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Wendy Kaminer

lawyer, author, journalist

Quotations of Wendy Kaminer

"An op-ed piece on popular spirituality that I wrote for The New York Times this past summer was carefully cleansed by my editors of any irreverence toward established religion (although I was invited to mock New Age). I was not allowed to observe that, while Hillary Clinton was criticized for conversing with Eleanor Roosevelt, millions of Americans regularly talk to Jesus, long deceased.... Nor was I permitted to point out that, to an atheist, the sacraments are as silly as a seance. These remarks and others were excised because they were deemed "offensive"."
(Wendy Kaminer / The Last Taboo / 1996)

"Secularists are often wrongly accused of trying to purge religious ideals from public discourse. We simply want to deny them public sponsorship."
(Wendy Kaminer / The Last Taboo /1996)

"Religions, of course, have their own demanding intellectual traditions, as Jesuits and Talmudic scholars might attest.... But, in its less rigorous, popular forms, religion is about as intellectually challenging as the average self-help book. (Like personal development literature, mass market books about spirituality and religion celebrate emotionalism and denigrate reason. They elevate the "truths" of myths and parables over empiricism.) In its more authoritarian forms, religion punishes questioning and rewards gullibility. Faith is not a function of stupidity but a frequent cause of it."
(Wendy Kaminer / The Last Taboo /1996)

"Like heterosexuality, faith in immaterial realities is popularly considered essential to individual morality."
(Wendy Kaminer / The Last Taboo /1996)

"In this climate -- with belief in guardian angels and creationism becoming commonplace -- making fun of religion is as risky as burning a flag in an American Legion hall."
(Wendy Kaminer / The Last Taboo /1996)

"Spirituality," a term frequently used to describe the vaguest intimations of supernatural realities, is popularly considered a mark of virtue and is as hostile to atheism as religious belief. Spirituality, after all, is simply religion deinstitutionalized and shorn of any exclusionary doctrines. In a pluralistic marketplace, it has considerable appeal....
You can claim to be a spiritual person without professing loyalty to a particular dogma or even understanding it. Spirituality makes no intellectual demands; all that it requires is a general belief in immaterialism (which can be used to increase your material possessions).

(Wendy Kaminer / The Last Taboo /1996)

"America's pluralistic ideal does not protect atheism; public support for different belief systems is matched by intolerance of disbelief. According to surveys published in the early 1980s, before today's pre-millennial religious revivalism, nearly 70 percent of all Americans agreed that the freedom to worship "applies to all religious groups, regardless of how extreme their beliefs are"; but only 26 percent agreed that the freedom of atheists to make fun of God and religion "should be legally protected no matter who might be offended." Seventy-one percent held that atheists "who preach against God and religion" should not be permitted to use civic auditoriums. Intolerance for atheism was stronger even than intolerance of homosexuality."
(Wendy Kaminer / The Last Taboo /1996)

"If I were to mock religious belief as childish, if I were to suggest that worshiping a supernatural deity, convinced that it cares about your welfare, is like worrying about monsters in the closet who find you tasty enough to eat, if I were to describe God as our creation, likening him to a mechanical gorilla, I'd violate the norms of civility and religious correctness. I'd be excoriated as an example of the cynical, liberal elite responsible for America's moral decline. I'd be pitied for my spiritual blindness; some people would try to enlighten and convert me. I'd receive hate mail. Atheists generate about as much sympathy as pedophiles. But, while pedophilia may at least be characterized as a disease, atheism is a choice, a willful rejection of beliefs to which vast majorities of people cling."
(Wendy Kaminer / The Last Taboo /1996)

"What makes fantastic declarations believable is, in part, the vehemence with which they're proffered. Again, in the world of spirituality as well as of pop psychology, intensity of personal belief is evidence of truth. It is considered very bad form -- even abuse -- to challenge the veracity of any personal testimony that might be offered in a twelve-step group or on a talk show, unless the testimony itself is equivocal.... Whatever sells, whatever many people believe strongly, must be true."
(Wendy Kaminer / in The Atlantic Monthly / July, 1996)

"I don't spend much time thinking about whether God exists. I don't consider that a relevant question. It's unanswerable and irrelevant to my life, so I put it in the category of things I can't worry about."
(Wendy Kaminer / quoted in New York Times Magazine, January 14, 2001)

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