God's Existence and Nature
Victor Hugo, Les Misérables, Chapter One (1862)
As we have seen, prayer, celebration of the religious offices, alms, consoling the afflicted, the cultivation of a little piece of ground, fraternity, frugality, self-sacrifice, confidence, study, and work, filled up each day of his life. Filled up is exactly the word, and in fact, the bishop's day was full to the brim with good thoughts, good words, and good actions. Nevertheless it was not complete if cold or rainy weather prevented his passing an hour or two in the evening, when the two women had retired, in his garden before going to sleep. It seemed as if it were a sort of rite with him, to prepare himself for sleep by meditating in presence of the great spectacle of the starry firmament. Sometimes at a late hour of the night, if the two women were awake, they would hear him slowly promenading the walks. He was there alone with himself, collected, tranquil, adoring, comparing the serenity of his heart with the serenity of the skies, moved in the darkness by the visible splendors of the constellations, and the invisible splendor of God, opening his soul to the thoughts which fall from the unknown. In such moments, offering up his heart at the hour when the flowers of night inhale their perfume, lighted like a lamp in the center of the starry night, expanding his soul in ecstasy in the midst of the universal radiance of creation, he could not himself perhaps have told what was passing in his own mind; he felt something depart from him, and something descend upon him, mysterious interchanges of the depths of the soul with the depths of the universe. He would sit upon a wooden bench leaning against a broken trellis and look at the stars through the irregular outlines of his fruit trees. This quarter of an acre of ground, so poorly cultivated, so cumbered with shed and ruins, was dear to him, and satisfied him. What more was needed by this old man who divided the leisure hours of his life, where had so little leisure, between gardening in the daytime, and contemplation at night? Was not this narrow enclosure, with the sky for a background, enough to enable him to adore God in his most beautiful as well as in his most sublime works? Indeed, is not that all, and what more can be desired? A little garden to walk, and immensity to reflect upon. At his feet something to cultivate and gather; above his head something to study and meditate upon: a few flowers on the earth, and all the stars in the sky.
The Plague, (New York: Vintage International, 1948, 1975) 95-7.
Thus from the dawn of recorded history the scourge of God has humbled the proud of heart and laid low those who hardened themselves against Him. Ponder this well, my friends, and fall on your knees. If today the plague is in your midst, that is because the hour has struck for taking thought. The just man need have no fear, but the evildoer has good cause to tremble. For plague is the flail of God and the world His threshing-floor, and implacably He will thresh out His harvest until the wheat is separated from the chaff. There will be more chaff than wheat, few chosen of the many called. Yet this calamity was not willed by God. Too long this world of ours has connived at evil, too long has it counted on the divine mercy, on God's forgiveness. Repentance was enough, men thought; nothing was forbidden. You fondly imagine it was enough to visit God on Sundays, and thus you make free of your weekdays, You believed some brief formalities, some bendings of the knee, would recompense Him well enough for your criminal indifference. But God is not mocked. These brief encounters could not sate the fierce hunger of His love... To some the sermon simply brough home the fact that they had been sentenced, for an unkown crime, to an indeterminate period of punishment.
The Plague, (New York: Vintage International, 1948, 1975) 125-8.
I've seen too much of hospitals to relish any idea of collective punishment. But, as you know, Christians sometimes say that sort of thing without really thinking it. They're better than they seem. [Father] Paneloux is a man of learning, a scholar. He hasn't come in contact with death; that's why he can speak with such assurance of the truth — with a capital T. Bet every country priest who visits his parishioners and has to hear a man gasping for breath on his deathbed thinks as I do. He'd try to relieve human suffering before trying to point out its excellence. If [I] believed in an all-powerful God [I] would cease curing the sick and leave that to Him. But no one in the world believed in a God of that sort; no, not even Paneloux, who believed that he believed in such a God. And this was proved by the fact that no one ever threw himself on Providence completely. [S]ince the order of the world is shaped by death, mightn't it be better for God if we refuse to believe in Him and struggle with all our might against death, without raising our eyes toward the heaven where He sits in silence?
