| Quote #1
I have heard what the talkers were talking . . . . the talk of the beginning and the end,
There was never any more inception than there is now,
Urge and urge and urge,
Out of the dimness opposite equals advance . . . . Always substance and increase,
Whitman rarely attacks religion directly, but he tries to undermine the idea that knowledge of the universe should be received from religious authorities. You can tell that "the talk of the beginning and the end" refers to religious ideas because he goes on to challenge the notions of heaven and hell. His basic spiritual principle is life and growth (i.e., reproduction), which both exist in the present moment.
| Quote #2
Who goes there! hankering, gross, mystical, nude?
What is a man anyhow? What am I? and what are you?
I do not snivel that snivel the world over,
Whimpering and truckling fold with powders for invalids . . . . conformity goes to the fourth-removed,
Shall I pray? Shall I venerate and be ceremonious? (section 20)
Although he frequently challenges religion in "Song of Myself," it's important to remember that this is a religious poem in many ways, and Whitman feels he has learned from the world's religions. He has drunk deeply of Christian ideas like divine mysteries and importance of hope and faith. He has great faith in the order of the world and does not think, like Shakespeare's atheistic Macbeth, that the world is just a big scam.
| Quote #3
I am the poet of the body,
The pleasures of heaven are with me, and the pains of hell are with me,
One of the projects of this poem is to take religious ideas to a different level – to transform them into an appreciation for the spirituality of the present moment. The present contains the unity of body and soul, and of heaven and hell. Except that hell is an old-fashioned idea that needs to be "translated" into a new language.