23/227. My book p. 70. Post No. 1289.


It is a great pity that so many believers never question the brainwashing they received as children. They may not yet accept our atheist answers but people like myself, liberated from our illusions, will continue to try to get them to discover the questions that can lead them to illumination.


That, indeed, is the question. I was flabbergasted to read what one of my dear old friends from school offered me as a reply to the recent revelation of my atheism. He was content to quote the “Green Catechism” of our Catholic kindergarten (he was five, I was four years old !) : “Who made the world ? God made the world.” And he went on to say : “And when I look around at the wonderful things in the world (the trees, the birds, the animals etc.), I have not found anything to shake my belief in a God”.

Alan, like me, is over seventy years old. He was a brilliant lawyer, a talented sportsman who still coaches youngsters and is generously engaged in all sorts of parish and social activities. But somehow he has remained immune to the questions French High School students have to discuss in their final exams in Philosophy. How did Australian, British, American intelligent, educated people manage to avoid asking themselves the basic questions ? How do they continue to find their Kindergarten answers acceptable ?

Mind you, the problem is not limited to Anglosaxons. Many Hispanics, Muslims, Jews and Buddhists continue to content themselves with childish answers to the questions they have yet to take seriously, or even discover.

Atheists, understandably, are tempted to throw in the towel. The challenge is just too much. But I consider that it is worthwhile to get believers to discover the questions and hopefully find that the answer is not infantile religiosity but enlightened atheism.




22/227 My Book pp. 69 -70 Post No. 1288


Non-atheists do not share my search for truth. They believe they have already found it. There is, however, so much none of us knows, notably about the mystery of the Universe. For the nonce we must be content to settle for less, the partial and the provisional.


According to François Jacob, Nobel Prize for Medecine, “scientists have renounced the idea of an ultimate and intangible truth . . . They now know that they must content themselves with the partial and the provisional” (“Le Jeu des Possibles”, Fayard, Paris, 1981, p.11). He added that “the fact that life and man have become objects of research and no longer of revelation, few accept” (ibid). But a pearl in the same text must give pause to both the believer and the atheist : “Nothing is as dangerous as the certitude of being right” (p. 12). The same author suggested that “one of the principal functions of myths has always been to help human beings accept the anguish and absurdity of their condition” (op.cit., p. 29). We are here at the heart of “From Illusions to Illumination”.

Is the universal need to make sense of ourselves and of our world part of our genetic code ? Both believers and scientists (the mystery, of course, is how one can be both) want explanations. The difference, according to Jacob, is that those whose approach is magical, mystical or religious, claim to have answers to every question, whether it concerns the origin of the Universe, or its present and even ultimate destiny (p.26). Rationalists like myself, on the other hand, are less ambitious. We know we will never have certitude about the ultimate questions, but we are fiercely dedicated to the search for partial, provisional, revisable answers as to how and why things, including ourselves, happen.



21/227. My book pp. 68 – 69. Post No. 1287.


Many of us admit how gullible we once were. Realizing that I had been seduced into believing nonsense,

I have devoted, through this blog, more than a decade to sharing the doubts that led to my liberation.


Darwin definitively put divine creation into doubt. Naïve, hard-headed, blind believers like the Polish Pope, who had to admit not only that Galileo had not been wrong, but that Darwin’s doctrine could no longer be considered a mere theory, seem to be comfortable with both creation and evolution : God created a world which He empowered to . . . evolve. Q.E.D.

There is room for reasonable doubt here. The origin of faith may well be in what William James called “The Will to Believe” : the sheer willingness to believe can lead some to a credulity best incarnated in the Queen in Alice’s Wonderland, “The Other Side of the Mirror” :

“You can’t believe things that are impossible”, said Alice (a precursor to our Hermione Granger ?)

“I suppose you lack training”, said the Queen. “It has happened to me sometimes to believe as many as six impossible things before breakfast”.

