Overheard

Religious hate, religious motivation was the primary thing [causing Sept. 11]. . . . The world is getting more and more out of reach of simple people who have only religion. And the more they depend on religion, which of course solves nothing, the more the world gets out of reach. 
--Nobel Laureate V.S. Naipaul 
New York Times Magazine, Oct. 28, 2001
I asked if she'd like to read a piece about what it's like to be an atheist living in the United States. 
--Freelance journalist Haider Rizvi 
when asked by an Indian editor if he'd like to write an essay about being a Muslim in America 
New York Times Notebooks, Oct. 24, 2001
I happen to be an agnostic, which, by my definition, is a cowardly atheist. . . . But as far as an afterlife, there's no there there. Nada. This life, here on earth, is what it's about. Is there a hell? Well, there are many hells on earth, you see. Heaven? Well, certain moments, they look kind of good. 
--Studs Terkel 
Mother Jones Magazine, Nov/Dec 2001
Once we turned it all over to the traders and the high priests--and that happened a long time ago--and all of our power went to an invisible man in the sky and the bankers and Wall Street guys, we let go of this wonderful thing that we've got: the brain--this objectifying thing that can say, "I, other," and can do all sorts of abstract thinking. 
--George Carlin 
Gallery, Oct. 2001
Former heavyweight boxing champ Muhammad Ali visited the ruins of the World Trade Center on Thursday. When reporters asked how he felt about the suspects sharing his Islamic faith, Ali responded pleasantly, "How do you feel about Hitler sharing yours?" 
--Dr. Ibn-Ziyad 
The Black World Today, Oct. 23, 2001
I believe that the here and now is good, and worth working to improve; that human suffering is bad, and worth seeking to mitigate; and that life and peace, beauty and plenty, are to be sought as ends in themselves, for ourselves and for those who succeed us. I believe this world and its future matters, matters completely, matters more than anything. I believe this world is real. I know of no other.
. . . For is the pursuit of the next life not a corrupter of this one? Is not the doctrine that this world does not matter an invitation to callousness, and the call of the next a call to madness?
Godlessness is a humanising force. 
--Matthew Parris 
Times political columnist 
"Belief in paradise is a recipe for hell on earth" 
The Spectator, Sept. 22, 2001
Unfortunately, 83 Florida House members believe that when it comes to school prayer, "there ought to be a law." So they voted to pass one on Wednesday. . . . Why is this a bad idea? Because, at official school functions, it shoves prayers into the ears of those who don't want to hear those prayers or don't share the same faith as those giving the prayers. 
--Sun-Sentinel Editorial 
"School Prayer Bill Misguided," Oct. 26, 2001
Texas' governor and two would-be governors have baited their political hooks with a flashy trinket called school prayer. They should be ashamed . . . Our forebears languished in prison and died in the fight for religious liberty. Certainly we can stand up to oppose forcing any brand of religion--even an absurdly bland and generic one--upon others. 
--Baptist Standard Editorial 
"Politicians prey on people's predisposition to pray" 
October 29, 2001
The other day I saw this quotation posted on a sign outside an Assembly of God church: "The Lord is a man of war." It sounds like something Osama bin Laden would say, but it turned out instead to be a quote from Exodus 15:3. The idea that God is male, and one who favors war and male domination of women, comes to the three major monotheistic religions straight from the Bible. 
--Prof. Robert McElvaine 
Washington Post, Nov. 2001
Most Mormons . . . act like army ants whenever [Mormon] hierarchy gives instructions about political matters. 
--Historian D. Michael Quinn 
Excommunicated Mormon scholar 
Salt Lake Tribune, Aug. 10, 2001
I'm an atheist, and that's it. I believe there's nothing we can know except that we should be kind to each other and do what we can for each other. 
--Actress Katharine Hepburn 
Ladies Home Journal, Oct. 1991
Now in my early 60s, I have probably reached the point where roughly half the people I have known in my lifetime are dead. Quite a few were brutes, many were swine, the largest number fairly negligible. Must I maintain a false piety for every one among them? I'm not even sure that I want them all to rest in peace--certainly not those brutes and swine--or at least not entirely so. If you can't speak ill of the dead, who the hell are you going to speak ill of? 
--Joseph Epstein 
"Rest Not Completely in Peace" 
Wall Street Journal, Sept. 7, 2001

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