Do You Believe In God?
By Quentin Crisp
Well, now, the last time You-Know-Who was mentioned, I began by saying I wouldn’t like to say anything that gave offense. And someone in the audience said, “Why stop now?” But his is still something that worries me, so if at any moment anyone finds anything I say offensive, they have only to jump up and down, make a scene, and we will stop.
I believe, like most people, not that of which logic can convince me but what my nature inclines me to believe. This is so of nearly everybody. I am unable to believe in a God susceptible to prayer as petition. It does not seem to me to be sufficiently humble to imagine that whatever force keeps the planets turning in the heavens is going to stop what it’s doing to give me a bicycle with three speeds.
But if God is the universe that encloses the universe, or if God is the cell within the cell, or if God is the cause behind the cause, then this I accept absolutely. And if prayer is a way of aligning your body with the forces that flow through the universe, then prayer I accept. But there is a worrying aspect about the idea of God. Like witchcraft or the science of the zodiac or any of these other things, the burden is placed elsewhere. This is what I don’t like.
You see, to me, you are the heroes of this hour. I do not think the earth was ever meant to be your home. I do not see the sky as a canopy held over your head by cherubs or see the earth as a carpet laid at your feet. You used to live an easy lying-down life in the sea. But your curiosity and your courage prompted you to lift your head out of the sea and gasp this fierce element in which we live. They are seated on Mars, with their little green arms folded, saying, “We can be reasonably certain there is no life on Earth because there the atmosphere is oxygen, which is so harsh that it corrupts metal.” But you learned to breathe it. Furthermore, you crawled out of the sea, and you walked up and down the beach for centuries until your thighbones were thick enough to walk on land. It was a mistake, but you did it.
Once you have this view of your past — not that it was handed to you but that you did it — then your view of the future will change. This terror you have of the atom bomb will pass. Something will arise which will breathe radiation if you learned to breathe oxygen.
So you don’t have to worry. Don’t keep looking into the sky to see what is happening. Embrace the future. All you have to do about the future is what you did about the past. Rely on your curiosity and your courage and ride through the night.
“Do You Believe in God” is from The Wit and Wisdom of Quentin Crisp (1984), edited by Guy Kettelhack.