24th October 1941, evening
Religion versus science—Science hits back
—The Church and religious beliefs.
Religion is in perpetual conflict with the spirit of free research. The Church’s opposition to science was sometimes so violent that it struck off sparks. The Church, with a clear awareness of her interests, has made a strategic retreat, with the result that science has lost some of its aggressiveness.
The present system of teaching in schools permits the following absurdity: at 10 a.m. the pupils attend a lesson in the catechism, at which the creation of the world is presented to them in accordance with the teachings of the Bible; and at 11 a.m. they attend a lesson in natural science, at which they are taught the theory of evolution. Yet the two doctrines are in complete contradiction. As a child, I suffered from this contradiction, and ran my head against a wall. Often I complained to one or another of my teachers against what I had been taught an hour before—and I remember that I drove them to despair.
The Christian religion tries to get out of it by explaining that one must attach a symbolic value to the images of Holy Writ. Any man who made the same claim four hundred years ago would have ended his career at the stake, with an accompaniment of Hosannas.
Whoever sees God only in an oak or in a tabernacle, instead of seeing Him everywhere, is not truly pious. He remains attached to appearances—and when the sky thunders and the lightning strikes, he trembles simply from fear of being struck as a punishment for the sin he’s just committed.
Does the knowledge brought by science make men happy? That I don’t know. But I observe that man can be happy by deluding himself with false knowledge. I grant one must cultivate tolerance.
To seek to deny it is folly. In that case, it’s better to believe something false than not to believe anything at all. Who’s that little Bolshevik professor who claims to triumph over creation? People like that, we’ll break them. Whether we rely on the catechism or on philosophy, we have possibilities in reserve, whilst they, with their purely materialistic conceptions, can only devour one another.