator.
John Ashcroft Remarks addressed to the National Religious Broadcasters Convention in Nashville, Tennessee, on 19 February 2002
All that we refrain from and all that we do, let us not do or refrain from merely because it seems to the multitude somehow honorable or base, but because it is forbidden by reason and the god within us.
All things are implicated with one another, and the bond is holy; and there is hardly anything unconnected with any other things. For things have been co-ordinated, and they combine to make up the same universe. For there is one universe made up of all things, and one God who pervades all things, and one substance, and one law, and one reason.
Even in the slightest breeze you can hear the voice of the cottonwood tree; this we understand is its prayer to the Great Spirit, for not only men, but all things and all beings pray to Him continually in different ways.
The miracles of the church seem to me to rest not so much upon faces or voices or healing power coming suddenly near to us from afar off, but upon our perceptions being made finer, so that for a moment our eyes can see and our ears can hear what is there about us always.
A man may go into the field and say his prayer and be aware of God, or, he may be in Church and be aware of God; but, if he is more aware of Him because he is in a quiet place, that is his own deficiency and not due to God, Who is alike present in all things and places, and is willing to give Himself everywhere so far as lies in Him. He knows God rightly who knows Him everywhere.
In essence, my religion consists of a humble admiration for this illimitable superior spirit that reveals itself in the slight details that we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble minds.
Albert Einstein, as quoted in The Private Albert Einstein (1992) by Peter A. Bucky and Allen G. Weakland, p. 86.
Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.
Albert Einstein in Science and Religion (1941)
It is, therefore, quite natural that the churches have always fought against science and have persecuted its supporters. But, on the other hand, I assert that the cosmic religious experience is the strongest and noblest driving force behind scientific research.
Albert Einstein in "Religion and Science," New York Times Magazine (9 November 1930)
In spite of our imbecility and terrors, and "universal decay of religion," &c. &c, the moral sense reappears today with the same morning newness that has been from of old the fountain of beauty and strength. You say, there is no religion now. 'Tis like saying in rainy weather, there is no sun, when at that moment we are witnessing one of his superlative effects.
Belief consists in accepting the affirmations of the soul; Unbelief, in denying them.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Religion is to do right. It is to love, it is to serve, it is to think, it is to be humble.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
We have now learned from our generalizations of the great complexity of the interactions of principles... that what is approached is eternal and instant awareness of absolute reality of all that ever existed. All the great metaphysical integrity of all the individuals, which is potential and inherent in the complex interactions of generalized principles, will always and only coexist eternally.
Hinduism as I know it entirely satisfies my soul, fills my whole being … When doubts haunt me, when disappointments stare me in the face, and when I see not one ray of light on the horizon, I turn to the Bhagavad Gita, and find a verse to comfort me; and I immediately begin to smile in the midst of overwhelming sorrow. My life has been full of tragedies and if they have not left any visible and indelible effect on me, I owe it to the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita.
Much that was called religion has carried an unconscious attitude of hostility toward life. True religion must teach that life is filled with joys pleasing to the eye of God, that knowledge without action is empty. All men must see that the teaching of religion by rules and rote is largely a hoax. The proper teaching is recognized with ease. You can know it without fail because it awakens within you that sensations which tells you this is something you've always known.
The folkish-minded man, in particular, has the sacred duty, each in his own denomination, of making people stop just talking superficially of God's will, and actually fulfill God's will, and not let God's word be desecrated. For God's will gave men their form, their essence and their abilities. Anyone who destroys His work is declaring war on the Lord's creation, the divine will.
Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, Ralph Mannheim translation, p. 562.
Captain, my religious belief teaches me to feel as safe in battle as in bed. God has fixed the time for my death. I do not concern myself about that, but to be always ready, no matter when it may overtake me … That is the way all men should live, and then all would be equally brave.
I promised you a letter on Christianity, which I have not forgotten. On the contrary, it is because I have reflected on it, that I find much more time necessary for it than I can at present dispose of. I have a view of the subject which ought to displease neither the rational Christian nor Deists, and would reconcile many to a character they have too hastily rejected. I do not know that it would reconcile the genus irritabile vatum who are all in arms against me. Their hostility is on too interesting ground to be softened. The delusion into which the X. Y. Z. plot showed it possible to push the people; the successful experiment made under the prevalence of that delusion on the clause of the Constitution, which, while it secured the freedom of the press, covered also the freedom of religion, had given to the clergy a very favorite hope of obtaining an establishment of a particular form of Christianity through the United States; and as every sect believes its own form the true one, every one perhaps hoped for his own, but especially the Episcopalians and Congregationalists. The returning good sense of our country threatens abortion to their hopes, and they believe that any portion of power confided to me, will be exerted in opposition to their schemes. And they believe rightly: for I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man. But this is all they have to fear from me: and enough too in their opinion.
Thomas Jefferson, letter to Benjamin Rush, 23 September 1800, in The Writings of Thomas Jefferson (Lipscomb-Bergh edition, 1904), Volume X, pp. 174-175.
Among the most inestimable of our blessings, also, is that you so justly particularize, of liberty to worship our Creator in the way we think most agreeable to His will; a liberty deemed in other countries incompatible with good government, and yet proved by our experience to be its best support.
Thomas Jefferson, letter to Captain John Thomas, 18 November 1807 in The Writings of Thomas Jefferson (Lipscomb-Bergh edition, 1904), Volume XVI, p. 291. Often misquoted as "Religion is deemed in other countries incompatible with good government and yet proved by our experience to be its best support."
