Beliefs, Practices, History
Christianity on Trial (Encounter Books: July 2001)
It is easy for those who do not live under a totalitarian regime to expect heroism from those who do, but it is an expectation that will often be disappointed... it should be less surprising that the mass of Christians were silent than that some believed strongly enough to pay for their faith with their lives.
The Complete Letters of Vincent van Gogh (New York Graphic Society, 1958).
One must be careful not to fall back on opaque black — on deliberate wrong — and even more one has to avoid the white of a whitewashed wall, which means hypocrisy and everlasting Pharisaism. I must tell you that with evangelists it is the same as with artists. There is an old academic school, often detestable, tyrannical, the accumulation of horrors, men who wear a cuirass, a steel armor of prejudices and conventions; Their God is like the God of Shakespeare's drunken Falstaff, le dedans dune eglise [the inside of a church].
The Complete Letters of Vincent van Gogh L345a, Written December 7-8, 1883 (New York Graphic Society, 1958), 2:230..
Now to revert to the fact that I told Father it was wrong that two years ago we quarreled so violently that I was locked out of the house afterward. And what does father say to this? "Yes, but I cannot take back anything of what I did then; what I have I have always done for your good, and I have always followed my sincere conviction." To this I replied that it may happen that a person's conviction is at complete variance with conscience; I mean what one thinks one should do may be diametrically opposed to what one ought to do. I told Father that in the Bible itself maxims can be found by which we may test our "convictions," to see whether they are reasonable and just. There is no need for Father to say that he committed an error in my case, but Father should have learned what I learned in these two years — that it was an error in itself, and that it should be rectified immediately, without raising the question of whose fault it was. Look, brother, in my opinion, Father is forever lapsing into narrow-mindedness, instead of being bigger, more liberal, broader and more humane. It was clergyman's vanity that carried things to extremes at the time; and it is still that same clergyman's vanity which will cause more disasters now and in the future.
The Complete Letters of Vincent van Gogh L164, written December 21, 1881 (New York Graphic Society, 1958), I:288.
For me, that God of the clergymen is dead as a doornail. But am I an atheist for all that? The clergymen consider me so — so be it — but I love, and how could I feel love if I did not live and others did not live; and then if we live, there is something mysterious in that. Now call it God or human nature or whatever you like, but there is something which I cannot define systematically, though it is very real, and see that as God, or as good as God.
Vincent van Gogh on the Bible said...
The Complete Letters of Vincent van Gogh L164, Written December 21, 1881 (New York Graphic Society, 1958), I:283.
The work of the French naturalists — Zola, Flaubert, Guy de Maupassant, de Congourt — is magnificent. Is the Bible enough for us: In these days, I believe Jesus himself would say to those who sit down in a state of melancholy, "It is not here, get up and go forth. Why do you seek the living among the dead?" If the spoken or written word is to remain the light of the world, then it is our right and our duty to acknowledge that we are living in a period when it should be spoken and written in such a way that, in order to find something equally great, and equally good, and equally original, and equally powerful to revolutionize the whole of society, we may compare it with a clear conscience to the old revolution of the Christians. I myself am always glad that I have read the Bible more thoroughly than many people nowadays, because it eases my mind somewhat to know that there were once such lofty ideas.