“For a writer, telling the truth is the struggle. Telling lies is easy. Telling lies is writing a book that anyone could write.”

“Surrounded by forces utterly beyond their control, children automatically take up magic. This is something that doesn’t need to be explained or thought about; it’s as instinctive in humans as nest-building in birds.”

“In its simplest, truest form, magic is performed as a demonstration, to show the universe what’s expected of it. If you want it to rain, for example, you go out and sprinkle things with water. If you want it to stop raining, on the other hand, you make a fire and start drying things out.”

“Readers of Ishmael often assume that I must be a great lover of nature. Nothing could be further from the truth. I’m a great lover of the world, which is something quite different. Nature is a figment of the Romantic imagination, and a very insidious figment at that. There simply is no such thing as nature–in the sense of a realm of being from which humans can distinguish themselves. It just doesn’t exist.”

“The Church is a magnificent edifice, a structure composed of flawless, crystalline logic. It’s like an enormous, perfect argument, unshakable and unassailable, and indeed inescapable–provided that you accept its premises. But its very perfection constitutes a weakness. You see, in a perfect argument there is no redundancy; every brick in the structure is necessary to the stability of the whole. This means that, if you pull a single brick out of that perfect structure, the whole thing collapses. This is why the Church has been so apparently stupid about refusing to moderate its stand on birth control. To someone on the inside, it’s not at all stupid. The Church will only stand so long as every brick remains in place, and it’s madness to think the pope himself is going to start pulling out bricks in order to placate the laity.”

“The God of the Abrahamic tradition began to concern himself in the affairs of men just a few thousand years ago. Before that, we must assume, he was occupied elsewhere. Or perhaps he looked down on our ancestors and said, ‘Yechh! What lowbrows! I snub them! I will have nothing to do with them.’ He turned up his nose at Homo habilis, at Homo erectus, and even at Homo sapiens for hundreds of thousand of years. Even Homo sapiens sapiens he wouldn’t touch at first: ten thousand generations of people every bit as smart as you or I went down to death ignored by God. But finally, just a few centuries ago, God looked down on man and said, ‘At last man is worthy of my attention. For three million years, I have let him welter in ignorance, error, and despair, but now I’ll begin to talk to him.’ Well, of course, I began by rejecting this priggish god.”

“People with good intentions often tell me we have an obligation to be “good stewards” of the earth. I must ask, who gave us this stewardship? Those who believe Genesis contains actual words spoken by God will say He gave us this stewardship when the earth was created, and I wouldn’t dream of arguing with them. But people who know that the earth got along just fine without man for three billion years have no such excuse for believing in our stewardship, which is again nothing but arrogance and vanity and anthropocentric tomfoolery. We have as much business being stewards of the world as infants have being stewards of the nursery. It’s we who are dependent on the world, not the other way round.”

“In his own way, the god of the Abrahamic tradition is even more anthropomorphic than the Olympian gods. He loves us, talks to us, listens to us, gives us gifts, takes them back, frames laws for our conduct, gets angry when we fail to obey them, punishes us, forgives us, keeps track of our every thought throughout our lives, and at death rewards us with everlasting bliss or damnation. (He isn’t as big on damnation as he used to be; in some of the more advanced religions, he has quietly closed down hell and boarded it up like a decrepit amusement park.) All these things are clear indicators that one is dealing with an advanced religion, a religion worthy of the name. It is not thought to be the least superstitious to believe that God has an especially keen interest in what people get up to in their bedrooms.”

“I am never disappointed with God (or as I prefer to say, the gods). This is because I never expect the gods to take my side against others. If I come down with the flu, I don’t expect the gods to take my side against the virus that is pursuing its life in my body. If I travel to Africa, I don’t expect the gods to strike dead a mosquito that is about to have lunch on my neck (and incidentally give me a case of malaria). If a wildcat attacks me in the hills of New Mexico, I don’t expect the gods to help me kill it. If I’m swimming in the ocean, I don’t expect the gods to chase away the sharks. I have no illusion that the gods favor me (or any other human) over viruses, sharks, wildcats, mosquitos, or any other life form. And if they don’t favor me over a june bug or a mushroom, why would they favor me over another human being? If a friend of mine is killed in a random act of terrorist violence, I’m not going to blame the gods for this. To me, this would be nonsense. And I certainly don’t expect the gods to suspend the laws of physics to protect me from landslides, lightning bolts, or burning buildings.”

