My favorite author of all time is the sci-fi legend Robert A. Heinlein. My mother had every single one of his novels, and I began reading what are called his “juveniles” (novels appealing to teens, sci-fi fight-the-green-monster type of stories) starting at about age eight. By age eleven, I was dipping into the adult Heinlein, like “Stranger in a Strange Land”, “Time Enough for Love”, “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress”, and so on.
I can say without a doubt that my reading of Heinlein as a kid shaped my political and social points-of-view. It cured me of any sliver of religiosity, that’s for sure. It also opened my mind up to the ideas of live-and-let-live freedom — sexual, personal, political, and spiritual.
For example, I still hold to an ideal expressed in “Starship Troopers” where only veterans of volunteer military or civil service are allowed to vote or hold office. From “Time Enough For Love” I formed the belief that strong families are what you make them and are not always “one man one woman”. From “Coventry” and “Revolt in 2100” I learned to fear the rise of religion-dominated politics.
One question I get about my Heinleinphilia is “how can you like such a fascist / Libertarian / Social Darwinist”? While there are some story elements that some would consider fascist (using the lash as punishment in “Starship Troopers”) or Libertarian (paying for air in “Moon is a Harsh Mistress”) or Social Darwinist (armed citizenry dueling over politeness in… I forget which novel), I find that overall, Heinlein’s ideals are toward democracy, social liberalism, shared sacrifice, and international cooperation (and this essay explains that pretty well.)
Anyway, this is all leading to some select quotes I’ve been digging up from Robert A. Heinlein, which seem so much more meaningful these days than those days in 1979 when I read them for the first time. Enjoy!
A competent and self-confident person is incapable of jealousy in anything. Jealousy is invariably a symptom of neurotic insecurity.
A long and wicked life followed by five minutes of perfect grace gets you into Heaven. An equally long life of decent living and good works followed by one outburst of taking the name of the Lord in vain – then have a heart attack at that moment and be damned for eternity. Is that the system?
An armed society is a polite society. Manners are good when one may have to back up his acts with his life.
Don’t ever become a pessimist… a pessimist is correct oftener than an optimist, but an optimist has more fun, and neither can stop the march of events.
Don’t handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Everything is theoretically impossible, until it is done.
I am free, no matter what rules surround me. If I find them tolerable, I tolerate them; if I find them too obnoxious, I break them. I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do.
I never learned from a man who agreed with me.
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.
“Love” is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own… Jealousy is a disease, love is a healthy condition. The immature mind often mistakes one for the other, or assumes that the greater the love, the greater the jealousy.
Never underestimate the power of human stupidity.
No statement should be believed because it is made by an authority.
Of all the strange “crimes” that human beings have legislated of nothing, “blasphemy” is the most amazing – with “obscenity” and “indecent exposure” fighting it out for the second and third place.
One could write a history of science in reverse by assembling the solemn pronouncements of highest authority about what could not be done and could never happen.
One man’s theology is another man’s belly laugh.
Political tags – such as royalist, communist, democrat, populist, fascist, liberal, conservative, and so forth – are never basic criteria. The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire.
Sin lies only in hurting other people unnecessarily. All other “sins” are invented nonsense. (Hurting yourself is not sinful – just stupid).
The difference between science and the fuzzy subjects is that science requires reasoning while those other subjects merely require scholarship.
The supreme irony of life is that hardly anyone gets out of it alive.
Theology is never any help; it is searching in a dark cellar at midnight for a black cat that isn’t there. Theologians can persuade themselves of anything.
When a place gets crowded enough to require ID’s, social collapse is not far away. It is time to go elsewhere. The best thing about space travel is that it made it possible to go elsewhere.
When any government, or any church for that matter, undertakes to say to its subjects, This you may not read, this you must not see, this you are forbidden to know, the end result is tyranny and oppression no matter how holy the motives.
Yield to temptation. It may not pass your way again.
You can have peace. Or you can have freedom. Don’t ever count on having both at once.