Robert A. Heinlein Quotes on God and Religion

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Himself an agnostic, Robert A. Heinlein wrote many science-fiction stories which were critical of organized religion, theology, and the influence religion had on both government and culture. As a general rule, you cannot simply assume that the words or ideas expressed by a character in book accurately reflect those of the author. However, given Heinlein's well-known critical stance towards traditional religion as well as his agnosticism, it's safe to say that most if not all of the critical comments made by his characters were shared by him.

The same is arguably true for much of the social critique found in his writings. Although his political and social views changed over time, one thing that was fairly consistent was the Heinlein was an iconoclast, calling into question society's assumptions about everything: sex, gender, marriage, politics, race religion, etc.

Quotes About God

God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent - it says so right here on the label. If you have a mind capable of believing all three of these attributes simultaneously, I have a wonderful bargain for you. No checks, please. Cash and in small bills.
[Robert Heinlein, "Notebooks of Lazarus Long," from Time Enough for Love (1973).]

Men rarely (if ever) manage to dream up a superior to themselves. Most Gods have the manners  and morals of a spoiled child.
[Robert Heinlein, "Notebooks of Lazarus Long," from Time Enough for Love (1973).]

The most preposterous notion that H. Sapiens has ever dreamed up is that the Lord God of Creation,  Shaper and Ruler of all the Universes, wants the saccharine adoration of His creatures, can be swayed by  their prayers, and becomes petulant if He does not receive this flattery. Yet this absurd fantasy, without a  shred of evidence to bolster it, pays all the expenses of the oldest, largest, and least productive industry in all  of history.
[Robert Heinlein, "Notebooks of Lazarus Long," from Time Enough for Love (1973).]

There is an old, old story about a theologian who was asked to reconcile the Doctrine of Divine Mercy with the doctrine of infant damnation. 'The Almighty,' he explained, 'finds it necessary to do things in His official and public capacity which in His private and personal capacity He deplores.
[Robert A. Heinlein, Methuselah's Children.]

"God split himself into a myriad parts that he might have friends." This may not be true, but it sounds good, and is no sillier than any other theology.
[Robert Heinlein, "Notebooks of Lazarus Long," from Time Enough for Love (1973).]

The nice thing about citing god as an authority is that you can prove anything you set out to prove.
[Robert A. Heinlein, from If This Goes On.]

Don't appeal to mercy to God the Father up in the sky, little man, because he's not at home and never was at home, and couldn't care less. What you do with yourself, whether you are happy or unhappy-- live or die-- is strictly your business and the universe doesn't care. In fact you may be the universe and the only cause of all your troubles. But, at best, the most you can hope for is comradeship with comrades no more divine (or just as divine) as you are. So quit sniveling and face up to it-- 'Thou art God!'
[Robert A. Heinlein Oct. 21, 1960.]

I've never understood how God could expect His creatures to pick the one true religion by faith - it strikes me as a sloppy way to run a universe.
[Robert Heinlein, Jubal Harshaw in Stranger in a Strange Land, (1961).]

Quotes About Religion & Theology

History does not record anywhere at any time a religion that has any rational basis. Religion is a crutch for people not strong enough to stand up to the unknown without help. But, like dandruff, most people do have a religion and spend time and money on it and seem to derive considerable pleasure from fiddling with it.
[Robert Heinlein, "Notebooks of Lazarus Long," from Time Enough for Love (1973).]

Of all the strange crimes that humanity has legislated out of nothing, blasphemy is the most amazing - with obscenity and indecent exposure fighting it out for second and third place.
[Robert Heinlein, "Notebooks of Lazarus Long," from Time Enough for Love (1973).]

Sin lies only in hurting other people unnecessarily. All other sins are invented nonsense. (Hurting yourself is not sinful--just stupid.)
[Robert Heinlein, "Notebooks of Lazarus Long," from Time Enough for Love (1973).]

One man's theology is another man's belly laugh.
[Robert Heinlein, "Notebooks of Lazarus Long," from Time Enough for Love (1973). This is sometimes misquoted as "One man's religion is another man's belly laugh."]

If you pray hard enough, you can make water run uphill. How hard? Why, hard enough to make water run uphill, of course!
[Robert A. Heinlein, Expanded Universe.]