Quite late in my professional religious career, I began to question the certitudes of my early religious education. Doubts developed into convictions that I had been a gullible believer in myths and miracles, a faithful follower of ancient traditions that were their own justification (see my earlier Reflection, “A Brave but Blind Bishop”, on Bishop Robinson’s reasons for believing in Mary’s Assumption). But can atheists succeed in convincing the believer that s/he is mistaken ? Some atheist authors say they would not even try, not because of the difficulty but because of their “tolerance” and “deep respect” for holders of opinions which contradict their own.

I think I have made it clear that unlike these authors, I, like Dawkins (what pretension !), do want believers to doubt, to question, and wif a l’il bi’ o’ luck, to arrive at the conclusion that they have been lost in a blind alley, seduced into believing nonsense, tales told by idiots, signifying nothing.

“A sower went out to sow his seed”. Mine is the seed of doubt. If it takes root in even one of my readers, my efforts will not have been wasted.



20/227 My book pp. 67-68 Post No. 1286


A surprising insight from the world of Harry Potter, which unfortunately was, for Bishop Robinson, a “terra incognita”. J.K. Rowlings’ best-sellers should be required reading in the few seminaries, Catholic Hogwarts, still functioning.


All seven of the Harry Potter books are superb page-turners. Sometimes, besides the gripping story-line, they contain surprises which have nothing to do with Goblets of Fire, the Order of the Phoenix or Deathly Hallows. The final volume includes the following example where Hermione is talking about something called the Resurrection Stone. The point here is not belief in life after death or the supposed magical power of certain objects unknown to poor, ignorant Muggles, non-magical people, like you and me. The point is whether or not the burden of proving that something is not true is on the person who contests its reality :

“What about the stone, Mr Lovegood ? The thing you call the Resurrection Stone ?”

“What of it ?”

“Well, how can that be real ?”

“Prove that it is not”, said Xenophilus.

Hermione looked outraged. “But that’s completely ridiculous ! How can I possibly prove it doesn’t exist ? Do you expect me to get hold of … all the pebbles in the world, and test them ? I mean, you could claim that ANYTHING’s real if the only basis for believing in it is that nobody’s PROVED it doesn’t exist !”

“Yes, you could”, said Xenophilus. ‘I am glad to see that you are opening your mind a little”.

— J.K. Rowling, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”, Bloomsbury, London, 2007, p. 334

Out of the mouths of babes – or at least of gifted, if fictional, adolescents like Hermione Granger – or, more accurately, out of the creative minds of authors like J.K Rowling, comes unexpected support for atheists who feel no need, even if it were possible, to prove that God does not exist, nor that the Resurrection of Chrst, like the homonymous Stone, is also a myth.



19/227 My book pp. 66-67 Post No. 1285


Australia’s late Bishop Geoffrey Robinson (+ 2020) was a courageous critic of the Church for its handling of clerical pedophilia, but a lamentably credulous Mariologist . . .


“And here’s to you, Bishop Robinson,

Jesus loves you more than you will know.”

(with apologies, and thanks, to Simon and Garfunkel).

Or He would, if, as you believe, He were still alive rather than dead. Like every man who ever lived, He died. Like every dead man, woman and child who ever died, He remains dead. He is no more. He may live on, as do your parents and mine, in our memories, in our affection. You revere His memory, you feel His presence, you believe He rose from the dead and is now alive and seated at the right hand of the Father.

As soon as you say that, you have crossed into Never-Never Land, a world of myth and fantasy and wishful thinking. You have entered the realm of faith – and fiction. You are out of touch with reality.

For all the admirable courage and sincerity you display in your book, “Contemplating Power and Sex in the Catholic Church. Reclaiming the Spirit of Jesus” (John Garratt Publishing, Mulgrave, Victoria, Australia, 2007), criticizing many of the Church’s traditional beliefs, you give yourself away in speaking of the Assumption, page 255 :

If someone were to ask me whether I believe in the Assumption, I would answer ‘Yes’. If I were asked why, I would answer ‘Because that is what my Mother told me as a child and I have always believed it’. If I were asked whether I could prove that she was assumed into Heaven, I would answer “Can you prove that she was not ?’ I have an ancient tradition and the common faith of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches behind my belief. What do you have behind your denial ?”

