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Where did Kurt Vonnegut describe Unitarianism as atheism with hymns?
September 3, 2009 4:31 PM   Subscribe

I need help tracking down a Kurt Vonnegut quote which says roughly that Unitarianism is 'atheism with hymns.'

I thought it was in the Religion chapter of Palm Sunday but I just read through it and couldn't find it. I'm almost positive it's Vonnegut and the quote is something quite close to "Unitarianism is atheism with hymns." Am I misremembering this?
posted by Kattullus to Religion & Philosophy (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
I suppose the other obvious place is Fates Worse than Death but I can't find my copy anywhere.
posted by Kattullus at 4:32 PM on September 3, 2009


My first thought when I read this was that it may be a Garrison Keillor quote you're thinking of. He makes similar quips about Unitarians pretty much every week on his radio show. I did a very brief Google search, and found dozens of Unitarian jokes/quotes/quips attributed to Keillor. So maybe look in his direction if the Vonnegut search comes up dry.
posted by Anoplura at 4:41 PM on September 3, 2009


Well, I'm not American and haven't listened to more than a third of an episode of Garrison Keillor. Before moving to the US the only thing I knew about Unitarians in America was through reading Vonnegut. I feel that I've known this quote for a very long time.

That said, I did read Lake Wobegon Days back before I moved to the US and thought it was a strange and interesting if depressing book (I never realized that it was supposed to be humorous). It is possible that this quote could come from there and I associated with Vonnegut since I associated him with Unitarianism.
posted by Kattullus at 4:53 PM on September 3, 2009


^ Vonnegut said "I am an atheist (or at best a Unitarian who winds up in churches quite a lot)."Haught, James A. (1996). 2,000 Years of Disbelief: Famous People with the Courage to Doubt. Prometheus Books. ISBN 1-57392-067-3.

From Wikkipedia.
posted by slateyness at 5:04 PM on September 3, 2009


That's close but not quite it, slateyness.
posted by Kattullus at 5:07 PM on September 3, 2009


From randomly on the web: "There is a long-standing joke that Unitarians are 'atheists with children.'"
posted by slateyness at 5:11 PM on September 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


This sounded very familiar, so I used Amazon's "Search Inside" feature for the likely contendors. Couldn't find it, but I figured I'd save someone else from going down that road.
posted by JMOZ at 5:20 PM on September 3, 2009


The "Search Inside" feature does throw up some lovely quotes by him though. Here's one: "Unitarian Universalists, the people who know pure baloney when they hear it."
posted by Kattullus at 5:30 PM on September 3, 2009


Not it but I found this quote by Vonnegut....
“In order not to seem a spiritual quadriplegic to strangers trying to get a fix on me, I sometimes say I am a Unitarian Universalist (I breathe).”
posted by ian1977 at 5:31 PM on September 3, 2009


It's not uncommon to hear Unitarians described as "Quakers with hymns". Not Vonnegut, though.
posted by Houstonian at 5:50 PM on September 3, 2009


The closest I've found is him saying "I am an atheist (or at best a Unitarian who winds up in church quite a lot)." He was pretty down with Unitarianism from what I've read, so I don't know if he would have said that. It seems like sort of a dickish thing to say to people you're friends with.
Although, I'm biased because I just assume that, if Google can't find it, it doesn't exist.
A friend of mine once had an idea for creating a system for quoting Vonnegut books in the manner of the bible (Sirens 4:33 or somesuch). It would be pretty useful right now.
posted by Uppity Pigeon #2 at 6:12 PM on September 3, 2009


Uppity Pigeon #2: It seems like sort of a dickish thing to say to people you're friends with.

I suppose, though I'll note that to me that's a great recommendation, since I'm an atheist who likes a good hymn.
posted by Kattullus at 6:23 PM on September 3, 2009


I suppose, though I'll note that to me that's a great recommendation, since I'm an atheist who likes a good hymn.

Yeah, to me too, actually. Although most people wouldn't consider it a compliment.
posted by Uppity Pigeon #2 at 6:29 PM on September 3, 2009


The Vonnegut Encyclopedia says that "how [V.] distinguishes unitarianism from agnosticism is unclear." Which doesn't mean he never said anything along the lines of your quote, but it seems likely that if he did it would have been after the publication of this encyclopedia (1994, apparently).
posted by egg drop at 7:43 PM on September 3, 2009


I don't have my copy handy, but perhaps it's in Cat's Cradle?
posted by Bergamot at 8:43 PM on September 3, 2009


I have a vague notion it's from Timequake, but I've loaned my copy out and can't remember any more than that.
posted by Jon_Evil at 9:58 PM on September 3, 2009


Amazon's Search Inside found nothing in Timequake or Cat's Cradle.
posted by Kattullus at 3:45 AM on September 4, 2009


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