“The Bank of Observance”
I am in the final stages of writing a book on the religious beliefs of post-World War II Presidents. In the chapter on Dwight Eisenhower, I wrote that although Eisenhower asked for the “blessing of Almighty God” on D-Day, few assessments of him would dwell on his religious character: “In fact, Eisenhower’s faith might be more accurately described by Winston Churchill’s remark that he had made “so many deposits in the Bank of Observance” as a youth that he had been confidently withdrawing from it ever since. Can you confirm the quotation? —D.H., Virginia
Happy to assist. From Churchill by Himself, chapter on Religion, citing Churchill’s 1930 autobiography:
Hitherto [until age 21] I had dutifully accepted everything I had been told.…I always had to go once a week to church.…I accumulated in those years so fine a surplus in the Bank of Observance that I have been drawing confidently upon it ever since. Weddings, christenings, and funerals have brought in a steady annual income, and I have never made too close enquiries about the state of my account. It might well even be that I should find an overdraft.
–Churchill, My Early Life (London: Thornton Butterworth, 1930, pp. 127–28.
He also had a more succinct remark which you may prefer:
I am not a pillar of the church but a buttress—I support it from the outside.”
—Circa 1954. Gilbert, Winston S. Churchill vol. VIII (London: Heinemann, 1988, p. 1161. Recollection of Sir Winston’s last private secretary, Sir Anthony Montague Browne.