Your Lordship (my Mother taught me as a child how to address Bishops), you seem to have forgotten what you wrote earlier in the book, page 72 :

The mere fact of a long-standing tradition is not proof of its truth.”

You, a respected, intelligent theologian, cannot expect us to take you seriously ! The following Reflection, “Harry and the Burden of Proof”, based on another best-seller, will explain what I mean.



18/227 My book pp. 65-66 Post No. 1284


This post deserves a word of clarification. Some people, like me, spend most of their time alone, but, like me, are never lonely. Solitude can be a choice; loneliness is an affliction.


The French are famous – “infamous” would be excessive – for their habit of remaining isolated from, unknown and indifferent to their immediate neighbors in their apartment building or on the street where they live. They can spend years in a neighborhood without ever exchanging a full sentence with anyone. “Bonjour” is about it. People die next door without anyone noticing.

Does this trait – in no way a French monopoly – explain why many people turn to God, their faithful, trustworthy, permanent companion, solace and friend ? Children everywhere invent imaginary companions. Grown-up children do too.

“All the lonely people, where do they all come from ?” The Beatles may not have been the world’s most profound philosophers, but they asked some of the most important questions. People tend to fill the void with God. It would be so much nicer, or, as Winnie the Pooh said, “so much friendlier with two”.

We do not need the imaginary God-of-the-gaps whom we have created. Real people are all we’ve really got. And they are enough.



17/227 My book p. 65 Post No. 1283


Believers seem to be unconscious of – or at least to underestimate – the degree of absurdity in the myth of divine creation. With nothing happening, did God find that eternity was starting to seem a bit long ? Were the divine Persons getting tired of talking to each Other ?


Or lonely ? Ever waited aggressively for the phone to ring, but it never did ? Then maybe you can understand why God decided on the Big Bang. Not that He particularly liked fireworks, but because He was bored ! After a literally timeless, eternal, empty silence and solitude, He decided to create time and the heavens and the earth, plants, animals, Adam, Eve and the rest of us. This infernal loneliness had become more than even He, the Omnipotent, the Impassible, could stand any longer. “Let there be light !” (how would you like to live in perpetual darkness ?), but more to the point, let there be someone else around here to keep Me company, to make something HAPPEN ! Hence Adam and Eve, you and me. And He saw that all this was good. In fact, very good (although, the Bible tells us, He was later, as Noah found out, to have a few regrets).

All this may sound flippant, outrageously sarcastic, blatantly blasphemous. But honest to God (!), surely we need to shout it from the housetops : belief in divine creation is pure folly.

You may or may not, dear reader, manage to pardon my impertinence, but at least I hope I have not been boring you.



16/227 My book pp. 61-62 Post No. 1282


An overview of the arguments for and against the existence of God in a single page. No need to read the voluminous tomes defending and opposing the God-hypothesis. The slings and arrows of the 1281 posts of this blog, presently being enriched by the 227 Reflections in my book, are all you need to recognize who’s right and who’s wrong.


There are a lot of phony divine I.D.s out there. You would need more than one enormous pantheon to house statues of history’s pretenders to the title of Deity, even if you left out the millions of gods worshipped by Hindus. Buddha may not have claimed to be God, but the way he is revered, one could be excused for thinking he did. To stick with just Greek-Latin tradition, the list, to understate the fact, is long.

Judaism changed all that. Our God, Yahweh, is One God; He, and He alone, who is. Christianity naturally adopted and continued the same monotheism, with the essential nuance, unacceptable to believers in the two other expressions of belief in a single God, that God is One and Three. That does not make four. It makes the Trinity, the Father, Son and Holy Ghost (“the three men I admire most; they caught the last train to the coast, the day the music died”).

Most people consider monotheism an improvement on polytheism. But it is just as incredible, absurd and unfounded. Theologians, notably those of the Golden Age, the 13th century of the Dominican Aquinas and the Franciscan Bonaventure, wrote heavy tomes, copied, recopied and treasured until Gütenberg made them generally accessible, at least to those who could read Latin, with interminable discourses on the divine attributes. It came down to the fact that we cannot state positively what God is like, but we sure as hell can tell you what He’s not. A great help.