The Plague, (New York: Vintage International, 1948, 1975) 214-7.
They had already seen children die — for many months now death had shown no favoritism — but they had never yet watched a child's agony minute by minute, as they had now been doing since daybreak. Needless to say, the pain inflicted on these innocent victims had always seemed to them to be what in fact it was: an abominable thing. But hitherto they had felt its abomination in, so to speak, an abstract way; they had never had to witness over so long a period the death throes of an innocent child. In the small face, rigid as a mask of grayish clay, slowly the lips parted and from them rose a long, incessant scream, hardly varying with his respiration, and filling the ward with a fierce, indignant protest, so little childish that it seemed like a collective voice issuing from all the sufferers there. Paneloux gazed down at the small mouth, fouled with the sores of the plague and pouring out the angry death-cry that has sounded through the ages of mankind. He sank on his knees, and all present found it natural to hear him in a voice hoarse but clearly audible across that nameless, never ending wail: "My God, spare this child!" But the wail continued without cease.
Albert Camus on Suffering said...
The Plague, (New York: Vintage International, 1948, 1975) 224.
His interest quickened when, in a more emphatic tone, the preacher said that there were some things we could grasp as touching God, and others we could not. There was not doubt as to the existence of good and evil and, as a rule, it was easy to see the difference between them. The difficulty began when we looked into the nature of evil, and among things evil he included human suffering. Thus we had apparently needful pain, and apparently needless pain; we had right that a libertine should be struck down, we see no reason for a child's suffering. And, truth to tell, nothing was more important on earth than a child's suffering, the horror it inspires in us, and the reason we must find to account for it. [H]e might easily have assured them that the child's sufferings would be compensated for by an eternity of bliss awaiting him. But how could he give that assurance when, to tell the truth, he knew nothing about it? For who would dare to assert that eternal happiness can compensate for a single moment's human suffering? He who asserted that would not be a true Christian, a follower of the Master who knew all the pangs of suffering in his body and his soul. No, he, Father Paneloux, would keep faith with that great symbol of all suffering, the tortured body on the Cross; he would stand fast, his back to the wall and face honestly the terrible problem of a child's agony. And he would boldly say to those who listened to his words today, "My brother, a time of testing has come for us all. We must believe everything or deny everything. And who among you, I ask, would dare to deny everything?"
The Ragamuffin Gospel (Questar Publishers, 1993).
This chapter began with a paean of praise of the power of God manifested in the works of creation. The gospel of grace ends any apparent dichotomy between God's power and his love. The God who flung from his fingertips this universe filled with galaxies and stars, penguins and puffins, gulls and gannets, Pomeranians and poodles, elephants and evergreens, parrots and potato bugs, peaches and pears, and a world full of children made in his own image, is the God who loves with magnificent monotony.
The Ragamuffin Gospel (Questar Publishers, 1993).
This is the God of the gospel of grace. A God who out of love for us, sent the only Son he ever had wrapped in our skin. He learned how to walk stumbled and fell, cried for his milk, sweated blood in the night, was lashed with a whip and showered with spit, was fixed to a cross and died whispering forgiveness on us all. The God of the legalistic Christian, on the other hand, is often unpredictable, erratic, and capable of all manner of prejudices. When we view God this way, we feel compelled to engage in some sort of magic to appease him. Sunday worship becomes a superstitious insurance policy against his whims. This God expects people to be perfect and to be in perpetual control of their feelings and thoughts. When broken people with this concept of God fail — as inevitably they must — they usually expect punishment. So, they persevere in religious practices as they struggle to maintain a hollow image of a perfect self. The struggle itself is exhausting. The legalists can never live up to the expectations they project on God.
Michael Martin on God and Evil said...
