A few hours ago I finished re-reading - perhaps for the fourth or fifth time since I first stumbled upon it in 1970 - Robert A. Heinlein's cult classic of reasonably epic proportions, Stranger in a Strange Land. [Click on the link for a synopsis and if you're keen to read the book, I suggest you look for the uncensored 1991 edition.]
As often happens with vast intelligences that have played a significant role in my mental upbringing, I just discovered that July 7th happens to be Heinlein's birthday. If he hadn't died in his sleep on 8 May 1988, Robert Anson Heinlein would be celebrating his 103rd birthday today.
I don't really know where to begin when it comes to defining the ways I have been influenced and inspired by a consummate storyteller like Heinlein. I'm tempted to describe him as a speculative anthropologist; an ardent observer of humanity who couldn't resist imagining all the different ways being human could be a much more joyous and fulfilling condition - shorn of all the idiocy and hypocrisy implied by the words "polite society."
Among Heinlein's various prescriptions, as dispensed through his prolific output of long and short works - loosely categorized as "science fiction and fantasy" - his obvious delight in satirizing organized religions was matched only by another scintillating intelligence named Samuel Langhorne Clemens, better known as Mark Twain.
In honor of a great soul, a free spirit and a boundless imagination that has impacted on at least three generations of readers, here's a selection of wry quotes from Robert Heinlein collected from various novels (Stranger in a Strange Land, Time Enough For Love, and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress) by a fellow admirer...
One man's theology is another man's belly laugh.
History does not record anywhere a religion that has any rational basis. Religion is a crutch for people not strong enough to stand up to the unknown without help.
The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire.
One man’s 'magic' is another man’s engineering. 'Supernatural' is a null word.
Men rarely (if ever) manage to dream up a god superior to themselves. Most gods have the manners and morals of a spoiled child.
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.
Sin lies only in hurting others unnecessarily. All other “sins” are invented nonsense.
A monarch’s neck should always have a noose around it. It keeps him upright.
Taxes are not levied for the benefit of the taxed.
There is no worse tyranny than to force a man to pay for what he does not want
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.
The supreme irony of life is that no one gets out of it alive.
Being intelligent is not a felony. But most societies evaluate it as at least a misdemeanor.
Learning isn’t a means to an end; it’s an end in and of itself.
Specialization is for insects.
Courage is the complement of fear. A man who is fearless cannot be courageous. (He is also a fool.)
“Love” is the condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.
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 history.
Does history record any case in which the majority was right?
[First posted 7 July 2010]