The trouble, of course, is that it did not occur to them that the only problem was that He didn’t and doesn’t exist. They knew that some benighted idiots did not believe He existed, so they offered “proofs” that He did. Anselm, before them, had gone so far as to say that the fact that we can conceive of a Godhead is evidence, per se, that it exists. Thomas’ Five “Proofs” are not much better, but they were enough, for the last seven centuries, to convince seminarians, including myself, who studied his “Summa Theologica”, that there could be no doubt that He who gave His name as “He who is”, is.

A nineteenth-century, non-Catholic Archdeacon, William Paley, did his bit in bolstering belief in an Intelligent Designer, obviously without using the current expression, by his authoritative argument about finding a watch and KNOWING that it must have been made by a watchmaker. Watches do not just happen. Q.E.D. (Quite Enough : Deity !!).

Darwin’s thesis should have definitively demolished all this, but for the vast majority, 80% of Americans for example, belief in God is still alive and well and not about to disappear. We know why. All of us need a comfort zone. And Darwin makes people feel uncomfortable. Even his wife could not buy his invitation to remove the scales accumulated on human eyes for millennia. But some of us, “mirabile dictu” (“strange to say”), have learned to see. Theologians still discuss what God is like. It’s a bit like asking how much does Santa Claus weigh, how long is his beard, and how does he manage to produce all those toys (the secret being, of course, decentralization of production lines in countries where labor, especially elves’, is cheap). The rest of us have more serious problems on our hands.



15/227 My book pp. 60-61 Post No. 1281


Religions lull us, drug us, into believing that death is not the definitive end of existence. Dream, little dreamer, dream on.


Every big city has them. In Paris we call them “les marchands du sommeil”, “sleep-merchants”, because they exploit impoverished people’s need to sleep. If you have nothing, you sleep in the street, maybe on top of a Métro-vent to keep warm in winter (free of charge but at considerable cost to your health). If you have a little money, you may be tempted to find a place to sleep in a starless “hotel” room, the advantages of which can be summed up as having a roof and walls and a door with, hopefully, a lock. The plumbing, the heating, the furniture including the bed, the cleanliness – to be kind – are minimalist. But people need to sleep. We all need a place to sleep. And there will always be those who exploit this need, and make the poor pay an arm and a leg to have somewhere to lay their head.

In another sense, religions are sleep-merchants. They exploit our need to make sense of life and especially of death. They are expert in lulling us to sleep, in reassuring us that though life may be tough, another wonderful life awaits us after death. Don’t be discouraged. You have a Friend who loves you. People may be crooks, liars, hypocrites, traitors, thieves and false friends, but in God we trust. You should too. After this vale of tears, He will prove to you how worthy He is of your trust. He will welcome you into Paradise, eternal bliss. All you need to do is believe.

Sleep-merchants all. One of the most curious of modern Christian sects is that of the Jehovah Witnesses. It has always astonished me that they can continue to get people to believe their spiel about the imminent return of Christ. (Victor Mancuso, in his “L’Anima e il suo Destino” points our Jesus’ own error about the imminence of the Second Coming.) They gather in their thousands every now and again, in anticipation of Jesus’ spectacular Parousia, His Second Coming – which, of course, never happens. The irony is that, in pairs, fulfilling their “missionary” commitment to spend several hours each week in seeking converts, they knock at your door to offer you their magazine, called . . . “Awake !”. Its purpose, like all religious literature, is to put people to sleep.



14/227 My Book p. 60 Post 1280


Statistics are like bikinis : what they reveal is interesting, what they conceal is vital.


The German journo Thomas Vasek, having studied Stephen D. Unwin’s “The Probability of God ; A Simple Calculation that Proves the Ultimate Truth”, has come up with the irrefutable, scientific conclusion that God has 62% chances of existing. So you should burn this book, and any others that suggest that God is myth. Science has proved the opposite. Some you win, some you lose.