The United States should have a foundation free from the influence of clergy.
Whether one sees the world as God’s creation or as a secular mystery that science is on the way to figuring out, there is no denying the beauty and majesty of everything from mountain ranges, deserts, and rain forests to the exquisite details in the design of an ordinary mosquito.
We believe that an ethical faith need not, and indeed cannot, be grounded in any one way. It is not that we are indifferent to questions about the ultimate nature and meaning of things. Far from it. It is that we believe the universe far too vast to be comprehended in its inner-most core or in its totality by any one person or by all people together. It is that we believe there is room for a great many differing interpretations of everything that is, and still may be. It is that we believe the justification of any religious faith, including an ethical faith, is not to be found in its grounding (important as this is for each of us individually), but in its consequences.
Science can only determine what is, but not what shall be, and beyond its realm, value judgements 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.
It is at once evident that a religion which is able to make vital connection with a world-view based on the principles inherent in evolution, democracy, and science will be a new thing under the sun.
All of the places of our lives are sanctuaries; some of them just happen to have steeples. And all of the people in our lives are saints; it is just that some of them have day jobs and most will never have feast days named for them.
Only greatly insolent people establish a religious law which is to be taken for granted by others which should be accepted by everyone on faith without any discussion or doubts. Why must people do this?
I do not believe in the immortality of the individual, and I consider ethics to be an exclusively human concern without any superhuman authority behind it.
A good motivation is what is needed: compassion without dogmatism, without complicated philosophy; just understanding that others are human brothers and sisters and respecting their human rights and dignities. That we humans can help each other is one of our unique human capacities.
But we must not forget… this ritual expressed… certain ideas which lie at the very root of true religion, the fellowship of the worshippers with one another in their fellowship with the deity, and the consecration of the bonds of kinship as the type of all right ethical relations between man and man.
Religion is a wizard a sibyl . . . She faces the wreck of worlds and prophesies restoration. She faces a sky blood-red with sunset colours that deepen into darkness and prophesies dawn. She faces death and prophesies life.
I believe in God, but not as one thing, not as an old man in the sky. I believe that what people call God is something in all of us. I believe that what Jesus and Mohammed and Buddha and all the rest said was right. It’s just that the translations have gone wrong.
In the matter of religion, people eagerly fasten their eyes on the difference between their own creed and yours; whilst the charm of the study is in finding the agreements and identities in all the religions of humanity.
There are a whole lot of religious people in America, including the majority of Democrats. When we abandon the field of religious discourse — when we ignore the debate about what it means to be a good Christian or Muslim or Jew; when we discuss religion only in the negative sense of where or how it should not be practiced, rather than in the positive sense of what it tells us about our obligations toward one another; when we shy away from religious venues and religious broadcasts because we assume that we will be unwelcome — others will fill the vacuum. And those who do are likely to be those with the most insular views of faith, or who cynically use religion to justify partisan ends.
Why not let people differ about their answers to the great mysteries of the Universe? Let each seek one’s own way to the highest, to one’s own sense of supreme loyalty in life, one’s ideal of life. Let each philosophy, each world-view bring forth its truth and beauty to a larger perspective, that people may grow in vision, stature and dedication. The religions of humanity should be a unifying force, for all the great religions reveal a basic unity in ethics. Whether it be Judaism, Catholicism, Protestantism, Buddhism or Confucianism, all grow out of a sense of the sacredness of human life. This moral sensitivity to the sacredness of human personality — the Commandments not to kill, not to hurt, not to put a stumbling block in the path of the blind, not to neglect the widow or the fatherless, not to exploit the servant or the worker — all this can be found in the Bibles of humanity, in all the sacred books. All teach in substance: ‘Do unto others as you would that others should do unto you.’ There is, then, a basic unity among the great religions in the matter of ethics. True, there are religious philosophies which turn people away from the world, from the here and now, concentrating life-purposes on salvation for one’s self or a mystic union with some supernatural reality. But most of the great religions agree on mercy, justice, love — here on earth. And they agree that the great task is to move people from apathy, from an acceptance of the evils in life, to face the possibilities of the world, to make life sweet for one another instead of bitter. This is the unifying ethical task of all the religions — yes, of all the philosophies of humankind. There is no need to force our own theological points of view upon one another or to insist that the moral life grows out of final, absolute authority.
Christmas renews our youth by stirring our wonder. The capacity for wonder has been called our most pregnant human faculty for in it are born our art our science our religion.
Only barbarians are not curious about where they come from, how they came to be where they are, where they appear to be going, whether they wish to go there, and if so, why, and if not, why not.