I believe, with the Quaker preacher, that he who steadily observes those moral precepts in which all religions concur, will never be questioned at the gates of heaven, as to the dogmas in which they all differ.
Thomas Jefferson, letter to William Canby, 18 September 1813, in The Writings of Thomas Jefferson (Lipscomb-Bergh edition, 1903), Volume XIII, p. 377.
I join you, therefore, in sincere congratulations that this den of the priesthood is at length broken up, and that a Protestant Popedom is no longer to disgrace the American history and character. If by religion, we are understand sectarian dogmas, in which no two of them agree, then your exclamation on that hypothesis is just, "that this would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it." But if the moral precepts, innate in man, and made a part of his physical constitution, as necessary for a social being, if the sublime doctrines of philanthropism and deism taught us by Jesus of Nazareth, in which all agree, constitute true religion, then, without it, this would be, as you again say, "something not fit to be named, even indeed, a hell."
Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Adams (in reply to the letter quoted under Adams above), 5 May 1817, in The Writings of Thomas Jefferson (Lipscomb-Bergh edition, 1903), Volume XV, p. 109.
I saw a marvellous high mystery hid in God, which mystery He shall openly make known to us in Heaven: in which knowing we shall verily see the cause why He suffered sin to come. In which sight we shall endlessly joy in our Lord God.
Deep, solemn optimism, it seems to me, should spring from this firm belief in the presence of God in the individual; not a remote, unapproachable governor of the universe, but a God who is very near every one of us, who is present not only in earth, sea and sky, but also in every pure and noble impulse of our hearts, 'the source and centre of all minds, their only point of rest'.
I believe it is a sacred duty to encourage ourselves and others; to hold the tongue from any unhappy word against God's world, because no man has any right to complain of a universe which God made good, and which thousands of men have striven to keep good. I believe we should so act that we may draw nearer and more near the age when no man shall live at his ease while another suffers. These are the articles of my faith, and there is yet another on which all depends -— to bear this faith above every tempest which overfloods it, and to make it a principal in disaster and through affliction. Optimism is the harmony between man's spirit and of God pronouncing His works good.
The best way to insure the earth is never over populated is for sensible and righteous governments to clear all forms of atheism and heresy.
Robert T. Lee (Society for the Practical Establishment of the Ten Commandments)
With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan —- to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.
...it may be that there is no God, that "the existence of all that is beautiful and in any sense good is but the accidental and ineffective byproduct of blindly swirling atoms," that we are alone in a world that cares nothing for us or for the values that we create and sustain - that we and they are here for a moment only, and gone, and that eventually there will be left no trace of us in the universe. "A man may well believe that this dredful thing is true. But only the fool will say in his heart that he is glad that it is true.
[Z]eal for the advancement of religion is different from a due attachment to it; and that in order to love it and fulfil its behests, it is not necessary to hate and persecute those who are opposed to it.
Every religion assumes that God loves men, since He establishes a religion for their happiness; and since He loves men we are certain of pleasing Him in loving them, too. Usbek’s prayer in Letter XLVI. Is not yet out of date. “Lord, I do not understand any of those discussions that are carried on without end regarding Thee: I would serve Thee according to Thy will; but each man whom I consult would have me serve Thee according to his.” He insists that religion is intended for man’s happiness; and that, in order to love it and fulfil its behests, it is not necessary to hate and persecute those who are opposed to our beliefs – not necessary even to attempt to convert them.
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.
Creation is too grand, too glorious, too complex and too mysterious to be captured in any narrow creed or reflected in any single metaphor. It is exactly because we so cherish the world in all its multi-hued grandeur that we resist the temptation to see it through only one lens. Our conviction is that we will come a little closer to the truth about the world -- and certainly be more receptive to its splendour if we set a variety of vehicles to apprehend it.
“[J]ust as the illiterate cannot read books like those who are literate, neither can those who have refused to go through the commandments of Christ by practicing them be granted the revelation of the Holy Spirit like those who have brooded over them and fulfilled them and shed their blood for them.”
St. Symeon the New Theologian, “On Spiritual Knowledge” - Discourse 24 (in the Paulist Press ed.)
That friend of mine who lives in God,
That God, which ever lives and loves,
One God, one law, one element,
And one far-off divine event,
To which the whole creation moves.
I have seen several entirely sincere people who thought they were (permanent) Seekers after Truth. They sought diligently, persistently, carefully, cautiously, profoundly, with perfect honesty and nicely adjusted judgment--until they believed that without doubt or question they had found the Truth. That was the end of the search. The man spent the rest of his life hunting up shingles wherewith to protect his Truth from the weather. If he was seeking after political Truth he found it in one or another of the hundred political gospels which govern men in the earth; if he was seeking after the Only True Religion he found it in one or another of the three thousand that are on the market. In any case, when he found the Truth he sought no further; but from that day forth, with his soldering-iron in one hand and his bludgeon in the other he tinkered its leaks and reasoned with objectors.
Those who believe that they believe in God,
but without passion in their hearts, without anguish in mind,
without uncertainty, without doubt,
without an element of despair even in their consolation,
believe only in the God idea, not in God Himself.
I see something of God each hour of the twenty-four, and each moment then,
In the faces of men and women I see God, and in my own face in the glass,
I find letters from God dropt in the street, and every one is sign'd by God's name...