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Redeemed Sinner. Deep Roots. Southern Heart.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Robert Heinlein

I ran across this interesting character, after having read several of his quotes and really enjoying them. Robert Heinlein reminds me a lot of Benjamin Franklin because he was not a Christian but some of his beliefs presupposed a Christian worldview. He served in the Navy for a period from the late 1920s to the early 1930s. He is most well known as a science fiction writer, though, and he was unfortunately a rather immoral person. It is not the purpose of this post to dwell on his personal life, but merely to give you an outline and share with you some of his sayings that have inspired me, and to show that even a broken clock is right twice a day.

On April 5, 1973, Robert Heinlein, graduate of the United States Naval Academy, delivered the James Forrestal Memorial Lecture to the Brigade of Midshipmen at his alma mater. The lecture in it's entirety can be found here, but I will put down here my favorite bits:

"Patriotism - An abstract word used to describe a type of behavior as harshly practical as good brakes and good tires. It means that you place the welfare of your nation ahead of your own even if it costs you your life. Men who go down to the sea in ships have long had another way of expressing the same moral behavior tagged by the abstract expression 'patriotism.' Spelled out in simple Anglo-Saxon words 'Patriotism' reads 'Women and children first!'

And that is the moral result of realizing a self-evident biological fact: Men are expendable; women and children are not. A tribe or a nation can lose a high percentage of its men and still pick up the pieces and go on... as long as the women and children are saved. But if you fail to save the women and children, you've had it, you're done, you're THROUGH! You join tyrannosaurus rex, one more breed that bilged its final test...Nevertheless, as a mathematical proposition in the facts of biology, children, and women of child-bearing age, are the ultimate treasure that we must save. Every human culture is based on 'Women and children first' - and any attempt to do it any other way leads quickly to extinction."

Here are a few of my favorite quotes by him:

An armed society is a polite society. Manners are good when one may have to back up his acts with his life.

Be wary of strong drink. It can make you shoot at tax collectors... and miss.

Being right too soon is socially unacceptable.

Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.

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.

Never underestimate the power of human stupidity.

No statement should be believed because it is made by an authority.

The supreme irony of life is that hardly anyone gets out of it alive.

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.

You can have peace. Or you can have freedom. Don't ever count on having both at once.

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Blogger Johann Van De Leeuw said...

"An armed society is a polite society. Manners are good when one may have to back up his acts with his life." Amen! That describes the South before and after the War. That was really interesting - thanks for sharing! I liked his quotes a lot.

July 15, 2009 at 4:23 PM  
Blogger Son3 said...

Now, those are some wise sayings; shame he wasn't a Christian.

July 15, 2009 at 5:36 PM  
Blogger Johnson said...

Very nice post, Stephen! Thanks for the quotes.

"An armed society is a polite society . . ." I have a similar quote from some Jeff Cooper stuff which says essentially the same thing, only with more words. I'll try to post it. Couldn't agree more!

July 15, 2009 at 8:20 PM  
Blogger Johnson said...

Neglected to agree heartily with the women and children first quote. Never had thought about in that particular light, but it's true. Hooah!

Mind if I borrow it for my blog?

July 15, 2009 at 9:00 PM  
Blogger Dr. Paleo Ph.D. said...

Interesting...never knew the man was so sensible! (I know who he is, vaguely. When I was a child and clearly much less principled I saw a movie from one of his books...nothing good in it to a Christian man, but I like it at the time.)

July 16, 2009 at 1:14 AM  
Blogger Stephen Boyd said...

Thanks for the comments, guys!

Son3: thanks for the heads up on the typo, I was happy to entertain. ;)

Sure, you can copy anything you want.

July 16, 2009 at 9:32 AM  
Blogger Daniel said...

Perhaps I've become more cynical as I've grown older... but I really appreciate the tongue in cheek quotes:

"Be wary of strong drink. It can make you shoot at tax collectors... and miss."

"Being right too soon is socially unacceptable."


"Never underestimate the power of human stupidity."

The one about handicapping our children is poignant as well... Smacks of Teddy Roosevelt who, for all his faults, was ever an advocate of the strenuous life. Interestingly, it also ties well into the tyranny and oppression quote toward the end. "You can't handle the truth" is more often tyrannical than merciful.

July 16, 2009 at 10:00 AM  
Blogger Johann Van De Leeuw said...

"Neglected to agree heartily with the women and children first quote."
Oops. Same here. Heartily seconded sir!

July 16, 2009 at 12:45 PM  
Blogger Gravelbelly said...

Heinlein's novels for youth are generally wholesome, though not Christian (about like Louis L'Amour in that regard).

Tunnel in the Sky and Have Spacesuit Will Travel are a couple of favorites.

If I had teen and older preteen children, and I was preparing them for the possibility of needing to rebuild after economic & societal chaos, I'd read two books to them:
Heinlein's Tunnel in the Sky and L'Amour's Bendigo Shafter. Both about what goes into building a community from scratch. AND they're great yarns, as well.

July 16, 2009 at 7:20 PM  
Blogger Dr. Paleo Ph.D. said...

Will take a look at those, gravelbelley!

Stephen, after a year, I've fulfilled my promise to you--I've posted my review of The Dark Knight!!!


July 18, 2009 at 10:54 PM  
Blogger Johann Van De Leeuw said... has some reviews of books by Heinlein.

August 25, 2009 at 5:25 PM  

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