The state dictates and coerces; religion teaches and persuades. The state enacts laws; religion gives commandments. The state is armed with physical force and makes use of it if need be; the force of religion is love and benevolence.

—Moses Mendelssohn, 1783

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 a Catholic) how to act and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote.

—John F. Kennedy, 1960

If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him.

—Voltaire, 1764

The freedom or immunity from coercion in matters religious, which is the endowment of persons as individuals, is also to be recognized as their right when they act in community. Religious communities are a requirement of the social nature both of man and of religion itself.

—Pope Paul VI, 1965

Religion! How it dominates man’s mind, how it humiliates and degrades his soul. God is everything, man is nothing, says religion. But out of that nothing God has created a kingdom so despotic, so tyrannical, so cruel, so terribly exacting that naught but gloom and tears and blood have ruled the world since gods began.

—Emma Goldman, 1910

Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.

—George Washington, 1796

The various modes of religion which prevailed in the Roman world were all considered by the people as equally true, by the philosophers equally false, and by the magistrate as equally useful.

—Edward Gibbon, 1776

To doubt everything or to believe everything are two equally convenient solutions; both dispense with the need for thought.

—Henri Poincaré, 1903

Talk to me about the truth of religion and I’ll listen gladly. Talk to me about the duty of religion and I’ll listen submissively. But don’t come talking to me about the consolations of religion or I shall suspect that you don’t understand.

—C.S. Lewis, 1961

To place oneself in the position of God is painful: being God is equivalent to being tortured. For being God means that one is in harmony with all that is, including the worst. The existence of the worst evils is unimaginable unless God willed them.

—Georges Bataille, 1957

The most dangerous madmen are those created by religion, and people whose aim is to disrupt society always know how to make good use of them.

—Denis Diderot, 1777

I can’t see (or feel) the conflict between love and religion. To me they’re the same thing.

—Elizabeth Bowen, c. 1970

Religion is by no means a proper subject of conversation in mixed company.

—Philip Dormer Stanhope, 1754