Faith is not an irrational agreement to a claim; it is the perception of a special order of reality.
There are certain congruencies between skepticism and faith: both undermine the human presumptiveness.
A society is secularized when it has lost the awareness for its dependence.
Translated from: Nicolás Gómez Dávila (1913–1994), Aufzeichnungen des Besiegten (1994)
A Word on Statistics
Out of every hundred people,
those who always know better:
Unsure of every step:
almost all the rest.
Ready to help,
if it doesn't take long:
because they cannot be otherwise:
four -- well, maybe five.
Able to admire without envy:
Led to error
by youth (which passes):
sixty, plus or minus.
Those not to be messed with:
Living in constant fear
of someone or something:
Capable of happiness:
twenty-some-odd at most.
turning savage in crowds:
more than half, for sure.
when forced by circumstances:
it's better not to know,
not even approximately.
Wise in hindsight:
not many more
than wise in foresight.
Getting nothing out of life except things:
(though I would like to be wrong).
Balled up in pain
and without a flashlight in the dark:
eighty-three, sooner or later.
Those who are just:
quite a few, thirty-five.
But if it takes effort to understand:
Worthy of empathy:
one hundred out of one hundred --
a figure that has never varied yet.
Wisława Szymborska (1923–2012), translated from the Polish by Joanna Trzeciak
From: The Atlantic Monthly; May 1997; A Word on Statistics; Volume 279, No. 5; page 68.
In the Jewish ‘Old Testament’, the book of divine justice, there are men, things, and sayings on such an immense scale, that Greek and Indian literature has nothing to compare with it. One stands with fear and reverence before those stupendous remains of what man was formerly.
All honor to the Old Testament! In that I find great men, a heroic landscape and something of the rarest of all elements on earth, the incomparable naiveté of the strong heart. Even more—I find a people.
Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900)
The science of God
Child: “But he does exist.”
What does the mother say? She only believes what she can see.
And what does the child say? But he does exist.
What do we say?
We agree with both, the mother and the child. Also with the mother?
The child is probably right with its faith, but so is the mother with her faithlessness. If we do not manage to make her see God, then we have no right to agree with the child’s “but”.
We cannot take atheism seriously enough. Deifying nature and spirits only leads us off the track. God is not something else, also not the sense of something else, God is God or – nothing. Only on the brink of atheism do have to learn to fly. But why does God’s existence have to be so uncertain? Because it has to be the origin of all other existence. We feel that at any rate God’s existence has to be on a different level than our existence, the existence of the world. We only want to believe in what we can see. But neither the outer eye, with which we see the world, nor the inner eye, with which we see men, lead us closer to the distance of God.
Through which eye can we see him?
Through the inner eye, says the pantheist …
Through the outer eye, says the spiritualist …
Only with both eyes, the inner and the outer, closed, – says the mystic.
But what does the pantheist see? Nothing but nature.
And what does the spiritualist see? Nothing but spirit.
And what does the mystic see? Nothing but - nothingness.
So which organ is left? None, if we were really just composed of senses and spirit?
But – senses and spirit unite the soul. Is there an organ of this complete, united human?
Translated from: Franz Rosenzweig (1886–1929), Zweistromland, Gesammelte Schriften Bd. III (1984)
Meaning does not grow out of systems of thought, but out of stories, and the Jewish story is the most unusual of all.
It tells us that God wanted to make us partners in His work of creation, but we disappointed him again and again. But he never gives up. He forgives us over and over again. For Judaism the true religious mystery is not our faith in God, but God’s faith in us. This is not a consolatory fiction, as atheists and skeptics sometimes say, but the exact opposite. Judaism is God’s appeal to human responsibility to create a world that is a worthy home for His presence.
Translated from: Jonathan Sacks, Vom Schicksal zum Glauben, Jüdische Allgemeine, 9. September 2018
A help that should not be overlooked
Notes to the discussion on the article of Joseph Ratzingers/Pope em. Benedikt XVI “Grace and vocation without remorse”
After the wave of reflexive criticism that has arisen concerning Joseph Ratzinger’s “Notes to the tract De Iudaeis“, one may ask why Cardinal Koch asked Pope em. Benedict XVI to publish this sketch. The cardinal – rightly – recognized the provocative potential of this article. ...
From the start the relationships of the CIC with Joseph Ratzinger have always interested me because over the years we have followed his theological efforts at a reconciliation, at a reapproach of Judaism and Christianity. In this area he is, I think, the most radical theologian I have ever even heard of.
He is also the one who, in the entire papal history, has dared to advance the furthest, as far as changing the Catholic Catechism. We have witnessed the entire development of Nostra Aetate with great interest – partly through sources, partly also personally in Rome during the years we lived there – and shared in it greatly. I belong to those people who perceived Benedict XVI’s election as a great sensation, as a shining hour in an otherwise gloomy time. I am not the only Jew who saw it like that. Cardinal Ratzinger’s election as pope was seen as positive in every respect throughout Israel, also by the World Jewish Congress. For years we witnessed it, how far his efforts had gone within the Church, also in the fundamental literature of the Church, to make hatred of Jews unthinkable forever..
Translated from: Chaim Noll, Mein Judesein (HEUTE, 6/2008)
The questions to be answered would seem to be: What would the significance of a church, a community, a homily, a liturgy, a Christian life be in an unreligious world?
How do we speak of God – without religion, meaning without the time-conditioned premises of metaphysics, of subjectivity, etc. etc.? How do we speak – or maybe we cannot even really “speak” of it as before – of “God” in a “worldly” way; how are we Christians in an unreligious- worldly way? How are we called out without seeing ourselves as religiously favored, but rather as fully belonging to the world? Then Christ is no longer the object of religion, but something entirely different, truly Lord of the world.
Translated from: Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Widerstand und Ergebung. Briefe aus der Haft (1944)
For your information
The glut of information also leads to a growing feeling of powerlessness. The news media reports of the problems in the Middle East, we hear of the destruction of the ozone layer and the extinction of the rain forests. Are we now expected to take action ourselves?
Most of us cannot actively help solve such problems and thus a feeling of passiveness and incompetence grows in people, which inevitably leads to an increased interest in oneself. If you cannot accomplish anything in the world, at least you can change yourself. You can lose weight, you can dye your hair differently, you can change the shape of your own nose or the size of your own breasts.
We are aware of and know thousands of things and are not capable of influencing them. This leads to the growth of a peculiar egotism. Even worse: Most people still believe information and still more information is what people need above all; information forms the basis of all our attempts at solving problems.
But our truly serious problems do not arise from people not having sufficient information. When a nuclear catastrophe occurs, then not because of a deficiency of information. Where people starve, the reason is not inadequate information. When families fall apart, when children are abused, when increasing crime rates terrorize a city, when the education system turns out to be powerless, then this is not because of a lack of information, but because we do not develop a sufficient consciousness of what is sensible and relevant.
Translated from: Neil Postman, Wir informieren uns zu Tode (DIE ZEIT, 2.10.1992)
When Israel can live securely among the nations,
then the promised times will have arrived,
for then and thereby it will be proved
that faith in God has become a living reality.
From: Leo Baeck (1921), The Essence of Judaism