“As you see, the so-called Problem of Evil doesn’t exist for me. As I explained in Ishmael, what the gods know about good and evil is this: Whatever they do is good for one but evil for another, and it can’t be otherwise. If the quail eats the grasshopper, then this is good for the quail but evil for the grasshopper. And if the fox eats the quail, then this is good for the fox but evil for the quail. The gods obviously can’t make a rule like ‘No quail may eat a grasshopper’ or ‘Quails deserve to be protected from foxes.’ Grasshopper, quail, and fox all live in the hands of the gods for a time, and not one of them has cause for complaint or disappointment. The same is true of us.”

“Do I consider myself an animist? Yes, I suppose so, but what does this mean? I don’t go to an animist church or say animist prayers or vote the animist ticket or try to convert people to animism. All these things are foreign to the animist sensibility. No one can stand up and say (truthfully), ‘I am the Animist-in-Chief of the world, and only I am empowered to speak for it.’ No ritual is needed to make you an animist if you wish to become one. There is no animist creed to which all animists subscribe, no animist theology that articulates the nature of the gods, no animist catechism that will supply answers to all questions. I suppose such things could be trumped up by somebody. If people can make money off shamanism, I’m sure they can figure out a way of making money off animism as well.”

“Animism isn’t a collection of practices and doctrines that are drawn upon for special occasions. It isn’t an aspect of life that can be separated out and isolated from all others. Animists are not so much people with a religion as people with a fundamentally religious way of looking at things.”

“What I said in Ishmael stands: There is no One Right Way to live. What we find among Leaver peoples is that each has a way that works well for them. We may not like one particular way, we may think it atrocious and cruel, but it’s their way, not ours, and the most murderous culture in human history is hardly in a position to set itself up as the moral policeman of the world.”

“As I pointed out in Ishmael, we Takers are a desperately lost and needy people. It was this neediness, I think, that first made us yearn to be loved by God (an idea completely foreign to the animist mentality) and that made us dream of eternities of bliss after lifetimes of emptiness. If anything, our sense of neediness has grown even more overwhelming in recent decades. In addition to needing to be loved by God and to save our souls, we nowadays need to deepen our spiritual awareness, to raise our consciousness, to wield supernatural powers, to bend spoons with our minds, to grow our brains, to enhance our performance, to draw on the right side, to believe in the value of our creativity, to become more cosmic, to learn to fly, to investigate past lives, to have out-of-body experiences, to achieve lucid dreaming, to learn healing massage, to amplify our archetypes, to make our fantasies concrete, to explore our myths, to get rid of toxic introjects, to find our personal sacred site, to heal our inner child, to improve our experiential focusing, to be rebirthed, to take part in intrapsychic activities, to have a primal, to engage in cognitive restructuring, to indulge in cosmic play, to tune in to the godhead, to spend time on the astral plane, to have an intuition workout, to enhance our ch’i, to contact our spirit guide, to tap into the hypnogogic state, to increase our thanatological awareness, to have a soul reading, to visit a sacred energy vortex–and this hardly scratches the surface.”

“The neediness of the Takers is so immense that many people imagine that this neediness is itself the problem that is threatening the world. I’ve actually had heated arguments with people who insist that one or another or some combination of the above is all that is needed to save the world or that saving the world can only be accomplished by one or another or some combination of the above or that one or another or some combination of the above is an absolutely essential prerequisite to saving the world.”

“We’re not strangers in a strange land here. This is the secret I learned. We’re not aliens, not outsiders. We were born in the sea, three billion years ago. The deer and the beetle are our kin. We’re not invaders from space. No one gave us this planet to take care of or to use as we please. We grew out of the community of life the same way shellfish did, the same way mosquitos did.”

“We’ve got to find our way back into the community. We’ve got to stop living like outlaws. When we begin to do that–when we begin to acknowledge that the world needs us and that we belong to it, not it to us–I think our feelings of desperate loneliness and neediness will begin to evaporate, all by themselves.”