Atheism in philosophy

Blaise Pascal: Pensées

ca. 1656; translated by W. F. Trotter
(Encyclopaedia Britannica: Chicago 1952)

187. Order.--Men despise religion; they hate it and fear it is true. ...

189. To begin by pitying unbelievers; they are wretched enough by their condition.
We ought only to revile them where it is beneficial; but this does them harm.

190. To pity atheists who seek, for are they not unhappy enough?
To inveigh against those who make a boast of it.

206. The eternal silence of these infinite spaces frightens me.

221. Atheists ought to say what is perfectly evident;
now it is not perfectly evident that the soul is material.

222. Atheists.--What reason have they for saying that we cannot rise from the dead?
What is more difficult, to be born or to rise again; that what has never been should be, or that what has been should be again?
Is it more difficult to come into existence than to return to it? ...

225. Atheism shows strength of mind, but only to a certain degree.

228. Objection of atheists: "But we have no light."

233. ['Pascal's wager'] "... I am forced to wager, and am not free. I am not released, and am so made that I cannot believe. What, then, would you have me do?"
True. But at least learn your inability to believe, since reason brings you to this, and yet you cannot believe. Endeavour, then, to convince yourself, not by increase of proofs of God, but by the abatement of your passions. You would like to attain faith and do not know the way; you would like to cure yourself of unbelief and ask the remedy for it. ...

243. It is an astounding fact that no canonical writer has ever made use of nature to prove God. They all strive to make us believe in Him. David, Solomon, etc., have never said, "There is no void, therefore there is a God." ...

244. "Why! Do you not say yourself that the heavens and birds prove God?" No. "And does your religion not say so?" No. For although it is true in a sense for some souls to whom God gives this light, yet it is false with respect to the majority of men.

245. There are three sources of belief: reason, custom, inspiration.

247. Order.--A letter of exhortation to a friend to induce him to seek. And he will reply, "But what is the use of seeking? Nothing is seen." Then to reply to him, "Do not despair." And he will answer that he would be glad to find some light, but that, according to this very religion, if believed in it, will be of no use to him, and that therefore he prefers not to seek. ...

253. Two extremes: to exclude reason, to admit reason only.

American TV prime-time cartoon series response:

"I don't think we should be going to church at all anymore.
    What if we picked the wrong religion? We could be
    making God madder and madder every week!"
     - Homer Simpson

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created 1jun1996, revised 20mar98     |     comments on this site? tpkunesh@atheisms.info