Third Statement The Fernandes-Martin Debate
On most interpretations of the theistic God, He desires His creatures to love Him. However, the mystery of evil conflicts with this desire. It is difficult for rational humans to love God when they do not understand why there is so much evil. If the reasons for evil are beyond humans' ken, God could at least make THIS abundantly clear. Why does He not do so? Moreover, why does not an all-powerful God have the power to raise human intelligence so humans can understand why there is so much evil? If there is reason for not doing this, then why is THIS not made clear? There is mystery on top of mystery here which seems to conflict explicitly with God's desire to be loved.
Dallas Willard on God and Space said...
The Divine Conspiracy (San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1998), p. 74.
Confusing God with his historical manifestations in space may have caused some to think that God is a Wizard-of-Oz or Sistine-Chapel kind of being sitting at a location very remote from us. The universe is then presented as, chiefly, a vast empty space with a humanoid God and a few angels rattling around in it, while several billion human beings crawl through the tiny cosmic interval of human history on an oversized clod of dirt circling an insignificant star. ¶ But the response to this mistake has led many to say that God is not in space at all, not that "old man in the sky," but instead is "in" the human heart. And that sounds nice, but it really does not help. In fact, it just makes matters worse. "In my heart" easily becomes "in my imagination." And, in any case, the question of God's relation to space and the physical world remains unresolved. If he is not in space at all, he is not in human life, which is lived in space. Those vast oceans of "empty space" just sit there glowering at the human "heart" realm where God has, supposedly, taken refuge from science and the real world.
The Divine Conspiracy (San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1998), p. 63.
We should, to begin with, think that God leads a very interesting life, and that he is full of joy. ¶ We pay a lot of money to get a tank with a few tropical fish in it and never tire of looking at their brilliant iridescence and marvelous forms and movements. But God has seas full of them, which he constantly enjoys. ¶ Human beings can lose themselves in card games or electric trains and think they are fortunate. But to God there is available, in the language of one reporter, "Towering clouds of gases trillions of miles high, backlit by nuclear fires in newly forming stars, galaxies cart wheeling into collision and sending explosive shock waves boiling through millions of light-years of time and space." These things are all before him, along with numberless unfolding rosebuds, souls, and songs, and immeasurably more of which we know nothing.
The Divine Conspiracy (San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1998), p. 61.
Jesus' good news about the kingdom can be an effective guide for our lives only if we share his view of the world in which we live. To his eyes this is a God-bathed and God-permeated world. It is a world filled with a glorious reality, where every component is within the range of God's direct knowledge and control — though he obviously permits some of it, for good reasons, to be for a while otherwise than as he wishes. It is a world that is inconceivably beautiful and good because of God and because God is always in it. It is a world in which God is continually at play and over which he constantly rejoices. Until our thoughts of God have found every visible thing and event glorious with his presence, the word of Jesus has not yet fully seized us.
The Last Word (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997), 130-131.
In speaking of the fear of religion, I don't mean to refer to the entirely reasonable hostility toward certain established religions and religious institutions, in virtue of their objectionable moral doctrines, social policies, and political influence. Nor am I referring to the association of many religious beliefs with superstition and the acceptance of evident empirical falsehood. I am talking about something much deeper — namely, the fear of religion itself. I speak from experience, being strongly subject to this fear myself: I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn't just that I don't believe in God and, naturally, hope that I'm right in my belief. It's that I hope there is no God! I don't want there to be a God; I don't want the universe to be like that... My guess is that this cosmic authority problem is not a rare condition and that it is responsible for much of the scientism and reductionism of our time. One of the tendencies it supports is the ludicrous overuse of evolutionary biology to explain everything about life, including everything about the human mind.
Gene Edward Veith on Cosmology said...