The hell I won't talk that way! Peter, an eternity here without her is not an eternity of bliss; it is an eternity of boredom and loneliness and grief. You think this damned gaudy halo means anything to me when I know--yes, you've convinced me!--that my beloved is burning in the Pit? I didn't ask much. Just to be allowed to live with her. I was willing to wash dishes forever if only I could see her smile, hear her voice, touch her hand! She's been shipped on a technicality and you know it! Snobbish, bad-tempered angels get to live here without ever doing one lick to deserve it. But my Marga, who is a real angel if one ever lived, gets turned down and sent to Hell to everlasting torture on a childish twist in the rules. You can tell the Father and His sweet-talking Son and that sneaky Ghost that they can take their gaudy Holy City and shove it! If Margrethe has to be in Hell, that's where I want to be!
[Robert Heinlein, Alexander Hergensheimer in Job: A Comedy of Justice, (1984).]

Theology is never any help; it is searching in a dark cellar at midnight for a black cat that isn't there.
[Robert A. Heinlein, JOB: A Comedy of Justice, (1984).]

Anyone who can worship a trinity and insist that his religion is a monotheism can believe anything... just give him time to rationalize it.
[Robert A. Heinlein, JOB: A Comedy of Justice, (1984).]

[Religious] Faith strikes me as intellectual laziness.
[Robert Heinlein, Jubal Hershaw, in Stranger in a Strange Land, (1961).]

When any government, or any church for that matter, undertakes to say to its subjects, 'This you may not read, this you may not see, this you are forbidden to know,' the end result is tyranny and oppression, no matter how holy the motives. Mighty little force is needed to control a man whose mind has been hoodwinked; contrariwise, no amount of force can control a free man, a man whose mind is free. No, not the rack, not fission bombs, not anything--you can't conquer a free man; the most you can do is kill him.
[Robert Heinlein, If This Goes On, (1940).]

The Ten Commandments are for lame brains. The first five are solely for the benefit of the priests and the powers that be; the second five are half truths, neither complete nor adequate.
[Robert Heinlein, Ira Johnson in To Sail Beyond the Sunset.]

The Bible is such a gargantuan collection of conflicting values that anyone can prove anything from it.
[Robert Heinlein, Dr. Jacob Burroughs in The Number of the Beast.]

It is a truism that almost any sect, cult, or religion will legislate its creed into law if it acquires the political power to do so, and will follow it by suppressing opposition, subverting all education to seize early the minds of the young, and by killing, locking up, or driving underground all heretics.
[Robert A. Heinlein, Postscript to Revolt in 2100.]

A religion is sometime a source of happiness, and I would not deprive anyone of happiness. But it is a comfort appropriate for the weak, not for the strong. The great trouble with religion - any religion - is that a religionist, having accepted certain propositions by faith, cannot thereafter judge those propositions by evidence. One may bask at the warm fire of faith or choose to live in the bleak certainty of reason- but one cannot have both.
[Robert A. Heinlein, from "Friday".]

The faith in which I was brought up assured me that I was better than other people; I was saved, they were damned ...Our hymns were loaded with arrogance -- self-congratulation on how cozy we were with the Almighty and what a high opinion he had of us, what hell everybody else would catch come Judgment Day.
[Robert A. Heinlein, from Laurence J. Peter, Peter's Quotations: Ideas for Our Time, also James A. Haught, ed., 2000 Years of Disbelief, Famous People with the Courage to Doubt.]

Quotes About Priests

Whores perform the same function as priests, but far more thoroughly.
[Robert Heinlein, Time Enough for Love (1973).]

The profession of shaman has many advantages. It offers high status with a safe livelihood free of work in the dreary, sweaty sense. In most societies it offers legal privileges and immunities not granted to other men. But it is hard to see how a man who has been given a mandate from on High to spread tidings of joy to all mankind can be seriously interested in taking up a collection to pay his salary; it causes one to suspect that the shaman is on the moral level of any other con man. But it is a lovely work if you can stomach it.
[Robert Heinlein, "Notebooks of Lazarus Long," from Time Enough for Love (1973).]

But I contend that the disgusting behavior of many of their alleged 'holy men' relieves us of any intellectual obligation to take the stuff seriously. No amount of sanctimonious rationalization can make such behavior anything but pathological.
[Robert Heinlein, Tramp Royale.]