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), 121.
[A]ll stream out into the open, drug themselves with talking, start
arguing or love-making, and the last glow of sunset the town, freighted
with lovers two by two and loud with voices, drifts like a helmless
ship into the throbbing darkness. In vain a zealous evangelist with a
felt hat and flowing tie threads his way through the crowd, crying
without cease: "God is great and good. Come unto Him." On the contrary,
they all make haste toward some trivial objective that seems of more
immediate interest than God. In the early days, when they thought this
epidemic was much like other epidemics, religion held its ground, But
once these people realized their instant peril, they gave their thought
to pleasure. And all the hideous fears that stamp their faces in the
daytime are transformed in the fiery, dusty nightfall into a sort of
hectic exaltation, an unkempt freedom fevering their blood.
The Plague, (New York: Vintage International, 1948, 1975) 93.
There were large attendances at the services of the Week of Prayer. It
must not, however, be assumed that in normal times the townsfolk of
Oran are particularly devout. On Sunday morning, for instance,
sea-bathing competes seriously with churchgoing. Nor must it be thought
that they had seen a great light and had a sudden change of heart. With
regard to religion – as to many other problems – plague had induced in
them a curious frame of mind, as remote from indifference as from
fervor; the best name to give it, perhaps, might be "objectivity." Most
of those who took part in the Week of Prayer would have echoed a remark
made by one of the church goers..: "Anyhow, it can't do any harm."
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 Myth of Sisyphus, trans. Justin O'Brien (Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.: Mar 1991), pp. 6-7.
In a sense, and as in melodrama, killing yourself amounts to confessing. It is confessing that life is too much for you or that you do not understand it. Let's not go too far in such analogies, however, but rather return to everyday words. It is merely confessing that that "is not worth the trouble." Living, naturally, is never easy. You continue making the gestures commanded by existence for many reasons, the first of which is habit. Dying voluntarily implies that you have recognized, even instinctively, the ridiculous character of that habit, the absence of any profound reason for living, the insane character of that daily agitation, and the uselessness of suffering. ¶ What, then, is that incalculable feeling that deprives the mind of the sleep necessary to life? A world that can be explained even with bad reasons is a familiar world. But, on the other hand, in a universe suddenly divested of illusions and lights, man feels an alien, a stranger. His exile is without remedy since he is deprived of the memory of a lost home or the hope of a promised land. This divorce between man and his life, the actor and his setting, is properly the feeling of absurdity.
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
Time Magazine Interview, cited in Einstein and Religion, Max Jammer (Princeton: 1999) p. 48.
I 'm not an atheist, and I don't think I can call myself a pantheist. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many languages. The child knows someone must have written these books. It does not know how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn't know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God. We see the universe marvelously arranged and obeying certain laws but only dimly understand these laws. Our limited minds grasp the mysterious force that moves the constellations. I am fascinated by Spinoza's pantheism because he is the first philosopher to deal with the soul and body as one, not two separate things.
Personal Correspondence with Eric Gutkind in 1954, the year before his death. Cited in The Einstein Theory of Relativity, H.A. Lorentz (MobiClassics: ).
The word "God" is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weakness, the Bible a collection of honorable, but still purely primitive, legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this. These subtilised interpretations are highly manifold according to their nature and have almost nothing to do with the original text. For me the Jewish religion like all other religions is an incarnation of the most childish superstitions. And the Jewish people to whom I gladly belong and with whose mentality I have a deep affinity have no different quality for me than all other people. As far as my experience goes, they are also no better than other human groups, although they are protected from the worst cancers by a lack of power. Otherwise I cannot see anything "chosen" about them. In general I find it painful that you claim a privileged position and try to defend it by two wall of pride, and external one as a man and an internal one as a Jew. As a man you claim, so to speak, a dispensation from causality otherwise accepted, as a Jew the privilege of monotheism. But a limited causality is no longer a causality at all, as our wonderful Spinoza recognized with all incision, probably as the first one. And the animistic interpretations of the religions of nature are in principle not annulled by monopolisation. With such walls we can only attain a certain self-deception, but our moral efforts are not furthered by them. On the contrary. Now that I have quite openly stated our differences in intellectual convictions it is still clear to me that we are quite close to each other in essential things, i.e. in our evaluations of human behaviour. What separates us are only intellectual "props" and "rationalisation" in Freud's language. Therefore I think that we would understand each other quite well if we talked about concrete things.
"An Ideal of Service to Our Fellow Man" in This I Believe (1950).
The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious — the knowledge of the existence of something unfathomable to us, the manifestation of the most profound reason coupled with the most brilliant beauty. I cannot imagine a god who rewards and punishes the objects of his creation, or who has a will of the kind we experience in ourselves. I am satisfied with the mystery of life's eternity and with the awareness of — and glimpse into — the marvelous construction of the existing world together with the steadfast determination to comprehend a portion, be it ever so tiny, of the reason that manifests itself in nature. This is the basis of cosmic religiosity, and it appears to me that the most important function of art and science is to awaken this feeling among the receptive and keep it alive.
The Merging of Spirit and Science
The most beautiful and most profound experience is the sensation of the mystical. It is the sower of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead. To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty which our dull faculties can comprehend is as the center of true religiousness.