World Magazine (May 1, 1999), p. 26
Scientific evidence for the "Big Bang" becomes more and more theological. According to "cosmic inflation" cosmology, as Mr. Easterbrook explains it, "the entire universe popped out of a point with no content and no dimensions, essentially expanding instantaneously to cosmological size. Now being taught at Stanford, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and other top schools, this explanation of the beginning of the universe bears haunting similarity to the traditional theological notion of creation ex nihilo, "out of nothing".
Bertrand Russell on Proving God said...
The Quotable Bertrand Russell (ed. Lee Eisler, Buffalo, NY: Prometheus, 1993), p. 138.
I do not pretend to be able to prove that there is no God. I equally cannot prove that Satan is a fiction. The Christian god may exist; so may the gods of Olympus, or of ancient Egypt, or of Babylon. But no one of these hypotheses is more probable than any other: they lie outside the region of even probable knowledge, and therefore there is no reason to consider any of them.
Bertrand Russell on Creation said...
"Science and Religion" (1931) in Bertrand Russell on God and Religion (Buffalo, NY: Prometheus, 1986), p. 177-78.
Are we to infer from this that the world was made by a Creator? Certainly not, if we are to adhere to the cannons of valid scientific inference. There is no reason whatever why the universe should not have begun spontaneously, except that it seems odd that it should do so; but there is no law of nature to the effect that things which seem odd to us must not happen. To infer a Creator is to infer a cause, and causal inferences are only admissible in science when they proceed from observed causal laws. Creation out of nothing is an occurrence which has not been observed. There is, therefore, no better reason to suppose that the world was caused by a Creator than to suppose that it was uncaused; either equally contradicts the causal laws that we can observe.
"Why I Am Not a Christian" in Bertrand Russell on God and Religion (Buffalo, NY: Prometheus, 1986), p. 62.
Do you think that, if you were granted omnipotence and omniscience and millions of years in which to perfect your world, you could produce nothing better than the Ku Klux Klan, the Fascist, and Mr. Winston Churchill? Really I am not much impressed with the people who say: "Look at me: I am such a splendid product that there must have been design in the universe." I am not very impressed by the splendor of those people. Therefore I think that this argument of design is really a very poor argument indeed. Moreover, if you accept the ordinary laws of science, you have to suppose that human life and life in general on this planet will die out in due course: it is merely a flash in the pan; it is a stage in the decay of the solar system; at a certain stage of decay you get the sort of conditions of temperature and so forth which are suitable to protoplasm, and there is life for a short time in the life of the whole solar system. You see in the moon the sort of thing to which the earth is tending — something dead, cold, and lifeless.
Stephen Hawking on Cosmology said...
A Brief History of Time (New York: Bantam, 1988), p. 140-41.
The idea that space and time may form a closed surface without boundary also has profound implications for the role of God in the affairs of the universe. With the success of scientific theories in describing events, most people have come to believe that God allows the universe to evolve according to a set of laws and does not intervene in the universe to break these laws. However, the laws do not tell us what the universe should have looked like when it started — it would still be up to God to wind up the clockwork and choose how to start it off. So long as the universe had a beginning, we could suppose it had a creator. But if the universe is really completely self-contained, having no boundary or edge, it would have neither beginning nor end: it would simply be. What place, then, for a creator?
A Brief History of Time (New York: Bantam, 1988), p. 136.
The quantum theory of gravity has opened up a new possibility, in which there would be no boundary to space-time and so there would be no need to specify the behavior at the boundary. There would be no singularities at which the laws of science broke down and no edge of space-time at which one would have to appeal to God or some new law to set the boundary conditions for space-time. One could say: 'The boundary condition of the universe is that it has no boundary.' The universe would be completely self-contained and not affected by anything outside itself. It would neither be created nor destroyed. It would just BE.
A Brief History of Time (New York: Bantam, 1988), p. 124.
The intelligent beings in these regions should therefore not be surprised if they observe that their locality in the universe satisfies the conditions that are necessary for their existence. It is a bit like a rich person living in a wealthy neighborhood not seeing any poverty.