It’s a social disorder, it’s a conversational disorder, the fact that we can’t apply enough pressure to these ideas, that it’s taboo to do so. And there’s the fact that there is a core of truth to religion that we should be interested in. There’s the fact that people do have transformative experiences. If Jesus really was who they said he was, or Buddha likewise, it’s possible perhaps to be the Tiger Woods of compassion.

Content with poverty my soul I arm,
And virtue, though in rags, will keep me warm.

Horace (trans. Dryden)

It is said (though not confirmed) that Otto von Bismarck challenged Rudolf Virchow to a duel. As the challenged party had the choice of weapons, Virchow chose two sausages, one of which had been inoculated with cholera. Bismarck is said to have called off the duel at once.

So the birthers, the anti-tax tea-partiers, the town hall hecklers – these are “either” the genuine grass roots or evil conspirators staging scenes for YouTube? The quiver on the lips of the man pushing the wheelchair, the crazed risk of carrying a pistol around a president – too heartfelt to be an act. The lockstep strangeness of the mad lies on the protesters’ signs – too uniform to be spontaneous. They are both. If you don’t understand that any moment of genuine political change always produces both, you can’t understand America, where the crazy tree blooms in every moment of liberal ascendancy, and where elites exploit the crazy for their own narrow interests.

In America, Crazy Is a Preexisting Condition
Rick Perlstein, The Washington Post

There is in every village a torch – the teacher: and an extinguisher – the clergyman.

Victor Hugo

To be fair, most of the Bible is not systematically evil but just plain weird.

Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion

The Troy of history was a dirty little town in Asia Minor, full of quarrelsome and small people living in mean and dark and inconvenient houses. But the Troy of poetry is a city of topless walls, of splendid men and women doing splendid deeds of strength and tenderness, a shining city that has actually built better cities over the face of the earth. The geographic Troy is not the real one. The Troy of literature is the real one. That is what literature means.

From “General aspects of literature” in this monolithic single-volume library I just got.

Every thing in this world is big with jest,–and has wit in it, and instruction too,–if we can but find it out.

Lawrence Sterne, Tristram Shandy

To suggest that the first cause, the great unknown which is responsible for something existing rather than nothing, is a being capable of designing the universe and talking to a million people simultaneously, is a total abdication of the responsibility to find an explanation. It is a dreadful exhibition of self-indulgent, thought-denying skyhookery.

Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion

Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions. Ideas must be distinct before reason can act on them; and no man ever had a distinct idea of the trinity. It is the mere Abracadabra of the mountebanks calling themselves the priests of Jesus.

Thomas Jefferson