• On Atheism and Unbelief
" I am the first, and I am the last, and beside me there is no God."

IF I asked an atheist how I can be convinced that he is alive (for, indeed, I cannot
see the soul that dwells within him), he would answer that he acts, he speaks, and
walks, consequently that he is a living being. But it is possible to move, walk, and
even speak by mechanism, and I see nothing which persuades me that he has within
himself a principle which of its nature can control or instill such an animation. At
least I may obstinately require proofs from him of that interior source which belies
him.

The intelligence, reflection, and freedom which accompany these exterior signs of life,
he replies, leave no doubt that the source from which they spring must be the soul.
I agree, and am forced to agree, with him. In admitting creation; why, then, does he
not adore the Creator?
Creatures are ever in motion; of themselves. they could not possibly know how to
maintain and keep up all that so harmoniously dwells within. He will not say what he
thinks. To choose with so much certainty all that is proper and convenient, to make
use of things to which they are indifferent, and which, in their hardness of heart, they
attribute to chance.

O fool! let him acknowledge that Supreme Being whose wisdom and power shine so
visibly in the world.
Holy Scripture makes no distinction between the atheist, and the madman and fool;
they are nevertheless led by a very different way. The fool thinks what he says, and
says what he thinks; the thoughts and words of the atheist do not agree. His
opinions give the lie to his words, and his words give the lie to his opinions. In his
heart he denies the Divinity. I am wrong; I should say he would wish to deny it; he,
however, cannot succeed in this; for he dares not publish his opinion, because he
does not understand it. Every effort that he takes in order to fly from the fear of God
(who is a witness of all his deeds) only ends in a vague, confused idea of a belief
which startles him in spite of himself. O madman I to wish to force his reason, to
lose his reasoning faculties.

It must be madness to battle against a truth which has been accepted at all times
and in all places. There is a Divinity, and this is what all have agreed upon; a God
has been acknowledged, and Him they have adored.
This conviction is not the result of education, for education differs in all parts Of the
globe. It is not the commerce, which has spread from one nation to another; for all
nations have not been able to agree on this point, without the help of a mutual
intelligence. Questions of policy have not been able to produce it, for governments so
opposed to each other, so different in manners and customs, could not possibly come
to terms. Princes and subjects could not have been able to combat with the
impressions naturally formed in all kinds of intelligences.

Is it study which has given it birth? Certainly not! On this point, the grossest
ignorance does not yield to good breeding or knowledge. In favor of a Divinity, I do
not ask, said Tertullian, for the testimony of a soul in established schools, in well-
stored libraries, or in first rate colleges; I appeal to a simple and savage soul; I
invoke the soul itself, such as it comes from the hands of its Creator. If any person
has been the first to discover or make known the existence of that Supreme Being,
tell me the land from which he has sprung, and the nation which has published it to
the whole world. Point out the time and the age which has first heard it. The birth of
a truth so startling, so important could not have failed to have been noticed.

Perhaps it may be said, in opposition to this, that idolatry has reigned, that empires
and kingdoms have adored differ. ent gods; I know it, and I only maintain to
establish a universal knowledge and recognition of the Divinity.
If there be under heaven an atheist, he must acknowledge that idolatry destroys
itself, and that his ridicule is only equal to his error. But reason alone cannot
compass all the perfections of the Divinity, of which it is struck with wonder, and
which it cannot ignore.

All men yearn after a happiness which they naturally aim at acquiring; but with. out
the assistance of faith, how could they agree as to its quality and essence? To an
ordinary intelligent mind, how difficult it would prove to act in opposition to an
opinion which is universally recognized! And yet that very difficulty, would it not be a
convincing proof of the truth he would deny?
One could scarcely imagine a man to be more wicked than he who coolly and
deliberately resolves to riot in the commission of the most abominable vices. And yet
a man who makes it his study and profession, and who piques himself upon it to deny
the existence of a Supreme Being, is such a man. It is neither chance, nor delusion,
nor reflection, nor knowledge, nor even debauchery, that have led him into that
frightful error; it is his will only.

We are born ignorant, weak, inconstant, inclined to evil; but we come into this world
with all the prejudices that wage war against atheism.
If it is possible to be an atheist, it is because the will to be one is there. It is
undoubtedly true that such a wish arises from debauchery, but such will is, in itself, a
lewdness of the most detestable kind. One does not plunge one's self by degrees in
the lowest depths of vice; as soon as they affirm that there is no God, they cast
themselves suddenly into the abyss.


ST. AUGUSTINE
On Psalm 73

GOD CANNOT be seen, He is far too bright for us; neither can we understand Him, He
is far beyond our comprehension; He is not sufficiently valued because He is out of
the reach of our senses; this is why we should worthily estimate the perfection of His
being when we say that He is inestimable.
If I know not myself, if I know neither the nature nor the essence of my soul, if I
cannot give a reason of what is in me how shall I dare to lift up my eyes in order to
understand God, who is the beginning and end of all things, and who is Himself
without beginning and end?


ST. CYPRIAN
De Idol. Vanit.
Sayings of the Saints